I do say a little harder: it’s really not that hard if you live in an urban area. There is at least one great pizza chain in my neighborhood, Z Pizza, that has a number of great vegan pizzas on their menu, and in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s I can usually find at least one or two varieties that are vegan.
But making one’s own pizza has got to be more fun than any takeout or store-bought pizza any day. And it really isn’t hard to put together from scratch, nor does it take very long. In fact, we have waited longer for the delivery guy on a Friday night.
I have two basic crust recipes: one for a thin crust and another for a regular one, and in the past I’ve experimented with making whole-wheat crusts, whole-wheat-pastry-flour crusts and plain all-purpose flour crusts. For someone who doesn’t like all-purpose flour, it hurts me a little to admit that the all-purpose does make the best-textured crust, although not the best tasting. And let’s face it: half the fun of the pizza (or maybe all of it) lies in a chewy-yet-crispy crust.
I’ve had my share of pizza oops, although not disasters because they were still edible. While trying out a whole-wheat crust once, loaded with too many mushrooms, the crust turned soft although it still tasted pretty good. The mushrooms, which express too many juices while cooking, were, of course, the culprit. I guess at this point all of you must be going, she didn’t figure THAT? Umm…guilty.
I still like a lot of toppings, but when I make a pizza now, I usually bake the crust and cook the toppings (if they need cooking) separately, and then bung them together in the oven for just enough time for them to get to know each other.
Basil is one of my favorite pizza toppings, and I decided to make that the chief flavor ingredient. I used it three ways: dry basil cooked into the crust, a tomato-basil pistou sauce spread over the pizza instead of the usual tomato sauce, and basil chopped and sprinkled all over the crust close to the end of cooking. Sounds like a lot, but it was just enough of a basil hit for me. Divine.
I also caramelized the mushrooms and onions in white wine. If you’re making this for kids and would prefer to leave out the wine, do so by all means. I like the sweet fruitiness the wine adds, and it builds up the flavors.
For the crust, which turned out quite wonderful (light and chewy in the center and lightly crispy on the edges), I took inspiration from Priya of Live2Cook who posted this fabulous griddle-baked pizza the other day. She advised me to try white whole wheat flour instead of regular for the crust. Since I had some in my pantry, I couldn’t wait to try it.
I did mix in some all-purpose flour, but using at least part white-whole-wheat blunted the guilt as I gorged down slice after slice.
For the toppings:
Approx. 1 cup basil pistou sauce
1 cup white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn or cut into ribbons
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and onions and stir for a minute. Then add the white wine and salt to taste.
Take off the heat when the wine is all gone and the mushrooms and onions are lightly golden with the sugars from the wine. Set aside.
For the crust (this recipe makes 2 crusts):2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp dried basil
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water. Let stand for five minutes to make sure the yeast is alive and starts frothing.
Add all of the whole wheat flour, about 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose, dried basil, olive oil, and salt and knead by hand or in a stand mixer. If the dough is too sticky, keep adding the remaining all-purpose flour until you get a smooth dough.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over once to coat it on all sides with oil. Cover with a kitchen napkin and place in a warm spot for about 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
After it has doubled, punch down the dough, and divide it into two. If you’re making just one pizza, this would be a great time to wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze it for future use. When you need it, just bring it out several hours before and let it sit at room temperature to thaw.
Shape the other half into a ball and let it sit around 10 minutes. Then, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a round of about 14 inches (this isn’t a thin crust but I still roll it fairly thin. Make sure your baking sheet is large enough to accommodate the rolled crust).
Push down around the center with your fingers so you get a slightly raised edge around the pizza.
Dust the baking sheet with cornmeal and place the crust on it. Brush the crust with olive oil and place in a 475-degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. The crust might bubble up in places, but don’t worry. It adds to the great, rustic look.
Take the pizza out of the oven and spread the pistou sauce over it. Then layer the mushrooms and onions and finally the basil over it.
Place it back in the oven for another 3-4 minutes.
Cut into slices and dig in!
I am going to send this pizza on to DK of Culinary Bazar who is hosting the wonderful AWED: Italian event.