Cauliflower Pizza Bases

Food FervourI was skeptical about this notion when I first heard of it. Could cauliflower really imitate a dough base and hold together under the weight of all those toppings? I had to try for myself. And I was completely surprised (and smitten) when I made my first one. Now I can’t look back. Whilst they’re neither a thin crunchy base, nor a thick chewy, doughy one, they do manage to hold together well enough to support all your toppings (and I usually pile on way more than you’d get in your typical takeaway pizza). They are…. amazeballs.

Why opt for cauliflower over grain-dough bases? My primary reason is because it’s a vegetable. Whilst I prefer not to demonise foods, I would choose a vegetable over a grain in this case purely for its nutritional content. In general veggies provide more nutrient density and variety. And then there’s the fact that cauliflower’s pretty much starch (complex carbohydrate) -free compared to dough, which matters if you are ‘watching your weight’. Finally, there’s the gluten issue: this is perfect for coeliacs or the gluten intolerant.

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Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley features in this cauliflower pizza base

And best of all, you only need – at the very least – TWO ingredients: cauliflower and eggs. Many cauliflower pizza base recipes will include more than two, but they really are optional: the vegetable and eggs on their own will work just fine …but it is fun to play around with add-ins. I’ve experimented with a few of the following: obviously salt & pepper, but also chopped/dried herbs, grated cheese, tomato paste and I just LOVE nutritional yeast flakes (idea borrowed from Lee Holmes’ Supercharged Food).

It’s such a simple procedure, however the success of your base will be largely determined during one specific step. Here’s the method, based on 500gm cauliflower and 2 eggs:

Pre-heat Oven to 200ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper. Set aside.

Steam Cauliflower florets:

Manually: In a medium/large saucepan, bring add approx 2-3cm of water to the boil over high heat (cover with the lid to expediate this or better still, add boiling water from a freshly boiled electric jug to a large saucepan on the stovetop, on high heat). Add the florets, drop the heat back to simmer and keep the lid on the saucepan. Your cauliflower should cook in 4-5 minutes (check softness with a utensil). Thermomixers: Add 500gm of water to bowl then place cauliflower florets in basket. Programme 14 minutes, Varoma, speed 1-1.5.

Remove Excess fluid from the Cauliflower (this is the crucial step):

Allow cauliflower to cool (you can rinse under cold water to expediate this). Drain all excess water from the florets then roughly chop or mash the cauliflower (in the same saucepan …to save on dish-washing). Thermomixers can simply chop at Speed 5 or Turbo for a few seconds). Empty it all into the centre of a clean cotton tea towel, then, pulling the sides up, begin to squeeze out as much excess water as possible …into the sink for drainage (or over a bowl if you like to conserve your veggie water). The volume of cauliflower will pretty much halve in size. The more fluid you extract, the firmer your pizza base will be.

The Ingredient Mix:

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Tomato (paste) pizza base spread with fresh basil pesto, ready for toppings…

Manually: Return the mashed cauliflower to a bowl (scraping the veggie fibre from the tea towel – waste not, want not!) add the eggs and whatever else you’d like to add to the base, and mix thoroughly. Thermomixers: pop it all into the bowl and blend up to Speed 5 for about 10 seconds (you may want to scrape down the bowl down in between?)

Shape & Cook:

Tip the mixture into the centre of the paper-lined tray, and use a spatula to shape your pizza base. Aim for about ½-cm in thickness.

Pop into the oven and cook for 20 minutes, earmarking to turn the base over at about the halfway mark if possible.

Toppings:

Use the 20 minutes base cooking time to prepare your toppings. I’ll often fry up some mushrooms, preservative free bacon, capsicum and/or zucchini… I’ll boil the electric jug again and blanche some asparagus or broccoli… or make some basil pesto to use as the pizza base spread. You can grate your cheese now as well, so that you’re one hundred percent ready to dress the base.

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Leftover lunch slice of bacon & mushroom pizza

Once the base is done, and your toppings are spread, pop the pizza back in the oven for 7-10 minutes. It goes without saying, you need to serve immediately …but I have successfully refrigerated uneaten portions to enjoy for lunch the next day, just as you might do with a commercial pizza.

These really are the Bomb! If you are in the Gold Coast region, you can book a FoodPT with me to watch me demonstrate this procedure (it’s one of my most popular classes) and you get to eat the results. Find my contact details on the ‘Menu’ Page.

 

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Raw (aka Clean) Chocolate

I’ve never really been a choc-a-holic, but strangely that changed when I learnt that dark chocolate was considered to be somewhat healthy (in small amounts, of course). Oh, and when I realised how easy it is to make at home.

My initial love affair with Lindt 70% and 80% chocolate gave way to instant gratification in the comfort of my own home, as well as feeling uneasy about the other 20-30% of the Lindt ingredients (one of which I’m dismayed to discover is palm oil) 😦

food fervourRaw chocolate recipes weren’t as prolific a few years ago, but I found one on Lee Holmes’ site ‘Supercharged Food’ (link here) and was super surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Luckily a friend had presented me with a packet of organic cacao powder, so I could instantly ditch the more processed-therefore-less-clean cocoa powder in favour of extra nutritional benefit in my ‘treat’.

My very first attempt at raw chocolate comprised cacao powder, coconut oil and dextrose (back in the day, I was seriously anti-fructose… I’ve eased off that a bit now… opting for less processed ingredients over fructose content.) In fact it was scary how quickly you could make it: almost less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the shop for the mass-produced, sugar- (and god knows what else-) laden crap. I was so bloody excited about how easy it was to make that I posted a recipe on my first (other) blog, A Life in WordsHere’s the direct link to that if you’d like to take a squizz…

I finally looked into the cacao butter Lee uses only a little of in her recipe: I’d previously thought it was just a body moisturiser. Well, it is the BOMB. Being cacao fat, it tastes like …chocolate. Not coconut, surprise-surprise! And unlike coconut oil, cacao butter won’t liquify at 20 degrees, so you won’t have to drink the chocolate from your hands in summer.

It is seriously as easy as this: one part cacao butter to one part cacao powder. Then add your choice of sweetener to taste. In fact, I have found that if making “fruit’n’nut” chocolate, I don’t need any sweetener at all thanks to the natural sugar (& fibre) content of the sultanas.

Let’s start with ½ cup of cacao butter and ½ cup cacao powder (so if anything goes wrong, you don’t end up wasting too much of these quite costly ingredients). I now prefer to use maple syrup for a sweetener, finding honey too viscous and coconut sugar takes too long to dissolve.

food fervourHow do you know you have half a cup of cacao butter when it comes in ‘chunks’? I kind of solve this in the choice of equipment I use for the first part of the recipe method: Place a small saucepan of hot water (only about 2-3cms deep) on the stove over the lowest heat possible. Place the cacao chunks in a (tempered) glass measuring jug (I use ‘Pyrex’ brand) and sit the jug in the saucepan. Wait for the butter to liquify.

Simply add the equivalent amount of cacao powder and your choice of sweetener, to taste, mixing well (I use a small spatula, to press out any lumps of cacao powder). If you want to add any flavours (spices like vanilla, or essential peppermint oil) you’d do that now as well. A lot of recipes ask you to whisk the ingredients… I’ve been too lazy to try that!

The final step for ‘plain’ chocolate is to decide how you’d like to set it. I sometimes use silicone ice cube tray moulds for individual chocolates or, if very lazy, I’ll lay baking paper down on a plate and just pour out the chocolate onto it so that it it will form one big block (that you can break into pieces once set). Once you’ve made your decision, pop the chocolate in the freezer for about half an hour, or the refrigerator if you don’t’ need it for a few hours….

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fruit’n’nut sticks and blueberry hearts

You can experiment to your heart’s content with this: here are some of my  favourite variations:

Blueberry Hearts: I pop some frozen organic blueberries into silicone heart moulds before pouring in the chocolate… same goes for whole Macadamias

Fruit’n’Nut: I put sultanas & peanuts in moulds before I add the chocolate mixture…

Chocolate Bark: I pour the chocolate onto baking paper on a plate, or into a dish ‘oiled’ with coconut oil then sprinkle anything and everything into it, like: chopped nuts, seeds, goji berries, shredded coconut, amaranth puffs… go nuts!

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Chocolate ‘Bark’

Milk Chocolate: I recently decided to try adding (organic) milk powder to a chocolate mix and I thought it was so good that I pretty much ate the whole test batch in one go! (This is not to say everyone will agree.) Add approximately half the amount of milk powder to the fresh chocolate mix (so ¼ cup or two tablespoons per the measures I provided above, and mix VERY well (it will thicken quickly) to dissolve the powder as well as possible, then set or add stuff as you wish.

Please feel free to share any amazing combinations you concoct!

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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate