In my last post I described how I make my current favorite pizza dough. And now I will explain how to turn it into a full-blown pizza of deliciousness.

First, remove the dough from the refrigerator one hour before you wish to bake it. At the same time, preheat your oven as high as it will go; mine is 550 degrees Fahrenheit, but yours may only be 500. Jeff Varasano, from whom I got the dough recipe, has rigged his home electric oven to heat to 800 degrees, which I kinda want to do, but a) my landlord probably wouldn’t be too keen on it and b) my oven has caught on fire twice as it is so I’m thinking messing with its temperature control is probably a bad idea.

Have your pizza stone in the oven while you are preheating it. I guess you can try baking this pizza on the back of a baking sheet if there is simply no way you can possibly purchase a pizza stone, but I don’t think I could live live without one. I have a Fibrament and it never leaves my oven. Of course, most of the things I put in my oven are pizza or bread, so it’s rather a necessity for me. I don’t like those small, thin, cheap pizza stones you can buy at places like Bed Bath and Beyond. Any stone you are expected to load and remove with the pizza is not a good stone. It needs to be preheated with the oven, and it needs to remain in the oven to cool down with the oven, otherwise it will crack and break. This has happened to me, so I can attest that that is true. Good baking stones are expensive, and many people recommend unglazed quarry tiles as an inexpensive alternative. You can get these at places like Lowes and Home Depot, and I used them for a short time. I found them annoying to deal with because I bake so frequently, but if it’s the difference between having a baking stone and not, go for it.

While the dough is coming to room temperature and the oven and pizza stones are preheating, prepare your toppings. Toppings should be minimal. Even before I was vegan, I hated a lot of junk on my pizza, even the extra cheese well-meaning people wanted to add when they heard I was vegetarian. Especially extra cheese. It’s just gross! Even as a vegetarian, I believed all of the goodness of a pizza was in the dough and the tomato sauce. And traditionalists agree with me. So if you decide to add anything more than I describe here, please try to keep it to just one thing.

There is no need to ever buy pizza sauce. I’m astounded they even sell that stuff. Just buy the highest quality, best tasting canned tomatoes you can find. This is what I’m buying right now, even though as Jeff Varasano points out, this brand using deceptive advertising by burying the fact they are just “San Marazano Brand,” and not really grown in the San Marzano region of Italy.

I buy the whole tomatoes and crush them on low speed in a food processor.

Although I sometimes treat Mark to vegan pepperoni, usually the extent of my toppings are:

Currently we use Daiya mozzarella, although I technically prefer Cheezly. Unfortunately, we can no longer get Cheezly. In the shaker is Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix.

After the dough has sat out of the refrigerator for an hour, sprinkle some bread flour on a workspace and roll one of the dough balls in it lightly, then flatten.

Use your fingers to make a little moat around the perimeter, about where you expect to spread the sauce to, and stretch the pizza out a little.

If the dough resists being pulled out, that is, it springs back, let it rest for several seconds before trying again. If you are making more than one pizza, you can use this time to begin preparing the next dough.

Gently push the dough outwards, keeping a thick lip around the edge, until the pizza is about 12″ in diameter – but do’t worry about keeping it in a perfect circle.

Jeff Varasano recommends NOT using semolina or cornmeal to dust the peel, but I like using one or the other – just a little bit. I once read that cornmeal acts like little casters for moving pizza off peels onto stones, which is an image I like. In any case, transfer the crust to a peel.

Once the crust is on the peel, work quickly so the pizza does not get soggy. Smear some of the crushed tomatoes onto the crust, using less than you think you need – it will thicken up as the pizza bakes. A single 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes should be enough for three 12″ pizzas.

Next I add some dried basil (unless I have fresh on hand), and dried red chili peppers, then a small amount of Daiya.

Then I sprinkle it with some dry “cheese” and just a very few flakes of Maldon salt.

Transfer the pizza to the stone and bake until it’s beginning to char. This takes about five minutes for me.

Remove from the oven.

While I was preparing the pizzas, Mark was cuddling his little babies. Torticia loves to be held like a baby!

Gomez…he needs to be in the right mood.


  1. Jenny Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 2:19 am

    So excited to try this!

  2. Deleilan Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 9:00 am

    Thank you for all of these pizza tips. Now I know why I don’t make pizza very often: I tend to overcomplicate the entire process!

  3. Josiane Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    I think you’re earning my gentleman friend’s undying gratitude with these posts – provided that I use them to become a better (and more regular!) pizza baker!

    So sweet that Torticia loves being held like a baby! My cat didn’t like it at all. She loved being held in my arms, but not in that way; she would only be happy with her front paws on my shoulder. I had the feeling she needed to feel in control by being able to see and monitor what was happening around.

  4. renae Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    Josiane, I think most cats don’t like being held that way, for the reason you mentioned: they aren’t in control. Torticia is just an exceptionally trusting and laid-back cat.

    I think pizza is one of those things that seems like a lot of work if you haven’t done it in a while, but once you start making them regularly, you remember they’re not really all that much effort after all. I find that the key is making a bunch of crusts at a time and freezing them. Then the hardest part about it is remembering to remove them from the freezer the day before you want to eat them.

  5. Danielle Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

    Cornmeal dilemma: If I don’t use it, the dough sticks to the pizza peel. If I do, it ends up on the baking stone and scorches and the kitchen fills with smoke and all my guests run away. What’s the solution? FWIW, I tend to leave my pizza in for a good 10-12 minutes.

  6. renae Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    Danielle, you might want to try semolina instead of cornmeal. It’s much smaller and tends to stay on the bottom of the dough instead of rolling around the baking stone by itself to burn. If you still have problems and are willing to fork out some money to solve them, there is a product called Super Peel that I’ve heard a lot about in bread forums. I have never used it, but I’ve only heard good things. Here are some reviews on Amazon:

  7. Danielle Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

    Maybe I’ll rubber-band my pastry cloth onto my pizza peel!

  8. Jes Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

    I think you could win Varasano over with that pizza. I miss his restaurant in Atlanta so much! BUT I can’t wait to try out your crust soon!

  9. Amanda Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    For serious, your pizza looks to die for. I thought I didn’t like Daiya anymore, but you may have reingited my ability to try again. Looks DELICIOUS! Now I want a pizza stone!

  10. Pizzalicious [GF&V] Sunday. « Amanda's Domestic Adventures Said,

    March 13, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    […] begs for a home cooked meal.  Traditionally I like Sundays to be Italian meals, and after seeing Renae’s vegan pizza success I knew I had to try to get as close to her pizza as I possibly could. Her post convinced me of two […]

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