12 July 2006

Adventures in Cooking

I really am trying to make a concerted effort to cook more and eat at home. To do this, I need to come up with foods that I would be likely to make at home. I actually have some reasonably good cooking skills, and what I don't know how to do, I can usually pick up pretty quickly (solid learning curve potential). My problem is that, as a single guy, cooking for one just stinks. In the past, I posted about trying something a little more difficult. Tonight, I went for something a little more simple -- homemade pizza.

We are going to use the term "homemade" in the broadest sense here. I bought fresh pizza dough from Publix. So, I didn't "make" the dough. I used jar pasta sauce - so, I didn't really "make" the sauce. I bought a pre-packaged cheese blend - so, I didn't shred or slice my own fresh mozzarella. I also bought pre-sliced pepperoni, too. But, I did combine and prepare all of those ingredients myself. I will say, though, that writing about this experience sure makes it seem like I didn't really do all that much.

First, let's discuss the positives. This was one cheap meal. The total cost for the whole pizza breaks down like this:

  • Publix fresh dough - $1.59
  • 1/4 jar of Barilla sauce - ~$.50
  • 1/3 bag of shredded cheese - ~$.70
  • 1/10 bag of sliced pepperoni - ~$.35
  • oregano sprinkled on top - negligible?
Around $3 for a homemade pizza - not bad! It was also very easy to make and better than many grocery store-bought pizzas that I have had in the past. I had dinner at a friend's house a few weeks ago, and I was treated to some excellent homemade pizza, using most of the same ingredients, including the Publix pizza dough. I thought that I had observed the cook well enough to give it a shot myself.

The biggest downside was that it didn't taste as good as it could have. The crust seemed a little "heavy." I am a crust guy. All of the other ingredients worked really well, but the crust was lacking. It almost had the texture of one of those frozen DiGiorno pizzas. I am confident that I can do better, though, so I will give another attempt.

The procedure...

Set the dough out to rise - usually 1/2 hour to an hour.

Prepare your ingredients.

Press dough into pie shape on a pizza stone, and bake at 425 degrees for about five minutes - just about until the dough is set and slightly browned. When you remove the crust from the oven, you will likely need to poke some holes into the top with a fork, as the crust will "puff" up.

Use your own discretion, but spread an even amount of sauce across the crust's surface. I sprinkled some oregano on the sauce. On top of the sauce, add your cheese. I used a shredded mix of Italian cheeses, including mozzarella, romano, provolone, parmesan, asiago and fontina. In the past, I have used sliced mozzarella. Use what you like. I also added some sliced pepperoni, for flavor. Get creative in your own way here. Add whatever you like.

Bake for about 15 minutes, but keep a good eye on your pizza, as you may like yours more or less well-done as I do. I pulled mine out of the oven at the perfect color for what I like.

I can only wish that my pie tasted half as good as it looked. I am sure that I did something to screw up the crust, and I will give another go sometime in the near future.

All in all, a successful venture, and a learning experience. If you have any pizza baking tips, please post them in the comments section to share!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Travelin Man,

I have a suggestion. Try turning the heat up in your oven to as high as the mother will go. A wood fired oven will go 700-800 degrees in it's hot spots, so if you want your pizza to have that NY crust to it, your're going to have to make it hotter in your oven.


Dan said...

As a guy from NY who likes his pizza, I gotta say that the finished product looks damn good!

Rebecca said...

Great suggestions! As another who is trying to save money and consume what she already has, I appreciate the suggestions. Here's a recepie to consider. You'll really only need to go get the fresh chicken and perhaps a veggie for the side!
Italian Chicken (a la Rachel)
1 lb chicken breast
1 packet Good Seasons Zesty Italian dressing
1 egg, splash of milk
olive oil
white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly dust bottom of glass cake pan with breadcrumbs. Lightly beat egg and splash of milk (if desired) in small bowl - set aside. Trim fat from chicken and cut into small strips - set aside. Fill pie plate or medium bowl with breadcrumbs.
One at a time, and using a fork, coat strips of chicken lighly in egg batter and press firmly into breadcrumbs. The entire strip should have a nice coating that does not easily fall off when removed. Place strips into glass pan. Arrange chicken to fill pan, but not overlap.
Mix up dressing mix with oil, vinegar and water according to package directions. Pour well-shaken mixture over chicken in glass pan. Use the entire contents of dressing mix, making sure to distribute evently.
Bake in oven for 30 - 35 minutes, until chicken is cooke thouroughly.

Let me know how it turns out! This is the recipie I concocted when my family was eating something I wouldnt! It is tasty!

Curmudgeon said...

I think your problem is that you partially cooked the pizza dough, added the ingrediets and then baked it the rest of the way.

Try stretching or rolling the dough out so that it covers a pizza pan, adding the indgredients and then baking it.

The chains all use precise portions on the ingredients because too much and the pizza doesnt cook and the crust is all soggy. Too little and its like eating bread.

One symptom of too much sauce is that the toppings slide off. So, measure, document and experiement until you find the perfect combination then stay with it!

Anonymous said...

I let the dough rise for several hours, bake it in a pre-heated pan until it is firm enough to slip out and cook directly on the rack until desired crispiness is reached. Works like a charm!