Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Great Pizza Cookoff!

This entry will be a departure for the blog... we're going to rate some homemade pizza! Gary and Liza were all jazzed about getting this shower gift: an All-Clad Pizza Stone. So, we decided to invite our bocce team over for a pizza cookoff... The Pizza Olympics, if you will. With 5 pizzas to sample, we felt like we had completed a pentathalon by the end of the night.

Each of the eight participants scored all pizzas (except his/her own)on a 5 point scale in the categories of flavor, creativity, and presentation with a possible total of 15 points.
Each team used the same dough, purchased from A. Litteri.

So without further ado, here are the challengers, their pizzas, and the average scores for each:

Liza and Gary's Butternut Squash Pizza

First up was our pizza. The pizza stone cooked the crust perfectly, if we do say so ourselves. It was crisp on the bottom and a little chewy on the side. We started by roasting some butternut squash, cremini mushrooms, yellow onions, and rosemary with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. We then put the cooked mixture on the pizza, added some pecorino and parmesan cheese, and baked for about 10 minutes. A little cornmeal helped slide the pizza on and off the stone.

Some of the comments:

"I didn't think I'd like it because I'm a picky eater... liked it more than I thought"

"Squash surprisingly delicious"

Average point total: 12.06

Shannon and Justin's Girl Pizza

Justin calls this a "girl pizza" because it doesn't have any meat on it. But it has lots of veggie goodness. Shannon started by precooking the crust for 5 minutes after sprinkling it with a little Italian seasoning. The pizza had a base of alfredo sauce. Next came a layer of spinach, lots o' cheese, onion, artichokes, and Roma tomato slices.
Comments ranged from "A lot of cheese! (too much for me)" to "YAY Cheese!" Liza thinks the spinach made this pizza.

Average point total: 11.66

Chef and Steph's Thin Crust Pizza

You may remember Neil (aka Chef) and Steph from a previous blog entry at Cafe Pizzaiolo in Arlington. They arrived and quickly got to work on crafting their pizza, a thin crust offering that was perfect
considering most pizzas were more on the bready side. Their pizza included roasted red peppers, tomato sauce, salami, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.
This was some fine 'za. First, it got consistently strong marks on presentation, including two 5s! The sauce had a tangy flavor that was accentuated wih the roasted red peppers and maybe even the salami.

Some of the comments:

"Good taste, but not enough cheese."

"Too salty."

Gary enjoyed this pizza a lot, so he wants to add that he liked this pizza better than the one at Cafe Pizzaolo!

Average Point Total: 11.66

"The Beast": Warren's Enchilada Pizza

As soon as Warren arrived, he quietly began work on his pizza concoction. Other competitors kept a wary eye as Warren laid on a base of enchilada sauce. Then he added some munster cheese, chicken, orange pepper...(woah, this pizza is getting wild and crazy) onion, green chiles and cheddar cheese.

He used the pizza stone to cook it in the oven. After 10 minutes, he pulled his concoction out and added fresh cilantro and dashes of sour cream. It looked like a Jackson Pollock painting...

Liza admitted she was a little scared of Warren's "Beast" before she took a bite. To her surprise, she liked it!

Warren's pizza drew big-time points for creativity. He earned a whopping six 5's for creativity, but also a 1. Like Liza, Gary was also pleasantly surprised at the pizza and definitely detected a Mexican flavor, which was the point. (Someone take this recipe to Banana Cafe!) Unfortunately, it appears Warren lost points for presentation after a mishap trying to get the dough on the pizza stone. However, the pizza stone was useful in another category-- the crust was excellent, and he earned solid marks for flavor... and that's what really matters.

"How can something so hideous taste so good?"

"Loved the cilantro taste. It made the pizza."

Average Point Total: 11.24

Kate's Goat Cheese Pizza

By the time Kate's pizza came around, we were all pretty stuffed. Unfortunately, I think her scores suffered a bit as a consequence. However, she still had a pretty fierce pizza. It was a thin crust pizza with a base of tomato sauce and topped with red pepper, red onion, goat cheese, and parmesan. (A plan to add bacon was aborted at the last minute when it seemed that it didn't travel too well.) The goat cheese gave this pizza a nice tangy zip.

As one judge stated, "Goat cheese is the perfect dessert."

Average Point Total: 11.08

So overall, the pizza cookoff was a smashing success. Not a dud in the bunch! So, faithful readers, are there any pizzas here you might try at home? Do you have a favorite pizza that you like to make?


lacochran said...

They all look fantastic!

Our pizza dough-made from scratch-sometimes comes out a little dense. Any suggestions on how to improve it? Not sure if it's our recipe or our technique causing the problem. Never thought about buying dough. Hm.

We do use and like the pizza stone.

Liza said...

Hmm, I'm no expert but I would try letting it rise a little longer, and be sure not to over-knead. Try the dough from A.Litteri's if you get a chance, it's good!

DomainGamer said...

My wife and I make outstanding peperoni and olive pizza from scratch w/ just a little bit of olive oil. It's very thin crust, w/ minimal cheese (i'm weird and don't like tons of melted cheese) and heavy on the red sauce. We enjoy Renton Pizza often so if you ever get to Seattle check it out!