Friends of mine who have celiac are constantly in search of good pizza. But some of the strange alternative crusts out there just look so... dry. I was stumped. Then I woke up one morning thinking about cheese bread.
Have you ever had cheese bread? It is a delicious snack I got hooked on by way of my Brazilian boyfriend's family. It's called Pão de Queijo. Fun fact, it's naturally gluten free.
I wondered what the dough would be like as a crust, and let me tell you–it is so good. This pizza isn't aspiring to be a classic pizza, but it will satisfy a craving for something warm and cheesy.
Keep in mind that this isn’t health food, but everyone should have access to pizza every now and then.
As a starting point, I was able to read a cheese bread recipe handwritten in Portuguese by my boyfriend's grandmother who lives in Rio de Janeiro. After experimenting with the dough in pizza-style, I made some changes to suit the new form. —Chronically Healthy
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400°F.
Place parchment paper or silpat mats on top of two sheet pans.
HEAT MILK AND OIL ON STOVETOP.
Bring milk and oil to a soft boil in a small sauce pan, stirring occasionally. Look for a foamy surface with bubbles just starting to push through, then remove from heat.
MIX WITH TAPIOCA FLOUR AND SALT.
In a metal or glass bowl (or stand mixer), pour the milk and oil mixture over the tapioca flour and salt. Mix well. Use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand, and really work the dough until it looks a bit shiny.
ADD EGGS, MIX THOROUGHLY.
Fold the eggs. It may feel strange at first but if you keep mixing it will become more of a sticky rice pudding consistency (refer to photos above). This step may require a little elbow grease if not using a mixer.
ADD PARMESAN CHEESE, MIX AGAIN.
Stir well to incorporate this final ingredient.
FORM TWO PIZZAS:
With wet hands, divide dough onto two sheet pans topped with parchment (or silpat). Flatten dough with fingers or spatula until about 1/4 inch thick, re-wetting hand or spatula as needed.
// TO MAKE A SAUCED PIZZA //
Bake the crust for 15 minutes before topping. Add your sauce and ingredients, then bake another 20+ minutes. Try adding sauce or canned tomatoes (chopped, drained, San Marzano) and a little basil or oregano. Oiled garlic slices or roasted vegetables like red pepper are also delicious. The dough carries all the cheesiness the pizza needs, but you can add a little extra if you'd like.
// TO MAKE A FLATBREAD WITHOUT SAUCE //
Add toppings to raw dough. Bake 15 minutes, rotate pans and switch racks (for even cooking), and bake another 20+ minutes until the crust looks slightly golden. I love caramelized onions and fresh sliced tomatoes.
// TO MAKE INDIVIDUAL CHEESE BREAD PUFFS //
Simply scoop dough with a tablespoon and use another spoon to guide onto parchment. Lightly wet the scoop and spoon each time, and use the spoon to neaten each dough ball. They smooth out on their own in the oven, so just focus on keeping them standing tall rather than flattened. Aim for 24 per sheet tray (4 x 6). Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pans and switch racks, and bake another 10 minutes until lightly browned. Eat warm—leftovers taste better re-heated!