Keto pizza crust

Best Simple Keto pizza crust

I’ve made this low-carb pizza dough hundreds of times. I can vouch for it. It works, and it is delicious. This yields a smooth, glossy crust that bubbles luxuriantly as it bakes.

The recipe just three ingredients. One is my secret ingredient — which, of course, I will reveal. I do not believe in keeping secrets about cooking.

This low-carb keto crust relies on a simple, straightforward method. Please follow the recipe exactly the first time you make this. Try it with my Easy Keto Pizza! My recipe testers discovered that when they veered from the method in certain ways, their keto crust failed.

When I first came across the idea of making a keto pizza crust based on mozzarella cheese, I was fascinated. But I had a hunch that the recipes I saw were more complicated than they needed to be. So I did a bunch of experiments, analyzing what made them work, looking for what was and wasn’t necessary. I discovered that many of the ingredients typically listed weren’t needed. Same went for the method of putting it together.

Of the several components you might see in a typical keto pizza crust recipe, there are only three that really matter: mozzarella cheese, almond flour, and cream cheese. Each of these things provides a quality that is found in regular yeasted flour dough — that is, ordinary high-carb pizza dough.

The best regular pizza dough has just four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt.

When you mix flour with water and yeast, and then let it set for hours, the protein in the wheat — that is, the gluten — gradually relaxes and uncoils into long strands. When you knead the dough, you’re aligning the gluten strands into long ropes.

Meantime, the yeastie beasties eat some of the carbohydrates (complex sugars) in the flour. They release gas as a byproduct of their digestion. That’s what gives bread dough its airy lift.

In a keto low-carb dough, mozzarella contributes a lot towards a classic pizza crust product. The simplest of these contributions to understand is the salt. Salt is an essential flavor component in the classic flatbread that forms the base of that beloved dish we call pizza pie.

Second, mozzarella is a high-moisture cheese. That is, it has enough water to make a dough that’s soft enough for you to shape easily. Also, it provides all the water you need for your low-carb dough to come out properly tender after baking.

Third, warm mozzarella is silky and stretchy — just like regular pizza dough made with white flour. This is thanks to the milk proteins in the mozzarella. When this moisture-rich cheese is warm and soft, you can stretch the protein strands into parallel bundles, very much like wheat gluten in a soft bread dough. In fact, this is what makes string cheese work. String cheese is mozzarella that’s been stretched into individual ropes. You can peel apart sub-bundles of these — the strings.

Mozzarella is not exactly like bread dough, of course. You can’t just warm up some mozzarella, form it into a disk, and bake it into an instant keto pizza crust. Believe me, I tried. (Because — wouldn’t it be great if it turned out to be that simple?) The strands of protein coil up and squeeze out everything liquid: the water and the milkfat. The water evaporates into the dry heat of the oven — gone. No tenderness left. The milkfat pools up on top of the tightly coiled protein. This is called “excluding” — the liquids are excluded, permanently, from the protein matrix, and there is no getting them back in again. You end up with a greasy puddle atop a rock-hard slab. You know how the cheese turns out on top of a pizza (or lasagna or mac and cheese) like when you’ve overbaked it or reheated it in the microwave for too long — tough, maybe even crunchy (but not in a good way)? You know how once upon a time you thought you could warm it up again and make it soft, but you quickly learned that you can’t? That’s exactly this.

In both mozzarella dough and wheat flour dough, the protein matrix needs something to interrupt it. Something to keep those tiny fists from clenching all the way shut. Some crumbly, crumby type of plant matter. In wheat flour, that’s provided by the carbohydrates. But we need some crumbly, crumby thing in there that’s not carby.

Enter almond flour, with its finely ground fiber (carbohydrate, molecularly speaking, but not digestible carb, and that’s the important part for our dietary purposes) and its relative small amount of digestible carb. There’s plenty of protein in almond flour, yes. But it’s not elastic like wheat gluten, so the almond’s protein also helps.

Great! What happens when you try to make keto pizza crust with just two ingredients: mozzarella cheese and almond flour? You get a gorgeous crust that shatters into dust the moment you pick it up. Oops. The almond flour did what it supposed to do, but too much. No, you can’t just use less. Otherwise, you veer towards the grease puddle atop the volcanic rock, remember?

This is where the third ingredient commonly found in keto pizza dough comes in: cream cheese. I was so surprised when I figured out what the cream cheese is actually doing in the recipe. I have a feeling most people making and providing these recipes don’t know this, either. Ready? It’s not the cheese. Not the milk. Not the small amount of protein (which is what I first assumed it was).

It’s the gum.

Vegetable gums are what holds cream cheese together. Different brands use different types, and they use more or less of it. Locust bean gum, carageenan (a gum from Irish seaweed), carob bean gum, guar gum, xanthan gum. Look at the package. It’s the gums — “stabilizers,” the industry calls them — that give cream cheese its firm, yet spreadable texture. This is why it doesn’t flake like chevre, the spreadable goat cheese. Cheapo cream cheese can taste slick and gooey, rather than velvety rich and creamy, and now you know why. Those guys didn’t get the gum mix right.

I have no problem with using vegetable gums in home cooking, in principle. But I did want to eliminate cream cheese from my keto pizza dough recipe. First of all, it’s hard to combine the cream cheese with the other two ingredients. You’ll notice that most of those recipes call for fussy multi-stage melting and mixing. It’s not easy to make a homogenous mix, where you no longer see the white streaks of cream cheese, without also overheating the mozzarella. Remember what happens to overheated mozzarella? Exclusion, which equals tough, unworkable, dry.

My other quibble applies to any recipe that uses just a small amount of cream cheese — in this case, an ounce or so out of the typical 8-ounce brick. I don’t know about you, but I’ve long lost count of how many spoiled bricks of cream cheese I’ve thrown out over the years because I didn’t manage to use them up in time. I open up a package with good intentions, but if I don’t have a purpose that uses it up quickly, before I know it there’s a crusty block of pink stuff shoved in the back of my deli drawer. Cream cheese is so glorious, and the discovery is always a heartbreak.

My super-simple low-carb pizza crust recipe does not use gums, though. I would like to go back and explore that idea. It uses a protein. You see, during the time I was thinking that the cream cheese was mainly there for the protein (illogical on my part, because cream itself has virtually no protein), I tried out some protein powders. And they both work great.

Remember that protein is strong. Protein builds strong muscles. In food, protein provides firmness. Adding whey protein to my mozzarella-almond flour combo lent it structural integrity. It didn’t crumble; it was — well, it was just like a pizza crust. Gluten powder did the same. Why didn’t these powdered proteins behave just the same as the protein already in the mozzarella? I’m not certain, but I have what I think is a reasonable hypothesis. In this recipe, the protein powders don’t spend much time mixed with moisture. I believe that they have enough time to form a firm matrix, but not enough time to become silky strands.

That said, you might like to know what happens when you mix mozzarella and whey protein (sorry, I don’t have mozz+gluten experiment result) and make a two-ingredient pizza crust that way. You get a gorgeous pizza crust, but it is perfectly floppy. You cannot pick up your pizza and have it stay flat. It’s like Dali’s Persistence of Memory pizza.

I had dialed in the only three ingredients I needed for a perfect keto pizza base: shredded mozzarella, almond flour and whey powder. (Gluten works, but I can’t vouch for it as strongly, as I’ve mainly used whey.)

Next I went after the recipe itself. I eliminated many steps and pieces of equipment from the typical keto mozzarella pizza dough recipes I found online. Here’s what you do not need to do.

  • No double heating of ingredients.
  • No rolling pin.
  • No working dough by placing it between two sheets of parchment, wax paper, plastic wrap, or foil.
  • No kneading! (Important!)
  • No poking holes in the dough (docking)

I’ve put in a lot of research and experimentation developing the best recipe for easy keto pizza crust. It is foolproof — if you follow it exactly the first time you try it. After you’ve done this successfully once, you’ll have a better grasp on how you can tweak this according to your own creativity. But please be aware that being more experienced with baking — especially pizza dough baking — can work against you here, because this product behaves so very differently from bread dough.

And yet, miraculously, it comes out so very much like a normal pizza crust.

Look at the interior texture of this crust!

Here’s what you absolutely should not do the first time you make this:

  • Do not attempt to make several of these at once (for example, one for everyone who’s gathered to dine). Make one at a time until you get the hang of this.
  • Do not double the recipe so you can have a normal-size pizza like from a pizzaria. This dough is so simple, but it’s not forgiving. It does not want to stretch beyond its natural size.
  • Do not knead it. The stretch of mozzarella dough is fleeting. It only lasts for several seconds, until it cools. As you knead it, you will miss your window for stretching it into shape. It is not bread dough, which gets stretchier and more pliable the more you work it.
  • Do not overheat it. You will cause the mozzarella proteins to exclude the fat and water that is so delicately woven into the substance of the cheese. You cannot undo that.

Here’s what you should do to get a fantastic low-carb keto pizza dough:

  • Make ONE pizza from start to finish.
  • Have all your equipment ready before you begin. Time is critical.
  • Forget everything you know about making great pizza dough with flour, yeast, water and salt. This is a different thing. It behaves differently.
  • Follow this recipe exactly before you try it a different way.

Easiest Keto Pizza Crust

In a nutshell

Heat shredded mozzarella, almond flour, and whey powder in a microwave for 20 seconds or a few seconds longer — don’t overheat. Working quickly, stir together with a fork to form a soft dough, then shape into a 6″ crust on a square of parchment paper. Partially bake on parchment paper at 350 for about three minutes. To use: top with pizza stuff, and bake at 450 for a few minutes.

You will need

Equipment

  • Parchment paper
  • A fork
  • A microwaveable glass bowl
  • Microwave oven
  • Regular oven (or a pizza oven)
  • 1/8 cup measure (This may come in the form of a coffee scoop, which is really a 2 tablespoon measuring spoon. Test it if you’re not sure.)
    • If you don’t have this handy measure unit, you’ll need these:
      • Tablespoon measuring spoon
      • 1/4 cup measure

Ingredients

For each 5 1/2″ to 6″ mini pizza:

  • 2 tablespoons unflavored whey powder
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
    • Use unblanched (has dark flecks of almond skin), if you want to pretend whole wheat crust.
  • 3/8 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (i.e., fill the coffee scoop three times)
    • This equals 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.
    • Don’t try to measure this by filling a tablespoon six times if you can possibly avoid it. Shredded mozzarella is not easy to measure in such tiny quantities.

Steps

Prep

  1. Place oven rack in center position.
  2. Turn on your oven and start to preheat to 350 F.
  3. Cut out a piece of parchment paper about 7” square.
  4. Get all your materials and ingredients ready, especially the fork.

Make dough

  1. Measure into a microwave-safe bowl:
    1. Whey powder
    2. Almond flour
  2. Mix the powders well with your fingers, breaking up any clumps.
  3. Add the mozzarella to the bowl and mix it with the powder. Use your fingers for easiest, best results.
  4. Microwave the cheese mixture for 20 seconds.
  5. Immediately stir the mixture with the fork. It should come together easily into a ball of pliable, soft dough.
    • If 20 seconds isn’t enough, try adding two more seconds. If that’s not enough, add two more. It’s critical not to microwave the cheese for too long. Cheese “breaks” easily in the microwave, meaning that the delicate web of proteins coils up tightly, squeezing out the fat and water. Once this happens, you can’t undo it.
    • Tip: Make a note of how many seconds your microwave took, and write it down for next time.
    • Tip: If you make another crust right after this one in the same bowl, you will need less time. Because the bowl itself will be hot.

Shape crust

  1. Immediately remove the dough from the bowl and put it on the parchment.
    • If you leave it in there too long, the heat from the bowl will overheat the mozzarella. It will no longer be soft and pliable.
  2. Immediately press the dough into a circle about 6″ in diameter, using your fingers and palms.
    • If you wait too long before shaping it, it will cool off, and then it will no longer be soft and pliable.
      • If so, warm it in the microwave for 3 to 5 seconds. (No more!)
    • You can turn it upside down and press again if you want a flat, even surface on both sides.
    • Use your ruler to check the diameter. It won’t get much bigger than 6″. If you can’t easily get a 6″ disk, the dough is too stiff.

Bake crust

  1. Put the pizza and parchment directly on the oven rack.
    • Do not use a pan.
  2. Bake 3 to 5 minutes at 350.
    • You may or may not see big, loose bubbles.
    • You may or may not see a slight hint of golden brown
    • It might SEEM to be underdone. That’s perfect — because you’re going to bake it again, with the toppings.
  3. Put the crust, parchment and all, on your kitchen counter..
  4. Flip the crust upside down — still on the parchment.
    • The side that faced the oven floor should be golden brown, with darker lines where the oven rack was.
    • The dough will be floppy and soft. This is what you want. As it cools, it stiffens. Don’t be tempted to bake it longer at this point. If you do, when you bake your pizza, you’ll overbake the crust — the water and fat will render out, and it will become a tough, tasteless, giant mozzarella crisp.
  • You can make your pizza now! If so, turn up your oven 450, put on the toppings you want, and bake for three or four minutes.
    • This is where you can move on to my favorite thing to do with this: Easy Keto Pizza.
    • You can also butter it and bake it for a few minutes. That’s really good, too.
    • In fact, you can use this anywhere you’d want a flatbread.
  • Or, you can set aside the crust and make pizza later. If so, let it cool at least two minutes before you move it.
    • Refrigerate, or freeze, or just leave out for a while.

1 thought on “Best Simple Keto pizza crust”

  1. Pingback: Easy Keto Pizza | How to Cook With Vesna

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