Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trader Joe's pizza dough FAIL!

 I bought two bags of ready-to-use basil & garlic pizza dough from Trader Joe's. My daughter made a decent vegan pizza using it the other night although she had to cook it for quite a bit longer than 6-8 minutes that the package suggests. After spending the day forgetting to eat (while writing about food!) I decided to make myself a pizza and take the opportunity to test out a recipe for faux Parmesan cheese in the not-so-charmingly titled How It All Vegan! Irresistable Recipes for an Animal Free Diet by the quite charming duo of Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. It is a simple recipe so I don't think they'll mind me re-printing it here (I hope--maybe I shouldn't have made the crack about the title). I have another annoying story about a fail with my new Kitchenaid immersion blender when I'm done with the pizza (it relates as you'll see).

Faux Parmesan Cheese
1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
In a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder, grind the yeast, sesame seeds, and salt until completely milled. Store in a clean, dry continer with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 1/2 cup.

So far, so good. I already had some leftover marinade from my daughter's pizza the other night (very basic---garlic, basil, canned tomatoes and simmer 'til reduced a bit) so I stretched out the dough, which I had already allowed to rest quite a bit having taken it out the night before, after which I decided I wanted nachos instead, thus put it in the cupboard to use for the next day (today). I sprinkled my baking sheet with semolina flour (lacking regular cornmeal) which I know my daughter used successfully a few nights ago. The dough stretched easily. Perhaps a bit too easily in the middle where a thin spot developed. I suspect that this is where the problem lies. Since there wasn't an actual tear, I decided to let the stretched crust rest in hopes that the thin spot would even out a tad.

In the meantime I set out to prepare my faux Parmesan. Since the recipe calls for such a small amount and since my Waring Pro blender currently needs a part, I decided to use my new toy. A Kitchenaid immersion blender with a mini-food processor attachment. I had already used it on the day I received it to make a quickie feel-better soup for my husband and it worked a treat. It should handle a few sesame seeds no problem. Right?

Wrong! First off, let me just say, this thing is super. It is extremely durable feeling, with a shipping weight (for just the blender) of 4 lbs as compared to the Cuisinart model which has a 3 lb shipping weight. The cord is of heavy duty, non-twisting variety. It has 9 power settings (don't ask me why not 10---maybe the designer loves Spinal Tap?).


I could not get the damned seeds to mill. They just whirred around the top of the little bowl while the yeast flakes got finer and finer at the bottom. I cleared the blade assembly of any particles that may have been keeping it from spinning properly....about five times. Finally, I added another tablespoon or so of sesame seeds hoping that a larger volume would get things moving. The seeds did eventually grind up a little bit. Enough that I decided I didn't mind a few obvious seeds on my pizza since only I and my family would be eating it.

I spread some marina on the prepared crust, sprinkled on the cheese and....(Wait! While typing this I realized where the fail came in. I'll finish my thought and all will be explained)...popped the pizza in a 425 degree oven and set the timer for 10 minutes, remembering Ivy's experience with the shorter cooking time.
Pizza topped with "Parmesan" and ready for the oven.

As you can see from the following photos it was a mess. I have, on occasion, had a pizza crust stick to the pan a bit, but never anything a thin spatula and a little patience couldn't fix. For homemade pizza, I can ignore a little tear in a small section. My husband can eat that piece.

This time, when I've planned a blog entry around a quick, yet tasty, convenience food,  the entire middle section had totally thinned out, was practically glued to the pan, yet managed to be raw on top. As Alton Brown would say, not good eats. 
My efforts to pry the pizza off the pan with a spatula resulted in a big mess. My husband will probably eat those pieces that didn't stick.

RAW DOUGH +  BOTTOM STUCK TO PAN LIKE EPOXY=SUPREME FAIL!! *note the sesame seeds looking not a little unpleasant

At first I thought it might somehow be related to my having left it in the cupboard all night, although how a cool overnight rise would cause it to stick to the pan was not something I could explain. As I typed the bit about spreading on the marina I realized that my mistake was in spreading the sauce on before I made the 'cheese'.  Between fussing with the blender and futzing with my camera settings (I haven't used my Nikon D40 in over a year) the already over-stretched in the middle dough was sitting there, absorbing the wet marinara. I think some of the sauce actually seeped through the dough and on to the pan, thus causing the epic failure that was meant to be a late lunch for me.

Here are some reviews for Trader Giotto's Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough at TraderJoe' The consensus seems to be that for .99 cents it's a good deal for the convenience of freshly made pizza crust. However, a few have advised pre-baking the crust for about 6-8 minutes before adding the toppings and putting it back in for the final bake.

For my taste, much as I love basil, too much of it can overpower any other flavors, and such is the case with this product. I think I might prefer this dough for soft bread sticks to eat with something simple like tomato soup.

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