There’s nothing much like the sound of vegetables and fruits blistering in the oven. Grapes and tomatoes get so hot their skins split, and their juices splatter all over the baking sheet and then immediately evaporate—“sploosh,” “sploosh,” “splooooosh.” It’s soothing and satisfying to hear, and I know that sound means they’re gonna be even sweeter when time comes to eat them.
MAKES 12 SQUARES
1½ cups (355 ml) water, warmed to 120°F (49°C)
1 tbsp (12 g) packed brown sugar or granulated sugar
2 tsp (8 g) active dry yeast
3 cups (360 g) white whole wheat flour, plus more if needed
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tsp (12 g) salt
16 oz (455 g) ripe cherry tomatoes
3–4 tbsp (45–60 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1½ tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling Freshly ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp (4 g) fresh oregano leaves
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp (45 ml) water
Cheese, for sprinkling (optional)
To make the crust, in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine the warm water and brown sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let sit until it’s foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the flour, olive oil and salt, then beat on low speed for 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.
Liberally oil a half sheet pan (preferably dark in color) with olive oil (it should be slippery) and transfer the dough to the pan, gently stretching it to the edges of the pan. It’s okay if it doesn’t reach the edges completely; don’t force it. Drizzle the top of the dough with a little more oil if needed, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Put in a warm dry place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C or gas mark 6). To make the tomato sauce, spread the tomatoes on a sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes burst and soften. Remove from the oven.
In a large deep sauté pan, heat the 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) of olive oil. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes, 1½ teaspoons (8 g) of salt and granulated sugar, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down into a thick sauce, about 15 minutes. You can keep a lid on the pot if the sauce begins to splatter. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the water to loosen. Allow the sauce to cool.
Remove the plastic from the risen dough, stretch it to the edges if it isn’t already, and prod all over the surface of the dough with your fingertips to dimple it and remove large pockets of air, then gently spread over the cooled tomato sauce. Cover with the same oiled plastic wrap and let rise and rest for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500°F (250°C or gas mark 10) and position a rack in the lower middle part of the oven. Bake the pizza for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomato sauce absorbs a bit, and the bottom crust is crisp and golden brown. Cut into squares and eat as is or drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.