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Monday, October 26, 2015

happy food: cauliflower crust pizza

We love pizza. L. and I have a love affair with pizza. Some of our best dates have been over pizza. Often as we're enjoying an entire pie, one of us will moan with joy and say "I could eat this every night." While pizza is pretty much the perfect food, it just isn't an every night kind of meal. Too many calories, too much fat, too much gluten. The day after a pizza dinner, we always throw in an extra mile or two into our workouts.

Two weeks ago a friend of mine, Fr. Matt, texted me pictures of a pizza he had made. It looked incredible, golden brown, crispy. I salivated. Then the next text read "I made it from CAULIFLOWER and it was delicious!" What?! I've tried "fauxtatoes," a cauliflower/cream/butter combo that mimics mashed potatoes. However, no matter how smooth I blended this combination, it still tasted like cauliflower with cream and butter, not creamy mashed potatoes. So, while I was curious about a cauliflower crust pizza, I wondered if it could indeed pass as a good substitution for traditional pizza.

Fr. Matt sent me his recipe from Katie Lee. I also scoured the web for recipes. I read the comments and watched the YouTube videos. Then I started the experiments. It took four tries to get this right but when I did get it right, it was sublime. While it's hard to beat a warm, traditional doughy crust, this cauliflower crust pizza tastes like the real thing without any of the guilt and calories of a wheat based pizza.

To cut the time, I used Trader Joe's ingredients but if you have some time, try making your own pizza sauce.

Happy Food: Cauliflower Crust Pizza


1 large head of cauliflower  (or two bags of Trader Joe's fresh cauliflower florets)
1 egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan/romano cheese
2 tablespoons of almond or coconut flour 
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Your favorite pizza toppings. This is a great pizza sauce recipe.  If you're short on time, Trader Joe's pizza sauce is fantastic. For this pizza I used TJ's sauce along with turkey pepperoni and 1/2 cup low fat mozzarella cheese.

You will also need:
a clean dishtowel
olive oil
parchment paper
baking sheet
food processor


Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the florets off the cauliflower. You will only be using the florets and not the stems. Place half of the florets in the food processor and pulse until fluffy. You may have to scrape the sides down several times. Set aside the mixture in a large microwave-safe bowl and pulse the other half of the florets again until fluffy. 

Cover bowl with microwave-safe wrap and microwave for 7 minutes. Remove from microwave and pour cauliflower "fluff" in the center of a clean dishtowel. Let sit for 5 minutes. 

The next step is VERY important of you want the texture of your pizza to resemble a traditional crust. 

When the cauliflower has cooled a bit, pull the sides of the dishtowel up around the cauliflower. Over the sink squeeze the water from the cauliflower. I was doubtful that it needed to be squeezed because cauliflower seems so dry but I was surprised when I got almost a cup of water out of the cauliflower. Be sure to squeeze tightly to get every drop of water out. 

Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl. Add in the beaten egg, cheese, almond or coconut flour and salt. Mix until incorporated. It will be very sticky and wet.

Place parchment paper on baking sheet and brush a thin layer of olive oil onto the middle of the parchment paper in about a 9 inch circle. Scoop crust mixture into center of parchment paper and using your hands, spread the cauliflower mixture out into a circle about 9 inches wide. The crust should be about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of an inch thick. Be sure not to spread the dough out too thin. Using your fingers, pat the dough down so it is compact. Brush top with a small amount of olive oil. 

Slide baking sheet into heated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden brown. When it is, top with your favorite toppings and cook for another 7 or so minutes. 

Let cool for two minutes and slice as you would any other pizza. Enjoy the happy!

What I learned from this experiment (& tips)

  • Your kitchen will smell like cauliflower. This happens during the microwaving process. However, this smell will dissipate soon when your pizza cooks in the oven. It smells just like traditional pizza. 
  • If you prefer not to use a microwave, you can also steam the cauliflower for the same amount of time.
  • I tried this dough with and without the extra flour. It's good both ways but I found that when I added coconut flour, it added a little more "sturdiness" to the crust. However, if you don't have flour, you can make this recipe without it.
  • The key to this recipe really is getting out all of the water from the cauliflower so squeeze, squeeze away. I tried squeezing the cauliflower as soon as came out of the microwave and burned my hands. So, be kind to your hands and wait a few minutes for it to cool before you start wringing the cauliflower dry. 
  • Be sure that the crust isn't too thin. On my first few tries, the dough was spread too thin and it burned in places. 
  • Using a blender to pulse the cauliflower doesn't work. The cauliflower is just too dry. You need a shallow bowl like a food processor. The cauliflower must be ultra-finely chopped for this recipe. In my research, people have used a juicer, using the cauliflower pulp and they had great results. You can also use a cheese grater in a pinch.
  • If you don't tell people that they are eating cauliflower crust pizza, they won't have an expectation that they won't like this "healthy" food. I would have had a hard time figuring out that this crust was made from cauliflower if I hadn't made it myself. 
  • It's key to use parchment paper that has been oiled, otherwise your crust may stick to the pan. 
If you're more visual, watch this video from Dani Spies of Clean & Delicious.


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