Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Trader Joe's Pizza Dough - Garlic & Herb

Trader Joe's is a great store for many reasons, but primarily for the gourmet offerings at discount pricing. 
Click on any image to enlarge

I've heard good reports about their ready-to-bake pizza dough, so I recently bought two packages (16 ounces each). I put the regular dough into my freezer, and selected the Garlic and Herb variety to make the first pizza.

The package advised to take the dough out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before use, but I let it sit all day at room temp. And, rather than bake at 425 per instructions, I baked it for about 8-9 minutes at 550 degrees on my Baking Steel.

On top, I added a ball of fresh mozzarella, one thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, and some Hormel pepperoni. For the sauce, I used a can of diced tomatoes (drained) mixed with thin slices of fresh garlic.

The crust had a greenish tint from the garlic/herb flavoring, but otherwise the pie baked up to a beautifully puffy and browned appearance, with some nice char underneath. However, I was disappointed in both the flavor and texture.
Out of the oven

The crust lacked substance, in the same way as supermarket "Italian" bread. It was short on flavor, and it was too soft on the interior, without any al dente chew. It was not as good as the crust on the "Trader Giotto" frozen pies also available at Trader Joe's.

For price and convenience, this dough is a decent value. But after that first pizza, I was left feeling that if you are feeding kids or folks who are happy with chain pie, then Trader Joe dough is a good choice. Otherwise, if you are attempting to make a great pizza at home, make your own dough. 

Two weeks later, I took the second dough out of the freezer 24 hours before planning to use it. It spent one night in the fridge, then it sat at room temperature until time to make the pizza.
A slice of the breakfast pizza

This time, I decided to use this dough to make two smaller pies with very thin crusts. I followed the excellent recipe from Andris Lagsdin for Roman Pizza on the Baking Steel. After dividing the dough in half, I used a rolling pin to make amoeba-shaped pies about 12 inches across.

On the first pie, I attempted a breakfast style pizza. I added inexpensive shredded "Italian blend" cheese, slices of fully cooked sausage, and some chopped red onion. After pre-heating the baking steel to 550, I set my oven to broil and cooked the pie for 2 minutes.
Beautiful underside of the breakfast pizza

Then I rotated the pizza 180 degrees, added three eggs (too many, they almost ran off the pie), and baked 2 minutes longer at 550 (no longer broiling). I found out that 2 minutes did not cook the eggs enough, but 3 minutes left them slightly overcooked. Two and half, next time!

Trenton tomato pie
Other than the overcooked eggs, this pie was brilliant. The crust was perfect, thin and crisp outside with a wonderful al dente chew and some noteworthy hole structure at the cornicione despite the rolling pin treatment. Even with inexpensive cheese and sausage, the flavors were great with the egg after adding a touch of salt.

The second pie was more conventional, but I made it Trenton tomato pie style. The same cheese, onion, and sausage, but instead of egg I spooned on a mixture of diced Brandywine tomato (the last from my summer garden) with garlic, olive oil, dried basil, and oregano.

This pie had substantially more flavor than the first, but the volume of sausage and wet tomato mix made the tip of each slice droopy - but not soggy. This kind of result reinforces my appreciation for those pizza makers who always get the balance right - enough sauce and cheese and toppings to make the flavor sing, but not too much to overwhelm the structural integrity of the crust. 

I'm not sure if these pizzas were better than the garlic-herb dough pies because of the dough, or because of the technique, but I suspect it was the technique. 

I must confess that the pizza from the Trader Joe's dough is just as good as when I make the dough from scratch, even when I use imported Italian "00" flour. I'm so glad I bought two doughs, because my first effort was discouraging. This dough made a much better pie when rolled out very thinly.


  1. This dough was the worst. Very hard to roll out and was more like bread than pizza crust. Try the Great Value pizza crust at Walmart. It works great and tastes very good.

  2. Thanks for the tip! WalMart is closer to my house, too. FWIW, I just made a pie with Trader Joe dough. I added a few spoonfuls of water to the dough, mixed it in, and it was much easier to handle.