Homemade French Bread Pizza

French Bread Pizza

It’s time to make a few more pizzas at home. I wondered what type of bread can be used to make ‘french bread pizza’ like you see in the frozen food section at your local grocery. I also wanted to try out my toaster oven we bought several years ago but never used. So I bought a long loaf of french bread and looked for some recipes or tips. I simply cut off 8″ of the loaf and cut it lengthwise. One recipe mentioned scooping out some of the bread if you find it too thick, but I didn’t do that. Just loaded the inside of each half with some pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I think I baked it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for maybe 10-12 minutes, I don’t quite remember. The toaster oven has a clear front window so I was able to check when the cheese was melted.

french bread pizza

French Bread Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

I also made a traditional pizza using a recipe I found in a book we had lying around: The Totally Pizza Cookbook by Helene Siegel. It called for corn meal in the dough, and I thought that might give it a pretty good flavor. The first one I made had a very thin crust and it was OK. Unfortunately the second half of the dough I put in the freezer since I wasn’t able to make it within a day. I think that made it really elastic and it was really hard to roll out. But the final product wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure if I like the crust that much though. I think pictured below is the first pizza.

pepperoni pizza

Difference Between Calzone and Stromboli

I always forget the difference between a calzone and a stromboli. Google-ing the issue reveals that there is quite some confusion on the issue.

A calzone is basically a pizza dough folded over, half moon-like, that is stuffed with meat(s) and cheese(s). It’s common to have ricotta cheese instead of mozzerella, and sauce served on the side. They can also be called ‘inside-out’ or ‘turnover’ pizzas.

Etymology – Calzoni (plural) means “pants” or “trousers” – since one resembles a pant leg of the wide, billowing trousers that were worn in the 18th century.

Calzone seen on Seriously Good website
Calzone Source: Seriously Good website

A stromboli is stuffed with meat(s) and cheese(s) but rolled, resulting in more of a tube or loaf shape. They can also be called pizza rolls.

Etymology — Stromboli is a volcano and an island in Sicilia in Italy. (Not sure how that relates to the dish)

Stromboli available at Dominick's Pizza
Stromboli Source: Dominick’s pizza in NJ

From what I gather, it’s the shape of the dough rather than the ingredients that make the difference between the two. You can usually use whatever ingredients sound good, however flatter ingredients will work best. Forum posts indicate that the dishes and terminology are particular to a certain areas of the US, and of course can differ from the original Italian versions of the dishes. A good discussion with pictures of stromboli can be found on the PizzaMaking.com forum. Some restaurants serve one or the other.

I attempted to make a calzone a few months ago, and didn’t realize that it needed to be cooked differently. I think it needs to be at a lower temperature (maybe 450?) for longer than a regular pizza. It turned out kind of dough-y. I’ll have to try again and post some pictures.

What are your opinions on a calzone vs. stromboli? Post links to your own pictures!

Difference Between Bread Dough vs Pizza Dough

I got out our bread maker the other day and was wondering how making bread differs from making pizza dough. It turns out that the recipe it called for was very similar to the one I’ve been using for pizza dough: 3/4 cup water, 4 tsp sugar, and 2 1/4 cups flour; 1 tsp salt vs. 1/2 tsp salt; 4 tsp oil vs. 1 tsp olive oil; 1.5 teaspoons active dry yeast vs. 1 tsp. Instead of kneading and rising one time, the process for the bread machine is:
1st Knead: 10 min; 1st Rise 20 min; 2nd knead 15 min; 2nd Rise 20 min; rest 30 sec; Final rise 55 min; bake time 60 min. I’m not sure what temperature it bakes at, but I can be pretty sure it’s not 475 degrees like pizza. Probably only 325 or 350.

Water Percentage and Ratio

A quick search for pizza dough vs bread dough resulted in a couple articles:
Dough Ingredients – talks about the ratio of water to flour weight as a percentage. Bread has 58 to 60 percent water (moist), while pizza dough is ‘lean’ and has 40 to 60 percent water. 40 percent would result in a stiff dough. A TalkFood forum I found mentions that you can add milk, eggs, or butter to bread to tenderize it, which aren’t used for pizza dough.

Well, I tried the basic white bread recipe on the basic setting, not dough setting. But I think it mixed the dough better than my Kitchenaid mixer! The kneading blade is on the bottom, so it didn’t miss any on the bottom; and the dough pulled away from the sides better – I didn’t have to open it up and scrape down the sides! Maybe being enclosed helped, and the lack of humidity in my kitchen is affecting the pizza dough kneading process. I’ve noticed that kneading by hand removes a lot of moisture, and in the mixing bowl it seems to keep a lot of the moisture and require much more flour. Perhaps using the bread maker will be a happy medium.

Fresh Baked White Bread

Water Hardness

The first article talks about the effect of water hardness or softness. The minerals calcium and magnesium found in water help to strengthen gluten strands. Soft water doesn’t have enough minerals and results in soft, sticky dough. Hard water has too many minerals and results in too tough gluten, and also can hinder the rise of the dough. You can counteract it by adding more yeast and more yeast food (sugar). I’m not sure what my water hardness is, it may be beneficial to test it.

Ingredients Affect Yeast

My bread maker instructions explain about the effect of sugar and salt, and other ingredients on yeast too. Salt regulates yeast by making it work more slowly; without it the dough could rise too fast and unevenly.

Making Pizza Sauce – Need to Reduce it?

I’ve come across a few recipes for pizza sauce recently.

On Serious Eats, J. Kenji provides a recipe I’d like to try and explains the science behind the recipe. http://www.seriouseats.com – new-york-style-pizza-sauce

Also on that website are a few videos on making the sauce. Just search for Pizza Sauce or see the Related Videos section on the page above. Here’s one that also includes reducing the sauce over heat. Kudos to Chef John of Foodwishes on Serious Eats for this video.

Reducing Pizza Sauce

I made a sauce from a cook book I have, and I don’t think it called for reducing it. So I wonder, do you need to reduce your pizza sauce? I would think it brings out a lot of the flavor and removes extra water so the flavors are concentrated. Which sounds good to me! I’ll have to try it.

I also wonder about the science behind recipes. For example, what does sugar and salt do to combat the acidity of the tomatoes? If you find your sauce is too ‘tomato-y’, what do you do to correct it?

Secrets to Making Great Pizza

As you may have realized, I would like to learn how to make great pizza at home. I will be compiling a list of external links and tips in the Learn page. Today I came across a few websites that help you make your own pizza; some are free but some just want you to buy a product. Here they are.

Let me know if I missed any good ones!!

The Foundation of Pizza – How to make the dough!

There is both an art and science to making pizzas, especially concerning the dough. Two people could follow the same recipe and still come up with vastly different results.  I’ve recently started making my own dough at home, and I’m lucky to even see the same result twice!  Things you’ll need to think about are: the type of flour, yeast/flour/water ratio, method and duration of kneading, duration of rising, retarding and proofing, method of rolling out the dough, type of pan used, temperature of oven, and baking time.

First, here is a basic recipe for a 14″ pizza dough.

3/4 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. regular olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. active dry yeast
2 1/4-3 c. flour

Mix the sugar, olive oil, salt, and yeast in the warm water. Let sit for a few minutes for the yeast to activate.
Add about 2 1/4 cups flour and mix with a spoon until everything starts to hold together.
Knead by hand or stand mixer for 15 minutes, adding flour or water as necessary so that it is somewhat sticky but does not stick to your hands (your hands should remain relatively clean).
Form dough into a ball and place in bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
When it is about doubled in size, punch back down and form into a ball.
Place in fridge, loosely covered, for 1-2 days. This is called retarding the dough. You can use a tupperware container, or put in a plastic bag and fold the open end underneath the dough ball. If pressed for time, you can skip this step.
It is now ready to be rolled out, covered with toppings, and baked.

Things to consider:

  • If you use Instant dry yeast instead of active dry, it does not need to be activated and you won’t need as much – about 3/4 tsp.
  • It’s less laborious to use a mixer to knead, but it’s been my experience that it’s hard to monitor the consistency of water/flour ratio, and seems that it takes more flour to prevent it from being too sticky. Occasionally you’ll need to stop the mixer to re-form dough into a ball and scrape the sides, especially if you don’t mix the water and flour before adding to the mixer.  A fair amount of the flour seemed to stay on the side of the bowl. I would almost recommend mixing it by hand for a little bit until you get close to the right consistency, then use the mixer to do the heavy kneading.
  • You can place the dough in a gallon size ziploc bag and fold the open end underneath itself as it rises for an hour to hour and a half. Keep in a warm place (cover with a towel).
  • The length of time the dough is in the fridge can affect the amount it rises in the oven. 6-8 hours should work well to allow the gluten to strengthen and develop, but not exhaust it. See this article at SeriousEats.com for an excellent explanation.
  • After retardation, you can let it defrost at room temperature for up to an hour before rolling out and baking.

Please comment with your advice on the first step of making dough!