This pizza recipe is very much inspired by Nashville hot chicken. My sister has taken me to all sorts of delicious Nashville spots over the past year, but probably the one I hear about most often from people who are visiting or thinking about visiting, etc. is hot chicken. Is it because the name is catchy? I don't know. It's become so popular that a certain fast food chain, which shall remain nameless, started making their own version too. Hmm.
As many of you know, I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I'm not 100% opposed to eating locally or humanely raised meat, but I prefer to focus on eating more vegetables since you can never really get enough of that in your diet anyway. So, I started thinking about trying to make some kind of hot chicken inspired recipe that focused on vegetables (cauliflower) instead of chicken. Maybe you've seen some of the cauliflower "wings" recipes floating around the Internet (this one especially piqued my interest), so I thought I'd use that concept as a jumping off point.
Hot Cauliflower Pizza, serves 3-4 as a meal
Cauliflower coating loosely adapted from Hattie B's Hot Chicken via Food Network
For the pizza dough:
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons cornmeal for dusting
For the cauliflower:
1 small head of cauliflower
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs (Panko is preferred here)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, minced
For the pizza topping:
1/4 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 slices of pickle (I used bread and butter chips pickles)
First, make the pizza dough. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir the sugar into the warm water until dissolved. Pour the yeast over the top of the water and let it activate for 3-5 minutes. It should foam up a bit, that's how you know the yeast is working.
In a bowl, stir together the 2 cups all-purpose flour and salt. Then pour the yeast water in, and stir until a dough ball forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press together, then knead for about 5 minutes. Be sure to continue to coat your work surface and hands with enough flour so the dough doesn't stick to everything. After about 5 minutes, the dough should feel smooth and elastic like. Add some flour to the mixing bowl, place the dough ball inside, sprinkle with a bit more flour, then cover with a clean kitchen cloth. Allow to rise in a cool or slightly warm, dry spot for about an hour until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the hot cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the bottom leaves and stem from the cauliflower head and cut into florets. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, milk, and hot sauce. In another bowl, place the bread crumbs. Dip the cauliflower pieces in the hot sauce mix, then in the bread crumbs. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once you've dipped all the cauliflower pieces, bake for 20 minutes.
Towards the end of the baking time, melt the butter and stir in cayenne, chili powder, brown sugar, and minced garlic. Once the cauliflower is done and out of the oven, brush each piece with the butter/spice mix.
Remove the skillet from the oven (careful, it's hot now!), dust with cornmeal and place the dough inside. Bake for 5-6 minutes. Then remove from the oven, and top with sauce, cheese, and the cauliflower pieces. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is very bubbly and beginning to brown in spots.
Remove from the skillet, slice, and top with pickles. Serve warm!
-You can skip the pizza and just eat the cauliflower pieces as "wings" or a main dish. If you'd like to make them vegan friendly, swap out the milk for nondairy milk (soy, almond, etc.) as well as the butter for a vegan-friendly butter such as Earth Balance.
-I used Tapatio hot sauce, as it's what I happen to have on hand. I also really love Cholula. But any thin consistency hot sauce that you like should do the trick.
-I really love the pickles here as it's like Nashville hot chicken and just goes well with the spice. But, if pickles on pizza just isn't your thing, you could swap this out for some chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley.
Happy pizza making! xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions.