Thursday, May 3, 2012

Frozen Pizza Experiment

I've been trying some freezer meals around here lately, and one of my experiments has been frozen pizza. I've eaten my share of Totino's cardboard pizzas in the past, but in recent years I've tried to avoid buying frozen pizza. I have a super simple pizza crust recipe, so I decided to use that as my base and experiment from there.

Here's what I did.

My first experiment consisted of prebaking the crust for about 10 minutes, then allowing it to cool completely. I topped it with homemade sauce, pepperoni and shredded cheese. I wrapped it with plastic wrap, followed by a layer of foil, then placed it back on the pizza pan which helped it remain flat as it froze.

When it was completely frozen, I removed the pan and put the pizza back in the freezer. All I had to do to serve it was remove it from the freezer, unwrap it and bake for about 15 minutes. I kept an eye on it to make sure the cheese didn't burn.

The advantage of topping the pizza before it's frozen is that nothing has to be done when it's time to bake it. The disadvantage was that it took longer to bake and so the crust was a little dry. Also, trying to find a completely flat spot in the freezer so the sauce and cheese didn't slide around was tricky. Just something to keep in mind when deciding if you should top your pizza or not before freezing.

For the second experiment, I prebaked the crust for about 8 minutes. I allowed it to cool completely, then wrapped it in layers of plastic wrap and foil. Again, I placed it back on the pizza pan while it froze so it wouldn't bend or fold.

I took this crust from the freezer about 30 minutes before I baked it. I did our usual toppings, then popped it into the oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. The crust on this one turned out much softer and chewier!

I made mini pizza crusts for the third experiment. This is something I thought would be easy to pull out for quick lunches. And I was right!

I made a batch of pizza dough, then divided it into 8 pieces. I rolled each one out into an oval (not a circle, because I'm circle impaired). I baked these crusts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for about 6 minutes.

After letting them cool completely, I just slid them right into a freezer bag. To prepare, I pulled as many as I needed out of the freezer and let them sit on the counter for about 20 minutes. I topped them with our usual toppings, then into the oven for 6 more minutes.

Every experiment has to have a conclusion, right? Well, here's mine.

While I did like having the complete pizza frozen and ready to pop into the oven, it was harder to freeze because it had to stay flat. And the crust was drier.

So my preferred frozen pizza method is to prebake the crusts and top when I'm ready to bake. It was such a huge timesaver to have the crusts ready to go when I needed them. If you have never made frozen pizza, you need to try this.

A few tips:

Oil your pizza pans well before rolling out your crust. I spread a little olive oil over mine with a pastry brush. Sprinkle a little cornmeal over the pan to give your pizza a gourmet flair. After you've rolled out your crust, test it to be sure it doesn't stick to the pan. Once it's baked, it is very difficult to remove from the pan if it sticks.

Always prick the crust with a fork before prebaking. This allows steam to escape and prevents air bubbles in the crust. Air bubbles leads to the crust cracking, and when the crust cracks, your toppings might make it soggy.

Grate your own cheese. I know it will take a couple of extra minutes, but the difference in the meltiness (not a real word, I know, but you get my drift) of the cheese when it is baked is amazing! Packaged shredded cheese dries out and doesn't melt as nicely. So go with the block cheese and shred it yourself.

Mini pizzas allow more flexibility. Each family member can choose their own toppings. So while my family enjoys their boring pepperoni pizzas, I can have BBQ chicken! LOL

So, do you make your own frozen pizza? How do you do it? If you don't, try some of these tips to save yourself time later.

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