Friday, May 01, 2009

Make it or buy it: Crummy pizza, part 2

It's hard to make a nastier pizza than an American suburban pizzeria, and that's a problem for the home cook whose main goal is to satisfy a group of 6th grade girls. You know the way you can soak a napkin in the dark orange grease that pools atop one of those salty, awful/delicious pizzeria pizzas? Well, you couldn't soak a napkin in the grease on top of my pizzas. In that, I failed.
Lessons learned:

-Crust. The dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was easy and great, but I didn't realize quite how buoyant it was until I'd baked the first pizza, which ended up with a very thick, bready crust.  You need the dough almost membrane thin before it goes in the oven.

-Sauce. I sauteed chopped garlic in olive oil, then poured in a can of crushed tomatoes to make a sauce. Because it seemed tart, added sugar. Sauce was then perfect.

-Cheese. The brand -- Lucerne pre-shredded -- also perfect. Weird, that buying your mozzarella pre-shredded is cheaper. My advice here is to use a mountain of cheese, really mound it on until you think there's too much, then add a few fistfuls more. The first pizza was wimpy in that regard; the pie pictured above was slightly under-cheesed, but moving in the right direction. As it cools, you want there to be a dense, chewy hide of mozzarella covering the crust.

-Pepperoni. When it comes to fatty pepperoni, Hormel rocks. (Speaking of Hormel, this was an excellent movie.)

Was homemade better? By the end, the pies were getting really, really nasty, albeit not quite nasty enough. I've watched these kids scarf down pizza, but they were shockingly moderate last night. My theory: even my worst effort tasted enough like real food that they were able to regulate their appetites which is a. good! b. sorely disappointing. 

Was it cheaper? Dramatically so. I would have ordered four extra large pizzas (2 cheese, two pepperoni) from Domino's to feed nine of us, and given the delivery person a $5 tip. Price: $75.83.*

However, given that Domino's is heinous, I probably would have ordered the same quantity for pick-up at our local place, Stefano's: $82.60.

Made from scratch, last night's pizza dinner cost $14.53, which includes a leftover baked pie and dough to freeze. I didn't use all the topping ingredients, so those aren't reflected in the price. Even if they were, it wouldn't add much to the sum.

Hassle factor: Not bad. Less than an hour total to make the pizzas and wash up. But let's call it an hour. Everyone values their time differently, but for me, $61 ($68 if we'd gone with Stefano's) easily justified making crummy pizza at home.

Make or Buy? Absolutely, make.

*Three would probably have been ample, but I would have ordered four. Husband says he would have ordered "three or four." Just to be fair, the price for three Domino's pizzas (two cheese, one pepperoni) would have been $61.39, including tip.  Still cheaper -- by $47 -- to make.


  1. I am LOVING this site. I want to come visit you immediately. I mean tomorrow!

    I will get back to you on the Delia Smith books - I messed up the post about her (and I was going to sneak in a little bit about Nigella) b/c I was trying to act like I knew how to properly embed websites in comments.

    I don't. I'm a piker at that.

    But you make me laugh. AND you make me drool. I just wish you weren't costing me so mjuch money. I already have MILK and MY BOMBAY KITCHEN because of you (and I suspect it won't end there), but since I already love them both, I am just plain thankful.

    So, thank you.

  2. I am a fan of thick, bready pizza crust, so this is good to know. Sounds like quite a success!


  3. I'm a bready pizza person too. I blame it on Pizza Hut and their indoctrinating Book-It program.

  4. Consider also Trader Joe's pizza dough, which my friends rave about. I am dough averse myself, which I should just move on and get over, but there are so many awesome bakeries (for bread) around here I have been able to afford to be lazy. But particularly for an event such as this one, it might lend just enough not-homemadeness to the crust to make it closer to perfect grotesqueness, without going too far in the price department.

  5. I find TJ's dough to be tough and hard to roll out, even after all the tricks (let it rest, beat it with a rolling pin, etc), and not particularly flavorful. Even the simplest pizza dough is superior, as far as I'm concerned.

  6. There's a TJ's about 25 minutes away, which is just far enough to keep me from going except sporadically. So I can't comment on the pizza dough.
    This "Artisan Bread" dough was super-easy. Just stir ingredients roughly, let rise, and bake. I'm sure someone has written about this, but if you can make such excellent pizza dough (and bread) without kneading, why does kneading even exist anymore?

  7. rather than freeing up the gluten by kneading so as to form the "glue" that will then make the crust rise and stick together, i think they're adding extra gluten to the flours these days. i'll betcha these no-knead crusts are *really* gummy super hard american wheat.


  8. The weird thing is, Helltoupee, you make the no-knead crusts/breads with REGULAR flour. The same flour you'd use to make cookies. And the bread turns out amazingly well -- often better than bread you've kneaded.

  9. When it's not for 6th graders (or their ilk) than I love doing a sauce that's just slow, slow roasted slices of tomatoes with garlic, herbs and olive oil on top. Of course, more prep work

    I think I need a pizza stone. Or do I? Will be it be like my mandoline, which has had about as much use as yours?

    This post makes me think about household reputations. At his request, I took a little boy home early from a playdate yesterday. I think he was bored with our offerings (ie, no videogames, although geez, 1960s era Superman cartoons seemed pretty special to me). My boy said he wanted to go to his friend's house for the next playdate because it was so much more fun over there, what with the videogames and such. So in that vein, what is Isabel's opinion of the pizza? Does she long for the days of Dominos?

  10. Mary,

    I love my pizza stone. The first one eventually broke so I bought another. Highly recommend. You can do bread on it too.

    We had a few of those "want to go home" kids at our house, but not, thankfully, in recent years. In fact, it never, ever happens anymore. I think it's age related. The girls claimed to like the pizza -- I quizzed them all the next morning. But there was just something different in the way they approached it from how they tackle the kind in a cardboard box. They were more respectful and restrained. Or something. It was interesting.