?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Cook with Kirk: Quattro Formaggi pizza - John C. Kirk

Mar. 29th, 2009

10:30 pm - Cook with Kirk: Quattro Formaggi pizza

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

As I've mentioned before, I delayed going veggie for a while because I didn't like the look of all the weird food that "they" ate: I'd rather have a burger than a risotto. When I did make the switch, I pretty much carried on eating the same stuff as before, particularly with the various meat substitutes that are available.

There's a similar issue for home cooking: several of my friends have given me recipe books, or sent me their own recipes, which is very kind. However, these tend to be recipes for the type of food that I don't normally eat. Arguably I would benefit from a healthier diet, but I'd prefer not to change the food and the preparation method at the same time; for one thing, I won't know what it's supposed to taste like, i.e. if I don't like it then that might just be because I've messed up the recipe.

Anyway, that brings me to pizza, one of my favourite foods. Pizza from a restaurant (or takeaway place) is nicer than something from the supermarket that I've stuck in the oven at home, but it's also more expensive, so I don't eat out as often as I used to. I tried making pizza at home about 10 years ago (when I lived in the Docklands): I didn't follow a recipe, I just bought a pizza base and sauce, then chucked on the toppings that I'd normally eat. (For some reason, I've never seen "sweetcorn/mushroom/pineapple" on a standard menu...) Unfortunately, it didn't turn out very well, mainly because it looked like a pyramid, i.e. I didn't spread the toppings very evenly.

Still, I've seen several pizzas being prepared since then, and Delia has a recipe for Quattro Formaggi pizza, so I decided that it was time to try again. Her recipe includes making the pizza dough from scratch, and I could use the breadmaker to help with that, but I figured that it would be best to use a pre-made pizza base at first, so that I could concentrate on the toppings.

I bought the relevant ingredients from the supermarket, and the good news is that it winds up being significantly cheaper than buying a pre-made pizza: £1.85 for 382g (using ingredients) vs £3.29 for 300g (pre-made). As with the mince pies, I've taken photos to document the process. (As Eduardo said in Extreme Ghostbusters: "I'm a scientist, man!") Unfortunately, they're not amazingly clear; I probably should have used the light in the extractor fan rather than the camera flash. Still, hopefully they convey the basic gist.

I started out with the pre-made pizza base:

Pizza base

This is 10" across, which is exactly what the recipe asked for. However, it doesn't have a raised edge; in fact, it seems to be a bit higher in the middle. That caused me some trouble with the toppings: I didn't want to go right up to the edge because they'd fall off.

"Quickly arrange teaspoonfuls of ricotta here and there all over" Ricotta is a soft cheese, so this was basically a case of splodging it at strategic places (effectively flicking it off the spoon). I wasn't too concerned about doing this quickly, since the base was cold (rather than hot dough from the oven).

Adding ricotta

Next, mozzarella. This was supposed to be 50g, cut into 1 inch slices, so I bought it in a big lump (a bit like a sausage) rather than the grated version. The packet felt pretty weird, a lot like an ice pack. This turned out to be because there was a lot of liquid in the bag as well; maybe the cheese had melted (or equivalent)? I tried to slide the "sausage" out of the bag, and wound up tipping the liquid all over the worktop, which wasn't quite part of the plan, so I mopped that up and tipped the rest of it down the sink. I chopped off a section which was about an inch long, and this turned out to be 82g. I'm guessing that the measurement applies to the diameter of the cylinder's cross-section, since it doesn't sound sensible to put one huge lump on the pizza. However, I'm not sure how thick the slices are supposed to be, so I took a guess at 1cm. I then positioned these slices in the gaps between the ricotta.

Adding mozzarella

Then the gorgonzola. I had the same problem here, since the recipe refers to "1 inch slices", but that's only one dimension out of three, so I just cut it into chunks that looked vaguely sensible, and positioned those on the pizza too.

Adding gorgonzola

"Scatter the parmesan over". This was pretty easy: I just took one teaspoonful at a time, until the mass of the container had dropped by 50g. This turned out to be more than I'd expected, so it was a fairly thick layer, although still concentrated on the centre.

Adding parmesan

Meanwhile, I put a pizza tray in the oven to preheat. It's the first time I've used one of these; normally I put the pizza straight onto the oven shelf, but these are apparently supposed to make it more crispy, and I can see them being more important if you start with dough (which would fall through the gaps in the shelf). I tried to sprinkle it with cornflour, but since the tray is full of holes most of the cornflour fell through onto the hob.

Anyway, after baking the pizza for 10 mins at 230°, I took it out and it looked like this:

Pizza on the tray after cooking

Pizza on the plate

That looks "plausible" as a pizza, for want of a better description, and the toppings had spread out a bit, although there were still some big lumps (not sure whether that was ricotta or mozzerella).

So, the big question: how did it taste? Honestly, not great. It was edible, but I'd be embarrassed to serve it to guests. The base was certainly crispy, in the sense that it was rigid, and that may be the way it's suppose to taste, but I prefer it to be a bit softer. The cheese was also a bit weird, so I'd put this pizza at the bottom of the three (restaurant > supermarket > home-made).

It's possible that it would taste better if I made the dough from scratch, particularly since I could then put a proper rim on it. On the other hand, that also gives more scope for things to go wrong. The pre-made bases are sold in packs of two, and I have plenty of cheese left, so I'll have another go in a couple of days and see whether my next attempt produces the same results (i.e. whether the experiment is repeatable), but I'm not too optimistic.

Ah well, win some lose some.

Tags:

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:elvum
Date:March 29th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
In my experience, pre-made pizza bases are always very stiff, and generally like any other kind of pizza base (restaurant, takeaway, supermarket or home-made). I suspect you'll get better results from breadmaker dough, for which I'd use a solid baking tray (rather than one with holes). Also, four-cheese pizza without any kind of tomato base seems like a bad match for a pre-made base to me - if the base is stiff and dry to start with, it probably needs some kind of wet sauce (eg something tomato-based).
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:March 29th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the advice - just to check, did you mean "unlike" rather than "like"? Also, have you ever tried using a pizza stone?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:elvum
Date:March 29th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I did indeed mean "unlike". :-) I've not tried using a pizza stone, but then I don't make pizza that often... to be honest I'm not sure how useful they'd be simply placed in a domestic oven though - my understanding is that they're supposed to simulate the stone floor of an authentic pizza oven, but I think a far more significant difference is that the latter are typically heated to at least 400 celsius, whereas domestic ovens rarely venture above 250.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:ext_5743
Date:March 30th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
I've not seem quattro-formaggi done without tomato-and-onion sauce before. I can see how it would work with soft, doughy Italian pizza, but with the harder American-style pizza base you had there it's not great.

Recipe for next time:

- one large onion (that's one the size of an apple)
- one standard-sized tin of chopped tomatoes
- two teaspoons of dried oregano
- cooking oil or butter

Cut the onion up into small pieces (~1cm square). Put the oil or butter into a saucepan and heat it up. Put a small piece of onion into the oil. Once the piece sizzles, add the rest and stir round for the next 5-10 minutes until the onion goes soft and golden. Chuck in the tomatoes and the oregano. Bring to the boil and simmer (boil gently) for a minute or two. Now spread the resulting tomato sauce on your pizza base, and add slices of cheese (mozzarella ideally, but anything will do in a pinch), plus whatever other toppings you like.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:gaspodog
Date:March 30th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC)
(Link)
Re: Mozzarella

It comes in two forms. There is the slightly artificial 'pizza cheese' kind, which comes in rubbery blocks, or in pre-grated bags. It melts well and does the stringy thing - it's the kind you get on your takeaway pizza. It's a sort of processed mozzarella - kind of like what Kraft Slices are to real cheddar, except maybe not quite so artificial :) There is, however, nothing wrong with using it if that's what you like - I quite like it actually, but it doesn't come in shuri-friendly form so we tend to get the real stuff.

The authentic form is the kind you got this time - it comes in a squishy white blob, usually stored in a bag of brine (for future reference - this is normal, just snip off the corner of the bag and pour it away before opening the packet the whole way to get at the cheese). This will have a more delicate, milky flavour, but will still achieve a stringy, stretchy texture when melted. You will find this more in pizzerias and places claiming a degree of Italian authenticity. You certainly cant grate it though :-)

Regarding breadmaker pizza dough, I've found it to be quite good. It takes all the work out of making a dough, and whilst it's not the best dough ever, it's pretty good. If you're after a more takeaway (deep pan?) style pizza, then you can lightly oil a shallow cake tin or somesuch to make your pizza in. I've never tried making deep pan though, so I don't know how well it works.

Premade bases from the shop tend to be thin and crunchy - stay away from them if you prefer your pizza thick and squishy ;)

Actually, maybe I'll try the deep pan option sometime this week. If I do, I'll let you know how it turns out :)
(Reply) (Thread)
From:ext_5743
Date:March 30th, 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
(Link)
I make pizza dough in my breadmaker pretty regularly - in fact, it's on the menu for tonight - but I just make a big rough square of dough on a baking sheet and the result is a nice doughy base. Mmm...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:ext_5743
Date:March 31st, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Last night's pizza went a bit doughy, but that's partly because I forgot to preheat the oven. D'oh.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:March 31st, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
D'oh.

Aargh!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:April 5th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What type of flour do you use for that? My breadmaker manual says that you should always use strong flour, but Delia recommends plain flour for pizza dough.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:shuripentu
Date:April 5th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
If your breadmaker has a recipe, then adhere to it when using the breadmaker, at least until you have enough experience with it to be confident experimenting.

Whatever planet Delia's on, I suspect it doesn't spin as nicely if you're not doing things her way, which includes making the dough by hand.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:April 5th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I bought a 2lb loaf tin at the supermarket yesterday: the idea is that I can make the dough in the breadmaker, then transfer it to the tin and bake it in the oven. This will act as a transition, before I'm confident about doing the kneading etc. myself.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:shuripentu
Date:March 30th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Looking at the recipe, I think it only works if you start with good, fresh dough. It's essentially a glorified cheese on toast, and making it with a supermarket pizza base would be like making cheese on toast with stale bread. As for the cheeses, the combination in the recipe is apparently Delia's preference; if you don't like the taste, you can try different ones next time. :)

Incidentally, where pizza is concerned, I reckon the most important things are the dough and the sauce. Most toppings only need to be sliced and arranged, so experimentation is easy (and potentially fun). It's the dough and the sauce that are more technically challenging, and also IMO more important to get right. So use your breadmaker; it ought to have a pizza dough setting and accompanying recipe.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:susannahf
Date:March 30th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That does sound like a pretty wierd pizza to me (so much so that I checked you hadn't missed a bit of the recipe). supermarket pizza bases are usually pretty horrid, but I've eaten MPJs breadmaker pizza base and it was very nice (deep-crust style rather than thin and crispy), so I'd go for experimenting with pizza bases, and just simple toppings (e.g. jar of pizza sauce and grated cheese). Then, as you get more confident, you can start experimenting with toppings too.
If you want easy, reliable recipes for other things you like to eat, I'm sure if you posted a request then people would give useful replies.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)