Monday, March 8, 2010

vegan pizza

My husband gave up cheese for Lent.

You can imagine how well that's gone over with his very, very Italian wife.

Regardless - I support him. After an outdoor run and a city-wide bike ride (thanks to the sudden spring weather here in DC), we were both seriously hungry and craving some carbs. Pizza seemed like the ticket.
I'm going to show you here through a series of photos how to make pizza. Homemade pizza really isn't the arduous, labor-intensive task that most think that it is. With a Kitchen Aid mixer or a food processor, all the hard work is taken care of for you.

I use a recipe loosely adapted from the Joy Of Cooking cookbook.
Flip to page 607. Remember, my recipe is loosely based off of this one.
Start with 1 tsp granulated sugar. Place it in the bowl of your mixer outfitted with a dough hook, or the bowl of your food processor. [Note: it doesn't matter which; I probably would prefer the food processor, however mine isn't big enough to accommodate the liquid.]
Add one packet of yeast to the sugar. I use the old-fashioned kind, not the quick-rise kind. I don't really have a reason, other than the same reason why I prefer slow-cooking oats to instant oats - it's what my mom used and it seems right.
Add 1 1/2 c. of very warm water. PLEASE NOTE! You can kill the yeast if the water is too hot. I've done this a number of times because it is a very easy mistake to make. Joy Of Cooking recommends water that is 105 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit. My general rule of thumb? Make sure the stuff isn't boiling and that you can cup your hands around the measuring cup holding the water without wincing or squealing.
Gently stir the ingredients together - if in the food processor, give it a few quick pulses; if in the mixer, mix it on 2 for no more than 30 seconds.
Add to the water mixture 2 3/4 c bread flour,
1/2 c semolina flour (you can find it at Whole Foods or Publix, or any other speciality grocery store),
and 1 tsp salt.

Mix together for a few minutes - be sure not to over mix the dough. You basically just want to incorporate the ingredients and allow the machine to do the majority of the kneading for you.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. It kind of reminds me of an old person's skin at this point. Dry, wrinkly, very soft.

Now here's where you think I may be kooky, but I swear this works. Put about two cups of water in a measuring cup and stick it in the microwave for about three minutes, or until it starts to boil. Then place the dough in a large-ish bowl with some extra virgin olive oil and cover it with a towel. Stick the covered bowl of dough in the microwave with the recently boiled water, shut the door and leave it for at least an hour. The water creates a warm, slightly humid environment for the dough and encourages the yeast to work its magic. I know, weird. But I promise you - it works.

While you allow the dough to rise, prepare your ingredients. Since this was a cheese-less pizza, I didn't have to work about slicing chevre or shredding mozzarella. I decided that we wanted an eggplant-mushroom pizza - good texture, sort of meaty. First, peel the eggplant and slice it into rounds. Lay the sliced rounds of eggplant onto paper towels, sprinkle with salt and leave them there to "sweat" - the salt brings out the bitter agents in the eggplant, resulting in a much more tender, savory flavor.

For seasoning, I added chopped fresh garlic, sliced shallots and fresh minced rosemary.
After about 3o minutes, when the eggplant has had sufficient time to "sweat," slice the eggplant into little sticks, and slice your mushrooms.

Prepare your baking sheet with a little corn meal - this allows the pizza to slide off the pan easily after you cook it. The amount shown here is sufficient for two pans. You really don't need this much on one pan, otherwise it burns in the oven.
After removing the dough from the microwave, I rolled it out, placed it on the baking sheet and then layered my ingredients in the following order - olive oil directly on the dough; some kosher salt; sauce; the rosemary, garlic and shallots; and then the vegetables.

Bake in a preheated oven at about 475 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes, or until toasty on the bottom, golden on the top with bubbling sauce.

Now let me give you a little word of advice - this pizza would have been ROCKIN with some fresh chevre (goat cheese). Unfortunately, as mentioned before, my husband gave up cheese for Lent so we didn't have any of that. But take it from me - it would have been stellar with a little bit of cheese. The rosemary and eggplant would have been the perfect accompaniment.
Hopefully the task of making pizza is no longer daunting. It's actually quite easy. And you get to find something else to do while waiting for the dough to rise, whether it be checking this blog (ahem) or snuggling with your cheese-less husband.
Now, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy! Bon appetit!

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