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Gluten-free pizza for all!

Pizza dough

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Imagine waking up one day to learn that your small intestine can't take it no more, that wheat, barley and rye are the enemy and you've got to go cold turkey on the stuff if you want to stay alive.

Specifically, it's the gluten causing the gastrointestinal uproar, the very same protein network that gives baked goods their magic elasticity.

The tricky part about celiac disease, the genetic autoimmune disorder that affects at least 1 in 133 Americans, is that gluten is EVERYWHERE. Not only is it found in the obvious pantry staples such as bread and pasta, but it lurks in processed foods as preservatives and thickeners, in beer, and even stranger, in some cosmetics and toiletries, such as deodorant and lipstick.

Gluten-free is a hot topic in the culinary world not just because it's a new twist on old kitchen tricks, but because scientists are better able to diagnose celiac disease, and the gluten-intolerant population among us is growing.

The good news is that gluten-intolerant cooks are embracing the limitations as an opportunity, making recipe adaptations and sharing lessons learned, in cookbooks as well as in the blogosphere. From the literature I've read, the one consistently missed dish among the gluten-intolerant is pizza.

Below is a recipe I found online, developed by a Minnesota couple, who eventually launched an online retail store selling gluten-free products.

If you're a wheat-flour pizza maker, forget everything you know about making pizza the old way and just roll with the new regime. There's no kneading of dough, which is a little strange, and the dough is not the color you once knew, but it's all good. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the dough's light texture and respectable crumb.

As a stand-in, this pizza wouldn't just save someone's life; it would offer a new reason to live.

P.S.: If the idea of buying many different kinds of flours seems too much work, try Pamela's Wheat-Free Bread Mix, a reliable brand found in Whole Foods and smaller specialty grocers.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

3/4 cup brown or white rice flour (brown rice flour yields a more golden-colored crust)

1/3 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons guar gum or xanthan gum

1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

3/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine rice flour, potato starch, sugar, guar gum, yeast, sea salt and oregano. In another, larger bowl, combine water, vinegar and oil. Slowly add dry ingredients. With an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until well-combined, about 3 minutes.

Lightly grease pizza pan or baking sheet with olive oil and a sprinkling of cornmeal. Shape dough onto pizza pan or baking sheet. Oil your fingertips or rubber spatula to help spread dough into desired shape. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes. With your hands, fold over edges of dough to create a raised crust.

Place pan in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Crust edges will harden slightly and gradually begin to darken. Remove tray from oven and apply sauce and toppings. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

Instead of baking, the pizza can be grilled, atop a pizza stone. Grill the crust alone on medium heat, then put on a work surface with grilled side up and assemble the pizza. Then grill on low heat for 7 minutes.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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