For four straight days, my kitchen has been completely destroyed at the end of the day.
Food processor, Blendtec, Dutch oven, and every pot and pan we own completely filthy. The sink piled so high we started calling it Mount Dishmore.
And right now, every time you turn on the front left burner of our stove, it fills the house with toxic plastic fumes, thanks to my accidentally setting a Ziplock bag on it while it was hot.
The above can only be the result of an insane amount of recipe-testing, which is, of course, what my big announcement is all about: I signed a contract with a publisher to write the first No Meat Athlete print book!
I can’t share too many details yet (and likely won’t have many until spring), but of course it’s about the same topics No Meat Athlete is about, and with lots of recipes. Hence the kitchen that every night looks like a mad scientist’s laboratory that has been carpet-bombed.
Anyway, much more news on the book to come. Now, to the fruit of my labor …
For several years, my dad and I have been on a quest to make the perfect homemade brick oven pizza — without a brick oven.
I tend to value simplicity a lot, so I’ve also tried to pare down the techniques and ingredients to the bare essentials (I know I said I wouldn’t give more details about the book yet, but this “simplicity first” philosophy is what I’m taking with almost all of the recipes — it just seems to fit with the way I do everything else).
Homemade pizza is so easy and so good, it’s a shame more people don’t attempt it. I’m hoping this pizza recipe will appeal to those who have never dared to try it.
The basics of homemade vegan pizza
Here’s the overview of the most streamlined process I’ve found for delicious vegan pizza, homemade from scratch:
1. Make the dough in a food processor. It takes no more than five minutes to prepare, and needs only an hour to rise.
2. While it rises, make the sauce from a single can of whole peeled tomatoes, some olive oil, and some sea salt. No other ingredients necessary, and only about three minutes of active time are required.
3. Also while the the dough rises, make the cheesy topping. You could use Daiya if you want, and it’s not bad, but I said “from scratch,” right? What I’ve found works best is a pourable cheesy sauce made from raw cashews that goes on after the pizza is mostly baked.
4. Construct the pizza and bake it, ideally with a pizza stone if you want that perfectly crisp, just-slightly-charred crust.
Here are the details of each part.
Although every one is as simple as possible, I realize that it still looks like a lot when it’s all listed at once. If it’s overwhelming, feel free to use canned sauce (I’m a big Don Pepino fan) and Daiya cheese, and just focus on getting comfortable making dough. Then take on the other parts later.
(Oh and by the way, I’m not sure if this recipe will end up in my book. It’s possible, but it’s still a work in progress so I imagine I’ll improve it some more by then.)
Before you start …
Two things need to happen.
First, the cheesy sauce requires soaking the raw cashews four to six hours in advance, and you’ll need a food processor to make it.
Second, you need to preheat your oven. If you have a pizza stone, position a rack near the bottom of your oven and place the stone on it, and position another rack several inches above it. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees about an hour before you’re going to bake if you’re using a stone (probably right when you start making your dough). If you’re not using a stone, you can preheat much closer to when you’re ready to bake.
Step 1: Food-processer pizza dough
Unlike a lot of health foodies and athletes, I still believe that whole wheat is a healthy food for most people. Some have a sensitivity to it, and it’s worth going for a week or 10 days without any gluten in your diet to see if you’re one of those people.But if, like me, you’re not, then wheat is a perfectly good source of carbohydrates as long as you’re not eating it at every single meal (like many people inadvertently do).
If you do have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, there are lots of good options (I’ve heard cornmeal does well as the base for a pizza crust), and you’ll want to use one of those — either a recipe or a store-bought gluten-free crust — instead.
As for whole wheat flour versus white — obviously, whole wheat is the healthier choice, the exception being if you’re using it as a carbo-loading meal the day before a race, in which case I’d probably go with 100% white flour.
You can go 100% whole wheat, but your pizza crust will turn out denser than most people like. I’ve found that a 3:2 wheat-to-white ratio works pretty well, and that’s what I suggest here.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use essentially the same process to knead this dough by hand or in a stand mixer, but neither is as fast as the food processor.
- 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup bread flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (one packet) instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
Stir the yeast into the water and let stand 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the flours, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix.
Turn on the processor and slowly add the yeast/water mixture and the oil. Within a few seconds, the dough should come together in a ball. If it’s sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. If it’s dry or not coming together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Your dough should be smooth and just slightly tacky, but not sticky.
One you have a smooth ball that isn’t sticky (total time the machine is running shouldn’t be more than a minute or so), turn the dough out onto a floured surface, roll it around for just a second then cut in two. Now for each piece of dough, grab both ends of the cut side and bring them together, pinching to seal so that the cut side is no longer exposed. Place each piece in its own, very lightly oiled, large bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise for an hour. (If you only want one pizza now, you can also let the other dough rise overnight in the refrigerator in a sealed gallon-size bag with the air squeezed out of it; it’ll develop more flavor this way.)
After the hour is up, punch one of your dough balls down, and use a rolling pin to roll it out on a lightly floured surface so that it’s round and about a quarter-inch thick. (You can toss it or stretch it out with your hands instead of using a rolling pin, but the rolling pin will give you more consistent results.)
Step 2: Incredibly simple sauce
I absolutely love this tomato sauce, and use it on any occasion I can. Pasta, risotto, lasagna, and of course, pizza. It takes only 20 minutes, almost none of which is active time.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatos (San Marzano are the best kind, but not necessary)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Lightly pulse the entire contents of the tomato can in a blender or food processor to your desired consistency (I like to leave a few chunks). If you don’t have a blender or processor, you can do this with a potato masher.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the tomatoes. (If you want more flavors in your pizza sauce, like garlic, crushed red pepper, or herbs, cook them in the oil for a minute or so before you add the tomatoes.)
Lower the heat to medium-low, then let the sauce simmer uncovered, stirring occasionaly, until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
Step 3: The “cheese”
I’ve got Dreena Burton’s book Let Them Eat Vegan to thank for introducing me to the world of vegan cheese made from cashews. I’ve found that by adding some water to a basic recipe for spreadable cashew cheese, you get a pourable cheese that serves so many purposes, from stirring into a risotto at the end to make it creamy, to adding to a burrito to take the place of sour cream.
Here, I use it to drizzle on the pizza near the end of the baking time, which avoids the mess caused by trying to spread thick cheese on top of tomato sauce.
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 to 6 hours in water
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- small clove of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 c warm water, plus about another 1/4 cup for thinning
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor; process for several minutes until completely smooth. It probably won’t quite have a pourable consistency; if not, add more water a tablespoon at a time until you get a consistency that you can pour on pizza and will sit on top of the cheese.
Note: the only reason to use warm water here is that you want your cheesy sauce to be slightly warm so that it won’t cool down the pizza when you add it, so make this as close as possible to when you’ll need it.
Step 4: Assembling and baking your pie
You should have already position the racks and stone in your oven and preheated to 450, as explained above.
Place your rolled dough onto a lightly oiled pizza peel or baking sheet. Top with about a half cup of sauce (use more of less depending on your taste) and spread it around in an even layer. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or whatever other seasoning you like on pizza.
Place the baking sheet or pizza screen with the pizza on the top rack of the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and looks about a minute or two from being done. (The time it takes is going to vary depending on what surface you’re using, so eyeball it rather than worrying about precise timing.)
Remove the pizza from the oven, then drizzle some of the cheesy sauce on top. You can lightly spread it around with a knife or spoon if you want, or leave it dollops, margherita-style. (You’ll have extra cheesy sauce, which can be used for the other pizza or refrigerated for a few days.)
Return the pizza to the oven, either directly onto the rack or, better, on the stone if you have one. Allow it to bake for another two or three minutes, until the crust is crisp on the bottom and completely done on top.
If the cheesy sauce isn’t warm, you can put the pizza under the broiler for a few seconds to heat it up.
Enjoy your homemade vegan pizza! You won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s the real thing (the look of the cheese sauce is a dead giveaway), but it sure satisfies the craving and is delicious in its own right.