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:
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).
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.
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.
"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.
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:
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.