Enjoying pizza again with whole grain substitutes for wheat

Taking double passes; one on sugars (like granulated sugar and high fructose corn syrup), as well as on today's ubiquitous highly-hybridized wheat sure isn't easy. Many food products contain both, which makes it nearly impossible to find simultaneous replacements that contain neither.

In my home kitchen I've learned to make healthy substitutions for sugars (for baked desserts, like brownies, I've slashed the sugars in half) and when those recipes are perfected share the successful results. Those all-natural, frequently-organic solutions work if you can take the time and can make them from scratch. Without having to experiment, my recipes and substitution ideas can help you save some kitchen time.

What if you're staying away from gluten and accepting that many gluten-free foods have some sugar and don't have the time to experiment, let alone cook from scratch? One answer is to turn to pre-made meals from the supermarket, like frozen gluten-free pizza.

I've heard complaints from my gluten-intolerant friends about how unsatisfactory gluten-free pizza can be. That's what led me to Smart Flour Foods' Gluten Free Pizzas ($7.99) with no artificial ingredients and crusts made from ancient grains.

I tried three of its pizzas: Classic Cheese; Uncured Pepperoni; and Garden Margherita. Smart Flour defines ancient grains as sorghum, amaranth and teff.

Sorghum (a grain) flour, amaranth (a seed) flour and teff flour (a small seed) are all gluten-free making them ideal for a gluten-free pizza crust. It also makes it tricky, because wheat's gluten is the "glue" that holds breads, like pizza crust, together. Smart Flour uses other "glues" like xanthan gum and guar gum to hold its pizza crusts together.

Smart Flour recommends baking its pizza directly on the oven rack. Just to see what the difference would be, I baked its cheese pizza on the rack; following the package directions exactly and went for the middle suggested time of 12 minutes.

That pizza didn't end up looking like the picture on the pizza's box. The center had too much cheese and by the time the edge areas were a nice golden brown its center was still white and the crust was very soft.

The pepperoni pizza baked on my pizza stone came out with a crispy crust, but the top was a little overbaked. The Garden Margherita Pizza baked on a baking pan ended-up looking great (see picture) and had a slightly soft bottom crust.

All three crusts had a good, similar-to-wheat flavor. Smart Flour's sauce was too sweet for my taste. It's possible, since I steer clear of sugars, that my palate may be oversensitive to sweet flavor notes.

Each 9-inch pizza serves two and delivers 330 (Marghertita), 350 (cheese) and 360 (pepperoni) calories per serving. Total fat varies from 13 to 16 grams. Sugars are low at 4 or 5 grams. Carbs range from 40 grams (pepperoni) to 43 grams (cheese or Margherita). Sodium, if you stick to a half pizza serving delivers 800 mg (Margherita), 850 mg (cheese) and 930 mg (pepperoni).

The winner of best tasting and looking pizza goes to the Margherita.

Want to make your own flour-free, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, no-added-sugars pizza crust at home? The website turned me on to a couple of great cauliflower crust ideas, including using frozen cauliflower eliminating cooking fresh cauliflower. Nice trick. Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

The Garden Margherita Pizza baked on a baking pan ended-up looking great and had a slightly soft bottom crust. Courtesy of Don Mauer
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