This whole cassava bread ̶o̶b̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ thing started a couple of weeks ago when I was listening to The Splendid Table podcast while working away in my workshop. There was a feature on a Brazilian bakery in Danbury, CT that only makes one type of bread, which is naturally gluten and yeast free, made from cassava aka yuca root. I immediately thought of a Jamaican specialty bread called bammy (pronounced bah-mee) also made from cassava root. Then I had a light bulb moment. (Yay!) How would cassava bread work as a flatbread and pizza crust? I, of course, had to find out. And what I did find blew my mind. J and I both looked at each other like "is this really this good?"
The cassava flatbread was crispy and thin and chewy on the inside. It can be filled and folded over in a similar manner as a pita or a tortilla. As a thin pizza crust, it was browned and crisp on the bottom and chewy on the top, and the toppings stayed put (vegan pizza eaters will know what I'm talking about here, haha). Confession: we may not return to wheat crust again (okay we probably will but not as often.) It was that good. I think for people who definitely can't tolerate gluten, cassava crust may be the best tasting alternative.
I haven't tried the Brazilian version of cassava bread, but Jamaican bammy is usually made into a thick disc and is very chewy. Bammy is traditionally eaten with fried fish or soaked in coconut milk. Cassava is a root with a rough brown bark and a white starchy flesh. It is grown in sub-tropical and tropical climates. You should be able to find fresh cassava root in most supermarkets and specialty/ethnic food stores. Nantucket has a large Caribbean and Central/South American population so thankfully we can find fresh cassava at the one and only supermarket on island.
Cassava has an pinkish-purple inner bark that needs to be removed before processing it. The inner bark should separate easily by running a butter knife between it and the flesh. Then you can peel it off to reveal the white inner flesh. The liquid in the cassava root needs to be removed (leached out) as it is poisonous. Fear not, people have been eating cassava for centuries and when processed correctly it is safe to consume. Tapioca is made from cassava. In Jamaica they grate the cassava flesh and let the water leach out overnight. It's a very time consuming process but thankfully with the help of a high-powered blender the dough is easy to prepare. You simply blend the root with some water and then press out as much of the liquid as you can through a cheesecloth. The resulting dough is firm and starchy. The recipe below consists solely of cassava, a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and an optional dash of sea salt.
I can't wait for you guys to try this and hear what you think. Please let me know in the comments. I hope you like it as much as we do!
Don't forget to tag your creations with #fareislerecipe so I can see them on instagram!
Recipe after the (long) jump...
Cassava Dough for Flatbreads or Pizza Crust
makes 1 lb of dough, enough for one 10" skillet pizza or 5-6 flatbreads or mini pizzas
- 2.5 lbs fresh cassava root (pre-processing weight)
- 1-2 cups cold water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- pinch of sea salt (optional)
Peel the outer and inner bark of the cassava root by first making a shallow cut lengthwise down the root. Then run the edge of a butter knife between the inner bark and the flesh to loosen it and peel back the bark easily. Note: If this method gives you trouble then simply use a knife to cut off the 2 layers of bark.
Rinse the peeled cassava flesh and chop it into small chunks. Add chunks to a high speed blender and add 1-2 cups of water to help blend the root until smooth.
Line a strainer with a fine cheesecloth (or use a nut bag) over a bowl. Pour blended cassava into cheesecloth and press out as much liquid as you can. You want the dough to be on the drier, firmer side. You can also leave it overnight to drain in the fridge.
Remove cassava from cheesecloth and place into a bowl. Discard the liquid which was strained. Repeat: do not consume the liquid, remember it is poisonous!
Using a clean hand knead olive oil and salt into dough.
Dough is now ready to use.
Heat cast iron skillet on med-low heat. Divide dough into roughly 2" round balls. If using a tortilla press place balls between two pieces of parchment paper and press into discs. But don't apply full pressure-you want them about 1/8" thick. Alternatively use a rolling pin to roll them into a flat thin disc between two pieces of parchment paper. Peel off top layer of parchment paper. Use the bottom piece of parchment to transfer dough to the skillet easily. Place dough side down onto skillet and peel off parchment. Cover with a heat proof lid and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove lid and flip flatbread. The bottom side should be nicely browned. Do not cover now. Cook other side until browned for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat with rest of dough balls.
Top with avocado, olive oil, salt and pepper for the best gluten free avocado toast (in my humble opinion). Or fill with taco fixins or falafel fixins or whatever you fancy and fold.
Note: finished flatbreads are not pictured in this post. I will add them here when I photograph them. You can see examples of the flatbreads cooked using this method on my instagram feed-link in right cloumn.
Skillet Pizza Method
Preheat oven to 450˚F and ready your toppings. Press dough into a thin layer into the bottom of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Make it as thin as you can. If you have a bit of extra dough, make a mini pizza out of it. Ladle on sauce and place toppings. Bake for 45 minutes. Pizza should lift easily with a spatula when crust is cooked completely and browned on the bottom. If you are weary of dough sticking, line the skillet with a round of parchment paper first so it definitely won't stick to skillet.
Toppings I used in the photos: homemade fresh marinara sauce, eggplant, porcini, onion, tofu, and fresh baby spinach added at the end.
Mini Pizza Method
Preheat oven to 450˚F and ready your toppings. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare dough as described in the Flatbread Method above. Transfer dough to the baking sheets in the same manner as you transfer them to the skillet above. Fit three flatbreads to each sheet pan. Ladle on sauce and add toppings to flatbreads. Bake for 30-40 minutes until bottom of crust is browned and crisp.
Toppings I used in the photos: homemade fresh marinara sauce, eggplant, broccoli, onion, garlic, parsley, capers and homemade soy labneh added at the end. Labneh Tutorial post here.
The top of the cassava pizza crust will be chewy. It's a good thing.
If the crust is not browned and crispy on the bottom it is not done and will stick to the skillet.
You can prebake the pizza crusts if you don't want the toppings to cook for the length of time specified in the methods above. I suggest prebaking them at 450˚F for 15-20 minutes then add your sauce and toppings and bake for another 20-25 minutes.
The flatbreads and pizzas are best eaten the same day they are made but leftovers (if any) can be refrigerated overnight and eaten the next day.