I used to enjoy good pizza – where 'good' means large amounts of quality toppings on a thin base, not the thick, stodgy, starchy, monstrosities which are mainly just bread (and I'm being charitable calling it bread) topped with something not quite entirely unlike cheese.
Having to convert to gluten-free cooking changed things somewhat. I tried using various gluten-free flour mixes, including those from premium brands like BiAglut (acutally one of the Heinz considerably-more-than-57 Varieties.) Whilst I was nearly able to reproduce the texture of wheat-based pizza bases, these all ended up tasting like something made from a gluten-free flour mix: variations on a theme of 'foul'.
Pizza then became a treat on those very rare occasions when we ate out. It seemed, however, that my very infrequent consumption of wheat flour had changed me; every one of those pizzas left me feeling like I had just eaten a bag of cement and/or with galloping indigestion. Pizza went off the menu.
There are alternatives to pizza, omelettes, galettes (buckwheat pancakes,) and other types of crêpes can take the same ingredients that make a good pizza topping. It was galettes that gave me the inspiration to try something different – blinz. Blinz, blins, blinis and a few other names refer to what is essentially a yeast-leavened galette. Would such a thing work as a pizza base? Would the flavour of the buckwheat be too strong?
Like most of my culinary experiments where the results are in doubt, I tried this one when my wife was away. I actually cheated and used raising agent/baking powder instead of a yeast levain. The batter was cooked as a thick crêpe in a proper Tefal crêpière (also very good for omelettes and fried eggs,) popped into a pizza pan and topped.
The result was quite delicious. The base was far lighter than anything in my experience bread-based and the flavour of the buckwheat not only failed to overpower the topping but complemented the constituent flavours in a way that wheat has never done (for me at least.)
'Blinzza', as I call it, is now on the menu on a regular basis. We tend to enjoy them topped with tomato paste, anchovies, chorizo, olives (hope that these will be my own in a few months), Mozzarella. Prawns may go on mine, although not those of the inveterate prawn-hater of the house. Chillis will arrive in time, but I don't know when – there is a single flower on one of my seedlings.
After a certain amount of experimentation, I have rationalised the recipe (makes 2 bases) thus:
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- half packet of dried yeast or some raising agent/baking powder if feeling lazy/running late
The water/buckwheat ratio may need to be adjusted depending on the buckwheat. Batters are something that you just have to get a feel for – my only tip here is practice, practice, practice.
The blinz should be cooked on both sides. I thought that if I left the topside and then had that face-down on the pizza pan, it would cook in the oven. It does, but it also sticks firmly to the pan, even oiled.
When baking blinzzas, if one person is having something that the other finds 'yucky' (such as prawns), put that one on a lower shelf as drips may offend. (This is even more important if there are allergens involved.)
I have only once heard of someone being allergic to buckwheat – I suppose it can happen. If you can't handle yeast, just use raising agent. (If you can't handle gluten, make sure that it is a gluten-free raising agent.) It may be possible to make this without eggs – I have not tried and nor do I intend to – experimentation here is left to the reader.
For those with dairy allergies, use ingenuity to select topping ingredients that work sans-cheese.
Despite previous reservations about gluten-free pizzas/pizza-alternatives I would conclude by saying that, after having eaten blinzza, I would never want to go back to a wheat base.