Updated: Jul 29, 2018
I consider pizza night is my night off the cooking. It's a family-friendly social evening - and I've even found that homemade pizza is welcomed by friends coming over for an informal supper on a Friday. It may look like a lot of trouble to go to to make the pizza bases, but it is really quick and easy - and as far tastier than anything I have bought in a box from the supermarket!
I tend to make the pizza bases in the morning or the night before the day we're having pizzas, or I have some already in the freezer so it takes the load off - almost feels like a takeaway night!
The pizza dough below is made with olive oil so it is vegan friendly.
Pizza is readily constructed to be vegetarian. Vegan is a little more tricky. However, I think what works is to keep it really simple! Use the same pizza base and tomato sauce as for the meat or vegetarian recipes, and substitute vegan parmesan for a mozzarella topping (see tips and recipes for the vegan parmesan recipe). Trust me, it works!
Apart from making ahead or freezing the pizza dough, here's some other short cuts:
I use my Homemade Tomato Sauce to spread on the base, and have that on stand by in a jar in the fridge or freezer.
If you want to include roasted peppers, its great if you can prepare these in advance (see below) - or you can use roasted peppers from a jar from the supermarket, if time is short
If you are preparing a vegan pizza, have some vegan parmesan prepared and ready in the fridge. You might also wish to consider buying Vegan Pesto to drizzle over the top if you are feeling like making it a bit more special (available from Happy Pear at Waitrose).
For the pizza dough
1 kg strong white flour (the kind you buy for baking bread)
1 teaspoon salt
1 x 7g yeast sachets e.g. Allinson, Hovis and other brands do packs readily available in the supermarket
1 tablespoon sugar (organic or vegan friendly sugar if preparing for a vegan)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water
a damp tea towel
small plastic freezer bags
round pizza baking trays (the ones with holes in them - usually available from supermarkets very cheaply)
a nice big rolling pin
To make the pizza dough
Place the flour and salt in a large glass or oven proof bowl (e.g. a large glass pyrex bowl), and stir the salt in. Make a well in the middle.
In a jug, mix the sugar, yeast, and lukewarm water. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. I have sometimes worried when the water doesn't bubble up with the yeast action, but each time, I've found that the pizza dough still rises regardless of whether the water, sugar and yeast start 'bubbling up'.
Heat the oven to about 200C, 180C (Fan) or Gas Mark 6.
Add the olive oil to the jug and pour into the well in the flour (in the bowl). Stir around with a spoon, and it will be quite a thick mixture. With clean and floury hands, put the dough mixture out onto a floured board. (I have one that is extra large which makes the job easier but a standard sized chopping board is fine.). Begin kneading the dough, lifting the outer edges into the middle and kneading with your hands, for a full 5 minutes. Unless you set your timer for 5 minutes, you will try to cheat, so it's always good to set the timer, because it makes a difference to the end outcome!
Put the dough back in the oven proof bowl, place some greaseproof paper on top of the dough, and then put the damp/wet tea towel on top of it. (Don't bother washing up the board because you'll need it again.)
Turn off the oven!!
Put the bowl of dough into the oven, and leave the door slightly ajar. Leave to rise for about 20 minutes.
When the time is up, take the bowl of dough out of the oven, and tip the dough onto the floured board again. It should have risen a bit in the oven. At this point, you just knead the dough a little bit, folding the edges into the middle, to 'knock it out'.
When the dough is in a big ball, cut it into 8 pieces of about the same size. You can use the dough for pizzas straight away - but leave each piece of dough to stand for about 15-20 minutes first before rolling them out.
However, what I find works best is to put each piece of dough in an individual plastic freezer bag, and put it in the fridge to rest. Then take out the dough to roll out for pizzas - one piece of dough per pizza.
As I have a family of four, I often freeze half the dough balls in their freezer bags after allowing them to cool in the fridge, then I defrost the dough balls on the morning of the day of cooking.
When you are ready to roll out the pizzas, place each dough ball in turn on a floured board/glass cutting board, and roll out to the size and shape of the pizza baking tray.
Top and bake the pizzas shortly after rolling out the dough for the baking trays - if you leave them to sit for a while they start to rise and bubble, and it doesn't work out so well.
For the toppings:
Tomato sauce (see recipe) - you will need 2 dessert spoons of sauce per pizza base
125g x grated mozzarella cheese per pizza - I work on the basis of 1 x 250g packet for 2 pizzas
or Vegan Parmesan (see recipe) for a vegan pizza - I recommend you use a couple of tablespoons of Vegan Parmesan per pizza, but adjust to your preference.
What we do is spread each pizza base with 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce, then sprinkle it with 125g mozzarella cheese (or 2 tablespoons of vegan parmesan as appropriate) and then add your preferred toppings e.g.
mozzarella balls (not for vegans)
feta cheese crumbled (not for vegans)
chilli oil for drizzling
pesto sauce for drizzling (vegan products available)
roasted peppers and red onions (great on a vegan pizza) - make it in advance with 3 peppers and 1 red onion, sliced thinly and tossed lightly in olive oil before roasting on a baking tray for 20 minutes at 220C (200C Fan) or Gas Mark 6. If time is short, you buy roasted peppers in a jar (and slice them up for the pizza topping).
Fresh rocket leaves sprinkled on after the pizza is cooked adds to the 'deliciousness' of the pizza!
Here's some ideas for toppings:
My favourite vegetarian topping is to add (after the sauce and grated mozzarella) slices of feta cheese, black olives before baking - with rocket leaves after it's baked. Sometimes I also include some slices of a mozzarella cheese ball before baking.
My favourite vegan recipe is to add roasted peppers and red onions (after the sauce and parmesan cheese) before baking - with rocket leaves after it's baked.
My son's favourite meat recipe is to add shreds of chorizo slices and shreds of ham slices (after the sauce and grated mozzarella), then sprinkle it with some chilli flakes before baking. He drizzles chilli oil over the top once cooked before serving.