Pizza night is a popular escape from having to cook or clean up. It's easy, you just pick up the phone and order, someone will deliver to you, and all you have to do is discard the box. That's great for some nights, but not during Great Lent because, although you can order pizza without cheese, or even with soy cheese, you don't know exactly what ingredients go into the sauce, the dough, or even some of the toppings.
Today, we are making pizza that is completely vegan. And, we know this because it is going to be homemade every step of the way. First, we have our dough that was made from flour, salt, water, and yeast. Then, we have our sauce, which we can use homemade tomato sauce, store bought tomato sauce (read the label), and we have any vegetable topping we like. Before making our pizza we recognized that the texture of the pizza would be different than what we're used to when our pizza has cheese. But we were very optimistic about the end results.
Does pizza night get any easier?
So, for this recipe, you will need the following:
Tomato Sauce (or spaghetti sauce of your choice), vegetables that you like, corn meal, and a Pizza Stone
We chose to have, as pictured clockwise, Kale, Onion, Garlic, Hot Pepper Flakes, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Black Olives, Capers, Shallots, and Mushrooms.
The first step to make pizza is to get the pizza stone ready. You have to preheat the oven with the stone inside; the authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recommend preheating the oven to the highest temperature your oven will heat at (e.g. 500º F). This way, the hot pizza stone is the perfect baking surface to make the bottom of the crust golden brown and baked a little more firm than if you just baked on a cookie sheet.
Once the pizza stone is in the oven, get from the refrigerator the dough and cut a piece of dough that is about the size of an orange. You could rip it or tear the dough off, but you don't want to interfere with the gluten strands that are built up in the dough. Tearing the dough breaks the strands randomly, whereas cutting with a knife or scissors keeps the strands intact and is much nicer overall.
Now, let the dough relax while you continue to work preparing the toppings. We chose the jar of spaghetti sauce as our base (our favourite sauce, by far, is Victoria brand, White Linen Marinara Sauce). It is a nice flavour and some seasonings without being thick or overwhelming. We cleaned the olives by removing the pits. These are Kalamata olives, but there are plenty of types of olives available; you could even use the ones in cans, without pits, sliced, or what you like. Then, we sliced the sun-dried tomatoes. This, too, seemed easier with a pair of scissors because that gave us the thin strips that were perfect as a pizza topping. We returned to using a knife to slice the mushrooms, slice the kale, and slice the shallots. We did all the cutting and chopping while the dough relaxed.
Now, when it came to the onions, we both agreed that raw onions would be a little stronger in flavour than we really wanted, so we chose to slice the onion into thin slices and then saute them. We softened the onions without caramelising them because the time in the oven will continue the cooking process for us. We also cooked the kale and the mushrooms, separately, of course, to add another dimension of flavour to our final product. These can all stay raw and uncooked, depending on your personal tastes. It would also spare you from having to wash another pan!
Once you have the toppings the way you like them, and everything is ready, it is time to shape the pizza dough. We chose to make more individual pizzas, since each one of us wanted different toppings. The three of us each took turns shaping dough. We started with just stretching the dough with our hands. We pulled, mostly from the edges to keep the centre of the circle solid and as thick as the rest of the circle. It was a lot of fun to pretend being the pizza maker and throwing the dough in the air. Yes, flour was everywhere as was the dough But, we also tried using a rolling pin. That was easier for us, although we needed more flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. For us, we would use the rolling pin for the uniformity that it gives us in the thickness of the dough. Either way is acceptable, but don't expect a perfect circle from your dough -- we like to say that the shape "has character" and is as unique as the pizza maker.
Roll out the dough into the shape you want. Our traditional choice was a circular shape. But, we have seen that some like a longer, more narrow oblong shape. Either way, once you roll out the dough, you want to get ready a transfer sheet. The transfer sheet is a piece of parchment paper with corn meal sprinkled on it. You want some corn meal on the paper so that the crust with toppings will slide right onto the hot pizza stone. You also want to put some on the pizza stone itself. If you are not using a pizza stone, then you can leave the pizza on the parchment, provided that it is able to withstand the temperature of 450º F without burning. So, use some cornmeal on the parchment paper to create a small space for air and heat circulation to bake the bottom crust. Then, set the rolled out dough onto the parchment paper. And, get ready to dress the pizza!
You can add the toppings as you like. You can put them in any order, really. Of the three of us making pizza, we chose to do different things with our individual pizzas. One person chose traditional sauce and toppings, one person chose sauce, toppings, and more sauce, and the third one of us chose no sauce -- just toppings. We are putting the pictures of assembling pizza in the traditional order, which may offer some ideas about assembling your own pizza. Remember, the idea with making Artisan Pizza is being the artisan - have some fun with it.
When you get everything on there that you want, then put the pizza on to the hot pizza stone. Once again, if you are not using a stone, then pick up the parchment paper and get it onto the oven rack. We also tried to transfer the pizza using a cookie sheet , which helped us to lift and give some support to the weighted paper. The pizza dough slides off the paper because of the corn meal we had put down. Then, bake the pizza at 450º F for 12-18 minutes (every oven is different).
Check the bottom of the crust, in the middle, to make sure that it is baking and changing colour. You want a crispy outside of crust, and it will turn the golden tan hue that the bottom of a bread loaf turns. If you have not achieved that colour, then leave the pizza in the oven for a few more minutes.
When the pizza is done baking, remove the entire pizza stone from the oven. If you are baking more than one pizza, pull out the pizza stone, remove the baked pizza by sliding the pizza onto a cutting board, large plate, or another surface to allow it to cool momentarily. Then, while the pizza stone is out of the oven, put the next pizza on there. The stone will maintain its temperature for a minute or two, and you can make it easy for yourself to make the transfer while the stone is closer than in the oven. So, once the pizza comes out of the oven, let it rest for a moment before cutting and serving. We slid our pizza onto a large wooden cutting board. Then, cut the pizza as you like, and enjoy.
The Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day dough was really easy to use. It made a chewy, yet crunchy pizza crust that provided the perfect vehicle to deliver our vegetables. The taste of the dough did not interfere with the flavour of the pizza at all. There was just a nice combination of crunch and chew, and we know that in the future, we are going to use this dough over any other. And, the fact that we can have the dough in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, then, we now have options to have pizza night every week instead of every month!
"He who dishonors the poor, sins, but he who has mercy on the poor is very blessed."
Book of Proverbs: 14:21