It has taken us nearly a year to perfect this gluten free flatbread dough. The “we” part is my wife and I. For the last couple of years she has had to be gluten-free and that might well never change, so we decided to try and develop a fantastic pizza and flatbread gluten free dough. A regular weekly staple for us was making pizza from the basic “wheat, no knead” recipe that seems to be on every blog these days. We changed it a bit to use a mix of white and whole grain flours, but it was essentially the same. The only problem with it was gluten.
So when Danika first had to go gluten free, this was the one thing we had to make. We started with a recipe from a gluten free baking book. Our hopes were high. We bought the 4000 different flours required, the 20 different bizzare gums that I had never heard of before, and started to mix. We let it rise, then baked it. We wanted to like it. “hey this isn’t bad” I seem to remember muttering. But we knew different. It was bloody lousy. It was also a sodding pain in arse to work with.
We started to make our own. Things got better. We simplified the flours down and only used one gum and an egg. It was better, and at the time I really wasn’t trying to convince myself of that. But it still wasn’t fall to the ground crying with joy good. Far from it.
The one thing that has always bugged us with most gluten free recipes is the amount of bizarre crap you end up bunging in to a recipe to take the place of gluten. We eat a very unprocessed diet, generally stick to local and organic foods, so this bothered us somewhat. I had no idea what “xanthan gum” and “guar gum” were. I find the idea of using potato starch and tapioca flour strange too – two things I generally wouldn’t associate with being dried and ground in to a flour. Our motto for a long time has always been “don’t fuck with food”, and frankly half of this crap we were putting in to our gluten free dough didn’t exactly fit with that.
About 8 months ago we decided to ditch all that rubbish. No gums, no strange starches. Not even putting an egg in to help bind everything. We simplified our flour mix even further. We started to use freshly ground golden flaxseed as the binder. I expected the results to be terrible. Nothing, honestly nothing could be further from the truth. The dough started to behave like a gluten based dough. It was stretchy. It could be rolled easily. It got air bubbles when it baked. Because no egg or oil was in the mix the dough had that wonderful pizza dough mouth feel, rather than something that tasted heavy, and almost fried (if that makes sense). It was floury. But floury in a good way, not a heavy gritty kind of way.
This pizza dough (and flatbread dough) recipe was starting to taste seriously good. Three flours (two whole grain), sea salt, yeast, ground flaxseed and water. That is it. It couldn’t be simpler to make. Then we struck absolute gold. We decided to grill the pizza’s like we had before with the wheat based dough many moons ago. Now, we had also baked dough inside in a very hot (500F) oven on a pizza stone. It was decent, we thought. It always yielded a slightly better wheat dough than the BBQ way back when.
Grilling this gluten free dough over VERY hot coals is fantastic. It gets large air bubbles. The bottom crisps up but the top stays as light as a cloud. This is honestly some of the best pizza doughs I have ever tasted in my life, gluten free or otherwise. It beats the absolute crap out of the no knead wheat dough we made years ago (not that the no knead was bad). But was it just us that thought that? Big headedness, or just painfully wanting decent pizza again? Turns out no.
We invited some friends over one evening for some cured meats, and we decided to try this dough out on them. We would make these grilled flatbreads with home cured calabrese hot pepper lonzino (air dried pork loin) and mizuna from the yard. One of the guests is easily the best home cook I know so I really wanted his opinion on these flatbreads. We didn’t tell him what we were making, or that anything was gluten free. The first thing said was “wow, this bread is awesome”, with no idea there wasn’t an ounce of gluten in it. I was pleased. Very pleased. But also pissed, because he didn’t mention the cured meat first….
It is safe to say we are addicted to this dough. We have used it to make pizza and flatbreads for the last month or two, often twice a week. We have grilled them lightly and used them like a wrap for grilled vegetables. Danika has used them as a thin bun for hotdogs.
some stuff we love about this dough:
- no strange gums
- 66% whole grain flours
- no strange starches
- quick to make
- can be rolled out easily, without parchment paper
- pizza’s can be grilled easily on a BBQ, without pre-grilling dough first
good crust and good chew
“And what about the cured meat?” you ask. Well, this one is pretty great. Lonzino is air dried pork loin. It is lean, clean tasting and very light. Cut really thin on a meat slicer it pretty much just melts on the tongue. I have cured many lonzino’s now, and never grow tired of them. Often when I am working from home and need a snack, I will pop down in to the garage and slice myself some lonzino. With almost no fat it lacks the tongue smacking richness of salami or coppa – but sometimes that is a good thing. You don’t get weighed down if you eat 10 slices in a row (it happens so often, oh so often) and you have no fatty mouthfeel. Pretty great.
This one is cured simply with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and a little cure #2. After curing for 10 days or so we rolled the thing in some excellent Calabrese hot pepper that I got from my fellow meat curing buddy Scott, who runs an Italian imports business. I highly recommend this hot pepper. It is hot, but also flavorful. It tastes much more of red peppers then any other hot pepper I have tasted. It gets added to salami and cured in Calabria Italy, which is quite a classic of the area. Scott suggested I just roll the cured meat in it before stuffing it in to a casing and drying. With Scott’s knowledge of meat curing, I knew not to deviate from that plan.
A couple of months of hanging and the bad boy was ready. Sliced thin it is a total joy. Herby from the thyme and rosemary, with a really subtle kick of heat. Next time I think I will rub much more of the hot pepper in to the meat before curing, a little more spice would be nice (it is almost non-existent).
Gluten free flatbread recipe
- weigh out the flours accurately
- use whole golden flaxseeds and grind as needed. Pre-ground flaxseed can go rancid quickly.
- the amount of water required will vary depending on the flours. Use feel more as a guide than water amount (more on that in the recipe)
- use as little flour as possible to roll out the dough. This will keep it light and soft, rather than sandy and floury (in a bad way)
- yes, I know some oat flour can have gluten in it from cross-contamination. You can find 100% GF oat flour. You can also grind your own GF oats to a flour.
- Bob’s Redmill in the USA does certified GF Oat Flour. You can also use garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour if you want. I know some people hate that flour, but personally I like it – but then I really like chickpeas. I did some Indian flatbreads with it a few months ago, and threw in some nigella seeds, and they were awesome. It will absorb water differently, so go by the feel of the dough .
3.3oz oat flour
3.3oz brown rice flour
3.3oz white rice flour
1tsp sea salt
3/4 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon golden flaxseed, finely ground
6fl oz warm water (about 120F)
whisk together the flours, salt, yeast and flaxseed until very well combined, and the oat flour is broken up (it can clump). Add about 5fl oz of water to the flour mixture and mix well with a large spoon. Chances are the dough will be dry and sandy still, and not holding together well. Try squishing it together with your hands, get a feel for how dry it is. Add a splash more water, and use your hands to really work this in to the dough. Squish the dough in your hands, knead it between your hands. Keep adding water a splash at a time until the dough is soft and pliable. Working it in your hands it should stick to your your hands a bit, but not leave huge pieces of dough on your palms. If you add too much water then you will have to add some flour when it comes to rolling out, and this will make the flatbreads sandy in texture.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Put it in a warm place for a couple of hours to rise. I often set the bowl on a rack over a pan of pretty hot water. That does the trick. A warm countertop would be fine too. (warm and Seattle are freakishly rare..) After a couple of hours cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge until needed. The dough will roll out much better if it is a bit cool.
Rolling – dust a board with a little brown rice flour. Take the dough out of the fridge, and let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before continuing. Take the dough out of the bowl, and work it between your hands a bit – you should feel it loosen up. Pinch a golf ball sized piece off the dough. Flatten it out a bit on the floured board with your hand. Dust a rolling pin with some flour, and gently roll out the dough. Do one roll, in one direction, then spin the dough through 90degrees. Roll again. turn again, roll again, turn again, roll again. Roll gently. If the right amount of water was added to the dough when making it the dough shouldn’t stick at all, but should be smooth and easy to work.
Heat up your BBQ to a very high heat. I really find that hardwood lump charcoal works best here over gas or other charcoal. Set up a dual heat zone – one side hot, one not so much. Using a pizza slice gently slip one of the rolled out pieces of dough over the hot coals. Shut the lid of the BBQ. Wait for a minute or so, then open the lid and check the puppy out. It should be puffing up nicely. Check the bottom to make sure it isn’t too burnt. Close the lid again and cook for a bit longer if needed, until just cooked through and the bottom a little charred in places. Move the flatbread over to the cooler side of the grill, and start grilling more of the flatbreads. Cook as many as possible in one go.
Drizzle a little really good olive oil over the flatbread. Top with some mizuna or arugula. Put some cured meat (lonzino, fennel salami, prosciutto) between the leaves. Eat immediately with a light glass of red.