About two months ago I posted a restaurant "non-review," about an unfortunate experience I had with a local pizzeria that in theory offered a GF pizza option. The pizzeria used a par-baked GF pizza crust from The Gluten Free Bistro, and I promised to do an independent, follow-up review of the Bistro that wasn't influenced by any of the pizzerias that use their crust. (For those who are interested, that list of restaurants is here.) At long last, the review is in:
The founders of The Gluten Free Bistro kindly donated three products for us to review: a par-baked pizza crust, a ready-to-use ball of dough, and a batch of their signature Bistro Flour Blend. I'll review them in that order (which also happens to be the order in which we used them).
Par-baked Pizza Crust
As expected, the par-baked crust is built around the Bistro Flour Blend, which uses brown rice, organic sorghum, buckwheat, organic coconut, and tapioca flours. For the pizza crust, they then add water, organic apple sauce, yeast, sugar, xanthan gum, garlic salt, and olive oil. As you can see, both the flour blend and the pizza are fairly unique in some of their ingredients. Notably, they are free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and corn.
The par-baked crust, as you can see in the photo immediately below, is thin. Even so, after baking it with toppings for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven, it retained a nice, chewy texture. I did taste a little bit of the applesauce coming through, but the overall flavor was excellent. My one complaint was that the crust lacked a lip around the edge that would help to retain toppings such as sauce and cheese. In the end, my tasting notes (and I) concluded that the Gluten Free Bistro par-baked pizza crust was better than the one at Uno's, and easily on par with Deby's Gluten-Free, which I had previously considered to be the best storebought, par-baked, GF pizza crust out there (at least that I had personally tried).
Next I tackled the pre-made dough. It was very wet and sticky, and even rolling it out between layers of plastic wrap, I had a little trouble. Transferring it from my wooden pizza paddle to the pizza stone in my oven proved even more problematic. Even with a ball bearing layer of corn meal, the pizza stuck to my stone and tore into a heaping pile of dough. After dropping an F bomb or two, I scraped it off the stone with a spatula. However, the act of doing so also collected the corn meal, which stuck to the dough. I re-rolled the dough, and the incorporation of the corn meal took up just enough moisture to correct the problem. The pizza turned out as good as the par-baked version.
Lastly, we used the Bistro Flour Blend in some recipes from our cookbook. One such recipe was the one for Snickerdoodle cookies (pictured at the top of this post). In preparing the recipe, Kelli and I both noticed how fine the flour blend is. It didn't have much smell to it (a good thing), but then, as Kelli whipped up the cookie dough, the scent of coconut emerged from the batter. (That coconut flavor wasn't present in the finished cookies.) The cookies turned out wonderfully. They were a little crispy on the edges, chewy throughout, and had a nice crumb texture.
We of course are biased and think that the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend in our cookbook is the best GF flour blend out there. But of the pre-mixed, third-party, all-purpose GF flour blends, I'm not hesitant to say that The Gluten Free Bistro is the best we've reviewed to date. This is a versatile flour blend that gets the job done.
The Bottom Line
Alas - for now, at least - the Bistro is a wholesaler, which means the flour blend and the par-baked pizza crusts aren't available to retail customers like you and me. Their products are available exclusively through restaurants and other such outlets. The good news is that they're developing new products as we speak. Also worth noting is that each restaurant that uses the Bistro par-baked pizza crusts receives a great little summary document with "recommended handling instructions," broken down into easy to read and easy to understand "do's" and "don'ts."
So, run out and enjoy one of these pizzas at the growing list of available locations. And hope that the Bistro will make its crusts and its flour blend available to the general public. (Of course, you could also whip up a batch of the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend and make yourself a tasty pizza. The choice is yours!)