By Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn of CheaterChef.Com.
It’s fall football season again and that means it’s KettlePizza tailgate time. So, let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Like many of you we love playing around with all kinds of homemade pizza dough. But, do we really want to be stretching dough at the stadium before the game? Sometimes maybe, most of the time, NO.
The goal is to maximize KettlePizza fun, feed everyone great pizza, and show off a little cooking finesse while surrounded by friends and family and plenty of busy parking lot activities.
Happily for tailgating KettlePizza fans we’ve got lots of delicious alternative pizza “carriers” ready to go at the store. Today let’s look at reliable canned biscuit dough and see how easily it transforms into stylish mini pizzas. You still get to cook pizza, but crust from canned dough is a great game day step-saver.
Ironically, one of Mindy’s mystery basket ingredients on her episode of Chopped was canned biscuit dough, so we already have a soft spot for it. If you haven’t explored the supermarket refrigerated dough section recently you’ll be amazed by the varieties now available. It’s clear to us that we’ll be continuing our test kitchen research on this subject.
For this round of alternative dough tests we experimented with two types — the big size of flaky buttermilk biscuits and a canned mini pizza dough. Both were super easy to handle and quick to roll out. but the mini pizza dough was “stretchier” and puffier. Both tasted great.
Even though you are not working with regular dough be sure to bring a little container of all-purpose flour for dusting the peel and a medium-size board to use as your work surface. A full, dry can or bottle from the cooler works great as a parking lot rolling pin. All you have to do is pop open the dough, separate the biscuits, and roll out the discs with your beer can rolling pin, add toppings, and slide them into the hot KettlePizza.
The most important packing and easy-prep tailgating tip we can offer is to get all your toppings cooked and ready-to-go in plastic containers of one consistent size that stack neatly and are easy to access on the pizza prep table.
Canned biscuit dough is forgiving on the temperature. It doesn’t require quite as hot a fire (or pizza stone) as classic yeast pizza dough. If your stone is super hot and the bottom sides brown before the top is cooked, cook the plain biscuit discs quickly on one side until browned as you would a flour tortilla. After a minute or so, remove the discs from the KettlePizza and top the browned side with pizza toppings. Return to the oven and cook until the underside is browned and the toppings are bubbly.
Doming (sliding the pizza on the metal peel and lifting it toward the top of the inside of the kettle) is always encouraged, as needed. We cooked a couple of pies at a time and had no trouble managing them. Long tongs sure helped moving them around. As always, they’re done in just a few minutes.
The sky is the limit on toppings, but somehow a classic Margherita made with petigreed San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella doesn’t seem the right match for canned biscuits. Instead, we offer a few All-American tailgate classic toppings that are perfect for beer drinking and tailgate fun.
Nacho Biscuit Pizza—This simple pie starts with a smear of refried beans and shredded cheese. Keep it pure or add cooked chicken or chorizo sausage. Once out of the KettlePizza, your friends can personalize their pizzas with a spoonful of salsa, sour cream, sliced black olives, jalapeno slices, chopped cilantro, or green onion slices.
Cheeseburger Biscuit Pizza—Our inner food scientist is in love with Velveeta. The umami flavor and creaminess just can’t be beat. All you have to do is cook up some ground meat (beef or turkey) and drain. Add a spoonful of yellow mustard and some Velveeta. Cook and stir on low to melt. Or, pile it all in the microwave oven, cover and zap until creamy.
We used a ratio of one pound of meat to ¾ pound of Velveeta plus 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard. Yes, when you tote this topping to the big game and open up the container, you will be greeted by a rubbery mass. Don’t fret! It’s just that characteristic congealing of processed cheese food. Simply do your best to spoon it on the biscuit disc. The KettlePizza will do its magic and turn it back to creamy goodness. Top the hot pizzas with dill pickle chips, sliced onion and ketchup as you like. This is R.B.’s favorite pie of this test batch. He almost sliced and ate the pizza without snapping a photo for this post.
Chili Dog Biscuit Pizza—You cannot go wrong with this tailgate pizza. Use your own chili or your favorite canned brand. Thinly slice up the hot dogs (a la pepperoni) and lay them in the plastic container. Just spoon on the chili “gravy” and arrange a few hot dog bites on top. Sprinkle with a little cheese and feed the KettlePizza. We like this one with a squirt of yellow mustard and chopped raw onions.
Sausage Gravy Biscuit Pizza—This may seem weird if you don’t live in the sausage gravy zone like we do, but why not? Sausage gravy is the classic Southern biscuit topper, so here it is in a new fun format. If you’ve got the KettlePizza fired up early for a noon game, this is the one to pair with those morning Bloody Marys.
You can find prepared sausage gravy in most supermarkets; however, it’s super-easy to make at home and yours will have a more generous ratio of sausage to gravy. It’s just basic white sauce made with sausage grease. Fry up and crumble ½ pound of bulk pork sausage in a skillet. When fully cooked, remove all but about two tablespoons of the drippings. Sprinkle two tablespoons of all-purpose flour over the mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat about one minute. Stir in one cup of milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and thickened. Add plenty of black pepper and taste for salt.
And now, for some KettlePizza dessert….
Apple Biscuit Pizza Pie—Here’s your All-American dessert (or another great KettlePizza for morning tailgating with Bloodies). Have the sweetened cooked apples ready to go in a container like your other toppings.
Cook a couple of peeled, cored and diced green apples (use Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or your favorite cooking apple) in ¼ cup of butter in a skillet over medium heat until slightly softened. Add a ¼ cup of sugar and a squirt of fresh lemon juice and cook a few minutes longer until soft and syrupy. Add a dusting of cinnamon to taste. Spread the apple mixture on the biscuit disc and slide into the KettlePizza.
You can also make cute little apple turnovers by filling and folding the dough in half and pressing the edges together with a fork. Flip the turnovers in the KettlePizza so both sides brown evenly. This pizza would take nicely to a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, too.
A stroll through the prepared foods at the supermarket with biscuit pizza in mind will give you a power surge of recipe creativity. Pretty much anything that tastes good, tastes good on a biscuit, a pizza. and a biscuit pizza—prepared pimiento cheese, barbecue, hummus and olives, macaroni and cheese, precooked sausage gravy, apples, pie filling. No need cook any toppings if you don’t want to.
One of the reasons people love our KettlePizza kits is because of the way the crust cooks up crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. But let’s step back for a minute and look at the crust before it’s cooked in our wood-fired pizza oven. Before it’s crust, it’s … dough.
The dough is a critical element when making pizza. This week Suzanne Lenzer, author of the soon-to-be-released book “Truly, Madly Pizza,” (Rodale) wrote in The New York Times about a recipe for homemade pizza dough that uses a food processor and your freezer to make the process so easy that, as Suzanne says, “pizza can become a habit.”
Flour – some folks aren’t picky about this and will use All-Purpose flour or whatever is on hand. Others swear that 00 or Semolina flours are the only ones to use. Others like to mix it up with a whole wheat flour once in a while.
Keep it pure – Pizza dough purists will say that ingredients should be kept to flour, water, salt and yeast. However, we’ve seen recipes that call for olive oil and/or sugar or honey, and some folks replace water with beer in their recipe.
Need to knead? – Most recipes call for kneading the dough while it’s rising (Lenzer’s recipe calls for “dimpling” the dough “like focaccia”) but most bakers know that over-handling the dough is a no-no, too. Nervous about kneading? Try this “no knead” recipe from Jim Lahey.
Mix-ins – We like this mouth-watering reader comment to the NYT article, “Want to jazz up your pizza dough? To Ms. Lenzer’s wonderful recipe, add to the dry ingredients in the processor bowl 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, (or the same quantity of “Italian herbs” from Costco or McCormick) and a little more than 1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes, no more. This works well with a typical Roman-style pie, topped with thin slices of parboiled potato, fresh rosemary sprigs pushed into the dough and topped with little chunklets of fontina or mozzarella, some parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.”
We’d love to hear what you think. What are your tips for making great-tasting homemade pizza dough?