Monday, February 18, 2013

Deep Dish Pizza Pie

I’m a firm believer that if you can’t find what you want, try making your own. I’m also lover of all things pizza.

Each pie is incredibly customizable to your own taste preferences and they come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, whether it is a small circle or a large rectangle. The crust can be thing and crispy, New York style or even made from raw ingredients and eaten totally fresh.

Tonight, deep dish pizza pie is stealing the spotlight for this blog post. This pie comes complete with a hearty, almost buttery crust, layers of sauce, creamy and garlicky tofu basil ricotta and enough toppings to perhaps make even the Greeks a little jealous that they didn’t create this doughy wonder kid of Italian origins.

These pies were also cooked in a large cast iron skillet, making for the “icing on the cake” so to say. (More like the “toppings on the pie.”) This dough is thick and rises nicely in the skillet, forming the hearty crust that I am talking about. I also use Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast, which significantly reduces the amount of time that the dough needs to rise before it’s ready to be rolled out.

I made enough dough and prepped my toppings for two pies, but we only needed one at last Thursday’s single gals get-together. Instead of freezing the extra dough, I cooked up another pizza last night and have enough leftovers to cover dinner for the next few days.

I started out my first Greek-themed pizza pie with the dough rolled out and fitted in the cast iron skillet, then spread out enough marinara sauce to cover it, added tomato slices and slivers of sun dried tomatoes. Next came the Greek Kalamata olives, mushroom slices and a layer of tofu basil ricotta. I topped the whole thing off with chopped organic baby spinach and a sprinkle of Italian herbs and garlic & herb seasoning.

While reading through many, many websites with directions on how to bake in a cast iron skillet, I found that several of the sites suggest that you heat up the whole pizza in the skillet over a burner for a few minutes before sticking it in the oven to bake. This usually works on my gas range, but the bottom of the pizza got slightly burned when I used a different stovetop on Thursday night. Trial and error is all part of cooking though. The pizza was plenty to feed four hungry women and there was still a small piece left in the skillet. My friends were nice and didn’t make me feel too bad that I had slightly burned our dinner. They were also all very excited and enthusiastic to try a vegan version of pizza!

Last night I pretty much made the same version of pizza with the toppings having a delicious Greek theme, except I added fresh pieces of broccoli and gardein chick’n to the mix. Gardein chick’n products taste so similar to the actual thing that it always catches me off guard a little bit. The broccoli added a fresh flavor alongside the baby spinach an Gardein chick’n on top of the pizza. The nutritional yeast that is called for in The Post Punk Kitchen’s tofu basil ricotta recipe also helps to capture that cheezy flavor that you want when you bite into a slice of pizza. The extra firm tofu holds up well in the oven, the chopped fresh basil is simply magnificent for the taste buds and the fresh garlic ties everything together when greeted with Italian herbs and the sun dried tomatoes and olives. Like I said, the Greeks may even be a little jealous, maybe of your dinner too. The tofu basil ricotta recipe that I used is also available in “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook,” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you don’t already own a copy of this cookbook, run out and buy one immediately. It is packed with tons of delicious and creative recipes that will knock your socks off.

I came up with the dough recipe for this deep dish pie after a few trials and errors in the kitchen over the past six months and this one works the best. The cook time is usually about 17 minutes in a hot oven preheated to 450°F degrees, but last night the crust took a few more minutes than usual to get that nice brown and slightly crispy look to it that I like. If your pie is taking longer, simply take it out of the oven using oven mitts (remember than the skillet handle will be HOT!) and gently lift up an edge of the crust with a spatula to check how much the bottom of the pizza has browned. Another three to five minutes back in the oven usually does the trick.

Pizza dough recipe:
(This recipe makes enough for two 12” pizzas. You can cut the recipe in half if you only want to make enough dough for one pizza.)

- 2 packets of Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar, or sugar if you don’t have agave nectar on hand
- 1 3/4 to 2 cups very warm water (120 to 130°F)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use the Wheat Montana brand and it always works very well, just an FYI for all you folks out west.)
- a few sprinkles of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread, or other vegan butter substitute, slightly softened, plus more to oil the cast iron skillet

-a sprinkle of garlic powder
-a sprinkle of Italian herbs or oregano

Preheat oven to 450°F.
• Combine all the dry ingredients including flour, cornmeal, undissolved yeast and salt in a large bowl. This is where you want to add in a sprinkle of garlic powder and Italian herbs too if you want to. It adds more flavor to the crust.
• Add the very warm water and agave nectar and mix slightly. Next add in the oil and mix until blended. Finally add in the softened Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread and mix the dough very well, breaking up any chunks of the coconut spread or butter substitute that are in the mixture.
• Add more flour gradually if the dough seems too sticky. The dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky and elastic.
• Cover the dough with a paper towel dampened with very warm water or a clean kitchen cloth and let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes.

• Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
• Roll the dough out enough to fit the shape of the cast iron skillet and then transfer the dough from the floured surface to a well-oiled skillet, making sure that it goes around and slightly up the edges of the skillet. Poke the sides and bottom of the dough with a fork in a few places before adding the marinara sauce and toppings.

** I also spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom while the pizza is baking.

-       sun dried tomatoes (Try to find the kind that are in a sealed bag, not the kind that are packed in oil.)
- 1 small can of sliced mushrooms
-       Kalamata olives, sliced into small chunks
- 1 ripe tomato, cut into thin pieces and then cut the pieces in half again
- about 2 cups of baby spinach, chopped
- 1 recipe tofu basil ricotta (Again, I used the recipe from The PPK.)
- about 1 cup of marinara or pizza sauce of your choice
- more Italian herbs and/or garlic and herb seasoning to sprinkle over your toppings

On the second pizza I used:
- Gardein brand chick’n pieces
- about 3/4 cup fresh broccoli, with the stems trimmed and the broccoli cut up into small pieces

One pie will serve six to eight people.

- Spread the marinara sauce to cover the base of the pizza dough in the cast iron skillet.
- Next, add the slices of fresh tomato and the sun dried tomato chunks and kalamata olives. Top those toppings with an even layer of tofu basil ricotta and then top that with the baby spinach. Add the broccoli and Gardein chick’n pieces if you want to and sprinkle some Italian herbs and garlic & herb seasoning on top of everything if you want to before baking.

Layering on the toppings helps lend to that traditional Chicago-style of deep dish pizza and helps everything cook evenly.

- Place the cast iron skillet over a large burner and heat on medium-high for about three to four minutes.
- Using oven mitts, transfer the cast iron skillet to the preheated oven and bake for approximately 17 minutes. Check on the pizza after about 13 minutes to make sure nothing is browning too quickly or burning. If the pizza doesn’t look done after that time, add on about three to four minutes to the cook time and you will know the pizza is done once everything is nicely browned.
- Again using oven mitts, remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Cut the pizza into slices and enjoy!

Deep dish delicious!

If that’s not amore, then I don’t know what is.

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