Purely in the name of research, I ate a whole pizza three times in three days.
I’m so serious. Think about that for a minute. A whole pizza. Three times. Three days.
And somehow…I’m still not sick of it! I could crush another one tomorrow. AND…(the best part)…I can STILL BUTTON MY (high-waisted-on-trend-flares-are-back-did-you-get-the-memo?!) JEANS! What the what?!
How is that possible, you ask? WELL! Let. Me. Tell. You.
Cauliflower. Yes, the same thing that has revolutionized and low-carbified “rice” dishes (see here) can moonlight as pizza crust, and it is freaking fantastic. And though I’m probably the last blogger on the interwebs to jump on the zOMG-cauliflower-crust bandwagon (seriously there are a zillion recipes out there yielding similar results), I still feel the need to tell you guys about this crust, and the little tweaks I’ve discovered that make the most pizza-y cauliflower pizza you’ll ever eat. Essentially you take “riced” cauliflower (that is, cauliflower that has been whizzed in a food processor until it is chopped up into pieces the size of grains of rice), mix it up with an egg and some cheese, and then bake it until it is crispy on the edges, doughy in the middle, and the perfect vehicle for ferrying pizza toppings straight to your dome. It’s insanely easy (and inexpensive!) to make, but with a few “Cauliflower Crust Commandments,” if you will:
1. Thou shalt use already “riced” cauliflower or squeeze the liquid out of the homemade stuff after you sauté it. For some reason the precut stuff (which I get at Trader Joe’s, but is becoming more widely available) does not release as much moisture as the homemade kind (maybe because being precut exposes it to more air? I have no idea…), and moisture is your enemy here. Moisture = mush, and a mushy crust is no bueno. Bottom line: if after sautéing your cauliflower you feel there is an excess amount of moisture or any visible water, squeeze it out using a clean dishtowel, then proceed. When I used the Trader Joe’s brand of cauliflower rice, I do not need to do this step. Added bonus: you don’t need to clean up the zillion flecks of cauliflower that get all up err’ywhere in your kitchen when you make it at home. Also, anything that makes getting supper on the table while simultaneously preventing my (crawling! standing!) child from getting herself into a pickle is a major plus. Major.
2. Thou shall mix your hot cauliflower into your egg and cheese mixture slowly, and thou shalt proceed slowly, so that the egg does not curd and/or scramble. For whatever reason (science? I don’t know), I found this crust had the best texture when I did NOT wait for the hot cauliflower to cool, but rather “tempered” it into the egg and cheese, and mixed it around to really melt the cheese. I suspect that the hot cauliflower melted the cheese and just barely cooked/tempered the egg enough that it really combined and mixed perfectly with each bit of cauliflower, thus creating a wonderfully even and dough-like crust.
3. Thou shall use parchment paper, and grease it well with olive (or any type of) oil. Unless you want to be chipping crusted cauliflower and cheese bits off your baking sheet two (2!) days after the fact, do not skip this step. Trust me. I learned the hard way.
4. Thou shall make the crust nice and thin (1/4″ is thinner than you think!), and thou shalt resist the temptation to pile too many toppings on the (cooked) crust. This crust is a bit more delicate than a typical bread crust, and too many heavy toppings will weigh it down and make it harder to pick up and eat like a real slice.
5. Finally…Thou shalt try again if the first one isn’t perfect. The beauty of this recipe is that the crust will only cost you about $3-$4 to make, and if you aren’t thrilled with your first go around – try it again! It all seems to make sense after you try it a time or two, and I made this 3 times before I was completely happy with the technique and result. It is NOT hard…it’s just different, and once you get the hang of it it’s a piece of cake. Or piece of pizza.
And so, without further ado – let’s make some PIZZA!
- 1 16oz (1lb) bag of riced cauliflower (or make your own, see below and see notes)
- 1 cup of shredded mozzarella (always best to shred your own, but you can used bagged in a hurry), divided into two ½ cup piles (1/2 cup for crust and ½ cup for topping)
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp garlic powder (optional, but good)
- ½ tsp dried basil (optional, but good)
- kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- olive oil
- tomato sauce (about ⅓ cup)
- ½ cup of the mozzarella cheese (as stated to be divided above)
- toppings: sautéed veggies, fresh basil, pineapple...anything you like! just don't overload it (see notes)
- Preheat your oven to 450F. line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment, and grease it well with olive oil (very important unless you want a sticky mess!).
- In a large heavy skillet, heat a splash of olive oil (1 Tbsp or less) over medium high heat. Add the riced cauliflower and sauté, 6-7 minutes, just until the cauliflower is a bit translucent and has lost the raw bite. While the cauliflower cooks, crack the egg into a large mixing bowl and add the shredded cheese. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and some fresh cracked pepper, and add the garlic powder and dried basil (if using). Scramble and mix this about with a fork till well combined.
- When the cauliflower is tender, take it off the heat. GRADUALLY AND SLOWLY add a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower to the egg and cheese mixture and stir - doing this slowly is important so that you don't dump all of that hot cauliflower into the egg and inadvertently scramble it (eww!). Start with a tablespoon or two and keep adding, so that you gradually take the temperature of the egg up and don't scramble it (this is called "tempering"). When it is all combined, stir it really well.
- Pat the cauliflower mixture out onto the greased parchment paper into a circular shape that is about ¼" thick. Keep it nice and thin - right around ¼" - otherwise your slices will be harder to pick up and/or mushy. I like to press a slight rim in the pizza where the "crust" would be to hold the toppings in.
- Bake the naked crust for 20-25 minutes, till it is golden brown and feels springy/not sticky to the touch. If it seems a bit raw or tacky, keep baking - another 5-6 minutes should do it. When it feels firm, carefully flip the crust over, and bake it once more for 5 minutes. When it is baked, add the toppings (this is where you use the second ½ cup of mozzarella), and make sure to rain some of the shredded mozzarella on the outer part/edges of the crust (this is what helps it get golden and crispy and super tasty). Continue to bake the pizza till the cheese is very melted and bubbly.
- Let the pizza cool for 3-4 minutes before cutting into it. cut into wedges/slices. Enjoy immediately.
Alternately make cauliflower "rice" in your Cuisinart, using the florets and tender stem parts of 1lb of cauliflower (usually around 1 large/medium sized head) see instructions here for making cauliflower rice.
IF YOU MAKE YOUR OWN RICE: you may notice that more moisture comes out when you sauté the cauliflower. Or, you might see that it looks pretty dry (which is a good thing!). Err on the side of caution, and squeeze excess moisture out with a clean dishtowel, if and when you see it. I only had this problem once when using my own "homemade" rice, and suspect that the moisture content varies from plant to plant.
You can pick these slices up like regular pizza so long as you make the crust thin enough (1/4") and don't overload it with heavy toppings. Slice/chop any toppings thinly.
This recipe doubles/triples well to make more than one pizza, however I would keep each pizza separate just so the pieces are the right size to pick up and stay together (ie - use 1 recipe per pizza, so doubling would make two separate pizzas).