Pizza Lab #6: Pretzel 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.
One of my favorite tags here is the crazy crossovers tag. It’s reserved for the delightful results of worlds colliding.. Unsurprisingly, Pizza Lab uses this tag everytime just because that’s really the basic gist of the column, pizza crossovers with other foods. This edition is no different, but to me feels like a true crossover because of the nature of the experiment. Some of the previous labs have been great, but weren’t particularly outlandish with regards to the foods involved. Our Pretzel Pizza in this Pizza Lab saw two classic snack foods combine in a way we didn’t think possible. We changed things up a bit, and it felt pretty special as far as pizza experiments go. The results were certainly worth it (after a ton of work).
Erik S. So this was our second dessert pizza that we’ve done. It was, what do they call it? A labor of love. Or no, an enormous pain in the asshole. That’s the term I was thinking of.
Meg A. Haha yeah…
Erik S. But my God was it worth it.
Meg A. Indeed. I wish it hadn’t been so much work so we might actually make it again. I was sad when I finished the last piece because I knew more than likely it wouldn’t be made again.
Erik S. Well, never say never… but yeah, let’s never make it again, haha.
Meg A. In fairness, if we always made our own dough this pizza wouldn’t have seemed like that much more work. But we’re lazy, so yeah.
Erik S. Well, if we made our own dough, we also wouldn’t have made it through six Pizza Labs.
Meg A. This is true.
Erik S. There’s a reason we buy our dough from pizzerias.
Meg A. Yes, because we’d rather spend $3 on pre-made dough than 3 hours on making our own.
From the get-go, we wanted to make another dessert pizza. Something sweet and delightful. Strawberry Shortcake Pizza was awesome, so we wanted to look and repeat that success with something different. The idea of a pretzel pizza had been floating around for a while, taking inspiration from the more recently (and nauseating) traditions of pizzerias shoving garbage into their outer crust, in attempts to make them appetizing. This reenforced the notion that crust was merely a delivery system for sauce, cheese, and other toppings, which anyone who’s ever eaten a good pizza could tell you is complete bullshit. A tasty crust makes for an unexpected, little treat at the end of something that’s already awesome. Sorta like having sex, then finding a $20 under the bed afterwards. Despite that, shittier companies like Dominoes and Papa John insist on inserting hot dogs and cheese and other suspect foods into the crust, to try and masquerade it as something edible, instead of soggy cardboard with tan colored paint on it. Our intentions meanwhile weren’t to disguise bad crust, but to marry the deliciousness of soft, dutch pretzels, and pizza, simply because they are culinary cousins who share a common genesis in dough.
Of course, the only problem with the aforementioned idea was that it lacked anything else other than the “the crust is a pretzel” notion. We had no idea what toppings would end up on this pie, or what general direction we wanted to go with it. At some points we were almost ready to switch over to a savory pizza, since dessert was starting to look a little restrictive. Much brainstorming was required. Eventually the cavalcade of overly creative ideas was scrapped in lieu of a simpler approach, just involving the use of pretzel dough in a pizza pan, and cinnamon sugar.
Erik S. This was another one of those pizzas that was truly experimental. It took a lot of planning and brainstorming.
Meg A. Oh yeah. We spent a good…45 minutes or so? figure out what was going to go on this pizza. We did also get an idea for another pizza out of that planning.
Erik S. That’s true, we did accidentally surmise the idea for Apple Crisp Pizza.
Meg A. But this particular pizza went through so many ideas before we settled on the final product.
Erik S. We knew we wanted to put cinnamon and sugar on top, but beyond that, we didn’t know what the hell we were gonna put on it.
Meg A. We tossed around the idea of a fruit of some sort (which is where Apple Crisp Pizza came from).
Erik S. Yeah, we were talking about apples, bananas, raspberries, plums, peaches, oranges, you name it… We even mentioned bacon at one point, of all things.
Meg A. That we did.
Erik S. In the end we decided to keep it simple though.
Meg A. Yup! Plain old neapolitan pies are just cheese and sauce. Why couldn’t we do the same for a sweet pie? Especially for a pizza where a large part of it is the different dough. Simple really was the best way to go.
Erik S. Not to mention our plan for the pretzel crust on the outside was already a big part of the pizza.
As mentioned, part of this experiment was using a pretzel dough recipe, in place of plain old pizza dough. The two are similar enough, though pretzel dough tends to be a little on the sweeter side, since it contains sugar. Or Dutch pretzels at least, not New York style pretzels. Then again, New York style soft pretzels are disgusting and tasteless. As a lifelong inhabitant of NY, I feel more than qualified to apologize on behalf of my people, for them. Whereas Dutch, or Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzels tend to be sweet and buttery, the New York equivalents are a darker, a little more crusty, and more bready. Dutch style is the way to go. Regardless, the recipe we used simply stated it made “4-6 servings”. Neither of us were entirely sure what really counts as a serving for homemade soft pretzels, though apparently the answer to that is “a fucking lot”. The dough (which required some doctoring since it came out too sticky at first) ended up being gargantuan in mass, forcing us to divide it in half. One half was fit into a pizza pan, and the other half was turned into normal pretzels.
Oh also for some reason the entire dough baked into a giant pizza-bubble. I guess the dough was also really sarcastic, and took the meaning of the word ‘pie’ super-literally.
Meg A. Ah, now the dough-
Erik S. Do not get me started on the dough, haha.
Meg A. Heh, yeah… you and the dough didn’t get along very well.
Erik S. We know for next time to not use a recipe that makes enough pretzel dough to stock an Auntie Anne’s for roughly one full business day. Lesson learned.
Meg A. True. There was a ridiculous amount of dough. And I’m still unclear on what they meant when the recipe said it made 4-6 servings. Since our pizza alone made that much and we still had enough dough left for 5 pretzels.
Erik S. Haha yeah I’m preeetty sure one serving of that recipe was somehow four pretzels. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it really was just an excessive amount of pretzel dough. And required a lot of tweaking with flour.
Meg A. Yeah. Though I think in general bread doughs need tweaking with flour, since how much it needs can be dependent on the day (like, how humid it is and how competent you are at measuring).
Erik S. Possibly, though I’ve made pretzel doughs in the past without having to nurse it.
Meg A. I suppose it just wasn’t our night.
Erik S. Perhaps not.
Bubbles aside, the dough itself baked well in the pan. Following in the line of soft pretzel baking, the outer crust was brushed with an egg wash to help it brown a little. The center crust was coated with melted butter, since that’s quickly becoming a trend, and running joke at this point in Pizza Lab (for good reason obviously). We sprinkled salt onto the outer crust, to complete its transition into pretzel phase, and it was all baked as if it were an actual pizza.
Halfway through baking, the dough was removed to add the remaining toppings since sweet pizzas generally have ingredients that cook much faster than the dough itself. In this scenario, honey was drizzled onto the freshly baked crust, with cinnamon sugar on top of that, settling into a sort of paste. Lastly, to make it still actually resemble a pizza, mascarpone was dabbed around in clumps, filling in the usual cheese role.
Erik S. Once we got the dough out of the way, it was pretty much smooth sailing from that point onwards.
Meg A. Yeah… if it weren’t for the dough that actually may have been our easiest pizza yet. Like we said above, we were sorta using a plain neapolitan as inspiration for this pizza.
Erik S. We basically laid down a layer of honey onto the crust, instead of tomato sauce, “seasoned” it with cinnamon and sugar, and laid blobs of mascarpone on top for the cheese.
Meg A. That’s pretty much it. Then just used an egg wash on the outer crust and added salt. …fancy Hawaiian salt of course.
Erik S. Oh and melted butter. Can’t forget the melted butter. Melted butter goes on everything.
Meg A. Yup!
Erik S. That pretty much was it. Everything sorta… melted into place. Literally.
Meg A. During the pizza planning I tossed out the idea of adding nuts of some sort, since they do sweet/salty well too, but since you’re not a fan we decided against that. I did however add some to one of my slices and it was really good.
Erik S. Noted.
So for the last few minutes of baking, everything melted and caramelized, the cream cheese got liquidy, perfectly disguising itself to look like fresh mozzarella. The last step, not to dwell, but another brushing of melted butter onto the outside pretzel crust (see? running joke). The best part about this pizza is how well everything melded together. The honey and the cinnamon sugar mixed into a sort of glaze-like sauce for the pie, and similarly the mascarpone mixed with the cinnamon sugar forming a delicious goo that resembled the cream cheese icing generally used on cinnamon sticks/buns. Oh, or if you will, on cinnamon pretzels. See where I’m going with this? So in case it’s not obvious by now, the pizza basically worked like this: you eat the meat of the pizza, and it’s sweet and sugary, tasting exactly like a cinnamon-sugar soft pretzel. You get to the outer crust, and suddenly it’s a friggi’ Auntie Anne’s pretzel, salty and buttery goodness. Surprisingly not messy, easy to eat, tasted so good, and works out exactly how it was planned.
Erik S. The only hiccup we had post-dough-making was the fact that 5 minutes into baking, the pie had baked into a two foot wide air bubble in a pan.
Meg A. That was an interesting sight to open the oven door to.
Erik S. Fortunately it was easily remedied with some gentle stabbing. Which incidentally would make a great name for a terrible band.
Meg A. Haha, yeah, I could feel air bubbles when I was stretchin the dough into shape, but I tried to pop them. I never expected them to join into 1 mega bubble.
Erik S. Gotta be careful for those fringe bubble uprisings. They gather quickly. Like a zombie infestation. Or a race riot. Either way despite its ups and downs, it was definitely a success. The end product was marvelous.
Meg A. Yes it was. You had your doubts. I kept my faith in it.
Erik S. Well that was because while I was kneading and tweaking the dough, a certain sooomebody was working on a puzzle.
Meg A. Hey, I know when to stay out of the way. I didn’t want to end up with overly sticky dough flung at me, so I stayed in the other room.
Erik S. There’s something sexual in that sentence somewhere. I’m just too lazy to find it right now.
Meg A. We can think of something at a later date.