I am what you might call a ‘fan’ of vegan cheeses.
In fact, I might be as much a fan of vegan cheeses as I was a fan of dairy cheeses (oh, so very many years ago…). I recently acquired some Fresh VeganMozz from Miyoko’s Creamery. It’s relatively new to the line of Miyoko’s Creamery cheeses and very much in demand. The first time I tried to buy it, went out of stock faster than I could order it. When I saw it was back, I ordered two packages of it immediately, just to be safe.
After having it both hot on pizza and cold in a caprese salad, I prefer the Fresh VeganMozz hot. It’s still pretty tasty, but I don’t like the texture as much when it’s cold. When it’s melted however, it has a delightfully creamy texture and this rich, slightly salty flavor that you expect from fresh mozzarella. It adds such a smooth, buttery mouthfeel to pizza, it’s hard to believe it’s vegan.
What better to make with a fresh mozzarella-style vegan cheese than Pizza Margherita?
Even though it’s the middle of January, we were able to find some really flavorful campari tomatoes at Costco. Good fresh tomatoes are key to this recipe. If you can find some this time of year, grab them. Grab them and then make this pizza! When we were tasting the recipe, I turned to Tom and said “Holy god this is amazing.” It is literally, the best pizza margherita I can remember eating.
In addition the recipe for the Pizza Margherita I made, I’m going to share with you my tried and true pizza crust recipe. It’s long, but worth it.
I’ve been using this recipe for years. I’ve made it by hand, in a bread machine, and using a stand mixer, it always works, but it works best using a stand mixer. If you’re making this by hand, it will be easiest to incorporate the last of the flour while kneading the dough. Additionally, to get the gluten in this dough developed to “windowpane” stage, it may take 15 to 20 minutes of kneading by hand.
Makes Two 12 to 14 inch pizza crusts
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (120˚F to 130˚F)
- 1 scant tablespoon instant yeast (or bread machine yeast, one packet will work also if that’s all you have)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for oiling the bowl)
- About 3 cups bread flour (plus more for dusting)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand), combine the warm water, instant yeast, and sugar. Stir with a spoon until combined. Wait 8 to 10 minutes for foam to form on the surface of the mixture. –If foam does not form, STOP! Your yeast is dead. Throw out the mixture. Either your water was too hot or your yeast is past it’s expiration date. Get new yeast and try again.–
- Add the olive oil to the foamy yeast mixture and stir.
- Add a bit less than three cups of flour to bowl, reserving about 1/4 cup. (The amount of flour you will need will vary, and it’s easier to add flour to dough than it is to add liquid.) Add salt on top of the flour.
- Mix using the dough hook attachment on low speed –2 on my Kitchenaid– until flour is completely incorporated. (If mixing by hand, using a dough whisk or a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the flour as you can and turn out on to a floured surface to knead and continue adding flour.)
- The dough should almost completely pull away from the sides of the work bowl and form a ball, climbing the dough hook. If it does not, add more flour 2 tablespoons at a time until it does. You may wish to stop the machine and pull it off the hook to check for consistency. The ideal texture of the dough should be soft and a bit sticky. Once desired consistency is reached, knead the dough for about 10 minutes on low speed. (If kneading by hand, this will take longer. Much, much longer.)
- Dough is properly kneaded when it is springy, elastic, and at windowpane stage (take a small piece of dough and flatten it into a disc, stretch the disc as thin as you can, if you can see light through it without it breaking, that’s windowpane stage.) Place dough on very lightly floured surface (it should stick a bit) and gently roll it back and forth between your hands, forming a smooth round ball with a tight skin.
- Pour about two teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl (either wash out your mixing bowl or use a different bowl). Place the dough smooth side down and use it to spread the oil around the bowl. Turn the dough over so the smooth side is up again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in one of two ways…
- SLOW RISE, Better texture and flavor: Place covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2 1/2 hours.
- FAST RISE, not quite as delicious, but faster: Place covered bowl on the counter for 1 hour.
- Dough is ready when you poke it and it doesn’t spring back. Gently divide the dough in half and shape into two balls using the same method above.
Cover the ball(s) of dough you will be using immediately with plastic wrap and allow to rest for one hour (this is a good time to start heating your oven and prepping other ingredients). If you’ll only be using one ball, pour about 1 teaspoon of olive oil into a quart size zip-top bag and squish it around to coat the inside. Place the second ball of dough inside, squeeze out as much of the air as you can before sealing the bag. Place bag in the fridge for up to two days (you can do this with both balls of dough if prepping ahead of time, but make sure each ball has it’s own bag).
- After one hour has passed, gently press dough ball out into a circle and stretch to desired size. This amount of dough is good for about a 12-inch pizza, if you’re really good at stretching pizza dough, you can get it to 14 inches.
- Top and bake as desired (a suggested recipe to follow).
I’ve chosen to do a white pizza version of this classic, using a garlic and oregano infused olive oil in lieu of sauce. Topped with fresh campari tomatoes, creamy Fresh VeganMozz, and a chiffonade of basil after baking, this vegan version of Pizza Margherita is bursting with lush, fresh tomato flavor.
The baking directions are written for a pizza stone (or baking steel). If you do not have a pizza stone, place the unbaked crust on to a pizza pan and bake in the middle of your oven. It may take a bit longer, and the crust won’t be as crispy, but it will still work.
FYI: You’ll have a bit of the garlic oregano olive oil leftover, which is perfect for making a quick vinaigrette to dress a side salad.
Makes 1 12-inch pizza.
For the Garlic Oregano Olive Oil:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
For the rest of the pizza:
- 1 12-inch unbaked pizza crust
- 4 – 5 campari tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick (feel free to use other sweet, flavorful tomatoes if they are in season)
- 1 8-ounce package Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan FreshMozz, sliced into 1/3 – 1/2 inch slices.
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, cut into tiny, tiny strips or a chiffonade
- cornmeal for dusting
- Oven Setup: If you have a pizza stone, place the pizza stone on a rack 4 to 5 inches away from your broiler at the top of the oven. Preheat oven to as hot as it will go. For most ovens this is 500˚F or 550˚F. Allow the oven and stone to heat for at least an hour.
- In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and simmer for about 1 minute. The garlic should not brown in this time, but it should be very fragrant. Add the oregano and chili flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and pour oil mixture into a small, heatproof bowl to cool for at least 5 minutes (longer would be better).
- Generously dust a pizza peel (or whatever you will use to transport the pizza to the stone) with cornmeal so it does not stick. Place the unbaked crust on the peel. Generously coat the crust with the garlic oregano oil mixture (about 3 tablespoons, you will have some extra).
- Place tomato slices on top of the oil and sprinkle with a little salt to season. Place sliced Fresh Vegan Mozz on top of the tomatoes.
- Once oven is hot, gently shake the pizza from the peel on to the stone. (Google some techniques if you’ve never done this before. It’s a bit tricky at first.)
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is just starting to brown and the cheese is melted. Then, turn the broiler on high and broil the top of the pizza for 2 to 5 minutes, watching very, VERY closely. You want the cheese to brown a bit, but you don’t want to burn the crust.
- Carefully slide the pizza peel under the pizza and remove it from the oven. Scatter the basil on top of the pizza. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, so the cheese sets up a bit. Slice into wedges and serve.