So I have this vegan friend who was coming over for dinner. What do you make for a vegan??? And by that I mean how you make something that is delicious for a vegan and not just steam them vegetables. I just bought a new cast iron pizza pan, so I decided to make grilled pizza.
Now, for a little history on myself and pizza making. Growing up, my mom used to teach in-home classes on how to make pizza. So I have learned from someone who really knows what she’s doing, and I have also made pizza dough a lot in my lifetime. My mom has a perfect classic pizza dough recipe (which I will share with you at some point in the future) but I have been working on perfecting my thin crust and my deep dish (Chicago-style: flaky, crusty deliciousness).
Today’s pizza is thin crust pizza, and I’ll tell you why. Vegetables have a lot of moisture in them, and I thought the crispiness of the thin crust would be better to stand up against that. Plus I was grilling the pizza (that’s right, and it is as delicious as it sounds).
Well let’s get right into the dough, since that’s what this post is really about:
¾ cup warm water
1 tsp rapid rise yeast
½ tsp sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (or better, bread flour if you can get it)
½ tsp salt
Fill a glass measuring cup ¾ full with warm water. The “warm” part is very important. Specifically you want the water to be 110 degrees. My mom always taught me to stick my pinky finger into the water (it’s more sensitive or something?) and if the water felt warm but not hot it should be perfect. You shouldn’t have to boil or microwave the water, letting the faucet run on hot should do. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast, causing whatever kind of bread you are making not to rise. These days yeast is much more fool-proof than it used to be, but I have rarely had a pizza crust fail, so I’ll stick to what I know works.
Next add the sugar and the yeast to the warm water and gently whisk with a fork to incorporate. Set the mixture aside.
For this next step if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook I would recommend using it, it yields a very smooth, elastic dough. I, however, do not. So this is the by-the-hand method. Sift the flour and the salt together into a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle. Now take a look at your yeast mixture, there should be a thin layer of light brown froth on the top, this means the yeast is working. This is called proofing. If that layer of froth isn’t there, your dough isn’t going to rise and will make a really dense chewy pizza crust (yuck). Pour the mixture into the center of the well and then get your hands into the dough and start mixing. Incorporate as much of the flour into the dough while still in the bowl as possible, then pour the contents out onto a clean surface and start kneading it. To knead dough, you want to press down and forward with the heels of your hands. As you are kneading, most of the flour should work its way into the dough, you may even need to sprinkle on a bit more, you want it to be smooth and not too sticky. Once the dough has come together (meaning it has formed a pretty solid ball) you need to knead it for about 3 more minutes. It should look something like this when it’s done.
Find a clean medium sized bowl and drizzle about 2 teaspoons of olive oil into it, put the dough ball into the bowl and toss to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and put it somewhere warm to rise (dough likes warm places). Let the dough rise for about an hour. Thin crust pizza dough is one of the few kinds of breads that doesn’t need as long a rise time. You could probably even get away with just half an hour, you just need enough time for the dough to rest and for the yeast to work with the gluten in the flour. When you uncover the dough, it should look as if it has grown slightly, it may spread, it may get bigger, either is fine. You will notice a yeast smell, and that’s how you know it’s going to be delicious.
There are many ways to form the dough, you can use a rolling pin or your hands. Since I was making a grilled pizza on a cast iron pizza pan I stretched the dough with the hands and then stretched it to the shape of the pizza pan. When you start working with the dough you want to flatten it slightly into more of a disc shape and the work your hands around the edge like you are turning the wheel of a car. Once you have stretched it out place it onto whatever surface you will be cooking it on (i.e. a pizza peel/ cookie sheet with parchment paper on it, or a pizza pan, etc) and use your fingers to push out the edges. It will spring back slightly, that’s a good thing, it should have some elasticity.
Top the pizza with whatever you would like and bake it at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned and the cheese (if you are using it) is bubbly.
For my vegan (ok, mostly vegan, I put cheese on half) pizza, I topped it with: homemade pesto (basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil- I omitted the parmesan cheese to make it vegan) roasted tomatoes, roasted zucchini and summer squash, caramelized onions (which I caramelized in olive oil instead of butter), artichokes, and arugula (which I put on top about a minute before I took it off the grill so it would wilt slightly) …..and on half the pizza, I put a sprinkle of mozzarella and a bit of asiago (don’t judge, I love cheese).
The crust turned out beautifully, it was crisp on the outside but slightly tender on the inside, and it didn’t sag under the vegetables one bit. My vegan friend said it was the best vegan pizza she ever ate, and the meat eating boyfriend even liked it. That’s a win win in my book.
More pizza recipes to come!