Cricket Crust = Pizza Perfection

My friends have boasted about eating pizza crusts made of cheese or riced cauliflower or even quinoa. So, I thought, why not cricket flour?

I have a standby pizza crust recipe that I love. It comes from The Joy of Cooking and, let’s face it, those guys know what they’re talking about. As with any recipe, you can’t just straight out substitute cricket flour for wheat flour. Baked goods need flour’s gluten to stick together and I knew that would especially be true for pizza dough, which needs to be elastic. I usually sub cricket flour for one-fourth to one-third of a recipe’s wheat flour. In this case, I decided to go toward the low end of that range. The resulting dough was easy to work with, not too heavy, yet substantial enough to hold toppings.

The verdict from my pizza-loving family? I didn’t tell them. I mean, if they didn’t notice a difference in flavor or texture, why do it. Further proof (at least in my mind) that incorporating insect-based protein into our diets can happen without a lot of fanfare and disruption.

Here’s my recipe if you’d like to do a little cricket flour experiment of your own:

Cricket Flour Crust

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) dry active yeast

1 1/3 cups warm (105 to 110 degree F) water

¾ cup cricket flour

2 ¾ to 3 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

Combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Combine flours, olive oil, salt and sugar. Mix with yeast and water.

Mix ingredients by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute to blend all the ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly coated with olive oil and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until double in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Grease two pizza pans and lightly dust with cornmeal; or place a baking stone in the oven and preheat it for 45 minutes.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Roll each piece into a ball and let it rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 10 to 15 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the desired toppings.

Work with one dough ball at a time. Begin by flattening the ball on a lightly floured work. Roll and stretch the dough into a 12-inch round. Place each dough circle on a prepared baking pizza pan. To prevent the toppings from making the crust soggy, lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil.

After topping, bake about 12 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden (if using cheese). Remove from the oven, slice and serve.

How Might Insect-Based Protein Fit Your Lifestyle, Tastes?

Most Americans would rather squish a cricket than eat it, but we’re in the minority. Roasted grubs are a favorite in Australia, stir-fried dragonflies are a delicacy in Indonesia, and fried woodworms and grasshoppers can be purchased from Thai street vendors. Eating insects is a practice called entomophagy.

More than one-fourth of the world’s population eats insects. The United Nations estimates 2,100 species of insects and worms are being eaten in 113 countries.

Would you munch on meal worms or dine on dung beetles? Would you consider using cricket flour in your family’s favorite recipes? Think about the ways in which you could incorporate insects into your family’s diets. This Insect Coloring Sheet can be used with younger family members to get them thinking about how insect-based protein might fit into their lives.


Bug-ana Bread

Baking with cricket flour has been an ongoing experiment for me. Some results have been less than optimal, others have been absolutely delicious. I’m proud to say that this recipe is one of the yummy successes.

I started this particular baking adventure with a recipe I’ve used many times before. I subbed cricket flour for one-third of the flour called for. Once again I used flour purchased from the fine folks at Portland, Oregon,-based Cricket Flours. The final product is moist, flavorful – and contains 50 grams more protein than if I’d only used wheat flour. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Bugana Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cricket flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup butter

½ cup sour cream

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup mashed bananas

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. When combined, add bananas and sour cream. Mix on high speed for one minute. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until well blended. If using nuts, add and mix well. Pour batter into large greased loaf pan (approx. 9 x 5 x 3 inches). Bake for one hour or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let bread cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then remove banana bread from the pan and let cool completely before serving.


Cricket Flour: Bug Nutrition without the Legs, Wings

Getting my family to jump onto the entomophagy bandwagon has not been easy. Roasted grasshoppers and fried mealworms were a little “too buggy” for first timers. Undeterred, I decided to experiment with cricket flour.

Cricket flour is made by grinding crickets into a fine, dark-colored powder. This is not a do-it-yourself process. Different cricket processors use different varieties of crickets, which can affect protein content. Crickets are killed via freezing. They’re then washed, blanched and dried before milling. The final product isn’t really flour at all – it’s 100 percent cricket, with none of the legs or wings that often turn people off. I bought my product from Portland, Ore., -based Cricket Flours.

Wondering why in the world anyone would ever eat crickets or cricket flour? For me, it boils down to nutrition. Two tablespoons of cricket flour contain 2 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of protein. The same amount of all-purpose, enriched wheat flour contains 12 grams carbohydrates and 3 grams protein. Additionally, crickets are high in B12 and omega-3 fats.

After some research and experimenting, I’ve learned I can use cricket flour to replace some – not all – of the flour in my favorite recipes. Flour made from wheat, barley or rye contains gluten. That gluten is what makes pizza or bread dough elastic. It’s also what holds cookies or cupcakes together. Gluten-free flours use thickeners like xanthan gum to do the same sort of thing. Cricket flour does not contain gluten or any other thickener. To bake with it, you need to add another flour to it.

Based on my own culinary successes (and failures), I suggest altering your own recipes by replacing no more than one-fourth to one-third of a recipe’s total flour with cricket flour. If, for example, a recipe calls for one cup of flour, replace one-fourth to one-third of that amount with cricket flour. It should be noted that cricket flour is very dark in appearance. If you’re baking something light-colored, like sugar cookies or cinnamon bread, substitute toward the lower end of this ratio range; the cricket flour will affect the color of your finished product.

So, armed with the goal of getting my family to sample cricket-enhanced baked goods, I decided to make something I knew they couldn’t resist: chocolate cupcakes. My family had tasted these treats before and admitted the cricket flour was virtually undetectable. Made with regular flour, each of these cupcakes contains 1 gram of protein. By substituting just one-half cup of cricket flour ups that amount to 3.6 grams of protein per cupcake. No, it’s still not a “healthy” recipe. But sometimes getting folks to try things means you need to coat them in chocolate – literally.

Here’s my recipe, if you want to try for yourself:

Devil’s Food Cricket Flour Cupcakes

For cupcakes:

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon instant coffee

1 cup hot water

½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cricket flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

For frosting:

½ cup butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder sifted

1½ cups powdered sugar sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, instant coffee, brown sugar and hot water. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, cricket flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. Using another large bowl and a stand or hand-held mixer, cream butter and sugar; add vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time with a cup of the flour mixture in between eggs. Mix in half the flour mixture followed by half the cocoa mixture, alternating and mixing until fully combined. Spoon batter into 12 large, lined cupcake tins. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For frosting:

In a large bowl, beat melted chocolate with butter and cream cheese. Add cocoa, vanilla extract, salt and ½ cup of the powdered sugar adding another ½ cup of the sugar until smooth and desired consistency. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes. Enjoy!

My First Intentional Bug-Eating Adventure

I was in a busy market in Hanoi, Vietnam, when I first munched on insects. My daughter and I were embarking on a two-week trip through the region and I had promised myself I would be open to new experiences along the way. Biting into a fried grasshopper the size of your thumb was definitely a new experience for me. The taste was not memorable but the crunch? Years later, I still remember chewing and chewing, almost as if I was eating shrimp shells.

I had previously sampled chocolate-covered ants. At first, I put this insect-eating experience in the same category: It was a novelty, the sort of thing you would try once so you could brag to your friends about it.

Before long, though, I began to gain a better understanding of insects as food. I learned there are many places in the world, where people eat insects as a regular part of their diets. I learned how nutritious insects are and how much less land they take to raise than cattle or hogs. I even learned there’s a word for the practice of eating insects: Entomophagy.

Biting into those crispy grasshoppers changed my thinking. I’m hoping my Work in Progress might also change yours.