Crispy, convenient and still gluten-free
Consider ancient grains, rice and almond flour for a desirable gluten-free pizza crust.

KANSAS CITY – Potential pitfalls are plentiful when creating gluten-free pizza crusts. What about the extensibility of the dough, the cohesiveness of the chew or even the color of the crust? The length of the ingredient list must be considered as well as such ingredients as whole grain.

Wheat flour, the ingredient being removed, provides answers for many of these challenges.

Since wheat flour contributes many of the dough and crust properties, a gluten-free flour blend should include functional ingredients as well as gluten-free flours, said Vanessa Brovelli, senior product applications technologist for Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. Starches, gums, fibers and protein powders all are functional ingredients that may add back structure, strength and dough extensibility when wheat flour is removed. Potential gluten-free grain flours are rice, millet, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, teff, corn and buckwheat, she said.

“A good gluten-free pizza flour blend will hold water to increase dough absorption,” Ms. Brovelli said. “It will create a dough that is extensible enough to be workable by hand or by sheeting, and it will trap gas during fermentation or proof to create a desirable crumb.”

The desired type of pizza crust (deep dish, thin, cracker-type, etc.) may require small changes in the formula, such as absorption or oil/fat addition. Still, a good gluten-free flour blend should work in most types of crust, she said.

“Sometimes a formulator can alter the texture by changing what gluten-free grains he/she works with,” she said. “For example, corn may give pizza crust more of a crunchy texture. Waxy rice as opposed to long grain rice may give a softer bite and higher water absorption, and gluten-free seeds like chia or flax can give a more cohesive chew to a crust.”

Brown teff may contribute a brown color, and sorghum may add a greenish color.

“So these may need to be balanced with other grain flours that are more neutral such as millet and rice,” Ms. Brovelli said.

Using blends of different gluten-free flours and starches and customizing the flour blend for the recipe are important strategies, said Angela Ichwan, senior director of research and technical solutions for Ardent Mills, Denver.

“Just for one example, whole sorghum flour works well in foods that are comparatively higher in moisture, but a high inclusion level of sorghum can impart grittiness,” she said. “So it’s important to conduct a lot of trial and error to achieve the best ratios for each finished product.”

A patent from General Mills

General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, listed rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum flour and millet flour as ingredients in a patent for ready-to-bake, gluten-free pizza dough formulations filed June 2 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Crispy, convenient and still gluten-free
Rice flour may be used to shorten the ingredient list of a gluten-free pizza.

In the patent, a gluten-free flour mixture constitutes 45% to 55% by weight of the dough. Other elements are dried egg whites (1.75% to 4.5%), oil (1.5% to 2%), shortening (3% to 7%), water (26% to 33%), ethanol (1% to 2%) and sucrose (less than 5%).

The gluten-free flour mixture includes less than 12% by weight rice flour, and it also may include tapioca starch, sorghum flour, millet flour and combinations thereof, according to U.S. application No. 20160150798. The combination of several ingredients in the gluten-free flour mixture provides a ready-to-bake pizza crust having the taste, texture and rheology similar to that of gluten-containing doughs, and it provides a baked pizza crust having the organoleptic properties of a gluten-based pizza crust.

Beneo, Inc., which has a U.S. office in Morris Plains, N.J., has shown how its newly wet-milled rice flour (Remyflo R7 90 T CP) and its brown rice flour (Remyflo C 200) may be used instead of standard white flour in gluten-free thin crust pizza. Wet milling allows the production of finer flour particle sizes in Remyflo R7 90 T CP (below 90 micron) without damaging the starch granules. The starch granules then may hydrate more easily, which results in better dough handling. The granules’ very fine particle size also improves mouthfeel, texture and crispiness of the gluten-free pizza crust. Remyflo C 200 is used as well to promote the short bite and palatability of the crust.

“Beneo did technical trials with its rice flours and rice starches for thin crust pizza,” said Rudy Wouters, vice-president, Beneo-Technology Center. “Here a good workability could be shown due to improved dough handling and flexibility. Additionally, mouthfeel, texture and crispiness of the crust were improved. Beneo’s rice specialties can also be used in other kinds of pizza, but the formulation/recipe would need to be optimized according to the type of crust.”

The gluten-free pizza crust with the rice flour has the following ingredient list: rice starch, oil, sugar, salt, hydrocolloid and yeast. The number of ingredients is smaller than the number in an original gluten-free pizza crust: water, rice flour, modified rice starch, potato starch, olive oil, evaporated cane sugar, tapioca flour, potato flour, fresh yeast, salt, xanthan gum and calcium sulfate.

The recipe may require adaptation according to the individual requirements and process conditions of the customers (e.g. an industrial producer of pizza crust or pizza crust mix, restaurant, food service, etc.), Mr. Wouters said.

“However, gluten-free pizza crust with rice ingredients can generally be used for many distribution channels,” he said. “Particularly, within our Beneo trials it has been confirmed that the pizza crust has very good freeze-thaw stability. The starch granules in our wet-milled rice flour remain more intact. Consequently water is better retained. Additionally, the unique structure of amylopectin and amylose in rice starch limits retrogradation, which results in a better freeze-thaw stability.”

Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., offers a gluten-free seasoned pizza crust mix. The blend of thyme, rosemary and basil, plus onion and garlic is designed for ultra-thin, thin and medium level crust thickness, said Zak Otto, technical research and development manager – protein for Wixon.

“In order to formulate for a deep dish or rising crust, different leavening agents are needed, as well as the physical make-up of the dough, how it’s processed and how it is stored as a finished product,” he said.

A restaurant could mix the blend in a stand-alone bowl or mixer, depending on the size, Mr. Otto said. A crust manufacturer could use the blend to produce crust on an industrial level.

“It would just be a scaled up version of the restaurant,” Mr. Otto said. “It would come in the form of a par-baked crust, one that has had some thermal processing to set and form the dough into a crust, and remove the stickiness associated with gluten-free doughs.”

Gluten-free pizza made in a restaurant or other food service outlets requires careful handling of the ingredient and dough to avoid gluten contamination, Ms. Brovelli said.

“Often, baking bags are used where a gluten-free crust is baked directly in a baking bag without risk of contamination in the oven,” she said. “It is important to understand that gluten-free pizza dough feels and processes differently than wheat-based pizza dough, and it requires some trial and error to determine what processing methods will work best for each operation. Some ingredients such as rice flour or starch can be used for dusting in place of wheat flour.”

Gluten-free frozen pizza may require specific strategies, too.

“For frozen dough, it’s important to manage water during freezing, both the dough and the sauce, as ice crystal build-up can lead to lower volume crust and ‘weeping’ sauce,” said Pete Asta, research and development manager for Ardent Mills. “This step can be managed with starch and/or hydrocolloids. Some of these technologies are then helpful to manage microwave heat.”

Ancient grains and almonds

Nutrition is another consideration when formulating gluten-free pizza crusts. Gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice, sorghum, millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff and buckwheat are options, Ms. Brovelli said.

“Gluten-free seeds, including pumpkin seed, sunflower, chia, flax and poppy, are also a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition, offering boosts of protein and fiber in levels often exceeding that of whole grains,” she said.

Ancient grains, because they do not contain gluten, need special consideration in terms of their impact on volume and/or crumb structure in finished baked applications, said Don Trouba, director of marketing for Ardent Mills.

“For gluten-free applications, it’s important to remember these ingredients usually hold more water than native starch,” he said. “So people need to experiment with adjustments to moisture, and although some structure can come from ancient grains, adding other starches and protein is usually still necessary.”

Crispy, convenient and still gluten-free
Almond flour may be incorporated into pizza crust.

Naturally gluten-free almond flour contains the same nutritional profile as whole almonds, said Angie Raimondi, product marketing manager for Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients division in Sacramento, Calif. A ¼-cup serving contains 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber and 75 mg of calcium along with being a source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats.

Almond flour may be incorporated into pizza crust.

“Because almond flour includes its own fats, oils may need to be decreased in the recipe slightly,” Ms. Raimondi said. “As a rule of thumb, fats and oils can be reduced by approximately 25% when baking with almond flour as the flour itself has a higher fat content compared to traditional flour.”

If the dough includes sugar, the amount may be reduced by about 25% because almonds also have a sweet flavor, she said. Cook times may need to be increased by about 5 minutes because of the extra moisture in almond flour.

“Without the gluten as a binder, almond flour batters and doughs need a bit of firming up,” Ms. Raimondi said. “Egg whites are a great binder that doesn’t change the flavor. You can use whole eggs, but the yolks can add an eggy flavor.”