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  • Megan

amy thielen's cracker-crust pizza, but make it gluten-free

Updated: May 27, 2023

I've been putting off this post, because I'm not eager to announce to my bitty little bit of the internet what I'm about to announce. It's a life-changing thing, a cruel twist of fate.

A-small-part-of-me-has-died type of thing.

OK, now I'm feeling melodramatic, but it really is all of those things.

My name is Megan, and I can't eat gluten.

*swears profusely*

I hate saying those words, but I've gotten used to doing it, because I can't. Eat. Mother%$#@ing. Gluten.

I mean, sure, I can eat gluten if I really want to. I'm a grown-ass adult. But if I do eat gluten, it'll scrape away the precious intestinal lining that absorbs nutrients into my gut and facilitates solid, healthy poops. It'll give me the kind of painful trapped gas that stops me in my tracks and has me doubled over during a post-dinner walk. It'll send me to the loo with explosive diarrhea while Nick sits mere steps away in his office wearing noise-cancelling headphones (bless him).

So yeah, I for sure can eat gluten. But I um, don't really want to. I mourn my favorite yeasty, glutenous pizza dough, but I won't make it. I desperately miss my Friday morning croissants, but I won't eat one. And that, my friends, is why I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that a part of me has died.

It was a slow, resistant death. I did not go gently into that good night. After my internal plumbing went to shit last July, it took a couple months for me to end up in the office of a gastroenterologist, who ordered a blood test to check for gluten intolerance. I almost didn't agree to do the test, as I didn't feel like paying money to rule out something so laughably impossible. "Oh no," I wanted to say. "I'm a baker. I derive immense joy from biting into a croissant. I eat so much wheat, my man, and I love every minute of it."

Instead I humored the guy and gave him my blood so he could see for himself how much my body thrived on gluten. A few days later he called me. My blood test indicated that I have celiac disease, but a formal diagnosis would require an upper endoscopy.

I was surprisingly chill at this point. I had a possible explanation for my effed digestion, but no official diagnosis telling me that I seriously need to stop eating gluten, seriously. So I went light on the gluten, when it was convenient. My symptoms persisted, but I wasn't in a hurry to schedule that endoscopy. For one thing, I was about to get married. I can only handle so many life events (one, to be exact) at a time. I also wanted to wait until January so I could meet my insurance deductible early in the new year and then be medically serviced without a care for the remainder of 2022.

I was also avoiding the inevitable. Even after waking up from the endoscopy at the end of February and having the surgeon tell me there was indeed evidence of intestinal atrophy (the Dark Mark of celiac disease), I got in the car and asked my mom to drive me to Jimmy John's for glutinous white-bread sandwiches. A few days later it was my birthday and I started it with coffee and a peanut butter chocolate chip scone that was positively brimming with wheat. I wasn't done being a kid who eats what she likes. I raged, raged, against the dying of the light.

Now here we are, six months later. I'm no longer bloated and cramped day in and day out. I have more energy, for my body is not destroying itself. If I eat even a bite of gluten, I feel the discomfort. When I was diagnosed, I told myself I'd still have an occasional croissant, because a little discomfort was a small price to pay for continuing to do what makes me happy. But the knowledge that gluten does more than make me feel icky—that it actually does lasting damage to my body—has kept me off the flaky pastries I love so much. I tell myself that if I one day achieve three or four straight weeks of well-oiled, pristine digestive activity, I could reward myself with a croissant. This is not advisable by any medical professional (trust me, I've asked around), and it would still damage my gut. But I'd be starting from a strong and healthy place, which I hope means my body would bounce back faster. Look, I need something to hold onto, okay?

In the meantime, I've found lots of gluten-free products that range from delicious to just fine. I've become best friends with Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour. I've become a regular at

Sift Gluten Free Bakery in Minneapolis. And I've fallen in love with this pizza my friend Lauren introduced me to—the cracker-crust pizza from Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table, but made with gluten-free flour.

This pizza crust is delightfully crunchy and it sits so light. It also takes very little time and effort to whip up. It makes me feel a little better about saying good-bye to the soft and chewy crusts I used to make and eat. Like I'm not missing out on something better, just something different.

Amy Thielen's Cracker-Crust Pizza

3/4 cup cool water

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (or sub in the same amount of gluten-free flour, such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour or King Arthur Measure for Measure Flour)

cornmeal (optional, but a total game-changer, so get some)

Pour the water, oil, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour and whisk until smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir in the remaining flour. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until it is smooth. Divide the dough into three equal disks. Cover them with a towel and let them rest for about 30 minutes.

If you have a pizza stone, slide it onto a lower rack. Then preheat the oven to 500°F.

If you have it, sprinkle cornmeal onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Place a disk of dough on top of the cornmeal and another sheet of parchment over the dough. Use a rolling pin or bottle to roll out the dough between the sheets.

Peel off the top sheet, crimp around the edge of the pie to create a crust, then top as you please. I did a base of olive oil and tomato sauce, then some basil, garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes. I topped with sliced cherry tomatoes, torn fresh mozz, and shredded parm.

Slide the pie, still on its parchment paper, onto the pizza stone in the preheated oven. (If you didn't use a stone, slide the pie onto a baking sheet and put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the pizza for 15 to 18 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

I made this pizza a month ago when I had an evening to myself. I picked the tomatoes and basil from my garden, and I sliced up a grapefruit for this paloma cocktail. I munched and crunched and sipped while making a video about being a baker diagnosed with celiac disease. It was disjointed and rambling, but I felt like it was something I needed to do, since the diagnosis will influence the recipes I make and ingredients I use in this blog. I'm disappointed by this new limitation; but I think there's room for inspiration too. If you have any, feel free to throw it my way.



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