When you’re talking gluten- free pizza, success or failure rests heavily on the crust. Done wrong, it can be a soggy, wimpy mess, absolutely failing in its function to support layers of toppings. Done right, it not only maintains its structure, it offers texture and flavor, contributing to the overall experience of the pizza.
These hits and misses can be especially pronounced in a frozen pizza. And it turns out that the landscape of gluten-free offerings is broad. It’s no surprise that there are decent selections at venues such as Whole Foods Market and Down to Earth, but I was especially delighted by the variety at Safeway supermarkets, as well as a popular product at Costco (which sells it two in a box, at a great price).
Here are notes on a few frozen pies tested by myself and Star-Advertiser reporter Allison Schaefers, another gluten-free eater.
>> Freschetta Pizza Gluten Free 4-Cheese Medley ($16.49, Safeway)
Of all the brands, this pizza tastes most like pizza dough made with gluten flour. The dough has the telltale bend and texture typically inherent in gluten-based products. It’s not too crispy or soggy like some gluten-free substitutes.
Here, the cheese tastes fresh and the brand doesn’t skimp on it. And the tomato sauce is spiced just right — not too bitter or sweet.
My only complaint is that I wish that local stores carried the gluten- free version with a wider selection of toppings. I typically buy the cheese pizza and add veggies to make my favorite combinations.
— Allison Schaefers, Star-Advertiser
>> Milton’s Craft Bakers Thin and Crispy Cauliflower Crust Pizza ($13.29 for two-pack at Costco)
Similar to Domino’s gluten-free crust — Milton’s cauliflower pizza crisps nicely, but it’s uninspired. The crust texture is a little gummy.
On the plus side, my family didn’t realize cauliflower had been added to the crust so there wasn’t the customary whining about why I persist in trying to kill them with vegetables. The sauce had a robust flavor and the cheese was generous and tasty. The roasted vegetables were so nicely flavored that the family didn’t even complain about the absence of meat toppings.
I would buy this one again, especially if I intended to feed it to the whole family.
>> Daiya Gluten-Free Pizzas ($12.99, Down to Earth)
Daiya has a dominant presence in the dairy-free world, offering nondairy, nonsoy, plant-based cheese-alternative products — from shreds, slices and blocks of its cheese substitutes to “cream cheeze,” “cheezy macs” and “cheezecake.” Daiya also sells a line of gluten-free pizzas.
I tried several, enjoying some more than others, but fundamental issues keep me tepid on the line: an overly tart, dominant tomato-basil sauce; and a cracker-like crust made of tapioca, brown rice and sorghum that’s difficult to crisp — and in fact can be soggy if not baked directly on the oven rack and given extra baking time if necessary.
Daiya’s bland mozzarella-style shreds were obliterated in the margherita pizza, where the sauce and a generous topping of tomato chunks made for a thoroughly imbalanced flavor. In fact, the tartness became so overbearing that I stopped eating and rebaked the pie with plenty of pepperoni. That provided some equilibrium.
A supreme pizza was dressed with a tasty meatless crumbled sausage, red peppers and onions, but the portion of sausage was far too skimpy — such a shame. Alongside the onions, it offered a hearty, salty counterbalance to the tart sauce. Ample sausage could have taken this pizza up a notch.
But my hands-down favorite was the mushroom and roasted garlic offering. The toppings were robust enough to round out the sauce’s sharpness and contribute to a delicious pizza. I can recommend this one — with a caveat: Whatever Daiya pizza you try, pay proper attention when baking that crust. It can make or break your meal.
— Joleen Oshiro, Star-Advertiser
>> Caulipower Veggie Pizza ($11.29, Safeway)
I really liked this crust. It had more of the light, flaky pastry texture that I remember from thin and crispy pizza dough with gluten. The layers even separated a bit upon each bite, making it chewy rather than gummy.
This pizza had a subtle vine- ripened sauce and just enough cheese to keep the vegetable topping and crust in the spotlight. It reminded me a little of Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza, which has more of a sweet balsamic taste than the traditional pizza. In the Caulipower pizza, the roasted vegetable topping was nicely spiced and quite savory.
However, my family of meat and gluten eaters didn’t care for the toppings or the crust. Perhaps they would have preferred a different Caulipower variety. That said, I enjoyed this pizza and would seek it out if buying just for me.
>> Amy’s Gluten Free, Dairy Free Spinach Pizza ($13.59, Down to Earth)
This organic rice-flour crust crisped up nicely and still had a decent chew — it did not turn dry and hard as some gluten-free crusts do. Still, being a rice-flour product, it did have some crumbliness.
The crust was topped with a rounded, balanced pizza sauce, an organic tomato puree seasoned nicely with basil, garlic, tamari and other spices, plus a sprinkling, really, of organic spinach that was barely noticeable.
But that hardly mattered. Tasty soy ricotta and mozzarella cheeses both had a decent melt without turning liquidy or oily, a definite plus that helped maintain the integrity of the pie’s texture. All told, it made for a delicious, enjoyable meal.
This one will definitely be a mainstay in my freezer.
“Going Gluten-Free” helps meet the cooking and dining challenges faced by those on wheat-free diets. It runs on the first Wednesday of each month. Send questions and suggestions to Joleen Oshiro, firstname.lastname@example.org.