Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


Yesterday I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH had undergone a price hike. It had been only 99 cents for as long as I can remember, ever since our TJ’s opened. But yesterday I noticed TJs raised its price to $1.19 (this in NYC) OK, ok twenty cents does not seem much you say, true…  Still if instead, I told you they gave it a 20% price increase, you might think “hey thats a bit steep”. OK rant over, now here’s the good part of this post!

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah Baby!)

Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner recently using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough. To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can in the fridge!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home. Its EASY! No, really, it is pretty dam easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine.

Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course generally way cheaper than buying one. There is *nothing* like eating a pizza you just pulled fresh out of the oven a few minutes before. If you have never made pizza at home before, you absolutely must try making one yourself at least once, and promise, once you do make one, you’ll want to make a pizza every week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight). Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres one:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some SAUCE (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb Cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better, Fresh Garlic, (optional: diced tomato, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course, Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but longer is better). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out.  (around the 1/2 hour point, you can turn on, pre-heat oven to 450-500)

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work on and lightly dust it with any kind of FLOUR. Remove the dough from the package (TIP: Its sticky! I invert the plastic bag to remove and just keep tugging and pulling till I get it all out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I used a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square shape instead of a round shape but I like it like this. If using this kind of square pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put some on top of the dough and work it with your fingers…keep pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough into shape. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ to you and keeping the shape you want and keeps “fighting you” and pulling back in (thats normal, just let it rest 5-10 minutes, then do some more work on it). Try to be careful and not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. And not too thick either or it will be tough! Get it just right. Build up the edges to make your crust. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want (optional).

Shaping your dough is the only “hard part” of this project and the more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling pizza dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time dont fret! I promise it will still taste mighty good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit and practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it getting much easier in future.

IMG_0003READY TO ASSEMBLE (I am using smoked mozz and a little provolone) 
Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin sparse layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Ie, very hot (real pizza ovens are even hotter). Bake on middle or top oven rack. Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pizza, if your oven bakes unevenly after 10 minutes). The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

IMG_0002The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes or so for the pizza to come out of the oven.

IMG_0004

The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really not that hard to make, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself.

Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

 

UPDATE / TIP: I have been experimenting with “aging” the TJ dough in the fridge and let it sit for a few days before use. It will ferment slowly and will get sourdough-y taste this way as the dough ferments. Try this aging for 1 (or 2 days) past the “sell by” date. Experiment with the aging of the dough tip and see if the crust and flavor is improved. I find it so.

Personally I have found the regular dough is the best version TJ has  – I have found the whole wheat version too tough, and the herbed version too fake and weird. Your mileage may vary.

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

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TJ’s Chocolate Minis


Notice anything different?

choc

(RANT)


TJ’s Mini Chocolate Bars: 99 cents. Yeah TJ’s!

HOWEVER there is a little fishy story here. The original version of this product (left) recently ‘vanished’ from my Trader Joes’s (NYC/72nd St). I basically got hooked on these little mini chocolate bars. I used to pick up a bag of them every time I went shopping there (hey, they’re strategically placed right near the end of the checkout line to encourage this behavior, so why fight it?) Even my Checkout Guy bagging me tells me he buys a bag of these daily.  Says he goes through a bag a day. Me, I tried to control myself so the bag of 28 chocolates lasts almost a week. Well guess what? They simply vanished. Out of Stock. No. Even the sign vanished…which I’ve now learned from experience generally means bye-bye to a product.

So a week or two later I see there are once again bags of mini chocolate bars on the shelf. BUT they look different. They don’t look like they are for little kids anymore (OK by me) But the“old version” (left) seems to have been replaced by the new version (right). Notice the difference in quantity? Now yes before, they only came as milk chocolate; now you have a choice of milk or semi-sweet chocolate (which I greatly prefer). BUT other than that, the new version of this product seems exactly the same. Both say “Made In Columbia” on the package. The bars are the same size as they were in the yellow package. So WTF, Trader Joes ?! You used to give us 28 bars for 99 cents, but now you give us 12 for the same price?!

Do the math, and you will see TJ’s has more than doubled the price of these chocolate bars. Look, for the price its still pretty good. Never the less I find this a bit fishy on Trader Joe’s part. Does TJ’s think we’re not going to notice this kind of STEEP price increase – or downsizng in product quantity? Don’t they have a motto about how they only raise prices as their costs go up? So did the wholesale price of chocolate in Columbia go up 70 per cent? I’d find that hard to believe.

This is akin to the old “Hersheys effect” going way back in Marketing. How Hershey’s kept the price of their chocolate bar 5 cents for years and years but kept decreasing the size of the bar. The customer is not supposed to notice.

UPDATE: AUG 2011

They 12 bar chocolates appeared erratically on the shelves. Gone, then I’d seen them again. Went on for weeks. Finally, I see them in a tub with a sign “99 cents” literally at the head of the Checkout Line at my local TJ’s. I bought some but had a feeling that tub was the last of them. I was right. I inquired about the “12 pack 99 cents chocolates” status and the Captain told me “They’ve been discontinued”

BUMMER TRADER JOE! What is it with this product? Its fantastic.Don’t tell me they weren’t selling.  I bought one or two bags every time I shopped at Trader Joe’s. So why DISCONTINUED??!!

RANT

Trader Joe’s Price Increases


RANT:

Lately I’ve noticed Trader Joe’s has increased prices on quite a few items…sometimes not in “obvious” ways. Here’s one recent example:

Until a few weeks ago, thier BANANA CHIPS (very good) came in an 8 ounce bag and sold for 99 cents. Great product at a great price. I pretty much bought them every time I went to the store.

Then recently I saw they were out of them, except there wasn’t even a sign anymore on the shelf where they always were. When asked, I was told “we’re out of stock” and were on re-order. OK. But a week or two later I see BANANA CHIPS are back on the shelves…BUT now they are in a larger bag. Instead of 8 oz. it now comes in a 16 oz bag (1 lb). bag Double the size, but is it $2? No, the sign lists $2.99.?!? Ergo the BANANA CHIPS price went from $2/lb to $3/lb? A 50 % price hike?! Yikes, thats pretty steep isnt’ it? We are not supposed to notice a 50% price increase? Did TJ’s costs go up that much??

TJ’s has a motto about how “we only increase prices according to our costs”.  Is this national or just in New York City? Comments?

Found any other Trader Joe’s price increases? Please post them as comments.