October 23, 2010

Homemade Frozen Pizza: An Experiment

Recently, when I cooked up an excellent Thin Crust Pizza (http://jeffreyandjulicook.blogspot.com/2010/10/thin-crust-pizza-done-right-this-time.html), I had an idle thought:  "Wouldn't it be great if there was a frozen pizza this good?"  The next thought followed right behind:  "Maybe there can be."

As it happens, I had made up two batches of pizza dough when I decided to make that pizza.  I had done this because I wasn't sure I'd done it right the first time around, and rather than risk another bad pizza after my previous, rather dreadful try at a thin crust pizza, I thought it best to just start over and make another batch of dough.   The second batch turned out excellent, though, and when I checked the first batch I'd made, it was indistinguishable from the second, successful one, so I must have done it right the first time after all. 

I made up another quick batch of sauce, rolled out the dough, placed it in a pair of disposable aluminum pizza pans and topped it with sauce and cheese. I didn't have any freezer bags large enough to hold a pizza pan, so wrapped the experimental pizzas in a few layers of plastic wrap to try to prevent freezer burn and set them flat in the bottom of our deep freeze. 

Here we see the subject of the experiment, wrapped and ready for the freezer.

A few days later, I decided to it was time to see if the experiment was a success.  I took one of the pizzas out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge.  Not what one normally does with frozen pizza, of course, but then this wasn't one purchased from the freezer section of a supermarket, so I decided I'd try to cook it in as similar a condition as possible to when I cooked the unfrozen version.   So, I tossed the pizza stone in the oven, heated the oven to 500 degrees for an hour to make sure the stone was hot, then tossed the thawed pizza onto the stone.

It looked good at first.  The cheese melted nice, the crust was turning a nice shade of golden-brown, everything smelled good.  I was thinking I might have succeeded in my goal.  

I realized that probably was not the case when I went to take it out of the oven and found the apparently-finished pizza to not be crisp and firm, but rather flabby and limp.   There was no sign of crispness.  I hoped perhaps it might firm up a bit as it cooled, but as I sliced it, I found that was definitely not the case. 

It didn't look so great, either.  The crust on the edge of the pizza had sort of a mottled, oily-rubbery look to it.   Flavorwise, it wasn't dreadful, but it wasn't great, either, and texture-wise, it was just not good.  Juli took one bite and gave up on hers.  I'm somewhat more stubborn, so I ate a bit more, but quickly also gave up on it.  Within a few minutes,I wasn't feeling so great, as that rubbery pizza felt like heavy in my belly.  Juli definitely had taken the smarter option.

I still had another whole pizza, though, and I wondered if perhaps the problem was that I'd thawed the first one before cooking it, thus giving the dough time to absorb a lot of moisture (and perhaps olive oil) from the sauce, rather than tossing it into the oven frozen, as one usually does with frozen pizza.  So, I heated the stone back up, took the other one out of the deepfreeze, unwrapped it and tossed in.  Same result.   Same flabby, rubbery crust, same oily look.  This time I didn't even bother taking a bite.

Notice the blotchy appearance of the crust
The freezing process clearly was not kind to the pizza, and it was particularly unkind to the dough.  I don't have any background in food science, so I don't know why this didn't turn out.  Maybe I'll write a question to the America's Test Kitchen folks, or post something on their bulletin board.   For now, though, I'll just call this experiment a failure and go on to other things.

So, the people who make Tombstone Pizza definitely don't have to worry abut any competition from me in the near future.  My attempt at making a homemade frozen pizza was a failure.  That's okay, though.  If I hadn't done the experiment, I would have just tossed out the dough anyhow, so all I wasted was a bit of time and a bit of cheese and sauce.  And now I'm curious exactly why the experiment failed.   I plan to eventually do a bit of research, and once I figure out what didn't work, maybe I'll try again sometime.  Or, if any of our readers can clue me in on what the problem is, and what might work better, that would be most appreciated.

To be continued...?

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