Whether you like thick meaty toppings, a medley of vegetables, or a heap of hot melted cheese, nearly everyone loves a tasty slice of pizza.

But for people who cannot eat regular dough, this popular dish has not always been an option.

For this reason, local restaurant owners Steve Giraud of Pizza Works in Custer and Peggy Livermont of Piesano’s in Rapid City have added this item to their menu.

“Gluten free was like a once-a-week rare occasion four years ago, and now we go through about a case a week. It’s just been phenomenally more popular now than ever before,” Giraud said.

Livermont agrees and says she added gluten-free pizza to her menu two years ago due to demand. She sells an average of about five gluten-free pizzas per week and says her customers are pleased. “They were very much surprised and pleasantly so because now they can have a pizza that is gluten free,” says Livermont, who is now in her 14th year of business.

While some customers order gluten-free pizza just for personal preference, others order it for health reasons, which is especially important for people who have been diagnosed with the digestive disorder Celiac disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, people with Celiac disease cannot consume foods that contain gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

“Gluten is what holds pizza crust together and bread and anything else,” Giraud said.

Gluten-free pizza crust is more liquidy, so it does not form into a real dough ball like you would find in the typical bread or crust.

“It’s more like a batter, it’s very thin, so when you make a gluten-free crust, you pour it out as a batter and cook it up, so you can’t make them real big because they don’t hold together,” he said.

This is why most gluten-free pizza crusts are usually only available in a small size.

Pizza Works and Piesano’s make their own regular pizza dough, but to avoid the risk of cross-contamination of their regular handmade pizza with gluten-free pizza, Giraud and Livermont order a special gluten-free pizza crust.

“You have to have a separate layout for your gluten free,” Livermont said.

“For a true Celiac person, who really wants to be safe, it has to be made in a gluten-free environment and our kitchen is high gluten,” Giraud says, adding that the gluten-free crust is the only crust they buy.

“The rest of the them we make here, but it’s because of the cross-contamination worry.”

For additional safety, the gluten-free crusts also come on their own aluminum tray to keep from touching the countertop or the oven, according to Giraud. Pizza Works also keep separate cutting utensils for the gluten-free pizza, and employees are trained to wash their hands before touching the pizzas.

If you want to make your own gluten-free pizza at home, Livermont shared a simple sauce and topping ideas. The gluten-free pizza crust recipe was provided by celiac.com.

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup rice flour

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2/3 cup milk or milk substitution

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Italian spices

Dash of garlic powder or salt

Mix gently — do not over beat. Pour batter into greased pizza pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. For crispier crust brush top with oil and bake five additional minutes. Add sauce and bake or freeze for future use.

Peggy Livermont’s Simple Olive Oil and Vegetable Toppings

Once your pizza crust is ready, spread your sauce onto your pizza. Peggy says one simple way to sauce your pizza is just to spread virgin olive onto your crust with a pastry brush. She says the olive oil allows the flavors of cheese and meat to come through, and is an easy alternative if you don’t want to use red sauce. Next, add cheese. Peggy recommends using mozzarella. Add your favorite veggies.

Peggy says you can add as many fresh veggies as you like, but she recommends dicing them first. Make sure you spread them evenly across the pizza to avoid center loading it. She prefers adding raw vegetables because the vegetable juices bake into the pizza, adding flavor. Some veggies that make for great pizza toppings include green peppers, red peppers, mushrooms, red onions, olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and spinach. Top with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with your favorite dry herbs. Bake until cheese has melted.

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