by Emma Christensen
Make your own frozen pizzas at home
Frozen pizzas have their time and place, particularly as back-up meals when we don't have time to shop or as easy heat-and-serve dinners for babysitters. There's nothing wrong with a good store-bought frozen pizza in these situations, but making your own homemade frozen pizzas from scratch will probably save you some pennies -- plus you get exactly the toppings you want! It's easy to do. With just two little tricks, you can fill your freezer with all the made-ahead frozen pizzas you could ever want.
The first trick is to parbake the crust, which sounds more complicated than it really is. Parbaking really just means you partially bake the crust before topping and freezing it. This ensures an extra-crisp crust and zero sogginess upon final baking.
The second trick is to wrap the parbaked and topped pizzas first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. This double layer protects pizzas and their toppings from drying out in the freezer, which leads to freezer burn and a less-than-stellar pizza. Wrapped this way, pizzas can be kept frozen for up to three months.
Whenever I'm planning a pizza night, I'll often prepare extra dough and toppings. A few pizzas get baked straight-away for dinner and the rest get frozen for later meals. These pizzas are insurance against times I run out of time or motivation to make a full meal. If I know a particularly busy time is coming up, I'll make sure I have a good supply of pizzas along with my other freezer meals to see me through.
Frozen pizzas also make a great food gift to give new parents too busy to cook or students heading back to school. Smaller individual-sized pizzas are a good after-school snack for kids still living at home -- older children can even heat their own pizzas.
Homemade Frozen Pizza recipe
Makes one large pizza or two individual pizzas
1 pound pizza dough, store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
1/2 to 1 cup sauce: tomato sauce or other spread
2 to 3 cups other toppings: sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, pepperoni, cooked sausage, cooked bacon, diced peppers, leftover vegetables or any other favorite toppings
1 to 2 cups (8-16 ounces) cheese, shredded or sliced: mozzarella, Monterey jack, provolone, fontina, or any other favorite
Baking stone (or baking sheet)
Pre-heat the oven to
Divide the pizza dough in half to make two individual pizzas, if desired. Place the ball of dough in the middle of a piece of parchment paper. Roll it out to your preferred thinness. If the dough starts to shrink back and crinkle the paper, let it rest for a few minutes and then try rolling it out again. If making two individual pizzas, repeat with the second round of dough.
Slide the pizza rounds on the parchment sheets onto the pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes until the rounds are puffy and dry on the top, but still very pale.
Remove the parchment from beneath the pizza rounds and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
When cool, top the rounds as you would if you were going to bake them right away: spread some sauce on the pizzas, add toppings, and sprinkle cheese over the top. Note: pizza rounds can also be frozen un-topped.
Place the pizzas on a baking sheet and freeze, uncovered, until solid, about 3 hours.
Once frozen, remove the pizzas from the freezer and wrap them first in plastic wrap. Write the pizza toppings on a piece of masking tape and stick the label to the plastic wrap. Then, wrap the pizzas in a layer of aluminum foil. The double layer protects the pizzas from drying out in the freezer.
Freeze for pizzas for up to three months.
When ready to eat eat the pizzas, preheat the oven to 550 F (or the temperature at which you normally cook your pizzas). If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven as it heats; frozen pizzas can also be baked on the foil used to wrap them. When the oven has heated, unwrap the pizzas and slide into the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is dark brown and the cheese in the center of the pizza is bubbly. Eat immediately.
Homemade Thin Pizza Crust
Makes dough for two 10-inch pizzas
3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Set the oven to 450 F (for parbaking; 500 F or higher if baking pizza directly) or as hot as it will go and let it heat for at least a half an hour before baking. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the lower-middle part of the oven now.
Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast. The mixture should look like thin miso soup. Add the flour and salt to the bowl, and mix until you've formed a shaggy dough.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface along with any loose flour still in the bowl. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth.
If you have time at this point, you can let the dough rise until you need it or until doubled in bulk (about an hour and a half). After rising, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for up to three days.
Cover the dough with the upside-down mixing bowl or a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the pizza toppings.
When ready to make the pizza, tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Divide the dough in two with a bench scraper. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk with your hands and lay it on the parchment paper.
Work from the middle of the dough outwards, using the heel of your hand to gently press and stretch the dough until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick or less. For an extra-thin crust, roll it with a rolling pin. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for five minutes and then continue rolling.
The dough will stick to the parchment paper, making it easier for you to roll out, and the pizza is baked while still on the parchment. As it cooks, the dough will release from the parchment, and you can slide the paper out midway through cooking.
Pizza Recipe, American Cuisine