Have you ever noticed how excited vegans get about vegan pizza? The vegan pizza groupies are somewhat of a social media cult. I say this because I know for a fact that there are blogs dedicated solely to vegan pizza, trust me it’s a thing.
I think the reason vegan pizza is such a triumph is because in a lot of instances, it tastes just as good as regular pizza. It’s always a triumph when you can get a vegan product to mimic and rival the original. These pizza twists capture all the vital pizza flavours and crispy dough all dunked gooey dipping sauce.
For a lot of omnivores, the concept of vegan pizza is contradictory. ‘How can you have pizza without cheese? You’re basically eating bread with ketchup’. If you’ve never tried vegan pizza, then this point of view is understandable. Once you delve into the underground world of vegan pizza, you’ll see this is not the case.When you eat your first vegan pizza, you realise that the pizza is not in the cheese. It’s in the combination of flavours, the herby tomato sauce and the crispy dough. If you can get the flavours right, you will quickly see that you don’t miss the cheese all that much. If you are a stickler for the gooey stretchy dairy substance, there are many a vegan cheese that will do the trick. I am yet to try a vegan cheese that covers all the bases, so more often than not, I use vegan cheese for aesthetic purposes.
I never had the opportunity to try regular pizza twists before I left the cheese-life behind me, so this is my personal take on them. I tried to impart as many ‘pizza’ flavours into the twists and compensated the gooey cheese with a tasty dipping sauce. The secret ingredient in both the pizza twists and the dipping sauce is store-bought sun-dried tomato pesto. It is bursting with intensely sweet tomato flavour and all the essential Italian herbs. It’s my cheat sheet to achieving great flavour without all the work.
500g pizza dough
100g Sun-dried tomato pesto
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
¼ cup black olives
⅓ cup chopped mushrooms
⅓ cup chopped green pepper
⅓ cup chopped white onion
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Sprinkle of mixed Italian spices
Pizza twists dipping sauce
60g Sun-dried tomato pesto
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Tabasco or Sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan
1 teaspoon soy sauce for depth and salt
Crushed black pepper
Whenever I make pizza, I use Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe. It’s quick, easy and freezes well. I usually make up half the recipe, as the full recipe gives you enough dough for 6-8 pizza bases. If you are using frozen pizza dough, ensure that it is thawed all the way through before you begin working with it. If you are going to prepare fresh dough, make your dough at least an 1 ½ hours ahead, as it will need to proof and rest.
Roll out half the pizza dough into a rectangle of about 12 inches by 5/6 inches. Try to keep the dough at least ⅛ inch thick and ensure that there are no wholes. Combine the 100g pesto and 4 tablespoons tomato paste. Spread the pesto mixture on the dough. Top the pesto with all the pizza toppings in an even layer. You can play around with whatever you’re favourite pizza toppings are; the listed ones are some of my favourites. Ensure that all your toppings are finely chopped so they will not fall out of your pizza twists or make their shape irregular.Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-inch strips, you should get around 10-12 pizza twists. Pinch both ends of the pizza strip closed before lifting it by its ends. Gently twist both ends until the pizza strip is spiralled. Place the pizza twists on a greased and floured baking tray. Bake the pizza twists for 10-15 minutes at 190°C, or until the pizza dough is crispy and lightly browned.
For the dipping sauce combine the pesto, tomato paste, hot sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl. Stir until combined then heat in the microwave for 1 ½ – 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave sprinkle in vegan Parmesan and stir to combine. I buy the Nature’s Choice, which is nut-based and made from cashews, herbs and nutritional yeast. If you do not have vegan Parmesan or have a nut allergy, you can replace the vegan Parmesan with nutritional yeast and a sprinkle of mixed Italian herbs.