HHDH: It’s Cheeseless Pizza
Who doesn’t like pizza? I am yet to meet a single soul who would turn down a slice….
Except when it was going to be me with the notion of no cheese.
I was always of the mindset that pizza had but one basic construction – a crust (perfect blend of thin and chewy ), sauce (very important) and cheese. – Everything on top of that is really up to an individuals discretion and craving.
That was until I had a bite of my first “real European” pizza experience. Being 15 and at the height of my pizza connesseur training, I was in the south of France on exchange. My host mother would pack my lunches complete with a little Mom note, a chocolate and something often mysterious to try; there was infrequent PB&J in Provence. While out in the countryside, our group was left to remark on the construction of Romanesque Aqueducts. Removed from any civilization able to spare me of my brown bag filled with cold and cheeseless pizza with peppers and black olives (with pits!) Starving and only armed with my Orangina, I dug in and discovered a new, old, delicious world of pizza. From that moment, my eyes were opened, my pallet was cleansed and my nose had been lifted to new a pizza snob height never known before; and I was yet to arrive in Italy!
Flashing forward 15 some odd years, when trying to capture the best vegan version, I knew that one of those important and very expected elements – cheese, would be missing. Making up for the lack of gooey dairy was actually easy and created a more flavourful pizza than I’d usually eat. The secret of a good crust is always important and the hint for vegan pizza is just to pre-bake the crust a little longer to insure the crispness and then you’re free to go to town on virtually any topping you could imagine.
Pizza for breakfast? Check out 80 Breakfasts, who is hosting HHDH. I’m sure it will be quite the round-up.
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast, 1 package
1 teaspoon sugar or other sweetener
3/4 Cup Warm Water
2 3/4 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour, or 3/4 Cup whole wheat may be substituted for a more whole grain crust
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, infused if desired*
Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the warm water and let stand for about 10 minutes or until bubbled and frothy.
In a separate bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine 2 cups of the flour and the salt.
With the motor running, stir in the yeast mixture followed by the olive oil.
As the dough comes together, add the remaining flour as necessary to form a soft ball.
Leave the machine to knead for about 5 minutes or by hand for about 8 minutes.
Cut the dough into quarters, rolling the 4 pieces into balls.
Cover and let rest and rise for at least 30 minutes or cover with plastic and refrigerate for up to 1 or 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF and insert a pizza stone, if using.
Stretch the first ball of dough into the shape desired. If you’re going for the traditional round, I usually hum the mantra “Drive the car” , as if turning the wheel, but that’s just me.
Remove the pizza stone, or using a parchment lined baking sheet, lay the dough flat.
Bake for 2-3 minutes, remove and top with sauce, return to the oven for 2 minutes more.
Top with desired vegetables like:
Grilled eggplant, zucchini, black olives and basil
Artichokes, mushrooms and red onion
Tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic
& this one shown; Spinach, mushroom, red peppers and black olives with a garlicky roasted red pepper and caper sauce and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
Continue to bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until the crust is golden and crisp and the vegetables are soft and hot.
OVEN ROASTED GARLIC AND RED PEPPER SAUCE
4 Roasted Red Peppers
2 Tablespoons Capers, about 40
1 Head of Roasted Garlic, about 8 cloves
1/8 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Finely mince or purée all in a food processor until smooth.
Allow the sauce to rest while you make the dough.
Spoon over stretched dough.
Will cover about four 8″ pizzas.
* To infuse oil, heat 1 cup of olive oil and add either 2 cloves of peeled, smashed garlic and let simmer for about 10 minutes or
Warm the oil and either add rosemary or basil which has been been bruised with the back of a knife. Let the oil cool and strain before using.