A Gluten Free Travel Miracle!

We were in a jet lagged haze, wandering down the street, looking for something quick and affordable for lunch.  This is a worst case scenario for me on a regular day, as I usually like to have a plan for eating so things go more smoothly and I end up eating better food and avoiding the foods I can’t eat.  But in a foreign country??  I didn’t know the neighborhood or the language, and I was having a hard time discerning good quality food from mediocre just by looking at the menu or peeking in the windows.

We were in Paris, known for it’s bread and long lunches, not a quick gluten free bite.  But within ten minutes, we received a travel miracle!  We stumbled upon a small restaurant with a sign out front proclaiming gluten free crêpes, and additionally, English spoken.

When traveling with dietary restrictions, my cardinal rule is to have a plan for when and where I can eat.  And even then I sometimes end up needing to pull out the stash of almonds that I always carry with me in my bag.  I am still amazed that we happened to find gluten free food just by walking down the street, and then went on to see some beautiful sights, all without a plan!

View from the café on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette

View from the café on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette

So, should you also be in a jet lagged haze in the 9th arrondissement in Paris, I would recommend a little place called Krêp (11 Rue La Fayette).  They serve traditional Breton crêpes, called galettes, which are made with buckwheat flour, and are therefore naturally gluten free.  Note that the sweet dessert crêpes are made with regular flour, but you can ask to have yours made with buckwheat flour instead.

Afterwards, you can continue on down Rue La Fayette to the department store Galeries Lafayette.  There’s a café on the top floor with amazing views, perfect for an afternoon coffee or tea.  Across the street (35 Boulevard Haussmann) is their gourmet food hall, with lots of delicious French foods that are naturally gluten free (cheese! wine! chocolates! macarons! spices! fancy mustards! jams!) and they also have a small gluten free section, great for cookies, bread, and pasta.

There are many other crêperies in Paris serving traditional buckwheat galettes, and two that I’ve tried include West Country Girl (6 Passage Saint-Ambroise, 11e) and Breizh Café (109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 3e. This place is more popular, so call ahead to make a reservation).  If you end up at another crêperie, look at the menu for crêpes made with “farine blé noir” or “farine sarrasin,” both of which mean buckwheat flour.

Gluten-Free, Yeast-Free Pizza Crust

Gluten Free Pizza

I’m just going to come out and say it. I LOOOVE pizza.

As a kid, if you asked me what my favorite food was, I’d answer, “pizza,” I mean – wasn’t that every American kid’s favorite food?? Or maybe some of you had a more sophisticated palate than I did…?

But as an adult, I always thought my tastes were more grownup and refined. I love trying new foods and going out to eat, I’ve become healthier and eat more veggies, and one of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn is the food – the Middle Eastern grocery store, $1 dumplings, Thai food, Indian food, etc etc…

But one day (probably around the time I changed out of my pjs at 10:30pm to go down to my neighborhood pizza place in the WINTER and satisfy my craving for a NY slice) I realized that despite it all, my favorite food was still pizza. I didn’t even want to admit it, it sounded so unsophisticated and boring.
However, it was getting to the point that my favorite NY slice wasn’t even that appealing since I knew that with my gluten sensitivities I’d feel bad for a couple days after eating it. So I set about trying to make a pizza crust that fit into my dietary restrictions. One that was yeast-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, but still tasted delic!

Oh my goodness did I eat a lot of mediocre, barely edible, very meh homemade pizza. I tried various thickeners like xanthan gum, arrowroot, and flaxseed, I tried versions of flatbreads and soccas, but I had issues with the crust sticking to the pan, with the taste, with the texture, I even had a crust that curled straight up in the air on one end for no apparent reason!

Finally, while watching an episode of Cook’s Country, I found inspiration in their St. Louis-Style Pizza. I modified the recipe to make it gluten-free and I could hardly believe it when it turned out! So I made it several more times and it. turned. out. every. time!!

Pizza Dough

However, there is one small detail that you can’t ignore to make this crust. You must roll the crust out thinly on parchment paper, then bake it on a very hot surface/pizza stone. This is what allows your pizza to crisp up on the bottom and not stick to the parchment paper. And I get it, I know it’s annoying to have to go out and buy things for one specific recipe – so you can easily use an inverted pizza pan or cookie sheet instead of a pizza stone, and a wine bottle instead of a rolling pin.

Finally, my favorite part of making pizza is the toppings, because it’s fun to dream up unique combinations. I love to use up whatever fresh fruit or veggies are in my fridge and going limp. The same goes for leftover pieces of cheese, I mix them together for one pizza.  Or I’ll go to the farmer’s market and pick up whatever strikes my fancy, then find cheeses or meat to pair with it. I often toss whatever leftover salad greens we have in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle on top of the baked pizza. Makes me feel like I’m upping my “healthy” quota.  What are you favorite or most creative pizza toppings?

Pizza w Arug and Fig

Gluten-Free Yeast-Free Pizza
Yield: 2 (11-inch) pizzas
Ingredients
2 cups of gluten free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour because that’s easiest)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of marinara sauce
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese or goat cheese
Toppings such as: sliced figs, prosciutto, rosemary, caramelized onion, pepperoni, salami, thinly sliced pears, sausage, arugula tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, roasted fennel, roasted broccoli

  1. Place pizza stone or inverted baking sheet on the lower rack of an oven. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Combine water and olive oil in a measuring cup.  Stir water mixture into flour mixture a little at a time until dough starts to come together.
  3. Layout a piece of parchment paper about 12 inches wide and dust with flour.  Turn dough out onto parchment paper and knead 3 to 4 times, until it comes together.  Dough should be moist but not gummy.  You may need to add another tablespoon of water if the dough will not come together.  If the dough is too sticky, knead in another tablespoon of flour.
  4. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and set 1 piece aside.  Form the other piece into a flat circle on the parchment paper and roll out until very thin and 11-12 inches in diameter.  If the rolling pin is sticking to the dough, dust it or the surface of the dough with more flour.
  5. Top the pizza with 1/2 cup of sauce, shredded cheese, and whatever other toppings you desire.
  6. Pick up parchment paper by opposite corners and carefully place on hot pizza stone/inverted baking sheet.  Bake until edges and underside of crust are golden brown, 9-12 minutes.  Meanwhile, roll out remaining half of dough and top with sauce, cheese, more toppings.
  7. When pizza is done, transfer to a cooling rack for several minutes, then slice and serve.