Pizza and Calzones

Making pizza dough is really easy yet hardly anyone does it. Yes, you do need time to make the dough, let it rise, and knead it, and this can be messy and time consuming, but it’s cheap and you can make big batches that can be frozen for later use. There is something different about pizza in the States than in Italy. I’ve been to a few places here that do a great job, they have great ovens and equipment, a great recipe, and add extra gluten, but basically a good dough comes down to few factors. Because all a dough really contains is flour, water, yeast, sometimes oil, and sugar.

Neapolitan pizza dough is well known for it’s light, crisp and airy crust. They use a 4/5 blend of a special type of hard flour, tipo 00, and blend in 1/5 unbleached all purpose. They also don’t add oil or sugar and let it cold rise overnight, and sometimes from 3 days to weeks. If you don’t have that kind of time, then you can make a dough without the oil and sugar, mix the yeast and the water, add the flour, and make a ball from it. After you’ve formed it, transfer it to an oiled bowl (with olive oil) and let it rise in that bowl. Kneading will increase the gluten, so be sure to knead it very well, or once a day if you are cold rising it. I like to put the bowl in the oven covered with a cloth and have a large skillet with boiled water on the rack underneath to provide some extra humidity with the steam. When it has risen double its size, an hour or more, knead it and let it rise again. After another hour remove it and don’t knead it. You’ll want those air bubbles inside. Just place the dough ball on a surface with flour and press it out with your fingers like a pie crust in a pie pan to your desired size. Cooking it on a pizza stone (which you can buy easily online or in home goods stores), on the top rack closes to the burners on 500F for 10 minutes will help it become crisp.

The only drawback to the thin crust is that it’s not as filling.  If I’m cooking for others I also want it to be more filling for them and for the food to last longer. So, here, I used a basic dough recipe. I made a large amount and also made calzones with it. There will be a lot of dough so either cut the recipe or prepare to store some in the refrigerator for another occasion (be sure to knead every day). It’s not too thick and not too thin, but you can adjust it as well. I’m a fan of thin crispy crust but also enjoy a deep dish that’s fluffy like focaccia.

Then I topped it with spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, caramelized onion, olive oil, and my vegan cheese. It was delicious. This will make enough for 2 large pizza’s or a pizza and a long calzone.

Pizza

Yields: 2 large pizzas or calzones, feeds 10 people

  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 lukewarm water, 110F
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups flour (all purpose, spelt, wheat, etc., all will come out a bit different)
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Vegetable Topping
  • 2 chopped
  • 6 cloves grated garlic
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup shredded or chopped Italian basil
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables- asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, peppers, squash, zucchini, etc
  • oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix the yeast and the lukewarm (110F) water together and let it sit for five minutes. Slowly add the salt and flour and begin to fold it inside the bowl, very gently, and add more flour as needed to counter the stickiness. Boil 4 cups of water in a skillet. Once it is a clean ball, move it to a bowl that is lined with the olive oil. Cover with a cloth and let it sit for at least an hour inside the oven. Put the skillet with the boiled water underneath the rack where the dough is rising for the steam humidity.

Do not put the oven on or you will kill the yeast. If you aren't going to use the dough right away cold rise it in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks, kneading it daily, until you use it. Many air bubbles will form like that and you will have a rustic crust.

Make the vegan cheese while the dough is taking an hour to rise. After that is done and put to the side, fry the onion in an oiled skillet with the garlic until brown. Add all the vegetables into this fry except for the spinach. Put both to the side.

When the dough has risen after an hour, remove it onto a floured surface. You can press it out onto a round or square surface like a pie crust or stretch it out by tossing it. Try your hand at tossing the dough. Make it into a flat circle then hold it by the side as though it's a hula hoop you are catching at the next point up, letting it pass between your fingers as you grab the spot above with quick strokes. You don't want to ever hold it for more than a second. It will begin to loosen up in the middle but remain thick at the circumference. To counter this, grab even closer to the edge and let that stretch as well. You can also just press it out and use a pizza roller. You will need to use more flour here and there to get rid of the stickiness that will form. Holes may form but they will be easy to patch up and press out. More important to get it even. Don't over handle the dough, the air bubbles inside will get worked out and thats what will make it airy. Cooking it in a cookie pan is fine, but pizza stones are recommended.

When the dough is done and stretched into position, whether it be a square deep dish or circle pizza, rub some cornmeal on the cooking surface. This will help it not stick, be easier to cut, and add some texture. You could also just use flour if you don't have cornmeal. Brush oil and salt on the crust. While the dough is sitting work on the vegetables.

Top the pizza. Make sure the raw spinach is on the bottom and layer the onions and vegetables on top. Drop the vegan cheese in spoonfuls evenly around the pizza. Cook on the highest rack on 400F for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden. When it is done, spread the freshly chopped basil on top.

  • Preparation time: 2.5 hours
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Total time: 3 hours
Pizza and Calzones
Pizza and Calzones
Pizza and Calzones
Pizza and Calzones

Vegan Cheese

Yields: 2- 2 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soak overnight and then rinse before use)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium sized boiled white potatoes, skinned
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional; 1/2 cup of the potato cooking water for a thinner cheese
  • optional; 1 tbsp dijon, horseradish, 3 chipotle peppers, and/or hot sauce

Soak 1 cup cashews in 2 cups water overnight. Rinse them the next morning and put to the side.

Peel and cut the potatoes, then boil them in 2 cups water until they are fully soft. Save the water, you may need it to add if the cheese mixture is too thick for your taste. Put to the side.

Take the cashews, nutritional yeast, potatoes, olive oil, and optional spices, and blend until it becomes very thick. You can use a food processor or blender. If you don't like it so thick then add a 1/2 cup of the potato water, or add half the amount of nutritional yeast.

This stuff is great poured over nachos and mexican food, or used as a dip for baguette slices and veggies, poured over pasta, or for sandwiches.

  • Preparation time: 1 hour or less
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour or less
Vegan Cheese

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