When I think of Ricki Heller, the Canadian creative force behind her terrifically inspirational and informative blog, Diet, Desserts and Dogs, I am immediately struck by the letter "V." Ricki's vegan commitment to optimal health for her wide readership and herself is infused with a distinctive vigor to impart her comprehensive nutritional knowledge; a veracity to explore new developments in her field; and an endless variety of dazzling and innovative recipes which reflect the unique challenges of cooks and bakers whose diets are tailored to exclude animal products, refined sweeteners, and gluten.
With a doctorate in Modern American Literature, which led to an early career teaching English, and certification as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who currently conducts classes for a wide range of alternative-health organizations, Ricki is a natural educator and motivational speaker, sharing the same enthusiastic and entertaining style that has enhanced her strong blog following.
In addition to several appearances in the media (such as Canada AM and Citytv's Breakfast Television) Ricki has written for several publications, as well as authored three e-cookbooks designed for the anti-candida diet, with the added distinction of being featured as one of three food authors recommended by Ellen DeGeneres on the celebrity's website.
Practicing what she preaches, Ricki has documented the evolution of her dietary journey with a dramatic and well-maintained weight loss, proof positive that Ms. Heller is one helluva health advocate.
I am very happy to feature Ricki Heller's fabulous bean-based pizza crust recipe as she guest blogs in celebration of My Legume Love Affair - Kicking Off Year 4.
The following writing, recipe, and photography are owned by Ricki Heller and protected by copyright. All Rights Reserved. 2011. All materials appear here by permission and courtesy.
On a scale of one to ten, people’s views about pizza can vary just as wildly as their views about who should run the country, whether we should introduce socialized health care, or if we should legalize gay marriage. For instance, should the crust be thin and crispy, or deep dish, bread-like? Should it arrive piping hot, delivered to your door in the arms of a breathless delivery person (30 minutes or free), or should it be heated slowly, lovingly in your own oven and brought to your table straight from the pizza stone? (Okay, maybe pizza is just a tad less important in the grand scheme of things; Leader of the Free World:10. Pizza: 9.5.).
Then there’s the question of toppings. Do we go for the classic, tomato-cheese-pepperoni? Or perhaps a nouveau pesto, artichoke, sundried tomato ensemble?
For years, my notion of pizza was embodied by what we referred to as “all dressed” in the city where I grew up ( Montreal ). An all-dressed pizza bore the usual tomato sauce topped with cheese and pepperoni, a smattering of green pepper and mushrooms added over top. In fact, when you ordered from a pizzeria, there were exactly three choices: all dressed, pepperoni, or plain cheese; that was it. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I encountered the “add toppings as you wish” concept. Immediately, I knew I’d love my pizza topped with red onion, black olives or roasted garlic; I opted to try the pineapple once—just once—to see what it was like (let’s just say I was not a fan).
Throughout it all, however, it always seemed to me that the crust, more than the rest, was usually fairly nondescript. I mean, how many of us even notice the subtle wheat flavor of the crust as we focus on the infinite—and infinitely more interesting--toppings?
Once I altered my diet and switched to a gluten free, sugar free eating plan, I started to play with various pizza crust recipes. In general, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. My first attempt to revamp my favorite spelt crust was a dismal failure—crumbly, doughy, wet in the middle even after excessive baking. The next try was better but still crumbled apart at the touch, like an ancient rose petal discovered in the pages of an antique book. Eventually, I hit upon a recipe that worked. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good: sturdy, tasty, a solid platform on which the real star of the show—the toppings—could make an appearance.
When I recently decided to create a grain-free version (in order to keep the glycemic index, or GI, as low as possible and simultaneously amp up the protein content), I wasn’t sure it could be done. Was it possible to create a bean-based crust that served as a foil to the toppings, unobtrusively in the background like Paul Schaffer with David Letterman, or Tony Okungbowa with Ellen DeGeneres, or Gayle with Oprah?
The answer, as it turns out, was “yes.” My first few (okay, dozen) bean-based crusts tasted great, but they simply wouldn’t hold together (or, as my engineer hubby might say, they lacked structural integrity). Eventually, I hit on the formula that would bake up like a "real" pizza, even allowing me to eat a slice out of hand—no utensils required!—which is what I consider the true characteristic of a successful crust.
Then again, on a scale of one to ten, people seem to have their own opinions on the best way to eat pizza, too.
Bean-Based, Grain Free Pizza Crust (Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Anti-Candida Friendly)
1 can (19 oz or 540 ml) white kidney or navy beans, rinsed well and drained (about 2 cups/480 ml)
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic, plus about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plain soymilk or almond milk
5 drops plain stevia liquid
4 tsp (1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp or 20 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (45 g or 1.6 oz) coconut flour
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole chia seeds, ground to a meal in a coffee grinder (about 1/4 cup or 60 ml of the meal)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) potato starch
1/4 cup (60 ml) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a large pizza pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the beans until you have a chunky paste. Add the remaining ingredients (except for 1 Tbsp o1/4 cup (60 ml) oil, soymilk, stevia, vinegar, coconut flour, chia meal, potato starch, buckwheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and basil and process again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Do not overprocess!
Take the ball of dough and, using your hands, pull of chunks the size of baseballs and distribute them evenly over the pizza pan. Use the final 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of oil to grease your palms and fingertips; then press the dough evenly in the pan until all the chunks come together in a single crust. Keep greasing your hands as necessary to avoid sticking. If desired, make a slight rim all around the edge of the dough.
Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned on the edges and bottom. Top with desired toppings, then return to the oven for another 30-35 minutes, until heated throughout and toppings are cooked. Slice and serve. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen; wrap slices individually in plastic and freeze until solid, then store in a Ziploc bag.