daring bakers – pizza & toppings, vegan style.

Well, after a loooooooong absence from blogging, I’m finally back…and just under the wire with this month’s Daring Bakers challenge: Pizza and Toppings. I was so disappointed to miss the last two challenges, there was no way I was going to miss out on this one. Life has been just nuts enough to keep me out of the kitchen most days – and while this is great for my waistline, it’s been terrible for the blog, but no more! Christmas is around the corner and I’ve loads of recipes to test-drive before the holidays are in full swing.

I have renewed respect for all you dedicated and die-hard bloggers out there who manage to live their crazy lives and keep their blogs going: my hat’s off to you.

But back to the pizza. Mmmmm, pizza. I was SO happy to see that this month’s challenge involved dough. I had so much fun making the danish I knew I’d enjoy playing with this recipe. I halved the original recipe provided and opted to use bread flour (vs. all-purpose flour). I attempted to throw the dough as directed – but the forming of the pizza ’round’ (and I use the term ’round’ loosely, my friends) ended up being more like a hanging-stretching-swinging action than a tossing-spinning one. I also used a pizza stone, which I pre-heated before covering it with a generous sprinkling of cornmeal – the first time I used the pizza stone I made the egregious error of not pre-heating it. Big mistake. Huge. I have to say, the cornmeal was one of my favourite aspects of the finished product – it adds a delightful crunchiness to the bottom of the crust and, somehow, an element of authenticity. I then lay the dough on top of the stone and threw my toppings on as quickly as possible, while the stone was still hot (I find it loses heat faster than I’d like).

I was hungry for dinner so I went with a savoury selection of toppings. First step was a thick slathering of tomato sauce – just tomato paste and caramelized onions and garlic. I had a little trouble narrowing down my toppings choices. I was originally planning on making at least two pizzas. Instead, I ended up using half my dough and making one fairly large one. I went for oyster mushrooms, white mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, tofu ricotta (from Veganomicon, awesome!), and a drizzling of olive oil. Into the oven it went. Well before the crust started to brown, my sun-dried tomatoes started to blacken. I turned down the heat and left the pizza in a little longer despite this, to try and get the crust to turn just a little bit golden.

My husband thought that the dough was raw inside but I maintain that it was chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, which I like. I think he’s just used to very dry pizza. This pizza dough reminded me of something you might find at a great pizzeria, actually. Hubby also wasn’t sure if my toppings ‘harmonized’ well together. Hmmm…well, pizza toppings are very particular to taste I guess. I could have done without the singed sun-dried tomatoes (those black things that look like portabello mushrooms) – I should have gone with the artichokes and green olives instead perhaps. I absolutely, loved, LOVED, the tofu ricotta on top. I had been eying it in Veganomicon for ages and finally took this opportunity to make it. It’s awesome and I highly recommend it.

I ran out of sunlight, so crappy fluorescent light it is – Here’s the pizza!

Be sure to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll for a multitude of super awesome examples of baking at its best!