Friday, July 11, 2014

Gluten-free pizza, politics and gaming

gluten free artisan pizza | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
gluten free artisan pizza | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

Gluten-free pizza is a healthy way to enjoy an American staple food.

The origin and history of pizza is debated almost as much as the Second Amendment and taxes. Some accounts claim Turks invented pizza as an open-faced schawarma. Other claim it is Greek, based upon a mispronunciation of “pita”. New Yorkers claim that they made the first American version. Chicago counters that real American pizza is theirs. Many Chicagoans and New Yorkers both agree that pizza from other places isn’t “real pizza”. Regardless, pizza has become even more an American staple than apple pie.
With this recipe, you can indulge in an artisan-style, wheat-free, gluten-free pizza made fresh at home.


Gluten-free crust:

Gluten-free all purpose flour or tapioca flour – 1 cup
Rice flour – 1 cup
Xanthan gum – 4 tbsp
Eggs, large (at room temperature) – 2
Vinegar (pref. apple cider) – 1 tbsp
Brown sugar – 1 tsp
Salt, kosher – 1tsp
Olive oil – 1/4 cup
Warm water – 3/4 cup
Yeast – 1tsp
Parmesan cheese, grated – 1 oz
Basil – 1 tsp
Garlic, minced – 1 tsp

Hearty, healthy pizza sauce:

Tomatoes, medium – 3
Tomato paste – 1 can
Balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp
Fennel – 1 tsp
Garlic – 1 tbsp
Ancho chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Basil – 1 tbsp
Oregano – 1 tbsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Honey – 1 tsp
Well used baking stone |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
Well used baking stone |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak


pizza dough |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
pizza dough |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the flours and xanthan gum. Hollow out a small crater in the middle. Add salt, sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl, wisk together the two eggs and vinegar. The eggs and vinegar mixture helps to produce that elastic quality produced by wheat gluten. Pour the egg mixture into the crater followed by the olive oil and water. Finally, add the cheese, basil and garlic.

Mix the ingredients by hand until thoroughly moist. Then knead the mixture by hand for 3-5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening at one edge. Place a clean towel or pastry cloth on top and set aside to rise for two hours.

pizza dough |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
pizza dough |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

After the initial rising, it’s time to make this baby look like a crust. A tip here is to invest in some parchment paper. Place one sheet the size of your pan or baking stone on your table. Place the ball of dough on top of the first piece of parchment paper. Cover with a second piece of parchment paper the same size. Using a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle), roll the dough out a little over half-way to full size. Flip the crust (paper and all) over and roll it the rest of the way. If it isn’t perfectly round, it’s fine. You’ll be doing some shaping with your fingers. Also, the imperfect shape is the perfect way to show-off that it is hand made and not Domino’s.

Using your fingers, roll the edges in and flute the edge. Then cover with your clean towel or pastry cloth and set aside for 1-2 hours to rise a second time.

Preheat the oven (with your baking stone in it, if you have one) to 450. (In summer, you can use the baking stone on a grill!!! It gives the pizza and crust a unique flavor.) Place the crust in the oven, lower the temperature to 425, and bake for 7-10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before topping.

shaped pizza crust |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
shaped pizza crust |PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

The sauce recipe is optional. There are several off-the-shelf products that work if you add a little personal spice to them, like fennel (key to giving it real “pizzeria taste”). If you prefer a “white sauce”, off-the-shelf Alfredo sauces will work. However, be careful. Many of those products use wheat or wheat derivatives (including gluten) to thicken them. Many times those items are not readily recognizable on the label. This previous article contains a good pesto sauce, if you prefer that option.

Quarter the tomatoes and put them into a sauce pan. Add the other ingredients and heat on low-medium, stirring occasionally. If you pair this pizza with a red wine, add about an ounce (a shot, 1/8 cup) to the mixture. Heat for 10-12 minutes until the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.

Topping the pizza can be a family-fun project. Cut up fresh vegetables such as kale, spinach, tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, green pepper, etc. A quick way to make a mock Italian sausage is to use ground beef or ground turkey. Mix it with some basil, oregano, and fennel seed. Lightly brown it in a skillet.

topping pizza a family activity|PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
topping pizza a family activity|PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

The cheese should be the last thing you add. If you want that artisan touch, blend grated Mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan, hard cheddar and Provolone cheeses. (Some stores carry these already blended). Mix a little salt, crushed red pepper flakes, basil and oregano into the shredded/grated cheese.

Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

The nutritional quick facts and healthy benefits vary depending upon toppings and sauce you use. The biggest benefit is that the crust contains no plaque and inflammation causing gluten.  An added benefit is the accomplished sensation you get when that pie is gobbled up in minutes.

Politics and Gaming

Pizza is a social food served at many gatherings, including modern “social” interactions among the gaming community. Gaming is becoming as American as Labor Day barbecues, be it online, Pictionary parties, role-play (RP), or cosplay (costume play). Groups have formed around certain games or gaming styles. In Arizona, there used to be a social gaming club that dressed in old western clothing and played poker. The group would use one month’s “buy in” revenue to purchase supplies, food, and prizes for the next meeting. The left-over cash was usually donated to the Red Cross or other charity. Pizza was a regular staple served.
Recently, a conservative commentator cast one gaming organization in a rather poor light. The organization regularly engages in live-action RP patterned after the White Wolf gaming systems. The non-profit is a US affiliate of a larger, global organization. Many of the players dress in costumes and make-up while portraying their characters. The activity is best described as improvised, participant-driven theater. If you take away the improvisation and elements of chance and replace them with a strict script, it is no different than performing in play in a local theater.

The commentator chose to use this particular organization as a means to embarrass a Republican candidate headed into a primary. The candidate’s harmless hobby should have no bearing on his electability. The organization contains many high-quality members. Though known more for its gaming, the group also does charity work. They provided thousands of dollars to Red Cross Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. They support Free The Girls, a charity that helps former sex-slaves recover. They support veterans causes and have a large veteran and active military membership. Would he have done the same to Senator Ted Cruz, who happens to be an avid gamer as well? Perhaps that commentator should have sat down with some of the more conservative-minded members of the organization, eaten some pizza, gotten information about the organization, written up a character, and tried the game out before vilifying the organization in his attempt to expose that particular candidate.

The names are omitted at the request of the organization’s board of directors and not to protect the candidate.