–The blurb–

Vegan Pizza is filled with 50 modern recipes from easy-to-make pizza dough (including spelt, whole wheat, and gluten-free crusts), creamy dairy-free cheese sauces, vibrant-flavored pestos and spreads, and meatless and wheat-less burger crumbles. Also included are inventive toppings and pizzas that run the gamut from comfort food pizzas like Chili Mac Pizza, Barbeque Pizza and Eggplant Parmesan Pizza, to fresh vegetable-laden pizzas like Sweet Potato and Kale Pizza, Corn, Zucchini and Tomato Pizza and Asparagus, Tomato and Pesto Pizza. There is even a chapter dedicated to dessert pizzas too, from Babka Pizza, to Berry Pie Pizza and Coconut Caramel Dream Pizza. With helpful information and tips on equipment and techniques, Vegan Pizza shares the secrets to fabulous, easy-to-make, dairy-free, meat-free thin-crust artisan pizza that tastes like it came from your neighborhood pizzeria. Now home cooks everywhere can get baking and make fabulous vegan pizzas in their own kitchens.”

–The review–

As a mostly vegetarian consumer of food, pizza can be a tricky minefield to navigate. Sure, there’s the ever-classic margherita or quattro formaggi. Pizza bianca is another good option, dealing with mozzarella and ricotta. However, these are all quite heavy on the cheese and many cookbooks aren’t that imaginative when it comes to vegetarian pizza options. In her latest recipe book, due out on September 3rd 2013, Julie Hasson takes on the arguably even bigger challenge of vegan pizza. Not only does she have to find a range of tasty toppings that don’t rely so much on cheese, but she also has to make a convincing base. So does she manage it?

First, the toppings. One good way around the cheese (apart from vegan cheese, of course, which you can’t get in France) is to mix things up by using vegan pesto as a base (if you’re making your own pesto at home, this shouldn’t be too tricky to achieve). Thankfully, tomato bases also still feature strongly. However, anyone seeking a book based purely on vegetables will be disappointed: Hasson devotes a whole chapter to the creation and use of meat substitutes (mostly using TVP or soy as a base). Conversely, by addressing the ‘vegan cheese’ element, she passes on actual recipes, not just a list of vegan products to buy – for instance, she creates a creamy “cheese” sauce using tofu and soy milk as a base. Flavourings such as liquid smoke and tahini are also used to help conjure up varied and tasty sauces. Following this, she gets to the classics – but sadly, they all rely on vegan mozzarella-style cheese and some of them use vegan meat substitutes as well. This is definitely aimed at Americans – there’s no way you’d be able to find this stuff in France, even at health food stores (and even if you could, it would be very expensive).

Much more promising is the “farmer’s market pizza” chapter, which offers up multiple mouthwatering options, including asparagus and pesto, corn and courgette, broccoli and sundried tomato, pineapple and jalapeno, and wild mushroom and potato. However, only the sweet potato and kale pizza, and the tomato, cucumber and caper pizza, don’t rely on processed ‘vegan’ cheese, which again is a little bit limiting. The ‘not the usual suspects’ chapter suffers from the same problems as previously, thanks to an overreliance on meat and cheese substitutes. The most promising recipe here is the muffuletta pizza, which uses a tomato, chilli and garlic base and toppings of olives, capers, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. The global chapter is more complex than previous chapters in terms of both sheer number and variety of ingredients, meaning that whenever the dreaded ‘vegan mozzarella’ is mentioned, it can be left out. The Bibimbap pizza, inspired by the Korean rice dish, sounds excellent: who wouldn’t love a pizza that has a gochujang base, sesame seeds, garlic, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, scallions and beansprouts? The Thai peanut pizza is equally commendable thanks to its creative use of sriracha, peanuts and peanut butter, broccoli, scallions and agave nectar.

The dessert pizzas are also a wonderful idea that I never would have thought of – even if it isn’t strictly Italian and you’ll find me sneakily substituting the vegan margarine for butter. The berry pie pizza can also be made with no substitutions whatsoever thanks to its elegant ingredient list of berries, sugar, water, cornflour, pizza dough and icing sugar. In fact, most of the dessert recipes can be made by the average human with no interest in vegan margarine.

All of these pizzas are supported by the base. Hasson recognises that this is a classic recipe to not be messed with and sticks with the components of the base that you will find in Italy: flour, salt, olive oil, yeast, and warm water. She also explores other equally interesting options, though, such as wholewheat, spelt, and gluten-free bases, meaning there should be something to suit everyone. All of the recipes are easy to work through, too, and are accompanied by beautiful photographs.

Suffice it to say that this is probably not a recipe book for the beginning vegan, in the sense of far too many specialist products being required to pull these recipes off (the meat and cheese substitutes are one such example, but the tofu and the vegan margarine and the soy milk can prove equally obscure). However, the good news is that vegetarians and even meat-eaters can just adapt the recipes to suit their own needs – by using regular butter or cheese, for example. It’s worth noting that even putting slightly marginal ingredients aside, the book is packed with delicious ideas, and as a vegetarian sympathiser myself (even if apparently I can’t live without cheese), I feel that the message of vegetarianism and veganism is important: we don’t NEED to eat meat, so stand back, experiment with new vegetables or sauces or flavours, and just let the new taste experiences roll in.

other books by Julie Hasson

150 Best Cupcake Recipes (2012)

Vegan Diner (2011)

The Complete Book of Pies (2008)

300 Best Chocolate Recipes (2006)

cross-posted to Bianca’s Book Blog

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