Each year the National Restaurant Association, restaurant trade magazines, and restaurant research firms forecast the food trends that diners will salivate over in the coming year. One of the top food trend predictions for 2014 is the rise of artisan, gourmet pizza. Pizza has been a staple in the fast food segment for many years; however it seems that consumers’ desires for pies with high quality, unusual ingredients and crusts are rapidly growing.
Gourmet pizzas can be relatively easy to prepare, and you have the freedom to use any mix of sauces, crusts, and toppings, making the options endless. One of the reasons artisan pizzas appeal to so many people is that they typically have combinations of ingredients that you won’t find at the chain pizzerias.
Often times, the crust used for making pizzas can be overlooked in favor of paying more attention to the toppings. In gourmet pizza making, the crust can be especially important and should lend delicious rustic flavor to the dish. If you already have a favorite crust recipe, you can use it when making these artisan pizzas, or try the whole wheat crust shown below. It is easy to prepare and work with and provides a nice base for a variety of topping choices.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can combine another hot restaurant trend into your cooking, by opting for a gluten-free crust. Many pizzerias are exploring different crust options to increase the growing consumer base that is choosing to exclude gluten from their diet. Pizza dough can be made from different types of gluten free flours, such as white rice four, brown rice flower and tapioca flower. “Crustless” pizzas feature a non-flour crust made primarily from different types of cheese and a binding agent such as eggs. Another crust option that is trending among pizza lovers is a crust made from ground cauliflower. Below the wheat crust option, is a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust that is both grain and dairy free.
Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) or heat a barbeque grill. Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan or on a pizza screen if using a grill. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables. If you are cooking on a grill, bake crust without toppings first for a few minutes.
Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.
Vegan Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1 pound cauliflower florets (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons ground chia or flax seeds, divided
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade, and pulse until a rice-like texture is created. Pour the cauliflower “rice” to a large sauce pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Drain the liquid, then transfer the cooked cauliflower rice in a freezer-safe bowl. Place in the freezer to cool for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix together 2 tablespoons of ground chia or flax seeds with 6 tablespoons of water, to create a vegan “egg.” Set aside and allow the mixture to thicken.
Remove the cooled cauliflower rice from the freezer and transfer it to the center of a thin dish towel. Use your hands to squeeze the rice in the dish towel, removing all of the excess moisture from the cauliflower.
Place the drained cauliflower in a large bowl, then add in the vegan egg mixture, the almond meal, the additional tablespoon a ground flax or chia seeds, salt, garlic and dried oregano. Stir well to mix, then press the mixture into the parchment-lined baking sheet. For best results, press the crust together firmly, making sure that there are no “thin spots” where it might crack.
Bake at 400F for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and dry to the touch.
You could use this pizza crust as is, but it won’t be firm enough to lift with your hands. For best texture, I recommend using an additional piece of parchment paper to flip the entire pizza crust, then returning it to the pan to bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Once the crust is firm and dry, add your favorite pizza toppings.
You can skip the cooking and cooling process when using frozen cauliflower. Simply allow the frozen cauliflower to thaw in your fridge overnight, which creates a “cooked” texture without having to do the extra work. Pulse the thawed cauliflower to create the rice, then drain well using a dish towel.
Chicken, Caramelized Onion, and Apple Pizza
Pizza dough (use your favorite or the whole wheat dough recipe above)
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra to brush on the pizza crust
1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions (about 1 onion)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 500°F.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and cook, stirring often, until softened and caramel colored, stirring often, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the onions from the heat.
Place pizza dough on a baking sheet; using your hands, gently flatten, and pull into an oval shape. Brush the crust with olive oil. Season the dough with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the cheese evenly across crust. Then evenly spread the chicken and apples across the pizza. Bake until crust is golden brown and toppings are hot, 10 to 12 minutes.
It is also predicted that diners in 2014 will be increasingly interested in food grown in their own region, as well as eating more non-meat meals. A vegetarian pizza offering is an easy way to serve seasonal, locally sourced produce. Below is a recipe for a vegetarian pizza that combines a variety of colorful roasted veggies with the tangy and creamy goodness of goat cheese.
Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pizza
10 garlic cloves
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 zucchini, cut in thin rounds
1/2 yellow squash, cut in thin rounds
1 large jalapeno, thinly sliced
2 t olive oil
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded or sliced provolone cheese
Goat cheese (as much as you want!)
1-2 t olive oil
2 basil leaves, torn or julienned
red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to 425.
Wrap the garlic cloves in foil with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt. Toss the rest of the vegetables (minus the spinach and tomatoes) in 2 t of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet – along with the pouch of garlic. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred and the garlic is roasted. Immediately mix the hot vegetables with spinach to allow it to wilt. Set aside.
Gently mash your roasted garlic and goat cheese together.
Roll out the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet. Top with a layer of provolone cheese and then an even layer of the vegetables. Then dot the entire thing with the garlicky goat cheese. Lastly, top your pizza with the tomato halves.
Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, until the bottom is slightly brown, the cheese is hot and bubbly and the tomatoes are completely warmed through. Sprinkle with basil and red pepper flakes and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil.