Friday, April 11, 2014

Rockin' Mushroom Pizzas

Edit: Readers, your opinion is requested and appreciated in the comment section of this post. We are conducting something of a school pizza poll. See the last paragraph of the article for the full poll request.

Pizza Time... Again

Cooking with minimal ingredients and materials has become something of a ritual around here. Small kitchens, semi-temporary Irish status, and inability unwillingness to spend money have forced allowed us to create workarounds, especially when cooking for more than just two.

We were inspired to make pizzas after finding a pack of mushrooms on sale at the supermarket. Mozzarella cheese is always cheap, so we were well on our way to pizza freedom. Interestingly, pepperoni isn't as easily found on supermarket shelves here. It can be purchased, but usually it is, well, pepperoni, sliced fresh from a big moldy (in a good way) and expensive tube of meat. Americans (like us) are used to cheap little plastic vacuum packs of bright red discs, shiny with grease and spiced just enough so that we can taste them on pizza.

We did find (as we always do...) a workaround in chorizo. Interestingly, this Spanish cured meat is available in cheap, pre-sliced vacuum packs. Pepperoni just isn't as popular as an aperitif as chorizo, salami, and French-style cured meats. We reached for the mild variety of chorizo and hoped for the best.

I made dough with my standard bread recipe:

Dump some flour in a bowl
Pour in some salt
Sprinkle on some yeast
Squirt in a little oil (or don't)
Pour in some warm water
Knead until stretchy
Rise until big
Bake until done

The recipe turned out perfect(ish) dough just like it does every time. In pizza, definitely add the oil for easier kneading, darker crust browning, and to prevent pan sticking on cheap aluminum cookware.

We used another standard, bean-enriched tomato sauce with our chorizo, cheese, and mushrooms. Pizzas shaped and ready to bake!

Topping Mushroom Pizza in Dublin
Topping Mushroom Pizza

Making it Work

We were cooking for three, but we lacked tools that many would say are necessary for pizza cookery. Namely, a pizza stone or pizza pan. Back in Iowa, we had both, and I have to say, I loved cooking with the pizza stone. Breads, pizzas, cookies, biscuits, and any other non-drippy baked good just came off the stone better.

Sadly, no stone out here. Just pans. And pans we have, but size we're missing. We have our heavy-duty (but very small) baking sheet, we have our sturdy (but also small) non-stick, oven-safe skillet, a thin aluminum cake pan, and a cheap glass casserole dish. All four were pressed into oven service on our big pizza night.

Four Different Pizza Pies
Four Different Pies

Not All Pizzas (or Slices) are Created Equal

When baking like this, some, ahem, variety can be expected. Pizzas of different shapes, sizes, and baking materials have no business in the same oven with the same temperatures and baking times. If one (like I) forces the issue, each pizza will be baked slightly differently. The pizzas on the most dense materials will have a darker crust, the larger pizzas will be slightly softer in the middle, and the corners on the rectangular 'zas will be a little brown. Remember the large high school pizzas, Americans? 

For our non-Yankee readers, one standard school lunch food in America is pizza. Throughout the country, school nutritional specialists (lunch ladies) stretch out frozen and thawed pizza dough over huge rectangular sheets. The dough is topped with canned sauce and pre-shredded cheese and baked. Food-heads among us can predict the (deceptively delicious) results- a pizza that is dark and crispy in the corners and gooey and doughy in the middle. Every, and I mean every American school kid knows her preference in pizza slice location. Corner, middle, or in-between.

...Anyway, the easiest way to deal with the variety of pizza textures is... to just deal with it. I suppose different baking times, resetting of oven temperatures, and other measures could be taken to make the pizzas more consistent, but who needs all that trouble? We were hungry and there was beer!

Finished Pizzas
Finished Pizzas

X-Treme Pizza Closeup
X-Treme Pizza Closeup

Comment Section Pizza Poll

With a large (and growing!) readership of Americans and Europeans, I'd like to conduct a school pizza poll.

American readers: Tell us your high school pizza preference! Were you a gooey middle slice fan? Did you like yours crispy and brown? Did you abstain from pizza altogether? Share your pizza (or school lunch) stories.

European readers: Describe your school lunches for we Americans. I have no idea what the school lunch structure is in different countries. Did you have pizza? Was it a big, unevenly-baked rectangle? What were your favorite foods for lunch as a student?


  1. I'll start...

    I was always a middle-of-the-pizza kid. I would greedily ask our lunch staff at elementary school for the lightest, least-done slice in the very center of the sheet. Still-unmelted cheese shreds were a plus. The lunch staff was almost always willing to indulge me my lighter slice, as long as one was left on the current sheet.

    Once, I had my gooey slice on the tray and was hurrying to my table when I accidentally spilled my chocolate milk on the pizza! I was distraught and upset. The lunch staff, seeing what had happened, gave me another (sadly more well-done) slice, assuming I would throw away the "ruined" slice covered in chocolate milk.

    Anyone who knows me personally now probably already knows the end of the story. Let's just say that the spilled-milk catastrophe turned into a triumphant windfall for me as I hungrily ate both slices of delicious school pizza.

  2. Hey Cory, Great article (as always). Sorry my school lunch pizza memories are not the same as yours. We did not get the handmade variety your are describing. Ours were pre-formed squares (rectangles) with some sort of pizza-colored toppings. Totally uniform in their sort of bland chewiness All the same,pizza day was one of my favorites. Nowadays, here in town, our kids are served different styles of pizzas on different days. There is the classic "4x6 pizza" of my youth, the "French bread pizza", and the "fiestada pizza", to name but a few of the creative offerings of our central kitchen.

  3. We usually went home for lunch.. Some form of stew.. Either Irish or coddle

  4. No pizza at school in France either... I also went home for lunch, sometimes there were pizzas there, the frozen ones :-) In French schools, the lunch consists of starter, main course, dessert. Usually salad, then rice / potatoes / meat / vegetables etc and fruit or yoghurt for dessert.


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