Carb Solution: The Pizza Dough Quest
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources, not to mention the effect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the bloodstream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating low glycemic scores. They also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
• The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
• The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how many digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while ten or less is low.
I have lost count of the number of faux pizza crusts that I have tried over the years to pursue the holy grail of the carb-counting world – a glycemic acceptable and reasonable facsimile in taste and texture to this iconic dish. Ironically, it’s probably the one food item responsible for the years of excessive carb consumption that has created my need never again to enjoy the real thing! Yet the journey continues as we try to capture our now off-limits gastronomic memories using all sorts of creative and/or weird ingredients from cauliflower to garbanzo beans; there are even several versions of pizza crust made from roasted chicken!
Before presenting this next replica crust, I must start with a disclaimer of the very concept of faux anything. That is, it’s not really a good idea to approach your low carb meal planning by returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak, by spending much time devising fake recipes of those past hits from earlier kitchen days. Firstly, it’s the music that got you here glycemicly, so it could be a slippery slope to the real thing in a moment of flavor cravings if your willpower falters in a weak moment. Secondly, it just seems more sensible to create and learn to enjoy new flavors using low carb ingredients rather than fixating on past dishes that are no longer on the menu. In the long of it, it’s much easier to get over the things you can’t have and move on!
That said, I spotted this very low carb pizza crust recipe on the ‘net, so I thought I would give it a go for those who disagree with this anti-faux viewpoint. The recipe had to be tweaked from the published original, which did not work – a good reminder not to believe everything online, including recipe measurements! The cheese to almond flour ratio seemed to be out of balance, but I have learned not to prejudge a recipe until tried. However, my suspicions were proven by what could only be described as a round of blackened flatbread, though I was not going for a Cajun pizza!
My second batch was much more successful by adjusting the recipe to equal measurements of cheese to flour. Also, I added a teaspoon of baking powder which I thought wouldn’t make any difference, but it definitely did. Since almond flour is not really flour but nut meal, it should not react. Still, it added just a smidgeon of bready texture. I also had to play around with cooking time and temperature. Mimicking the stereotypical blazing hot pizza oven was also probably a factor in my first blackened attempt at 450°F, as the second pie was tampered down to a slow cook of 350°F and turned out just perfect! The results: after the aforementioned adjustments and some very focused taste testing, (accompanied by a quality pale ale), this formula came close to the real deal. Taste is subjective based on many factors – but I vote this one is worth trying.
The toppings are also a matter of taste and the fun part of making an individual pizza. So be creative! The pizza crust pictured below was purposely kept simple for demonstration and photographic considerations; it is topped with a famous actor’s marinara sauce, goat cheese, mini sweet peppers, heirloom baby tomatoes and fresh basil. So, yes, Virginia, there is a low-carb pizza!
No Flour Baby Pizza
Yield: (1) 7-inch pizza
For the dough:
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 egg, beaten
1 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Veggie Sweet Mini-Peppers, Fresh Basil, Goat Cheese and a favorite Marinara Sauce.
Combine cream cheese and mozzarella in a small bowl, then microwave on high for 20-second intervals until completely melted. Add in the beaten egg, almond flour and garlic powder. When melted, the mozzarella turns into a big glob, making it difficult to work. Patience as it will come together as a dough.
Cover a pizza pan with parchment paper, then spread the dough to form a small, individual pie. Poke the dough several times with a fork to prevent bubbling. Bake for 15 minutes at 375°F or until a very light golden brown.
Once cooked, let cool, apply favorite toppings, then pop the pizza back in the oven until the goat cheese melts and the sauce starts to bubble. Be careful not to burn the pizza dough edges.
Remove from oven, slice and enjoy!