Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Pillsbury's Best Thin Crust Pizza Dough

There are several shortcuts available for making pizza at home. The whole idea of using other-than-scratch ingredients is to craft a pie that is better than any frozen pizza, but without a lot of time or effort.

I've had plenty of success with buying balls of pizza dough from bakeries, ALDI, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. I've also had surprisingly decent crusts fashioned from pizza crust mix packets. 
A pre-baked pizza shell by Boboli
All of these "fresh dough" approaches are superior to using a pre-baked pizza crust shell, even the venerable Boboli crust.

Click on any image to enlarge
I was intrigued when I spotted a new approach from Pillsbury. The package of Pillsbury's Best Thin Crust Pizza Dough had the same dimension as a roll of cling wrap, and it contained a rolled-up 10" x 13" sheet of thin pizza dough on parchment paper.
Unrolling the dough with parchment paper

Dough on paper, ready to bake or top
The basic directions are to unroll the dough with the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Top as desired, then bake at 425 degrees for 11-15 minutes. I followed the package's alternative "for a crisper crust" instructions by baking the crust alone for 7 minutes, then adding toppings and baking for an additional 6-8 minutes.
Out of the oven
Baked alone, the crust developed some very large bubble bulges, almost as though the dough was composed of two very thin layers. It was simple to puncture these so that the crust would be flatter for adding toppings.

The most common error in pizza making - home or in pizzerias - is overloading the pie with sauce, cheese, and/or toppings. On this very thin crust, the risk of overloading is even higher. I used Spanish Manchego cheese, sliced homemade turkey meatballs (heavily seasoned with garlic and onion), and canned Italian cherry tomatoes that I seasoned with basil, oregano, sugar, and salt.
Dumpling-textured underside of the crust
Out of the oven, the crust had taken on a lovely golden brown. On transferring it to a cutting surface, it seemed limp in the middle. However, after I cut it into 8 rectangular slices, each slice remained reasonably rigid - no wet, soggy, or droopy sections.
I can't imagine this is very good in flavor or texture
Results? This crust is delicious, and it really gives no hint that it is a cousin of all the puffy Pillsbury bread products you can get out of a cardboard tube. The bottom was perfectly browned in spots and crisp, but the rest of the crust had a chewiness that I would compare to a fried Chinese dumpling. Not a typical pizza texture but it was delectable.

The simple toppings of a savory cheese, flavor-packed meatballs, and a modest amount of cherry tomatoes proved to be a winner, too. You could go a lot of different directions with toppings as long as you maintain proportions.

I wouldn't rank this better than, say, a pizza made from a Trader Joe's dough ball, but one keen advantage is that this is a relatively low-calorie way to make a pie at home.  The entire crust (8.21 oz.) has 600 calories before toppings, so that works out to just 75 bread calories per slice if you cut it into eight pieces as I did. By comparison, the Pillsbury's Best Classic Pizza Dough (14.56 oz.) makes a 12" round pie that clocks in at 1,050 calories.
Gourmet slices at Jules Thin Crust Pizza
One drawback is that these can be pricey - expect to pay $3 to $5 for one dough sheet. (If you see them for less, please share the price and the store in the comments section.) It may well cost more than a frozen pizza once you factor in the cost of your toppings, but I got pizzeria-quality results with this dough. It compares favorably to some very good pies I've had at places like Jules Thin Crust.

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