Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Pizza with a Bisquick crust? Sounds like ’60s home ec to me."
July 27, 2014 7:30 PM   Subscribe

King Arthur Flour's Flourish blog investigates America's Love Affair With Pizza from the home cook's perspective. In The Beginning asks "When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than piling into the Studebaker to drive down to the pizza parlor for takeout?", and answers by reproducing pizza recipes from 1945, 1954, and 1961.

Jeremiah, Wolfgang, and Alice covers the gourmet pizza revolution of the late 70s, cooking recipes from Jeremiah Tower, Wolfgang Puck, and Alice Waters.

Smackdown in the Freezer Aisle considers frozen pizza, pitting popular brands against home-made recreations.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (60 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh these are very good blog posts from PJ Hamel at King Arthur; her personality really comes through and the photos are excellent.

From the second link:
The 10 years between 1974-1984 were a watershed decade for pizza. Biscuit crusts and canned anchovies disappeared, to be replaced by airy yeast-based crusts topped with fresh (and exotic) ingredients, seared to perfection in wood-fired stone ovens.

Chef Jeremiah Tower, in his book Jeremiah Tower Cooks, lays claim to creating the first of the single-serve “gourmet” pizzas – on August 28, 1974, at a birthday celebration for Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ 3-year-old restaurant in Berkeley, California. The concept took off, and Chez Panisse’s wood-oven pizzas became wildly popular.
Lovin' the pizza history!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:41 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Bisquick, Campbell's tomato soup and Velveeta. Good lord. Mid-century recipes are a great way to highlight what's wrong with capitalism.

(That said, I would totally commit atrocities for Jell-o salad.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


70's pizza, when we couldn't afford to get take-out and hadn't yet figured out how to make it at home, was John's. I believe we stopped buying it when Dad read in Consumer Reports about the relatively high count of bug parts for that brand.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:55 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Mid-century recipes are a great way to highlight what's wrong with capitalism.

The architecture and the fashions were amazing, but the food was distressing.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:55 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


The architecture and the fashions were amazing, but the food was distressing.

Well, *now* the architecture and the fashions seem amazing, but when I was a kid in the 70s, they certainly didn't. And I still happily ate (and eat!) old-school food, although not Bisquick pizza.

Chicken pot pie? Real baked mac and cheese with white sauce and cheddar? Spaghetti and meatballs? Lasagne? All excellent, and all from my Mom's old recipes.

Cycles. Changes. Vague handwave.

Someday 40 years from now people could be waxing poetic over spray cheese, Aspartame and ironic trucker hats.
posted by jrochest at 8:08 PM on July 27 [9 favorites]


Back in the early 80s, my mom used to buy Appian Way pizza kits, with this terrible chalky biscuit crust, orange pizza sauce (god knows what was in it to make it orange) and packet of plasticky parmesan. God, I loved those pizzas. I'd try to find a faithful adaptation somewhere online, but I no longer have a seven year-old's palate.

EDIT: OMG they still exist.
posted by GamblingBlues at 8:13 PM on July 27 [8 favorites]


From the same blog: a recipe for Chicago-style stuffed pizza, if that's your thing. (It is very much my thing.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:15 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Those Chef-Boy-ar-dee kits from when I was a kid were so awful! And I say that as someone who basically has no standards when it comes to pizza.

I wasn't aware of the KAF Flourish blog so thanks for this. (Great name, too!)
posted by Room 641-A at 8:15 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


I can't count the number of those Chef-Boy-ar-dee kits my mom forced us to eat.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:30 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Bisquick, Campbell's tomato soup and Velveeta.

All three of those things are wonderful in their place, but admittedly that place is not a pizza.
posted by jonmc at 8:34 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


"Bisquick, Campbell's tomato soup and Velveeta. Good lord. Mid-century recipes are a great way to highlight what's wrong with capitalism."

You've never read any USSR cookbooks fron that same period. The ones produced in English call for lavish quantities of ingredients that the ordinary Russian would never find, no matter how many long lines she stood in.
Not every town in the US in the 1950s had a local pizza place.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:34 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Of course, if you want real at-home authenticity, you could always fry it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:42 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


We used to have Bisquick-based recipes for dinner. One of these recipes featured a Bisquick "crust", followed by a layer of canned tuna fish, mixed with Campbell's mushroom soup and frozen peas. Sprinkle corn flakes on top and throw in the oven (I am actually laughing as I remember this and type it out).
posted by KokuRyu at 8:54 PM on July 27 [10 favorites]


I gotta say a bread machine was a game-changer for me. It reduced the work to make a pizza to be close to the amount of time it takes to make a frozen pizza.

Seriously - one can construct a pizza in the time it takes to pre-heat the oven (less, actually), and the bread machine takes all the work out of it.

Add a pizza-stone, and a peel, and I can have a pizza that's better than anything I can get delivered in less time than it takes to deliver a pizza. (if i use the dough from my fridge - each batch i make in the bread machine yields 2 full pizza's worth of dough, half now, half later).

Wondeful to see the evolution though - it reminds me of the wonderous times we live in (well, with my pizza-robot/breadmachine, that is).
posted by el io at 9:18 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


I can't count the number of those Chef-Boy-ar-dee kits my mom forced us to eat.

She made you eat them because they were are delicious
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:22 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I love the idea of making my own pizza, but I've tried it a few times and it always comes out tasting awful. There are enough excellent pizza places near me that I'm willing to just write this one off.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:29 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Oh man… Bisquick crust pizza. Mom was so proud of herself. We loved it even though it wasn't really pizza.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:35 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Here is my go to basic pizza dough recipe from the NYTimes.

Here is their pizza recipe if you plan on grilling your pizza. Hmmm!

Homemade 'Za is the best. My kids and I would have "Make your own pizza" night weekly while they were growing up. They loved it. They got to spread the dough (flour flying everywhere), put on the sauce, add the cheese and pick the toppings. It gave them great autonomy over their food that night. We would buy premade fresh dough from the grocery.
posted by 724A at 9:36 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


When I make 'za at home now, I use the Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen dough recipe and technique.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:49 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


My grandparents met in DC during the Korean War, I think-- she was a clerical worker at the CIA, he was an officer nearby. Once I got to college, they started telling us about the crazy parties they used to throw-- apparently there was a pair of guys on base who had a sideline in pizza, so you'd call them up and they would seal up the kitchen and crank the heat crazy high, and you'd have endless pizzas along with your bathtub of beer and have what sounds like one hell of a party. My grandfather's gone now, and my grandmother has Alzheimer's, so I can't check with them for the recipe. Maybe I'll try to make a pizza at home this week, and have one hell of a tiny party.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:55 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


I grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, where this kind of abomination could easily get you killed. Horrifying.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:59 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I've always been charmed by the drawing in this recipe.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:16 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Those Chef-Boy-ar-dee kits from when I was a kid were so awful! And I say that as someone who basically has no standards when it comes to pizza.

Oh man, I used to dream of having this. And then I had one. Be careful what you dream for.
posted by mazola at 10:35 PM on July 27


That Chef Boy-ar-Dee pizza looks so horrible.

My parents made their own pizza every Friday night, on a cookie sheet, with store bought dough, their own marinara sauce (which was actually decent), and....cheddar cheese. Yikes.
posted by medeine at 10:42 PM on July 27


I liked the Italian woman in the comments who reminisces about her childhood envy of the American family next door, who got to make exotic pizza out of a box!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:11 PM on July 27


Mazola, I think the most amazing thing about that ad is the "18 lively slices of pepperoni" in the sauce-- not 19! Not 17! Definitely not deadly slices! They're basically doing a pepperoni jig!
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:12 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Here at Bartfast labs, we are continuously innovating in the pursuit of home made pizza that actually tastes good. It's been a decade now and I'd say we're close. I can now get pizza for a tenth the price of delivery and within an hour and fifteen minutes of deciding to eat pizza (an hour seems to be the minimum rising time).

Our big breakthrough came with the discovery of the propane barbecue as a pizza cooking appliance. Don't waste your time with a pizza stone. Just crank the BBQ as high as it will go (700-900 degrees) and give your pie 4-5 minutes tops. I think we can beat half the high end frozen pizzas (no disrespect -- frozen pizza technology has come a long way in the last 15 years) and maybe 25% of the delivery places in our area. As I see it, we are about 2 years in development away from the ultimate prize: unlimited high quality, essentially free, pizza on demand. Maybe less if an Italian scientist defects.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:17 PM on July 27 [13 favorites]


Chef Boy-ar-dee box pizza was prime '70s slumber party chow! OK, it was gross, but it was compellingly gross, and a bunch of 9-12 year-olds could easily go through a couple of them. Probably best left as a fond memory, though.
posted by skybluepink at 11:35 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


It's interesting how Friday night homemade pizza caught on for so many people. I've been doing it since I was born. My parents started in the late seventies. Godfathers pizza anyone? Our homemade recipe has morphed over the years and we all make it slightly differently. We all bloom the yeast with sugar and salt and oil for 10 minutes or so. I personally heat up my water to around 70 F. Kitchen Aid mixers make all the difference because you can dial in the flour exactly to perfection regardless of humidity. If the mixer starts producing D&B or dubstep beats or walks off the counter you've added to much. It must not stick to the bowl through. 7 minutes of mixing. Garlic and balsamic go in the sauce as well as oregano and basil. Fresh is always better. Generic mozzarella, fresh grated if you wanna get fancy, sliced buffalo mozzarella if you want to get craaaay
posted by aydeejones at 11:46 PM on July 27


And yes I know Herman Cain was CEO of God father's which was incidentally owned by pre-made biscuit behemoth Pillsbury. Still though. If I recall the crust was basically greasy fried in pan biscuit dough. Mine fries in the pan a little but the only oil is extra virgin olive...no hydrogenated fake margarine
posted by aydeejones at 11:48 PM on July 27


And par baking is a must to avoid "homemade thick crust pizza with a central sauce pool in the middle that burns your mouth causing the roof to slough off" syndrome.
posted by aydeejones at 11:51 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Honestly the "Gourmet" recipe at the beginning of TFA sounds wonderful. I'd try it with my dough, but it's basically like a tapenade / salsa / bruschetta style sauce...with anchovy, but hey.
posted by aydeejones at 12:39 AM on July 28


And what KokoRyu describes above, in America particularly the midwest, is a straight-up tuna casserole except we make it with egg noodles or some other noodles that will absorb the cream of mushroom soup. Cream of mushroom soup is a versatile thing; you just need some sage or thyme or other poultry-like seasoning to kick it up in certain recipes.
posted by aydeejones at 12:42 AM on July 28


No pizza recipe thread is complete, without mentioning the endeavours of Kenji Lopez- Alt, the high priest of advanced home cooking.
posted by ouke at 12:43 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Mom's go-to dishes were tuna noodle casserole, baked mac and cheese, and goulash. Pizza was once a month, go out and sit down at Shakey's. I don't think it ever occurred to her she could make pizza at home, though she made some great bread.

But all the kids loved rainy Saturday afternoon English muffin pizza.
posted by Marky at 12:44 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


This recipe and comment thread kind of obliquely encompasses the interesting cross-over between US-American "tuna casserole" and Canadian "tourtiere."
posted by aydeejones at 12:45 AM on July 28


And of course "New York Style Pizza" is a fungible no-true-Scotsman fallacy in action...it's available everywhere and is about having a super-hot oven, no blooming, and good ingredients. Whoop-de-doo. It's good and it's everywhere. I had it in California last week. Yes, I did too.

"No, no you need to try Blah Blah's New York Style Pizza." In Colorado, Virgilio's, Marco's, or more conveniently, Anthony's 22" monster is just fine, thank you very much. Hops and Pie for your IPA + Uber Pizza fix.

As for "OG NY," originally the sauce was on top...does anyone actually eat original New York Style?

"The original pizzerias in New York utilized coal brick ovens and cooked their pizza with the cheese on the bottom and sauce on top. Unlike many modern variations, these pizzas were made with high quality ingredients such as homemade fresh mozzarella and robust crushed tomatoes."

posted by aydeejones at 12:56 AM on July 28


Marcella Hazan's pizza crust recipe (p.623, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking) using King Arthur bread flour plus a tablespoon of Bob's Red Mill vital wheat gluten per cup of bread flour. Hard to work - it takes real muscle and perseverance to stretch - but perfect texture and pronounced wheat taste. Works thin, thick, or as calzone.

I like the classic tricolore Margherita with lots of extra anchovies, fresh basil and oregano from the garden.

Bake them at 500F on parchment paper (which will burn around the edges), or in the Weber on a quarry tile with 4qts of briquettes and all the vents wide open.
posted by Dreidl at 1:04 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


In New Zealand the days of the biscuit (scone)-based pizza dough did not end in the 1970s. In fact, most of my relatives still make pizza like that. With the ubiquitous canned spaghetti as the next layer, substituting (I guess) for a marinara sauce. Ugh.
posted by lollusc at 4:05 AM on July 28


Flour tortillas on a sizzling-hot baking stone make the best home-made thin-crust pizzas. Just sayin.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:38 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


When I was 10, Ragu's "Pizza Quick Sauce" (earworm warning) was my introduction to learning how to cook and experiment in the kitchen.

The process started like this: Was it gourmet? Uh, no, not even close, but it was something I could make myself and I quickly began tweaking the process, toasting the english muffin first and then adding the ingredients, etc. All avenues of toppings were explored. Bacon pizza in 1981? Hell, yes!

For some reason I brought a few jars of the stuff to summer camp, and one memorable night I was dropping mad faux-pizza science in the kitchen and impressing the ladies with my skillz. Good times. Thanks capitalism!
posted by jeremias at 5:02 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Slice o' white bread, tablespoon of Pizza Quick sauce, slice o' Velveeta, 2 pepperonis

Throw that sucker in the toaster oven until the cheese melts (and preferable browns a little).
posted by briank at 5:43 AM on July 28


There was a time when you saw "bagel pizzas" everywhere. It's been years since I've seen one on a menu, though.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


There was a time when you saw "bagel pizzas" everywhere.

I hear when pizza's on a bagel, you can have pizza any time
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:31 AM on July 28 [16 favorites]


KokuRyu wrote: One of these recipes featured a Bisquick "crust", followed by a layer of canned tuna fish, mixed with Campbell's mushroom soup and frozen peas. Sprinkle corn flakes on top and throw in the oven IN THE GODDAMN WASTEBASKET.

- -
We have ben making pizza at home every Friday night for almost twenty years. Deep-dish for treat, calzones for fun, but always Friday Night Is Pizza Night. The James McNair book "Pizza" is a little dated, but still useful.

Homemade dough, or from a local bakery, is great. (That stuff form the grocery store sucks.) We cook on a stone in the oven, or grill it directly, or -- the latest thing, perfect for summer -- use a thin pizza stone on the grill and hastily build the pizza right on the hot stone.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:02 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Homemade dough, or from a local bakery, is great. (That stuff form the grocery store sucks.)

We are lucky enough that a local handcrafted pizza place also sells their fresh dough prepackaged at our local supermarket (Portland Pie Company, if you live around here). I can stop on my way home from work and pick up some dough for $1.79 if I don't feel the desire to drag out the Kitchenaid at 6 pm, and -- as was said above -- have the pizza made in the time it takes to preheat the oven. Homemade top-your-own pizzas are pretty much our go to every time we have a bundle of kids over. It's amazing to me how much more adventurous these kids are with their toppings that we were as kids.
posted by anastasiav at 7:22 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Those King Arthur blog posts are treasures. I had no idea they sold a Italian-style 00 flour, but I'm confused why you'd use it for pizza. 8.5% protein, compared to the 12.7% protein in their ubiquitous bread flour. Isn't the whole point of pizza dough to be super glutenous so you can stretch it thin without tearing?

Pizza is one of the few things I've learned to cook reliably for myself. I use American Pie as the guide, at least for the dough, the idea of a recipe for toppings is too fussy for me. He goes for overnight refrigerator fermentation which adds a lot of flavor to the bread.

The France/Germany World Cup game a few weeks ago gave me a craving for Tarte flambée, aka Flàmmeküeche, the Alsatian pizza. The ones I've had in Strasbourg have had impossibly thin cracker crusts and I was intimidated to even try, but the lovely thing about pizza is even when it's not great it's still pretty good. I ended up working off of this recipe, which has the weirdest dough. Super yeasty, very quick rise, no fermentation, then rolled (not stretched). It didn't have much character or flavor but the texture was nice. And really tarte flambée is all about the sauce and bacon on top anyway, which is awfully good.
posted by Nelson at 7:52 AM on July 28


When I worked at a pizzeria, we were always happy to sell dough or sauce to anyone who wanted to paya buck or two for it.

One time I had to fill two paper quart containers with sauce, and then bag up a couple pounds of mozz and some dough balls. The buyer was taking them to family far away -- Alaska or something? (Ah, air travel before 9/11, I remember ye!) Goodness knows how the paper containers lasted...
posted by wenestvedt at 7:55 AM on July 28


The term "pizza parlor" seems to have fallen out of favor. I recall it still being used in the 70s, perhaps it originated in the 60s? It was used when referring to Straw Hat Pizza (the Wiki page seems a mess), or Shakey's Pizza.

Now you just "pick up a pizza" to go, or go eat at a pizza restaurant. But I think "pizza parlor" has much more charm and a sense of "occasion".
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:34 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Thought of this Dutch 80's pizza link of faux pizza: the pan pizza!
posted by ouke at 9:38 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I'm running out to the beauty parlor, and after that I'm going to the pizza parlor. If I have room I'll get some dessert at the ice cream parlor.

(And thanks to joseph conrad is fully awesome, I can use my new pocketbook!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:39 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I use a weird variation of this part-semolina dough, with 2.25 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole-wheat flour, 1.25 cups semolina #1 (for 3 pies). It makes super-thin crispy crust, with a little whole wheat sweetness. You might possibly like it, but regardless it's a way to sneak whole wheat into the kids.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 10:55 AM on July 28


Marcella Hazan's pizza crust recipe (p.623, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking) using King Arthur bread flour plus a tablespoon of Bob's Red Mill vital wheat gluten per cup of bread flour. Hard to work - it takes real muscle and perseverance to stretch - but perfect texture and pronounced wheat taste. Works thin, thick, or as calzone.

VWG is great. Adding it to KA bread flour essentially make KA High-Gluten Sir Lancelot. You can also add VWG to AP flour in lieu of bread flour.

This is great excuse to link to my favorite online conversion too, the FoodSim conversion calculator. It not only lets you convert mass/volume for all kinds of different liquids, sugars, lipids, etc., it also has a mixed-mass converter that even lets you specify what brands you are converting. In other words, if your recipe calls for x-cups/ounces/grams bread flour and you have generic AP flour and Bob's Red Mill VWG you just plug in the numbers and it will tell you exactly how much of each you need to equal bread flour.

But for all the people who don't have the time or desire to make their own pizza dough, many ordinary supermarkets, and places like Trader Joe's, sell uncooked pizza dough these days and it will be more than good enough if you just want a step up from frozen or Shakey's without making the dough yourself.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:47 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


joseph conrad is fully awesome: “It was used when referring to Straw Hat Pizza”
That's twice in one thread…

We had a Straw Hat just down the street from us in Stone Mountain when I was a kid. They had one of those electro-mechanical wall mounted Trapshoot games, which Mom would always let us play. They also had the two-player Atari Fire Truck game, which was Mom approved because my brother and I could both play.


I never expected to miss Mom more and more since she passed. It's two years now and it's actually getting harder instead of easier.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:20 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Tell me about it.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:16 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


ouke: that dutch pizza link reminded me of a little saying I came up with: "if you like British food, you'll like Dutch food".
posted by el io at 1:25 PM on July 28


The term "pizza parlor" seems to have fallen out of favor. I recall it still being used in the 70s, perhaps it originated in the 60s?

Pretty much all parlours -- pizza, ice cream, beauty, et probably cetera -- stopped being called parlours at some point in the 70s or 80s. Who knows why. Probably some focus-grouped marketing thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


To me "parlour" now sounds slightly dirty. Maybe it got contaminated by the connotations of the term "massage parlour"?
posted by lollusc at 10:19 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


"When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch"

When the first Italian immigrants established themselves enough to have their own kitchens in their homes. Italian-Americans were making pizza at home long before anyone opened a pizza parlor, and they weren't using Bisquick.
posted by snottydick at 7:09 AM on August 5


I'm gonna have Chef Boyardee kit pizza tonight. And it's going to rock. Fuck all y'all.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:24 AM on August 7


« Older Evgeny Morozov, for The Guardian: The rise of data...  |  Born in 1913, Rose Murphy was ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments