Before last week I had never made dough from scratch. Heck, I’d only made pizza two or three times with those “just add water” mixes. Every time it was a total bummer. I figured why even bother with the hassle when there’s so many great pizza joints in town?
Then I became a vegan and couldn’t eat pizza again. Ever! That is, until I heard of vegan pizza. I attempted my first homemade pizza dough, and you know what? It turned out pretty decent. Good, but not great. Plus, it was fun and easy. Still, I had a lot of questions.
Over the next week I devoted myself, purely for you, my dear readers. I read dozens of different pizza recipes, examining the ratio of ingredients in each one. I tried making different dough, using different flours, eating different pizza every single day. Many days I ate pizza twice. Oh, the horror of it all! But I emerged victorious, and I found a recipe I will be using until the end of days.
First though, I should note, the goal was to make a fairly healthy pizza. You see, I am a fat man who wishes to no longer be fat. Being vegan is great, but if pizza is to be reintroduced to me and likely remain a weekly staple, a delicious healthy pizza was the goal. Not just that. It was a necessity. For the safety of wobbly chairs the world over.
Every recipe I saw using whole wheat flour ALSO included all-purpose flour. In fact, they warned against using only whole wheat. Apparently, it has something to do with the gluten content. Whole wheat flour comes out much more thick and dense due to having less gluten (because it also contains the other parts of the grain). Then I remembered that I’d just bought some wheat gluten for another recipe I’ll be trying next week. I thought, why not just add some of that gluten to the lower gluten flour and solve that problem.
The pizza gods wept at my genius. Then I read the side of the box, and it appears that is exactly what wheat gluten is for, given denser breads a more airy feel when yeast baking. It is common knowledge. My genius status? Revoked.
Then I wondered what was the point of oil in the dough. There is much debate about the amount of oil (or none at all) in a good pizza crust. The oil makes it easier to handle the dough and gives it flavor and more crispness. So I figured to keep it. Plus, a little extra virgin olive oil is good for you. And healthy pizza is what we are after.
I learned about yeast. I tried and failed to learn how to impress my friends by spinning and throwing pizza dough. I discovered how common sense using parchment paper was to transfer and cook the pizza. And, after my first attempt at thin crust pizza turned out more pan-style than crispy cracker, I figured out how make the crust thin. Then, when shopping for a new pan to cook with, I discovered it’s only 10 bucks for a pizza stone. Buy one.
In summary, it was grueling work. I had to eat a lot of pizza.
-3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
-2 tablespoons wheat gluten
-2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 yeast packet)
-2 teaspoons salt
-1/2 teaspoon agave nectar (or 1 tsp sugar, which I learned is sometimes not vegan)
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 1/2 cups warm water (120-130 degrees, according the back of Fleischmann’s yeast)
-1 tablespoon garlic powder (optional, if you want a garlic crust)
Yields 4 small (12″) thin crust pizzas or 4 personal (6″) thick crust pizzas.
It’s very easy to make. Most the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise, so simply freeze some at the end and you will have dough on hand to use whenever you’re craving pizza!
Step 1 – Mix the Dough:
-Mix 1/2 cup of warm water with the yeast and Agave Nectar (or sugar), stir together and let it sit. The yeast should start to foam after a few minutes (that’s how the dough will rise).
-Mix the flour, salt, garlic powder (optional) and gluten together. Add the other cup of warm water, the olive oil, and the foaming yeast. Mix in the bowl until it all clumps together.
Step 2 – Knead the Dough:
-Knead* the dough for about 5 minutes.
*Do this by setting the dough on a lightly floured surface. Put your hands together and use your weight to press your palm into the middle of the dough and flatten it out. Then grab the dough from the side, fold it,turn it, and repeat. This is an important step as it helps develop the gluten strands so you get a nice airy crust. Do not be afraid to knead too much, as it’s not likely you will over-knead the dough if doing it by hand.
Step 3 – Let it Rise:
-Form the dough into a ball. Coat your mixing bowl (or a clean bowl) with a little oil and toss the ball around so it is lightly covered. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise for 2 hours. It should double in size.
If using the dough the following day, let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. The cold temperature slows the yeast and it will take much longer to rise (remember to pull the dough out and let it get back to room temperature before cooking).
Step 4 – Press and Let Stand:
-Set the dough back on the counter. Press the air the yeast has made in the dough out with your palms. Recover and let it sit for another 30-60 minutes.
At this point I usually freeze some dough, as it will make 4 small pizzas. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap BEFORE covering and letting rise the second time, then freeze as many balls of dough as your heart desires and save for busy days.
Step 5 – Form the pizza:
Thin crust – Press the ball into a small disc shape; then throw it on a piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin push the dough out from the middle outwards (which lengthens the gluten strands).
Get it as thin as possible.
Thicker crust – Press the ball into a small disc shape; then gently stretch it out with your hands holding it by the edge and letting it hang down. Do not use a rolling pin as you want a nice airy, chewy crust.
At first it will not stretch on its own easily. As the dough spreads out and gets thinner, it will stretch more naturally with just a little shake as you hold it from the edge. Keep going around like slowly turning a steering wheel until it spreads out. Half the dough should make a medium thick crust pizza. Set it on the parchment paper. Bunch up the edges a little and brush them with olive oil for a fluffy, golden brown outer edge.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, preferably with a pizza stone in it (if you don’t have a stone, put a metal pizza pan in the empty oven). After adding a delicious easy-to-make homemade sauce (part 2) and whatever tasty toppings your heart desires (part 3), lift the pizza by the parchment paper and set it on the hot stone. It should only take about 10 minutes in the oven regardless of crust thickness.
Viola! A crispy, whole wheat, vegan, thin cracker crust.
Or a crisp, chewy, whole wheat, vegan thick crust. Works both ways. Delicious.