Baking artisan bread naturally leads one to dreaming about a wood-burning oven. Although not all serious bakers have a wood-burning oven, those of us who love to bake know it is the ultimate bread-baking environment. It’s less common for a serious wood-fired baker to dream about making gluten-free pizza dough. Even a month ago, if you had told me I’d be geeking out over gluten-free pizza, it would have brought a laugh.
Now, however, it’s exciting to write a blog about gluten-free pizza, because, fellow discriminating bread lovers, it’s possible to make fantastic gluten-free pizza dough. Years ago, a friend asked me about making delicious gluten-free dough so that she could finally have “good pizza.” At the time, I didn’t think it was possible. However, after seeing rave reviews of the grain-free, gluten-free pizza recipe from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head the movie site, I decided to test it.
Questions about this gluten-free pizza
Will discriminating eaters accept this?
Is it true that this crust is strong enough to let you hold a slice of pizza in hand?
Can it stand up to the wood-burning oven?
If so, should you modify the recipe for a wood-burning oven?
Will it produce a little bit of the beloved wood-fired crisping/scorching?
Making gluten-free pizza dough
We followed the recipe instructions closely. The gluten-free pizza dough has four ingredients: cheese, cream cheese, almond flour, and egg.
The recipe instructs you to microwave the cheese and cream cheese, then add the flour and egg. Making a double batch required some extra microwave time. The cheeses are hot when you stir them together, so be careful to add the almond flour before the eggs. Flour lowers the temperature enough to protect the eggs from scrambling.
The ingredients came together in a springy dough that was easy to work. We shaped the dough into a ball and rolled it out between two pieces of parchment paper. The double recipe completely covered the parchment paper.
This gluten-free pizza recipe calls for pre-baking the crust before topping it. Pre-baking pizza shells is a great technique for regular pizza, too. See our blog on tips for hosting a pizza party, prepping dough shells in advance. The pre-bake technique is similar for regular and gluten-free dough, but the gluten-free dough needs to be cooked all the way through. With the oven floor temperature around 600° we found that flipping the dough part way through gave an even bake and a beautiful browning. We learned from the first baking experience to make our pizza size fit the size of our metal peels.
Wood-burning oven modifications
We baked the gluten-free pizza dough on top of the parchment paper, directly on the oven floor. The side closest to the live fire cooked very quickly, so we rotated the dough. It helps to have the pizza size slightly smaller than your peel. With a larger size like this parchment paper, turning the dough was tricky.
The gluten-free pizza dough is wetter than traditional dough and will not spin (even on parchment). We had to remove the crust to rotate it. We slipped a metal peel under the parchment paper, pulled the crust all the way out of the oven and held onto a corner to reorient the dough before slipping it back into the oven.
Once the crust was evenly browned on the bottom, we pulled it out, put a piece of parchment paper on top and flipped it over. Then the crust went back in the oven to brown the other side. (This would have been much easier with a smaller crust.)
Baking smaller pizzas applies for any pizza baked in a wood-burning oven. Pizza can cook in under a minute. It’s easier to manage smaller rounds. When possible, use your peel as a gauge for size.
We let the crust rest for a few hours before baking the final pizza. As with any wood-fired pizza, the key is to keep the toppings light. The final bake melts the cheese and produces the characteristic crispy charred edges. Pre-cook your toppings, and don’t add fresh herbs until the pizza comes out of the oven.
Verdict on gluten-free pizza
This gluten-free pizza dough surpassed my expectations. It doesn’t give the toothsome quality you get with perfect wheat dough, and the crispiness is different (delicate, with more crumble than snap). However, it allows you to hold a slice in hand, is embarrassingly easy to make and to roll out. It tastes great even without toppings. The gluten-free crust truly is a blank slate. Where the crust on a standard pizza provides a counter-point flavor, this mild, cheesy crust will highlight whatever toppings you put on it.
Wood-fired pizza for everyone
We tend to focus on the versatility of wood-burning ovens. They aren’t just for pizza! But, pizza is one of foods that showcases the benefits of cooking with wood. Many people have experienced a Eureka moment when they first try pizza from a wood-burning oven, and they can’t go back to ordering from a chain pizzeria. If you’re hosting a party around a wood-burning oven, people are likely to expect pizza— and at least one of your guests would probably appreciate a gluten-free pizza option. (In the mood for the real thing? Check out our favorite whole wheat pizza crust recipe and our blog on Chicago-style deep dish pizza.)