Potato and Pesto Perfection
by Anna Herman
While I like wheat and the wonderful way its protein gluten can transform into crispy bread and chewy seitan, I also like to host all comers on pizza night. Gluten-free baking skills now seem essential in one’s culinary arsenal, and with alternative ingredients now sold almost everywhere, it’s easier than ever.
Much gluten-free baking relies on mimicking the matrices that form between liquid and the protein and starches that naturally occur in wheat. By combining a variety of ground grains and beans such as rice, barley and garbanzos with various starches (tapioca or potato) and emulsifiers—such as xanthan gum and psyllium husk—bakers can elicit textures and flavors that rival wheat. King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill both make quality “basic bread” and “basic baking” gluten-free flour blends. They can be substituted one-for-one for wheat flour in many recipes. There are special challenges to getting a crispy chew—essential for pizza—but it is possible to get close.
After trying multiple versions of gluten-free pizza recipes I have devised, this is the one that both tasted good and didn’t use many ingredients uncommon to the average larder. The dough is soft, so it must be spread, rather than rolled. The subtle potato flavor is a perfect combo with pesto and mozzarella, but is equally at home with an assertive tomato-based pizza sauce.
Pesto Mozzarella Potato Pizza
Yields two 9- to 10-inch pies
- 2 pounds large all-purpose potatoes (Idaho or Yukon Gold)
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 F)
- 2 teaspoons honey (sugar or agave)
- 1 ½ teaspoon (one package) active dry yeast
- 1 cup white rice or brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup basil pesto or tomato pizza sauce
- 1 to 2 balls fresh mozzarella, halved and sliced (or up to 1 cup grated mozzarella)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 to 12 pitted black olives, optional
- Fill a large saucepan halfway with water, add one teaspoon salt, cover and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, until fork tender. Drain.
- While potatoes are cooling, add the water, honey and yeast to a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. After 3 to 5 minutes the yeast should be foaming. If not, start again with fresh yeast.
- Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel. Put peeled potatoes through a ricer, or grate them on a box grater into shards. Put them into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Add the yeast mixture, rice flour and tapioca starch, as well as the remaining teaspoon of salt, to the potatoes in a bowl. Mix until you have well-incorporated, crumbly dough.
- Add the egg white and oil and mix until you have a somewhat sticky, but cohesive, dough. Remove the paddle, scrape the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel and let rise for 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours. The dough should have swelled noticeably.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 450 F. Spread olive oil on a baking sheet. Place 1/2 of the dough in the center of the pan and, using a wet finger, press the dough to the thickness you like. Let sit to rise for 1/2 hour.
- Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the top no longer looks raw and remove from oven. Spread pesto or tomato sauce gently to cover and top with mozzarella and olives or choice toppings. Return to the oven and bake another 5 to 8 minutes until the crust is well browned and the cheese is melted.
- Remove from pan to cutting board with a spatula or two. Slice and enjoy.
To thaw frozen crusts:
Par-baked plain pizza crust freezes well if cooled and wrapped well before freezing. To use, remove from freezer, unwrap, place on baking sheet and add toppings. Cook in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
Anna Herman is a garden educator who grows fruits and veggies and raises chickens, ducks and bees in her Mount Airy backyard.