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Pre-baking pizza crust?

ttoommyy Oct 5, 2010 01:27 PM

I'm having a party this weekend and I plan to make about six 12" pizzas during the course of the evening. Since I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen for a good part of the night, can I pre-bake the crust and then add sauce and toppings during the party and finish baking it then? If you have done this, any tips or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

  1. ttoommyy Oct 10, 2010 08:46 AM

    The party was last night and my brother and I successfully turned out six pizzas without pre-baking the crusts: 2 with melted asiago/parmigiano reggiano and topped with prosciutto after baking (the overall favorite); 2 with asiago, tomato sauce and sopressata; and 2 Margherita. Thanks to all who gave opinions, tips and encouragement!

    8 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy
      Phurstluv Oct 10, 2010 05:49 PM

      Sounds really good, ttoommyy, good show!

      1. re: ttoommyy
        alkapal Oct 11, 2010 05:46 AM

        please, why didn't you try at least one or two just par-baked for a crispy crust? i'm just curious....

        how were the pizza crusts, anyway? were they crispy, chewy, yeasty, doughy, thin? your report doesn't say anything about the amount of sauce, the order of ingredients, a dough recipe (did i miss it upthread?), baking time?

        i'm just trying to get the best out of someone else's cooking experience here. thanks.

        1. re: alkapal
          ttoommyy Oct 11, 2010 05:57 AM

          "how were the pizza crusts, anyway? were they crispy, chewy, yeasty, doughy, thin?"
          A bit crispy with a nice chew.

          "the amount of sauce" I'd say about 1/3 cup for a 13" pizza.

          "the order of ingredients" You got me there...I was just tossing stuff on to feed a hungry crowd! lol

          "a dough recipe" Gotta admit I went the store-bought route. Can't remember the brand, but the dough rose beautifully. Let the flogging begin! lol

          1. re: ttoommyy
            alkapal Oct 11, 2010 06:02 AM

            thanks. 13" was a decent size, too. i like the toppings.

            1. re: ttoommyy
              Soop Oct 11, 2010 07:14 AM

              Crispy with a bit of chew is what I like. Perfect.

              The order of the ingredients is something you might want to look into next time: For my favorite topping, I do sauce, onions if using, parma ham, mozzerella, and then torn basil after it comes out.

              It helps the mozzerella melt, and though many people add ham after, I like the slight caremilization it gives to the exposed ham. And basil loses its flavour after cooking.

              1. re: Soop
                tommy Oct 12, 2010 08:12 PM

                Ham helps mozzarella melt?

                1. re: tommy
                  Soop Oct 13, 2010 01:59 AM

                  How would ham help mozzerella melt?

                  No, the order of the ingredients, with the mozzerella on top.

                  1. re: tommy
                    ttoommyy Oct 13, 2010 06:43 AM

                    Well if the ham is particularly fetching and the mozzarella is a fool for good looks...


          2. alkapal Oct 8, 2010 07:00 AM

            since you are making several, try the crust both ways! have a fun taste test.

            1. alkapal Oct 8, 2010 06:22 AM

              Yes! You can partially pre-bake the pizza crust [par-bake] and let it cool, then add toppings and finish off the baking. It'll give you a crispy crust. I learned the technique from Sara Moulton, and mentioned it on my "Chef Tips" thread. She learned it from pizza experts for a crispy crust.

              Here is her information: """Making this pizza is a breeze. The dough takes just 6 minutes to prepare, and while it’s rising, you can throw together the quick cream sauce and measure out the rest of the ingredients. Please note the two unusual pizza-making tricks here:
              1. Roll out the dough on a lightly oiled surface, not a lightly floured one.
              2. Prebake the rolled-out dough before you put on the toppings. This will give you a much crisper crust.
              . Place 1 sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 3 minutes, or until set but not browned.
              Remove the baking sheet from the oven ..... Let the crust[] cool on the baking sheet[] for 5 minutes before topping [and then finishing baking].""""

              1. ttoommyy Oct 7, 2010 02:03 PM

                I've decided to enlist my brother's help during the party and have him roll out the dough and pan it while I do the toppings and man the oven. Thanks to everyone who answered!

                1. s
                  scott123 Oct 6, 2010 04:24 PM

                  Par baking pizza crusts is for losers :)

                  As dough bakes, it gives off steam. This steam helps transfer heat to the cheese so it bubbles/gives off it's fat/flavor. Parbaking drives all this steam off, leaving only pockets of air. Air is a superior insulator. With a par baked crust, you never get the right amount of heat coming up from the crust to bubble the cheese properly. You can brown the cheese from above, but you will never get it to bubble/oil off properly.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: scott123
                    Soop Oct 7, 2010 02:17 AM

                    Steam is water in a gas form. A tomato sauce will contain water too. But if you have too much water, or even too much steam if it gets trapped under toppings, you end up with a soggy pizza.

                    1. re: Soop
                      scott123 Oct 7, 2010 09:54 AM

                      I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. Are you saying that water in the dough and water in the sauce can combine to create 'too much steam' and create a 'soggy' crust? Pizza has historically always been moist where the sauce meets the dough. It takes on a kind of a noodle/dumpling like quality, and, if the pizza is properly cooked and has the right amount of sauce, this small noodle layer doesn't penetrate the crust more than a fraction of an inch.

                      High water content raw veggies, such as mushrooms, can wreak havoc on a crust if not pre-cooked, but parbaking is not the answer to 'soggy' pizza. Imo, if you avoid the layer between the sauce and the crust by par baking, it's no longer pizza. That layer defines the product.

                      1. re: scott123
                        Soop Oct 8, 2010 02:12 AM

                        "That layer defines the product."

                        I wouldn't say so. Historically, Neopolitan style pizzas have toppings with compatitively little water content - with pieces of whole tomato and chunks of mozzeralla rather than a tomato sauce with toppings.

                        All pizza really is is a flatbread with toppings on it, and the gummy layer is just a side effect of slightly wetter toppings, but it doesn't need to be there at all. And unless you have a wood-fired oven, it's fairly hard to get the balance of a hot enough oven and dry enough toppings, even when you're topping the thing in 30 seconds and putting it from the peel, straight into the oven onto a stone that's been heating up on max for 30 minutes +.

                        It's much easier to achieve a decent pizza with par-baking. And if you don't have a WFO, it's not exactly cheating.

                        1. re: Soop
                          tommy Oct 8, 2010 06:55 AM

                          "It's much easier to achieve a decent pizza with par-baking."

                          I think you'll find that there are a lot of people who don't agree with this statement.

                          1. re: tommy
                            Soop Oct 8, 2010 07:49 AM

                            A lot of people who have spent a LOT of time figuring out how to do it.

                            I've done a lot of research into pizza too, although it's not running into the hundreds or even thousands of pizzas made by some affictionados, but when you look at the factors that can make or break a pizza - including things like ~0.5% hydration, room temp, dough temp etc etc etc - yes you can do everything very precisely and end up, even then, not with the same pizza you made yesterday, but at least something very similar.

                            However, if you want to just pour ingredients into a bowl, stretch out a base, and use a ladle of tomato sauce and a few toppings, less can go wrong if you par-bake.

                            For me, it's never really been about perfection, and even without measuring my ingredients, most of my effort goes into making a good tasting dough.

                            I should point out that the pizza I favour is a kind of bastardisation of a neopolitan, which is stretched from a ball the size of my fist into a ~12" pizza. It can be almost thin enough to read newsprint through, which can also give problems getting it from the peel to the oven if the moisture seeps through to the peel. Sometimes I top it anyway just for the craic, but I have to say, even when it all goes right, there's little difference between the two.

                            1. re: Soop
                              chowser Oct 8, 2010 07:54 AM

                              That's why I use parchment--just slide it and the pizza from the peel. Easy.

                              1. re: chowser
                                Soop Oct 8, 2010 08:00 AM

                                I've done that before, and yanked it out halfway, but .. I dunno, it kind of annoys me

                                1. re: chowser
                                  alkapal Oct 9, 2010 04:35 AM

                                  smart, chowser!

                                2. re: Soop
                                  ESNY Oct 8, 2010 07:55 AM

                                  In my opinion when you prebake a crust, it ceases being pizza and becomes basically toast that you top like a pizza. It does taste the same. I have a regular old oven and have no problems making pizza in it without getting a soupy gummy center. If you use a dry enough sauce and take the same to blot out the extra moisture for fresh mozzarella (assuming you use it) its not terribly difficult. I'm assuming most people that have a problem either dont use a high enough temp in the oven, mine preheats at 550, or overloads the pizza with the kitchen sink approach

                                  1. re: ESNY
                                    Soop Oct 8, 2010 08:10 AM

                                    If it looks the same as pizza, and tastes the same as pizza, then I'll happily eat it place of pizza no matter what it's called.

                                    The "dry enough sauce" is a big part of the problem; as I found when reducing a tomato sauce to what I considered the right consistency, it took away the freshness of the tomato. Most of the time, I use a fresh-but-bought pasta sauce, but even after trying all of them, the best one is a little damp for my liking. Tastes great though. I use a ladle-full and spread it with the back of the ladle.

                                    I use the best buffalo mozzerella available to me, which is £3 for one ball, but it really is a huge difference in taste, and I cut it into slices and blot on a tea-towel.

                                    Lastly, my old "pizza stone" was a granite worktop saver, which cracked a while back, and I'll be replacing it with a cordeirite kiln shelf soon, but I pre-heated the oven at max (gas mark 9) for at least 30 minutes, with the stone about an inch from the roof of the oven (best results after testing).

                                    The only thing it could conceivably be (IMO) is the style of pizza I'm making or the water content of the sauce. But since it all works fine with par-baking, it doesn't matter.

                                    I'll see if I can dig out a video to give you an idea

                                    *edit* here, not the best job, but it gives you the idea:

                                    1. re: Soop
                                      ESNY Oct 8, 2010 08:34 AM

                                      I don't use a cooked sauce for my pizzas. I take whole canned tomatoes, drain the packing liquid, crush them by hand and drain in a colander for about 5-10 minutes and then blend them. This gets rid of the excess liquid. During the summer, I've also used whole sliced heirloom tomatoes and just slice and blot dry and have never had too much liquid exude.

                                      After preheating my stone for an hour at 550 degrees, I measure the temp of my stone at over 600 deg (getting an infrared thermometer was the best $30 ever). I then turn on the broiler (which is on the top of my oven) and put my pie on the stone. This takes about 2-3 minutes top to cook completely, although I have to watch carefully too make sure the broiler doesn't switch off.

                                      But all that matters is that you are happy with your results.

                                      1. re: ESNY
                                        Soop Oct 8, 2010 08:42 AM

                                        I might try that with the canned tomatoes. Actually, come to think of it, I actually found some canned San Marzano's which I've never seen in this country before, so I bought 3 cans. I don't own a blender, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

                                        I was thinking about buying an infrared pryometer, maybe I'll treat myself when I get the next stone. Is your broiler in the same section of oven, or is it in a seperate compartment?

                                        1. re: Soop
                                          ESNY Oct 8, 2010 09:37 AM

                                          Yup, same compartment, I have a gas oven/broiler with the broiler element on the top, so when using the broiler for pizza, I put the stone on a rack about 5 inches from the element.

                                          In the past, I used to just put the stone on the lowest rack and use the oven at 550, which took about 8-10 minutes and I was never happy with the results. And once I read about using the broiler, i tried it and never went back.

                                          Regarding the tomatoes, very rarely i'll cook the drained tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper and maybe some sugar, if needed, But I never cook it more than 5-10 minutes.

                                          1. re: ESNY
                                            Soop Oct 11, 2010 05:11 AM

                                            Ah, mine is in a different compartment, so I doubt it would make much difference.

                                  2. re: Soop
                                    tommy Oct 8, 2010 08:04 AM

                                    If you want to just pour ingredients into a bowl, stretch out a base, and use a ladle of tomato sauce and a few toppings, with the lack-of-thought and consideration that this suggests, you're likely not making decent pizza to begin with.

                                    1. re: tommy
                                      Soop Oct 8, 2010 08:17 AM

                                      Well, you'll just have to take my word for it that it turns out fine.

                                      1. re: Soop
                                        tommy Oct 8, 2010 08:23 AM

                                        I was referring to the general "you." However, I've seen your pizza.

                                        1. re: tommy
                                          Soop Oct 8, 2010 08:27 AM

                                          9___9 I still can't figure out if you're insulting my pizza :D

                                          1. re: Soop
                                            tommy Oct 8, 2010 08:39 AM

                                            I am not. Just saying I've read about your approach and seen the results. As ESNY says, as long as you're happy, that's all that matters.

                                            1. re: tommy
                                              alkapal Oct 9, 2010 04:37 AM

                                              tommy, is that a plunger in your martini?

                        2. d
                          DukeOfSuffolk Oct 6, 2010 01:26 PM

                          sure you can, they call this par baking. I used to do this when I used the broiler to make pizza crust - I'd put the dough under the broiler, let it cook, then flip it over, then after 30-50 seconds I'd put toppings on the top.

                          still, I'd assemble all the pizzas then get the oven real hot - if the oven is hot they won't take long at all to cook, shouldn't be too time consuming to insert and remove

                          1. r
                            rhoneranger Oct 6, 2010 11:44 AM

                            I make pizza(thin crust) every week. I quite often par bake crusts and put them in the freezer. Sure they aren't as perfect as fresh pizza but they are quite a bit better than anything around me. I stretch the dough, grate fresh parm on the crust and drizzle olive oil on the cheese. This creates a barrier for when you put toppings on and also keeps the top of the crust from cooking too quickly. Use the highest oven temp possible.

                            1. chowser Oct 6, 2010 04:59 AM

                              Would you consider making focaccia pizza? I make mine in advance, have them refrigerated overnight. Top with toppings in the morning, then bake before everyone gets there.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: chowser
                                ttoommyy Oct 6, 2010 05:45 AM

                                Sounds interesting. Not sure what you mean by "focaccia pizza" though. Can you elaborate? Thanks chowser.

                                1. re: ttoommyy
                                  chowser Oct 6, 2010 05:57 AM

                                  It's thick crust "pizza". I use Peter Reinhart's focaccia recipe (have doubled it but it does serve a lot).


                                  The longer the rise, the better. I do the second rise the night before I plan to bake it, in the trays. I should have gone into more detail in my last post. If the toppings can be baked for half an hour, I'll top them in the morning and then put it back in the refrigerator. Remove about an hour before baking. But, I find with things like tomato sauce and mozzarella, it works better to bake the focaccia half way, add toppings and then finish it.

                                  It's a great, hearty pizza but nothing like the thin curst, charred ones--just as good but different.

                                  1. re: chowser
                                    chowser Oct 6, 2010 06:01 AM

                                    I just pulled out Bread Baker's Apprentice. Reinhart suggests toppings (since mine were more trial by error):

                                    pre-proof: sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, walnuts, pine nuts, sauteed mushrooms, red or green peppers, onions

                                    pre-bake: high moisture cheeses (blue cheese, fresh mozzarella, feta), cooked ground meat or meat strips, coarse salt, sugar

                                    during bake: dry/semi hard cheeses (parm, reg mozzarella, jack, cheddar, swiss)

                                    1. re: chowser
                                      ttoommyy Oct 6, 2010 08:06 AM


                                    2. re: chowser
                                      ttoommyy Oct 6, 2010 08:07 AM

                                      Thanks for all the great info chowser, this looks like it may be a good alternative.

                                      And thanks to all the others who answered...lots of good info and tips here. I appreciate all the responses.

                                      1. re: chowser
                                        ESNY Oct 6, 2010 08:29 AM

                                        I make my square pizza with Reinhart's focaccia dough as well. It takes really well to reheating (the fully cooked pies), possibly even better than the initial bake. It might be a function of the pan i'm using, but I never get the bottom as crispy as I want on the initial bake, even though its nice and golden brown, but on the reheat, its crisps up perfectly and gives its a nice textural contrast to the chewy dough.

                                        Also, as I mention above, I put the cheese on first and then the sauce and don't see a need to put the cheese and sauce on halfway through baking.

                                        1. re: ESNY
                                          chowser Oct 6, 2010 11:59 AM

                                          How do you rebake it? As you said with yours, my bottom crust isn't that crusty since I bake it in a half sheet pan or tall cake pan, stainless steel. I'm thinking I could remove it, after baking and finish it on tiles on high to get that crust, as you do.

                                          I started doing this a few years ago and I can't remember why I started putting certain toppings on at the midpoint, except that it wasn't turning out the way I wanted. But, I can't remember why at this point, just got into the habit. I have done goat cheese, figs, caramelized onions and prosciutto where I put the first three on before and prosciutto near the end so the prosciutto just got hot but not dried.

                                          1. re: chowser
                                            ESNY Oct 6, 2010 12:44 PM

                                            I also use a half sheet pan. I don't rebake it but noticed that the crunch on the leftover slices is much better than the initial slices. I reheat in the oven on my stone. preheat the stone at 450 and put the slices on the stone till the slices are hot, maybe 5-7 minutes. Get's a nice crust on the bottom and even more golden brown.

                                            I think next time I make it, a few minutes before the end of baking, I may take it out of the sheet pan and cook it the last few minutes directly on the stone.

                                            Attached are a few pics of my last pie. A hot sausage and hot hungarian wax pepper/jalapeno pie.

                                            1. re: ESNY
                                              chowser Oct 7, 2010 03:41 AM

                                              Nice shots/pizza! Great idea on reheating pizza--I'll give that a try next time. Sure would beat the microwave.

                                  2. Soop Oct 6, 2010 01:45 AM

                                    Depends how you make it, but yeah I do with mine anyway, just to get the base cooked through sometimes.

                                    1. tommy Oct 5, 2010 05:14 PM

                                      Have you made pizza before in a style that you prefer? I'm guessing that pre-baked crusts won't produce very good pizza. I make pizza probably once a week, and I rarely do it when I have to make more than 4 or 6, and that reason is because the quality drops. I'm better off making burgers or something else that I can make very well for a crowd. If you're compromising your product, why bother? If you don't mind how pre-baked crust tastes, then go right ahead.

                                      But has been suggested, certainly do a test run. I tend to avoid experimenting on guests (other than those who demand it).

                                      1. Phurstluv Oct 5, 2010 04:40 PM

                                        I agree with fourunder.

                                        And, if you plan to grill them, you can certainly grill the dough ahead of time, then use the hot oven or broiler to bake the pizza when it's topped. Go lightly on the toppings and make sure they are all at room temp.

                                        1. e
                                          ESNY Oct 5, 2010 01:35 PM

                                          I wouldn't unless you were going to do a Sicilian style pizza. My regular (neapolitan) pizza crusts cook in about 2-3 minutes under the broiler and I'd imagine the crust would get too tough if you cooked it bare and then reheated it with toppings. Sicilian style pies can either be par-baked since they take longer to cook or still do well reheated. For my Sicilian pies, I use a focaccia recipe and let it proof in the pan and then put the cheese directly on the dough and the sauce on top, this prevents the dough from getting soggy.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ESNY
                                            ttoommyy Oct 5, 2010 01:49 PM

                                            "My regular (neapolitan) pizza crusts cook in about 2-3 minutes under the broiler and I'd imagine the crust would get too tough if you cooked it bare and then reheated it with toppings."

                                            That's exactly what I thought. Thanks ESNY.

                                            1. re: ttoommyy
                                              fourunder Oct 5, 2010 04:17 PM

                                              There's a whole industry of commercial pre-baked pizza shells that come in a variety of sizes, shapes and thicknesses to accommodate different applications for restaurants, bars and the home kitchen.....including very thin pie crusts. Most notable are the Boboli brand. If I am not mistaken, you're from the same area as myself and in these parts, Kontos, the pocketless pita bread and Filo dough maker also has versions. The Restaurant Depot also sells similar products locally....so it can definitely be done.

                                              The question you have to answer yourself, is how your dough recipe will hold up after pre-baking. If it turns out hard like a cracker, maybe not such a great idea, but if your dough recipe stays soft after pre-baking, absolutely. I would suggest you try a test run with one shell and see how it works out.

                                              If you want to try something different, very easy and very inexpensive, use Flour tortillas for the thinnest pizzas possible. There's a well known chef who makes his Smoked Salmon Pizza for his restaurants using commercially produced flour tortillas which he purchases from his regular food service company. For a twist, you can impress your guests with Whole Wheat, Spinach or Sun Dried Tortillas.....and tell them you slaved all day making them.

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