Drop Whatever You're Doing and Make This Pizza

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There's just something about pizza and parties. No matter the crowd or the occasion, you really cannot fail with a solid pizza. Mark and I were asked to prepare small bites for a get together with our neighbors over the holidays; specifically, we were asked to create a pizza. I'm all about making party food "sneaky healthy," but sometimes it's just fun to deliver (and sneak in the healthy snacks as sides since you've already won the crowd over with the main). It's all about balance! I try to live by the 80/20 rule: 80% smart, 20% other.

We began dreaming up what this pizza would be, and decided upon a sweet and savory style pizza with pears, a gouda-style dairy-free cheese, caramelized onions, smoky vegan "bacon," and balsamic reduction. We knew it would be good, but we didn't know it would be the most amazing pizza of all time. This pizza sat alongside a non-vegan pizza, at a party of mainly non-vegan friends and family, and the non-vegan pizza ended up being fed to our dog as a once-in-a-very-little-while special snack. Win for everyone involved, especially our dog!

Why a "gouda-style cheese?" Why not just use real cheese?
One of the reasons I became so interested in nutrition and the way food affects us is because of my own story: when I was little, I was "the sick kid." I was that kid that was always on my way to nurse's office, the one who always had her head on her desk, the one always visiting the ER with some new problem. I remember crying on the floor constantly because my migraines lasted for weeks at a time, and I didn't know what to do to make them stop. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned, through my health coaching certification program, that I am allergic to milk. I am not lactose intolerant (though it's estimated that an unbelievable 75% of the world's population is, in some regard), although that's what my doctors assumed and what I thought for the majority of my life! My problem is actually with the protein in milk. It causes an overreaction of my immune system, which triggers an allergic reaction. People who are lactose intolerant, on the other hand, are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose. Most of our lactase levels lower after breastfeeding, which is why so many of us react negatively to dairy foods. 

Once I took dairy out of my diet completely (dairy and dairy derivatives are in so much, so it wasn't until I started following a vegan diet that I actually saw the difference), my life changed. Seriously. Imagine being sick, all the time, for years, and then... poof! It's like a second chance at living in your own body, feeling the way you are intended to feel for the first time. It's invigorating. Ever since then, I can't learn enough about food and how it affects us. 

Anyway, back to this pizza! Caramelized onions, juicy pears, smoked cheese, crispy bacon... it's pizza perfection. Hope you enjoy!

(Vegan!) Caramelized Onion, Pear, and Gouda Pizza

Ingredients:

(Dough)

  • 2 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Cup + 3 Tablespoons Warm Water
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
  • Drizzle Olive Oil

(Toppings)

  • 1 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Pear (we used Bosc), thinly sliced
  • 1 Package Sweet Earth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon
  • 1 Block Daiya Smoked Gouda
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • Chives, chopped (to garnish)

Method:
(Make the dough ahead of time, steps 1-5, as it needs to rise)

1. Whisk the water and yeast together in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine, either with an electric mixer or by hand. Mix until the dough forms into a sticky ball and begins to pull away from the edges of the bowl.
4. Coat the dough with a drizzle of olive oil, and set aside to rise: cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1.5 hours.
5. After 1.5 hours, squeeze the dough to release any gas, and set aside to rise for another 1.5-2 hours.

6. Preheat your oven to 450.
7. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions to skillet and toss to coat. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until onions are fragrant, golden, and translucent. Remove from heat.
8. Add bacon to pan (add extra olive oil if needed), and cook for a few minutes on each side. We like ours crunchy, so we did 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.
9. Liberally dust a surface with flour, and place the ball of dough on your surface. Knead and roll (remember to flour your roller) your dough into desired shape, and transfer to a baking sheet.
10. Cut the cooled bacon into small pieces.
11. Assemble! Spread the caramelized onions on the dough (photo 2 from L to R above), layer the sliced pears on top of the onions, and layer the bacon pieces on top of the pears (photo 4 above).
12. Grate or slice the gouda block and top the pizza with the cheese. Place in the oven for 8-10minutes.
13. While the pizza is cooking, or ahead of time, make your balsamic reduction: add vinegar to small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vinegar is reduced once it coats the back of a spoon. Once reduced, remove from hot pan to cool.
14. Once the pizza is finished (it will brown around the edges), remove from oven, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and garnish with chives and freshly ground pepper.