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Welcome to My Hungry Boys where I share what I love to cook for my husband and our four sons.   I've made a lot of food over the years and I've learned a lot in the process. 

Eggplant Pan Pizza

Eggplant Pan Pizza

Although it's really a fruit, eggplant is still one of my favorite vegetables.  Tom Brady might not eat it because it's a nightshade and therefore causes "inflammation," but I'm not a professional athlete so I don't mind. 

Anyways, as much as I love Eggplant Parmesan, sometimes I think the crisp beauty of the breaded eggplant gets lost underneath all the sauce and cheese.  In my opinion, breaded eggplant is at its best when I can truly taste the crunchiness of the breading (made even crunchier with panko breadcrumbs!), so that's why I love my breaded eggplant atop a pizza.  The key is to slice the eggplant thin; otherwise you'll have too much topping, and your dough will run the risk of not baking through all the way.

I prefer instant yeast, but I have also included an alternative pizza dough recipe (scroll down) for those of you who prefer using using active dry yeast. See note here on instant yeast versus active dry yeast.

Eggplant Pan Pizza

This recipe can be adapted in different ways.  Some variations (all delicious): in place of the roasted grape tomatoes, substitute pesto, shredded mozzarella, or dollops of goat cheese.

  • 1 recipe tangzhong pan pizza dough (see recipe below)

  • 1 recipe breaded eggplant (see recipe below)

  • 1 recipe roasted grape tomatoes - recipe here

  • ~ 1½ - 1 ¾ cups tomato sauce - recipe here

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or other Parmesan cheese

Remove the plastic wrap from your rested pizza dough.  Top your pizza with tomato sauce (my recipe for sauce is here), arrange eggplant slices on top, then spread roasted grape tomatoes on top of the eggplant slices.  Top with a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for ~15 minutes.  I like to bake the pizza on the bottom rack as it gives the pizza bottom a nice crust. I move the pizza to a higher rack if the bottom crust is over browning.

Tangzhong Pan Pizza Dough (Using Instant Yeast)

(Scroll down for recipe using Active Dry Yeast)

This dough recipe is identical to the one found here, but with different quantities in order to fill a half sheet pan. Again, you should try to use a high protein flour (as high as you can find).  At most grocery stores, the highest protein option is a bread flour (12-13% protein) which works beautifully.  But an even better option than run-of-the-mill bread flour is King Arthur Hi-Gluten Flour (14% protein), which is available online.  The following recipe is designed for a high gluten flour, which will need a bit more water than other flours in order to properly hydrate.  If you are using regular bread flour, make the noted adjustments.

  • 3¼ cups Hi-Gluten or bread flour (14 ounces) - divided (see note for accurately measuring flour here)

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (decrease if using table salt)

  • 1½ cups water - divided (decrease water by 1-2 tablespoons if using regular bread flour). More water may be necessary, especially in the drier winter months

Make the Tangzhong:  In a saucepan, whisk together 1.3 ounces flour (5 tablespoons) with 6.5 ounces water (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) until smooth.  Heat and continue whisking until the mixture is thick, and gelatinous - I recommend heating until bubbling to assure the mixture reaches the necessary temperature, and switch from a whisk to a rubber spatula if necessary.  Stir continuously as you want a smooth mixture without lumps.   Remove from the heat, and add enough of the reserved water (about ½ cup) to cool the mixture sufficiently so as not to kill the yeast when added to the flour and yeast. 

Place remaining 12.7 ounces of flour into a large bowl with the instant yeast and salt.  Stir.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the cooled, diluted gelatinous mixture to the bowl.  Add ¼ cup water (or if using regular bread flour add 2 tablespoons water) - cool is fine.  Stir all of the ingredients together, then let it sit for 1 minute as the flour absorbs the liquid.  After 1 minute, add more water as needed (this amount will vary based on humidity levels and the season, but you'll probably need 1 or 2 tablespoons).  You want a moist and craggy dough.  Cover with plastic wrap (no need to knead) and let rise until its size doubles (~2 hours).  (If your dough needs a boost, see tip on getting a faster rise).

Rather than knead the dough, stretch and roll it.  The wet dough benefits from the no-knead method.  Using a rubber spatula, lift part of the dough, stretch it, and then fold it back onto the ball of dough.  Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat 3 more times.  Lift the dough ball and stretch it under itself, pulling it into a ball shape.  If you do not plan on using the dough until the next day, place each ball into an un-greased bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap in a refrigerator.  (I prefer making the dough a day ahead because 1) a slow rise results in a more flavorful dough, and 2) working with cold dough is easier - you are less likely to tear a hole in the dough or stretch it too thin.)  The next day, proceed as below.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a half sheet pan, spreading the oil so that it covers the bottom and the sides of the pan.  Lightly flour the ball of dough.  Press it into an oval disk on a lightly floured board, but make sure to retain the rim around the outer edge.  Press the center of the oval while slowly pulling the dough outward, in order to replicate a pan shape with a lip.  Lift and stretch the dough, letting gravity help form it into an oval.  If it fights back and shrinks when you lay it back on the board, let it rest for a few minutes, then stretch it out again.  Repeat this process until your dough is the desired size.  Don't use a rolling pin to roll out your dough because this flattens the edges and alters the beautiful shape.  Lay your dough in the oiled pan and carefully flip the dough over so that both sides have a thin coating of oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and push the dough outward from the middle so that it fills up the pan.  You may need to let it rest for 5 minutes before pushing it outwards again.  Let it rest so that it can rise one final time before baking (~1-1½ hours for cold dough, ~45 minutes for room temperature dough).  Preheat oven to 450°F. 

Tangzhong Pan Pizza Dough (Using Active Dry Yeast)

This dough recipe is identical to the one found here, but with different quantities in order to fill a half sheet pan. Again, you should try to use a high protein flour (as high as you can find).  At most grocery stores, the highest protein option is a bread flour (12-13% protein) which works beautifully.  But an even better option than run-of-the-mill bread flour is King Arthur Hi-Gluten Flour (14% protein), which is available online.  The following recipe is designed for a high gluten flour, which will need a bit more water than other flours in order to properly hydrate.  If you are using regular bread flour, make the noted adjustments.

  • 3¼ cups Hi-Gluten or bread flour (14 ounces) - divided (see note for accurately measuring flour here)

  • 1¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (decrease if using table salt)

  • 1½ cups water - 12 ounces - divided (decrease water by 2 tablespoons if using regular bread flour). More water may be necessary, especially in the drier winter months

Make the Tangzhong:  In a saucepan, whisk together 1.3 ounces flour (5 tablespoons) with 6.5 ounces water (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) until smooth.  Heat and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and gelatinous - I recommend heating until bubbling to assure the mixture reaches the necessary temperature, and switch from a whisk to a rubber spatula if necessary.  Stir continuously as you want a smooth mixture without lumps.   Remove from the heat, and add ⅓ cup of the reserved water (or if using regular bread flour add 3 tablespoons reserved water) to cool the mixture sufficiently so as not to kill the yeast when added to the flour and yeast. Whisk the mixture to blend completely. In a small pan, heat ⅓ cup of the reserved water to ~100°F-110°F (do not exceed 110°F). Pour into a small container and stir in 1 teaspoon of the pre-measured flour (or 1 teaspoon sugar if you prefer). Sprinkle and stir in 1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast. Allow 5-10 minutes for it to get frothy.

Place remaining 12.7 ounces of flour (less the 1 teaspoon used) into a large bowl with the salt.  Stir.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the cooled, diluted gelatinous mixture to the bowl and the frothy yeast mixture.  Stir all of the ingredients together, then let it sit for 1 minute as the flour absorbs the liquid.  After 1 minute, add more water if needed (this amount will vary based on humidity levels and the season, but you may need 1 tablespoon).  You want a moist and craggy dough.  Cover with plastic wrap (no need to knead) and let rise until its size doubles (~2 hours).  (If your dough needs a boost, see tip on getting a faster rise).

Rather than knead the dough, stretch and roll it.  The wet dough benefits from the no-knead method.  Using a rubber spatula, lift part of the dough, stretch it, and then fold it back onto the ball of dough.  Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat 3 more times.  Lift the dough ball and stretch it under itself, pulling it into a ball shape.  If you do not plan on using the dough until the next day, place each ball into an un-greased bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap in a refrigerator.  (I prefer making the dough a day ahead because 1) a slow rise results in a more flavorful dough, and 2) working with cold dough is easier - you are less likely to tear a hole in the dough or stretch it too thin.)  The next day, proceed as below.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a half sheet pan, spreading the oil so that it covers the bottom and the sides of the pan.  Lightly flour the ball of dough.  Press it into an oval disk on a lightly floured board, but make sure to retain the rim around the outer edge.  Press the center of the oval while slowly pulling the dough outward, in order to replicate a pan shape with a lip.  Lift and stretch the dough, letting gravity help form it into an oval.  If it fights back and shrinks when you lay it back on the board, let it rest for a few minutes, then stretch it out again.  Repeat this process until your dough is the desired size.  Don't use a rolling pin to roll out your dough because this flattens the edges and alters the beautiful shape.  Lay your dough in the oiled pan and carefully flip the dough over so that both sides have a thin coating of oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and push the dough outward from the middle so that it fills up the pan.  You may need to let it rest for 5 minutes before pushing it outwards again.  Let it rest so that it can rise one final time before baking (~1-1½ hours for cold dough, ~45 minutes for room temperature dough).  Preheat oven to 450°F. 

Breaded Eggplant

When selecting an eggplant, choose one that's heavy for its size because the heavier eggplants  contain fewer seeds (which run bitter).  The eggplant can be made early in the day or the day before.  If you refrigerate it overnight, just reheat it briefly before putting it on the pizza so that it re-crisps.

The Parmesan cheese adds a crunchy flavor to the breading, and the perfect ratio of panko to Parmesan is 2:1 by weight.  I recommend freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (if you use pre-grated cheese, there will be a settling period and the cheese volume will be about half of what the recipe calls for).  And please don't use Kraft's "Parmesan cheese."

  • 1 medium sized eggplant - peeled and sliced into circles that are ¼" thick

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (3 ounces)

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1.5 ounces). I recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Flour for dredging (about ½ cup)

  • 2 large eggs

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter - optional but helps the browning process

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant, but leave a few stripes of the purple skin for structural purposes.  Slice the eggplant into thin circles, ~¼"—½" thick. 

Optional: remove excess water from eggplant... Sprinkle kosher salt onto the bottom of a flat container.  Layer the eggplant, sprinkling salt between each layer.  Don't worry about over salting; you'll rinse it all off later.  Weigh the eggplant down with another flat bottomed container and additional weight.  Let sit for ~3-6 hours.  There should be about ¼ cup of liquid extracted from the eggplant.  Discard the liquid and rinse the eggplant, lay on paper towels and blot to dry.

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Prepare dredging station with three containers:  Container #1: flour with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper...  Container #2: beaten eggs with ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground black pepper...  Container #3: Panko, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.  While dredging your eggplant, heat half sheet pan with ¼ cup olive oil in oven (and be wary of smoking oil).  Lay the breaded eggplant on a rack or pan until all are dredged.  Remove the hot pan from the oven, being cautious not to spill the oil.  Place cubes of butter in the hot pan and allow to melt.  Lay the breaded eggplant in the pan in a single layer.  Flip so that both sides are oiled.  Bake in a hot oven for ~45-60 minutes, and flip occasionally so that both sides brown evenly (also rearrange the slices because ovens have hot spots).  You may need to add more oil during the cooking process because eggplant is like a sponge when it cooks, so watch carefully.  All ovens cook differently, but you want your eggplant to come out crispy and browned.  Remove slices to paper towel lined rack or pan.  The eggplant will absorb any remaining oil if allowed to cool in the pan.

Mini Gingerbread Houses

Mini Gingerbread Houses

Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce