Until I tried this overwhelmingly delicious and satisfying, rich and flavorful raw vegan pizza with a flaxseed, sunflower seed and butternut squash crust.
FOR THE CRUST
250g peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash
160g ground golden flaxseeds (1 cup whole golden flaxseeds in a Vitamix blender or coffee grinder)
160g raw sunflower seeds, soaked in about 2 cups of cold water for at least an hour and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
40g sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for at least 2 hours and drained
1 medium tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ teaspoon dried oregano or favorite herbs
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon dried chili flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon raw agave nectar
2 scallions, white parts only
FOR THE CASHEW ‘CHEESE’ DRIZZLE
1 cup raw cashew nuts, soaked in cold water for 3 to 4 hours or overnight*
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup filtered water, divided
1 scallion, pale green and white part only
TOPPINGS FOR TWO PIZZAS
1 capsicum, finely diced (or a variety of red, yellow and orange, using 1/3 of each color)
2 avocados, thinly sliced* (one avocado for each pizza crust)
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil (2 tablespoons for each pizza crust)
1 cup baby spinach leaves (¼ cup for each pizza crust)
cracked black pepper for garnish
Make the tomato sauce:
Using a hand-held immersion blender or a small food processor, puree all the ingredients until desired consistency is reached. The sauce can be chunky or smooth depending on your preference. We blended ours until smooth. Add more herbs, salt or dried chili flakes as desired.
Make the cashew ‘cheese’ drizzle:
Put the cashews, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup water, salt and scallion in a blender (or alternatively use a hand-held immersion blender in a tall narrow container). Blend, starting on low, and increasing the speed to medium. Stop the blender, add the remaining ¼ of water and scrape the sides. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick, gradually add more water. Keep in mind that as the cashew cheese cools in the fridge it will get significantly thicker.
Make the crust:
Using a food processor, add the squash and press the ‘Pulse’ button a few times to process until coarsely chopped. Add oil, herbs and salt. Pulse a few more times to incorporate. Then add nutritional yeast and sunflower seeds. Pulse a few times, keeping the sunflower seeds partially whole. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
Gradually add ground flax, ¼ cup at a time, and incorporate using a spatula. Continue to mix until you have a dough. It will be lightly sticky but should be able to be shaped with your hands. If the dough is too sticky and unworkable with your hands, gradually add more ground flax and sunflower seeds. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
The dough will weigh around 600g. Lightly wet your hands before handing the dough. Divide the dough in half for about 300g per pizza. Placing each ball of dough on a non-stick dehydrator sheet or a piece of parchment paper lightly brushed with olive oil, spread the dough evenly with your hands to form the shape of a pizza. We used the exterior ring of a 9-inch springform to achieve a circular shaped crust. Transfer the crusts to dehydrator racks. Dehydrate at 105°F (41°C) for 6 hours. Flip the crusts over and remove dehydrator sheets or parchment paper. Dehydrate at 105°F (41°C) for another 8 hours or until crisp around the edges but slightly soft in the middle.
Assembling: Slice the dehydrated pizza crust into 8 equal pieces. Doing this before assembly will result in a cleaner appearance. To start assembly, apply a layer of tomato sauce to cover the entire surface of the crust. Layer baby spinach over the sauce and sprinkle with diced capsicum. Cover with a layer of thinly sliced avocado. Generously drizzle with cashew cheese and garnish with thinly sliced strips of fresh basil. Finish with a few cracks of black pepper or dried red pepper flakes if desired.
Advance preparation: The pizza crust can be kept in the refrigerator, covered well in plastic wrap, for up to 3-4 days. Warm the pizza crust again in a dehydrator at 105°F (41°C) for an hour until warm.
Butternut squash: I weighed my butternut squash after it was peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces. To yield 250g of prepared squash I used about one-fifth of a large butternut squash (purchased weight of 4 ¼ lbs, 2040g).
Avocados: Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and discard the pits. Peel and cut lengthwise into thin strips.
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