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Vegetarian Journal 2002 Issue 4


By Debra Daniels-Zeller

One of the most popular flat breads around the world today, pizza is probably the original portable meal. In Italy, pizza was once considered a peasant food because vendors sold individual pizzas on the streets to poor people who had no ovens at home. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants imported their cuisine, including pizza, to America. Around 1905, the first American pizzeria opened in New York City. After World War II, convenience and fast foods entered the culinary scene in a big way, and pizza parlors began appearing across the country.

For years pizza remained the same everywhere you went - wheat crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and a number of standard toppings. Today you can find a wide variety of pizzas and crust types with your choice of exotic toppings, virtually made to order. Pizza can be a greasy, heavy meal laden with animal products, or dairy-free and with healthy portions of vegetables on top. But pizza from a box or restaurant chain pales in comparison to your own unique pizza or calzone baked in your kitchen. Ask anyone who makes his or her own pizza and that person will admit that it is well worth the effort involved.

Many people are put off making their own, since they assume pizzas or calzones take too long because they are yeasted bread recipes. However, with pizza dough there is a much larger margin for error than with other yeasted breads. For example, if you accidentally add too much flour, you won't really notice that the crust is too dry because the toppings usually add moisture, and you normally eat the pizza while it's still warm. Also, except for focaccia, pizza only has one rise, and though that rise can be more than 6 hours in pizzerias in Naples, we aren't striving for the perfect crust, just something with a good flavor and texture that we can enjoy.

If you have no time, but still feel like making a pizza, you can always try an easy biscuit crust (see Quick Fruit Pizza) or use a store-bought crust. I found an excellent cornmeal pizza crust in the frozen prepared food section of my natural foods store. Also, if you happen to be near the end of the zucchini season, you can use one of the large zucchinis, slicing it into half-inch slices. Then use that as a base for your toppings. (Hint: you want to bake the zucchini pizzas until the zucchini is fork-tender - about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.)

Creating a pizza can be a fun project for the whole family - kneading, slicing, shredding, and adding your own individual toppings. Or, you could invite some friends over for a pizza-making party and see what unusual toppings people come up with. I've made everything from spicy black bean to tempeh Reuben pizzas with sauerkraut. When I think of pizza I am always impressed with how we have manipulated the adaptable food concept and made it our own. And making it your own, after all, is what cooking should be all about.

Preparing and Baking Your Pizza

Very important to your pizza success, a yeast-based pizza must be placed in a hot oven (425 to 500 degrees). Use an oiled screen or pizza pan in which to stretch and pat your dough to the size you want, and add the sauce and toppings. Then place the pizza in your preheated oven. If you have a pizza stone, use a peel (see Pizza Essentials) to slide the dough with the toppings off onto the preheated stone. Using a stone and pizza peel take a bit of practice. Sliding the pizza off the wooden peel is done by quickly jerking back. This is actually a skill that gets better with practice, so don't be discouraged if you find this a little difficult at first. If you are making smaller or individual pizzas, roll or pat them to a desired size on a floured board, then transfer to a stone or an oiled pizza screen. If you are making a biscuit crust pizza, use a pizza pan or baking sheet that has been lightly oiled. Roll your dough out to the desired size, transfer to the pizza pan and make a lip by crimping the dough up around the edges. (This prevents the toppings from tumbling off onto your plate or lap.)

(Makes one 14-inch pizza or 6 calzones)

You can use all whole wheat, kamut, or spelt flour in this recipe. Kamut and spelt flour are available at natural foods stores. For beginning bread makers, however, using some unbleached white flour makes the dough much easier to work with and your end result will be lighter.

2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided evenly
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour

Sprinkle yeast over warm water (about 105 degrees, or water that is warm to the touch). Add maple syrup, gently stir, and let mixture sit for 5 minutes or until yeast foams up. Add the yeast mixture, half the olive oil, and salt to the whole wheat flour in a medium mixing bowl. Stir for about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Gradually add the white flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (You may not need to add all the flour, or you may need to add a bit more. You are aiming for a dough that is slightly tacky, yet stiff enough to handle.)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Use the other tablespoon of oil to grease your hands lightly, a little at a time, as you knead the dough. This keeps the dough from sticking to your hands and tearing the gluten strands that develop. You may not need to add the entire tablespoon of oil for this. Knead the dough by turning it over on itself and pushing with the palm of your hand as you turn it. Knead for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap that has been lightly oiled. Both the oiled bowl and plastic wrap keep the dough from tearing should it come into contact with either one. This makes a more uniform crumb in the flat bread. Place dough in a warm place (about 80 degrees) and let it rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. To make pizza, lightly oil a 14-inch round pizza pan or a pizza screen. Flatten the ball of dough and push into a circle approximately 9 inches around. Lift the circle to the prepared pan and push the dough out to the edges, pulling up the edges a bit. If you are adding a sauce, spread it thinly over the top before putting the other toppings on. If you spread the sauce too thickly or work too slowly the pizza may come out soggy; so spread thinly and work quickly, placing the other toppings on. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned beneath and on the edges.

To make individual pizzas, preheat oven to 425 degrees, and divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each one into a log about 6 inches long. Flatten and press outward to make oblong pizzas that are about 11 x 3 inches (these fit on baking sheets much more easily than round pizzas). Spread toppings on and bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

To make calzones, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 6 even sections. Press each section into a circle about 5 inches in diameter, and place the filling on one side. Fold the circle over on itself and press the edges together with a fork dipped in water. Make three slits in the top of each calzone to allow for expansion. Brush the top with olive oil, if a glossy crust is desired. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes or until calzones are lightly browned.

To make focaccia, let the dough rise a second time. After it has finished the first rise, punch it down. Then turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 5 minutes with lightly oiled hands. Try not to add much more flour to the dough or your focaccia will be too dry. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. Then pat it into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Place parchment paper on a 14-inch pizza pan (or lightly oil the pan). Place the round of dough on the pan, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes. When dough has risen, remove plastic, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke all over the surface of the dough with your fingers, leaving about 1/2-inch space between indentations. If desired, brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with rosemary, crushed basil or thyme, and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Allow to cool, add toppings of roasted or lightly sautéed vegetables, and place under the broiler to heat for a few minutes.

Total calories per serving: 204 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 390 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

(Serves 6)

This pizza crust is more delicate and biscuit-like than a yeast-based crust. If you are looking for something quick, you can use this crust for savory pizzas as well. Just leave out 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup in the dough, and use about 1/4 cup sauce and 2 cups of sautéed or roasted vegetables for the topping. You can serve a fruit pizza for brunch or as a dessert.

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries or pitted cherries
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
2 Tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 Tablespoons vegan granulated sweetener
1/2 cup soymilk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1-1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons cold vegan margarine
2 Tablespoons each: shredded coconut and chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

Combine berries, lemon or lime juice, arrowroot or cornstarch, and dry sweetener in a small saucepan. Cook for 15 minutes on a low simmer until sauce is thickened. Let cool slightly before topping pizza.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare crust. Combine soymilk, lemon juice, and maple syrup. Set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well. Cut in the margarine and continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the soymilk mixture. Stir until a batter forms. Press dough together to make a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour and knead about 5 turns. Pat or roll out to a 9-inch circle. Carefully transfer to a pizza pan that has been either lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled. This crust is too delicate and biscuit-like to bake on a screen or stone. Crimp up the edges to form a lip all around the outside. Spread the cooled topping onto the crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool. Sprinkle coconut and mint leaves over the top before serving, if desired. This pie is also nice with a dollop of lemon soy yogurt on top.

Total calories per serving: 238 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 43 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 242 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

(Serves 6)

You can use your favorite vegetables instead of mushrooms here if you want. Use a combination of vegetables: cut-up baby corn, broccoli, peas, asparagus, onions, cubed winter squash . . . anything that appeals to you. You can also try adding generous pinches of your favorite herbs, such as basil or rosemary.

Basic pizza-calzone dough recipe (above)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chopped, bottled hot peppers (optional)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
8 ounces firm tofu, pressed and drained
1/2 Tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
One 6-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and sliced into smaller pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

Prepare the basic pizza dough. While dough rises, make the calzone filling. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Stir and cook until onion is very soft - 5 to 8 minutes. Add hot peppers, if desired, and mushrooms. Cover and cook until mushrooms are soft.

Crumble tofu into the pan. Sprinkle arrowroot or cornstarch and nutritional yeast into the mixture, stir, and cook for about 8 minutes. Mixture should be fairly dry. Blend in artichoke hearts and add salt to taste. Cool a bit before dividing the filling into 6 portions. Shape, fill, and bake as directed in basic calzone dough recipe above.

Total calories per serving: 3288 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 43 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 689 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

(Makes 6 calzones)

These calzones are reminiscent of piroshkis (traditional Russian baked turnovers), with this hearty potato and lentil combination.

Basic pizza dough (above)
2 medium red potatoes, cut into small chunks (about 2 cups)
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red lentils
1 cup water
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup Vegan Pesto (below)
2 cups chopped arugula or spinach
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil for brushing tops (optional)

Prepare pizza dough according to directions, and while dough rises, make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place potatoes in a shallow baking dish, toss with olive oil, and roast for about 35 minutes or until they are slightly browned. Check potatoes after about 20 minutes and stir them a little. While potatoes roast, combine lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Lentils will be thick and creamy.) When potatoes are done, combine them with the lentils, garlic, pepper, and pesto, and mix well. Blend in chopped spinach or arugula with lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Set oven to 450 degrees.

Shape, fill, and bake as directed in the calzone directions.

Total calories per serving: 347 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 52 grams Protein: 11 gram
Sodium: 400 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

(Makes about 1 cup)

Use this pesto to top your pizza, add to your calzone, or toss with some pasta. The roasted garlic contributes to the rich flavor.

1 large head garlic
2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup light, firm silken tofu
Salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic head on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle oil over garlic. Wrap the garlic in foil and place in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until garlic is very soft. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then squeeze the garlic cloves out.

Blend all ingredients, except salt, in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. Salt to taste. This pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

Total calories per 1/2 cup: 154 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 15 milligrams Fiber: 1 grams

(Makes four 11 x 3" pizzas)

Amaranth grain can be found in the natural foods section of grocery stores or in natural foods stores. It is high in protein and contains a significant amount of calcium. The cooked grain adds a moist quality to bread doughs and lends an interesting flavor to these pizzas. Kamut is an ancient grain related to wheat. It is fairly easy to work with and makes a light, tasty pizza. If you can't find kamut flour, use whole wheat or unbleached flour.

1 cup plus 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup amaranth
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1-1/2 cups kamut flour (approximately)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 red or green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup chopped hot peppers, such as mild peperoncini (found in grocery stores beside the pickles and olives)
2 to 4 Tablespoons grated vegan cheese (optional)

Combine 1 cup water with amaranth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until amaranth is soft.

Place amaranth in a large bowl and add 1/4 cup water. Mix well. When cooled to lukewarm, sprinkle yeast over the top and gently fold the amaranth over the yeast. Let mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Add syrup, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Blend thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup kamut flour. Stir vigorously (about 100 strokes), scraping the bowl often. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 25 to 30 minutes.

Stir in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. When dough pulls away from the bowl, turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 3 to 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, oil your hands to knead it. The dough should be slightly tacky. Place dough in clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

While the bread rises, prepare the topping. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add remaining olive oil and onions. Stir to coat the onions, reduce heat, cover with a lid that fits right down over the onions and sweat them until they are translucent. Add garlic, bell peppers, and zucchini and continue to stir and cook the vegetables until they are soft. You may have to add a little water to keep them moist in the skillet. Remove from heat if they are soft before dough is finished rising.

When the dough is done (use the finger poke test to see if an indentation remains), punch it down and knead for about 5 turns. Set aside for a few minutes rest. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a pizza screen or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each into a log, then pat or roll to approximately 11 x 3" ovals, about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Place on baking sheet and top with sautéed vegetables, peppers, and vegan cheese, if desired. Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Gently slide off baking sheet to cooling rack.

Note: You can use cornmeal in place of amaranth for the whole grain. Use 1/4 cup cornmeal in place of amaranth.

Use chopped olives, pineapple chunks, roasted vegetables, grilled eggplant, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, or roasted garlic cloves in place of the vegetables listed above.

Spread with a thin layer of sauce such as pesto, sundried pesto, or marinara sauce before topping with vegetables and baking.

Total calories per serving: 345 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 62 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 300 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

(Makes 1 pizza)

In Amerian culinary history, we borrow, combine, and create something new. Mexican-inspired jalapeño-spiced black beans on an Italian pizza come together to honor vegetarian cuisines that spring from the two cultural regions. The lime-marinated topping can be made a day ahead, allowing the flavors to marry.

Basic pizza dough (above)
1-1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained (or 1-1/2 cups dried, cooked black beans)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup corn (use fresh or frozen, thawed)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

Prepare basic pizza dough. While dough rises, make the topping. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, onions, jalapeños, and garlic. Stir for a minute, then cover, reduce heat, and sweat the onions until they are soft and beginning to brown. Blend in black beans and cook for another minute. Combine with lime juice and set aside until dough for the crust is ready to go.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix corn into beans and add salt to taste just before topping the pizza. Spread filling over pizza and bake for 12 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and top with cilantro, sliced avocado, if desired, and your favorite salsa.

Total calories per 1/8 pizza: 283 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 41 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 502 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

(Makes 1 large or 4 to 6 individual pizzas)

If you don't like hot and spicy flavors, try using basil, toasted ground fennel, or oregano in place of chipotle chili powder. You can find chipotle chili powder in natural foods stores in the spice section or grocery stores that sell Mexican spices. As the seasons change, you can roast different kinds of vegetables. Some good choices are eggplant, parsnips, asparagus, sweet potatoes, winter or summer squash, and sliced elephant garlic.

Basic pizza dough (above)
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 green or red pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and sliced
2 red potatoes, cut into small chunks
Two 8-inch zucchinis, each sliced in half and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in boiling water, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Salt to taste

Prepare basic pizza dough. While dough rises, prepare the topping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place carrots, peppers, sliced garlic, potatoes, and zucchini in a shallow baking dish. Toss with olive oil. Roast vegetables for 30 minutes or until fork-tender. Remove from oven. While vegetables cool a bit, prepare the the dough on a screen, peel, or pizza pan, or divide dough into individual pizzas. (See directions in basic dough recipe.) Toss the sundried tomatoes and chipotle chili powder together. Blend with the roasted vegetables and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the topping onto the pizza and spread it across the top. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes for full-size or individual pizzas.

Total calories per serving: 229 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 41 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 377 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Rescuing overrisen dough

You can test to see if your dough has risen by poking your finger into it. If the indentation fills in quickly, then it needs to rise a little more. If the indentation remains as it is, then it has risen enough. If you poke it and the dough falls back, you have let it overrise. This probably won't happen unless you completely forget about it; however, rescue this dough by kneading it again and letting it rise once more. While your dough is rising, prepare the topping or filling. When the dough is ready, push down the top of the dough and fold over the sides. Turn it out onto a board or countertop and knead it for about 10 turns and let it sit for 5 minutes. Be sure to let it rest a few minutes before making pizzas or calzones. If you try to work with it directly after kneading, it will spring back on itself like a rubber band.




Toppings and Sauces:

The kind of pizza you make is limited only by your imagination. Use just fresh vegetables or some interesting ingredients from your pantry. With or without sauce, make it your own. Try these suggestions for pizza toppings and sauces:


Grilled or roasted onions, zucchini, and mushrooms, sauerkraut, baby corn, artichokes, sprouts, cucumber, cooked beans, marinated tofu chunks, toasted nuts, olives, tempeh bacon, broccoli, peppers, steamed seasonal greens, eggplant, raisins, shredded vegan cheese, sliced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, marinated garlic, or fresh fruit (for dessert pizzas)


Excerpts from the 2002 Issue 4:

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.

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Nov. 18, 2002

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