Pizza Lab #4: Strawberry Shortcake Pizza
Pizza Lab is a fun theoretical column in which Meg A. and Erik S. explore their innermost passion for baking and eating pizzas. It exists purely for the sake of experimenting in the kitchen. It may not necessarily be cost-effective everytime, so don’t try this at home kids.
After four Pizza Labs, ideally I would have liked to think our staff has reached a sort of groove, and finally come up with a method to our decision-making process involved in selecting and formulating new ideas for pizzas.
That hasn’t happened yet. Hence my use of the qualifier “ideally”.
Instead, each new edition of Pizza Lab is more thrown together than a middle school student’s Livejournal page in the year 2004. The latest one demonstrates this perfectly, reaching fruition through basically nothing more than the exclamation “Oh! Let’s make a dessert pizza!” What followed was a long debate over whether to use pudding or not. That’s really as complicated as we get. Sorry if that disappoints any budding foodologists in the audience. Know what wasn’t disappointing? This pizza.
Strawberry Shortcake Pizza
Erik S. So this was our first forray into the world of dessert pizza.
Meg A. Yep. We’ve been talking about doing a dessert pizza since starting pizza lab though. For awhile it was just kind of the abstract concept of dessert, and not a specific one though.
Erik S. Yeah, desserts is an awfully broad term, we all tend to throw it around like it means one food. i.e. “IT’S TIME FOR DESSERT!” is rarely answered with the philosophical pondering “But… what is dessert?”
Meg A. True. Until it’s time to decide on a pizza.
Erik S. Right.
Meg A. You tossed out a few ideas for what kind of dessert pizza we could do. We ultimately decided on strawberry shortcake. It made perfect sense considering that shortcake itself is a bit of a rich, doughy cake.
Erik S. Also because strawberry shortcake is my favorite type of dessert.
There are many luxuries that come with living in the year 2013. Smartphones, half-priced appetizers, comedy blogs… Among these treasures is the general concept of dessert pizzas. While it’s not as though this idea never existed until now, the basic gist of sweet toppings on pizza dough never really was popular as a thing up until the past decade or so. That’s all very generalized speaking, since you’re still not gonna see a s’mores pizza in your local pizzeria, but you do see these sweet treats every once in a while at larger, more off-the-wall pizza places.
For our entry level jump into this delicious subsect of pizza-making, strawberry shortcake seemed as good a start as any. Simple to make, and universally loved, strawberry shortcake is a Spring and Summertime favorite of mine. It’s more or less rich cake with sliced strawberries, syrup, and whipped cream on top, for those of you who never grew up possessing a childhood. That or possibly who’ve just lived in a hellish, cartoon-like dystopia society where food only comes in two varieties: grey liquid or brown paste.
As mentioned in the blockquote, shortcake is generally a dense, buttery, almost doughy type of cake. Generally any food term with “short” in it basically guarantees it’s delicious and contains copious amounts of butter or shortening (well, not shortribs. They don’t really need an excess of butter on them, unless you’re planning on starting your meal with the sentence “I’ve lived long enough”). Because of this, pizza dough wasn’t much of a stretch, considering cooked dough resembles shortcake in a few ways. From here on, the simple part was the strawberries which only require slicing and a coating of sugar to produce a syrup. After this, there was some room for debate as to the next step in the formula.
Meg A. It took us awhile to decide what else to put on the pizza other than just strawberries and whipped cream.
Erik S. That was a debate for the ages.
Meg A. I was firmly on the side of pudding.
Erik S. I was all over the place.
Meg A. I’m trying to remember what other things you suggested…
Erik S. Custard, vanilla sauce, crepe filling, ice cream, dark matter, magic, etc… The list went on.
Meg A. Yeahhh, I stuck to my pudding guns. Also, how awesome would pudding guns be?
Erik S. They would be delightful. And put an entirely new spin on the gun control debate.
Eventually vanilla pudding was agreed upon, out of a combination of laziness as well as the fact everybody likes pudding. Somehow, plain vanilla instant-pudding is idiotically hard to find in King Kullen. Instead there’s every variety of pudding available in history, but sugar-free. Of course everybody knows that sugar-free food is for suckers, since Splenda/sucralose tastes like a pixie’s vomit and probably causes cancer or AIDS or cancer-AIDS. Whatever. We settled on French vanilla, since it was the only type with real sugar, and is basically just vanilla only more yellow-looking. Upon its conception, part of me wanted to see the pudding be a little more… “advanced” than just pudding, and some cream cheese and strawberry jam was added. Which added literally nothing (besides lumpiness).
Erik S. So the end product was some sort of an amalgamation of pudding, cream cheese, and strawberry syrup… and miraculously ended up tasting like… vanilla pudding.
Meg A. Pretty much. I think part of the problem was not softening the cream cheese before trying to mix it into the pudding. I spent a long time mixing that pudding mixture and it never really got smooth.
Erik S. And for that, I am deeply sorry.
Meg A. It’s okay. The pudding just never really tasted different since the cream cheese didn’t blend with it.
Erik S. Well, that and I only threw in half a package of cream cheese. We probably should have added more of the jam/syrup.
Meg A. I suppose.
After this, the pizza dough was loaded up into a pan, and brushed down with a butter wash, to promote browning, and also because anything can be enhanced by being coated in melted butter. Because of the nature of sweets and sugar’s tendency to caramelize with only short term exposure to heat, there was no need to add the actual toppings at the get go. As is with all dessert pizzas, the dough was prepared on its own, and then baked until it was done. Did I mention it was covered in butter?
While normally strawberry shortcake only really requires the strawberries to be sugared and produce their own syrup, the hard decision was made to supplement this with strawberry preserves. Or jam. I’m not sure what it technically qualifies as. It was labeled as “spreadable fruit”, which in all honesty was a fairly accurate description of it. Either way, we needed something that was strawberry flavor, which would liquify under heat, and soak into the pudding and crust. Whatever this stuff was, it did the job pretty well, and was actually pretty healthy, considering it was made with only fruit and fruit juices, as opposed to high fructose corn shit. The diced strawberries were combined with this syrupy jam-preserves hybrid to create a giant strawberry orgy, which was then loaded onto the layer of pudding which we spread onto the finished crust.
This was sent for one final trip into the oven, in order to melt everything together, and to help it further resemble a pizza. This is Pizza Lab afterall. Unfortunately, this also brought out the major flaw of this pizza as a whole, in that the ingredients were far too liquidy, with very little to bond and hold them in place. Instead of being a delicious pie that baked-together, it instead more resembled an oil-spill made of strawberries, amidst an ocean of pudding.
Erik S. The other hiccup we experienced came with removing the pizza from the oven.
Meg A. Yeah…we didn’t really expect the pudding landslide.
Erik S. Wellp, in addition to the idea of pudding guns, I now also have the mental imagery of a pudding landslide.
Meg A. I would definitely like to be standing in front of that, if one actually took place.
Erik S. As far as pizzas go, this pizza was a mess.
Meg A. Yeah. The only way this pizza came up short was that a knife and fork were necessary for consumption. Which, as you know, is illegal in NY.
Erik S. Yes I believe it’s down to a misdemeanor now, but still, is that a risk you want to take?
The final portion of this Pizza Lab was obviously the whipped cream. Naturally, it had to be homemade since homemade whipped cream is a delicacy like no other, and literally takes 3 minutes to make. The cream was whipped, and then globbed onto the fresh pizza disaster that just left the oven. I use the term glob specifically since there’s no other way to place homemade whipped cream onto a dessert. It’s either globbing, or nothing, since piper bags suck, and are more of a pain in the ass to use than a Macbook Pro. And no, this isn’t Cool Whip, in the picture. Don’t even get me fucking started on Cool Whip. Trying to compare Cool Whip to whipped cream is like trying to pass off polycystic kidney as a newborn puppy.
Erik S. Yes, the pizza was a mess. A delicious, sloppy mess good enough to make food-fetishists blush.
Meg A. Oh yeah, that pizza is some top-notch food porn.
Erik S. But yeah, it would definitely be in our best interest to find a way to solidify that pizza. Though doing so would probably require some sort of inane combination of cooling it, refrigerating it, then warming it from beneath again. I don’t know if either of us possess the attention span for that, even if its for pizza.
Meg A. Well you don’t need to keep attention while it’s cooling in the fridge. It’s the warming from the bottom that’d be a problem.
Erik S. True, not to mention it very much goes against the pizza-making creed of “place in oven, remove from oven.”
Meg A. I imagine heating it from beneath would need to be done on a griddle or grill of some sort.
Erik S. Honestly, that process in and of itself would require an entire new Pizza Lab. And we just can’t afford to do that now, considering the enormous list of ideas we still have.
So the moment you’ve been waiting for, if you’ve actually read through this entire article. Was it good? You bet your ass it’s good. It tastes absolutely like a real strawberry shortcake, only in the form of a slice of pizza. Sweet and somewhat tart, with a delicious, rich crust. As you may have taken away already, the only thing holding it back was the ridiculous sloppiness of it. It seems like a trend in Pizza Lab by now, that pizzas get more and more messy as they get further away from an actual pizza. I suppose that is one trade-off, though a worthy one if it means you can eat chicken fingers and strawberries and other absurd foods on a pizza.