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I made home-made pizza today, for the first time in ages.  I’ve made pizza in the past, but never been happy with the results.  I tried my own crust and purchased pre-made crusts, to no avail. Inability to make a great pizza has been a little source of shame for me, since I come from a pizza family.  My father’s father was from Italy and always made terrific pizza – and my father’s uncle actually owned a pizza stand that he would bring to local fairs. I never did get their recipe, and I regretted it.  Until now.  I have finally found a pizza crust that makes me happy and that I’ll recommend to the world!

The easiest answers are always the simplest – and this recipe is no exception. I can’t take credit for the crust – it’s courtesy of the amazing book “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day.” If you don’t own this book – run out and get it.  The “end-result” pizzas and dishes aren’t vegan, but most of the crusts are and they, alone, are worth the price. I’m a huge fan of the whole “no knead bread” movement started by Jim Lahey, so it makes sense that this crust would suit me.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Buon Appetito!

Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1.75 cups warm water (not hot!)
  • 1/2 tbsp (or 1/2 packet) yeast (I used Red Star)
  • 3/4 tbsp salt
  • 3.75 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (do not pack the flour – scoop each cup out of the bag, then swipe the top of the measuring cup with the flat side of a knife)

Preparation:

Put warm water in a very large bowl or large plastic container.  Add yeast and stir to dissolve (yeast should bubble a little – if it doesn’t, it’s not fresh). Add salt and stir again. Add flour by the cupful, stirring with a wooden spoon.  If it becomes too dense to stir, flour your hands and mix the dough together.  No kneading! – just make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated and the dough is a sticky consistency that will take the shape of the bowl or container it’s in.  Over-mixing can result in a tougher crust.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or loosely place the lid on the container (do NOT make it air tight) and put in a warm spot for about two hours, or until dough has risen and flattened across the top (it should also have lots of little bubbles) – double+ the size you started with. The photo on the left shows the size I started with and the right shows what I ended up with 2 hours later:

Keep the dough covered (again, not air tight) and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  The longer you allow it to sit before you use it, the “yeastier” (more sourdoughy) the flavor will become.  It will be good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

When you’re ready to assemble your pizza, simply pull or cut off a chunk of dough (about the size of a softball or an orange if you want a thin crust, larger if you want thick).  Which leads me to the actual pizza…see the Artisan Pizza preparation section for instructions on handling the dough from here.

Artisan Pizza

Ingredients for one 12″ pizza:

  • 1 softball or orange-sized chunk of pizza dough
  • flour for hands and work surface (and rolling pin if you want to use one)
  • 4 tbsp – 1/4 cup pizza sauce
  • vegan cheese (I used a combination of Daiya Mozzarella and Follow Your Heart mozzarella)
  • fresh basil
  • Vegan parmesan (recipe in this post, or use store-bought)
  • toppings of choice (I used Kalamata olives)

Preparation:

These preparation instructions may seem a little long, but after you do it once, you’ll have the hang of it and it will go really quickly after that. Trust me! 🙂

If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven on 550 degrees for approximately 30 minutes prior to cooking.  If not, just preheat your oven to 550 degrees and take out a good-sized cookie sheet.

First assemble your toppings – you want to work with the pizza dough fairly quickly, so having your toppings at the ready. This minimizes the amount of time you need to handle the dough (it gets sticky fast).  I purchased blocks of Daiya mozzarella and Follow Your Heart mozzarella, cut them into thin, square slices and set them on a plate along with the fresh basil (I tore the larger leaves into smaller pieces) and other toppings (in my case, Kalamata olive halves). I have to admit – I used store-bought sauce (shameful, I know).

Once your toppings are assembled, take your bowl of dough out of the refrigerator. Flour a cutting board or pizza peel – (that wooden thing with a handle pizza shops use), then pull off or cut off your hunk of dough and place it on the floured surface.

Flour your hands and, if you want to use one, your rolling pin, and begin to shape the dough into a 12″ circle (mine didn’t look anything like a circle, but that’s okay!). I found it easiest to pick up the ball of dough and shape it a little, letting the dough naturally fall into place, then put it back o the cutting board. If you’re using a cookie sheet, you may find it easiest to shape the dough directly on the cookie sheet, instead of having to transfer it.  Shape the dough with your hands or roll it out until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Make sure, whichever surface you’re using, that the dough doesn’t stick. If you find it’s sticking, add a little more flour.  This is especially important if you’ll be shifting the dough to a pizza stone, since it will have to slide off your board and onto the stone.

Once shaped to the size you want, brush with a little bit of olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of sauce (not too much – you want a crispy, chewy crust). Then, in order, layer on your cheese, basil, toppings and parmesan.  I liked mixing the flavors of the two mozarellas, so I put the slices overlapping one another.

If you used a cookie sheet, simply pop it into the oven.  If you used a pizza peel or cutting board and pizza stone, open the oven door and carefully slide the pizza onto the preheated stone.

Keep an eye on your pizza because it will cook very quickly.  ON the pizza stone, my pie only took 7 minutes.  Remove as soon as the edges begin to brown.  If, during cooking, you see large bubbles rising in the crust, take a long-handled knife or fork and pierce the bubbles so they recede.

Carefully slide the pizza off the stone (it will slide right off) onto a plate, cutting board or platter. Sprinkle a little extra parmesan on if you like.

Vegan “Parmesan”

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz raw walnuts
  • 2 oz nutritional yeast
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • large pinch of garlic powder

Preparation:

Grind all ingredients together in a food processor or blender.  Do not over-blend, as a paste may start to form. Refrigerate what you do not use.

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