Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesdays with Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: Pizza Pizza!

I've been absent from my blog for a looooong time - most of this is due to life throwing up a lot of busy-busy-busy with very little time to do any jewellery or creativeness that way. Well, that and I've been travelling - this time, I've just come back from Vietnam - Hanoi to be exact! A few of us in the choir I sing with travelled there at the invitation of the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra to sing in a huge-scale celebration of Hanoi's 1000th birthday. The repertoire was Mahler's 8th Symphony, nicknamed 'The Symphony of a Thousand', making it particularly fitting (and challenging, but that's another blog post altogether. Hanoi deserves one of its own.)

The week before I left for Hanoi however, Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef blog mentioned something very exciting - Wednesdays cooking from her new book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. If you don't know who Shauna is, she is one of the most inspirational people in the food blogging world that I know of. She's spunky, caring, innovative, and she's been one of the biggest influences in my life as far as being able to survive gluten-free goes.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to get hold of her book yet so I wasn't sure I was going to be able to take part in the Wednesday cooking sessions, and left it at that. However, thanks to Michael Ruhlman's interview with Carol Blymire of 'Alinea at Home' and 'French Laundry at Home' fame, I -was- able to participate in this week's Wednesday - baking pizza!

This is -me- of course, so I -had- to run into problems first reading of the recipe. Corn flour. in Malaysia, that's what I call corn starch. But corn starch had already been mentioned in the recipe so I was pretty sure that wasn't what was being asked for. A bit of slightly confusing research drew up an article that mentioned Southern cooking and the silky smooth flour made from finely-ground corn meal. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. That helped.

Except I didn't have any of that, and the nearest thing to hand was maize meal, rather coarse-ground. To heck with it, I thought about it for a moment, then grabbed the maize meal, weighed it out on the rickety contraption that -calls- itself a manual kitchen scale but in reality should be more 'Cook's Domestic Torment', and went right ahead with the recipe.

By golly, it worked.

I am not the world's best photographer so the first shot I got of the pizza coming out of the oven is cringe-worthy (and I forgot I had a camera tripod). But I was far, far too excited to even think about proper photography at the time - I had PIZZA. Glorious, safe, pizza!

(Rolling dough into a circle, however - that's another story. The adage that anyone who can draw a freehand circle will make a good artist? LIES. -MY- circle looked like someone patched together a 2-year old's sense of geometry and mangled it with a Picasso perspective. Thankfully, that's got no bearing on the taste of it or I'd be in trouble by now.)

This morning, I got some better pictures of the project that hopefully do the recipe a bit more justice.

1) I mixed up the entire batch of flour and realised that my small oven wouldn't contain a 10" crust, let alone anything bigger. So I halved it. I didn't need to do a thing to the recipe otherwise, apart from adding just a little more water to bind the dough properly when it was getting mixed together - and that likely because my measurement for the oil was a little off.

2) The dough was a bit wet and sticky to handle for rolling. When putting it between two sheets of parchment paper didn't work, I removed the top sheet of parchment paper and substituted it with plastic wrap instead. Once rolled out, I took the entire thing, parchment paper and all, and put it on my baking sheet as I don't have a pizza stone. I was afraid that not sprinkling the bottom with corn meal might make the whole thing stick, but as it turned out, I needn't have worried. The crust came off the parchment paper beautifully. I also will try rolling the dough out thinner and using a different flour to see if that makes any difference to overall texture; I might need to bake the crust for a bit longer to get it browner and crisper.

Taste-wise? FANTASTIC. I topped this crust with tomato puree, spinach, black pepper smoked pork strips, green apples and parmesan. The one remaining crust in the fridge is going to get eaten soon; perhaps I'll try roasted eggplant, home-made tomato sauce and bacon. Either way, I would make this again in a heartbeat. Thank you so much Shauna, for this beautiful recipe!