We all have our favourite frozen convenience food. Some pick pizza pockets. Others roll with burritos. I have always had a soft spot for French bread pizzas. With the exception of pizza pockets — which were for sure created in a laboratory — you can make and freeze most of these conveniences yourself.
The benefits to making your own French bread pizzas are obvious — for one, you can use really good bread. But the main advantage lies in choosing your toppings. No longer are your only choices “cheese,” “pepperoni,” and “combination.” You are now free to add roasted mushrooms, caramelised garlic, fancy charcuterie, and — yes — even pineapple.
Want to eat a different French bread pizza every day, like some sort of royalty? That can be your life; all you have to do is make it happen, Cap’n. The French bread pizza has three main components — bread, sauce, and toppings — and how involved you want to get with each one is up to you.
I love bread
Picking your bread is kind of no-brainer. We are, after all, making French bread pizzas. But, as luck would have it, you can apply this process to almost any frozen pizza configuration. A crusty baguette is my favourite, but a soft hoagie roll would be a respectable choice, and no one would be disappointed in you if you made a pizza bagel (or 50).
Whichever bread you choose, toast it under the broiler or in a toaster oven for a few minutes to give it just a hint of colour and some crunch. Then, take a halved garlic clove and rub it on the bread in a fashion most aggressive to give it some flavour. Set the bread aside to cool completely.
You’re saucy, aren’t you?
If you have a store-bought pizza sauce you like, you are of course free to use that, but making your own is very easy, and you can season it as you please. All I do is take Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient sauce, add a little wine, and reduce it until it’s saucy, but not runny. To make it yourself, you will need:
1 can of peeled plum tomatoes
1 onion, cut in half, skins removed
5 tablespoons of salted butter
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
Add everything to a sauce pan or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Let cook and reduce for about an hour, stirring occasionally, scraping the sides (that’s free tomato paste, right there), and crushing the tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Remove the onion, and let the sauce cool completely.
Top it off
Now for the true fun. You probably already have a good idea of what you like on your pizza, but there are a few guidelines for ensuring your pizzas will freeze and reheat well:
Blot any wet cheeses (like fresh mozzarella) and any marinated or pickled vegetables (like pickled jalapeños). This will prevent unsightly, soggy puddles from forming.
Roast vegetables to make sure they reach their most flavour-packed potential. Your frozen pizzas won’t be exposed to enough heat during reheating to create those delicious Malliard-y flavours, so roast them with a little olive oil and some Italian seasoning. Let them cool completely before piling them on your pizza.
If you’re using fancy charcuterie, cut it into pieces that are smaller than you think they need to be. There is nothing more upsetting than taking all of the meat off your pizza with your first bite.
Leave off any fresh items like basil or raw tomatoes; those won’t freeze well. Instead, add them just before re-heating or — in the case of basil — just before serving.
Once you have all your toppings assembled, prepared, and cooled, spoon some sauce on your toasted and cooled bread, spread it around to form a thin layer, then add your cheese and the rest of your toppings. Place the assembled pizzas on a baking sheet, then pop them in freezer for two hours.
Take them out, wrap each one tightly in foil, then put ’em in a freezer bag before placing them back in the freezer. To heat, place in a 220°C oven or toaster oven and cook for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is deep, golden brown.
If you want to speed it up, you can zap them in the microwave — remove the foil first — for two minutes and then finish ’em off in the toaster oven for five. Either way is acceptable (and delicious).