Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix together the flour, water, yeast, oil (if using), syrup, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Knead the dough for a minute, adjusting with water or flour if needed.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth, firm ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes, or until double in size. While the dough is rising, prepare your topping ingredients, chopping or slicing as necessary.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two equal pieces for large pizzas, or 8 smaller balls for individual pizzas (or anything in between for the sizes you desire). Pat or roll into round pizza doughs. (I found a roller to be much easier and quicker.) Add your prepared toppings and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.
In addition to pizza sauce, I sprinkled 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary on each pizza, plus a nice sprinkling of crushed red pepper, before adding the rest of my toppings. The second pizza I rolled out was round, as a pizza should be. This first one was a little bit more “artisan.”
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