Posted by: Rae | April 21, 2008

Fresh mozzarella on pizzas

The other day, someone Googled “fresh mozzarella makes pizza soggy” and wound up at this web site. Not because I have soggy pizza, i hope, but because I use fresh mozzarella on several pizzas. I understand the searcher’s problem — we use Gorgonzola, Fontina, and Parmesan on pizzas, and they turn out great, but fresh mozzarella just oozes water. It’s actually a worse problem in omelets, because I haven’t figured out how to get around it other than to pour off the juice before I roll the omelet. And that’s ugly. I do think we have the soggy pizza problem nailed (look at the pizza at the top of this page), and I thought I’d share what we do.

Here are the anti-sog tricks:

1. Par-bake the crust. That way it’s a little dried out before you begin to put stuff on top, and you’ll have the time to fully cook it without over-cooking the toppings.  Form the pizza crusts. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, and bake. We bake for 3 or 4 minutes in a commercial convection oven at 450 degrees F.  Just bake until the crust doesn’t look soft anymore and is just beginning to turn golden brown in spots. Take it out of the oven, let it cool, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until you need to use it. If you’re making more than one crust, separate them with sheets of parchment paper and then wrap in plastic. 

Here’s a picture of a a stack of par-baked pizza crusts, separated by parchment paper and ready to wrap in plastic wrap:

2. Spread a little olive oil on the crust before you add the other ingredients.  This puts a barrier between your wet ingredients and the crust (oil and water don’t mix, remember?)

3.  Limit the wet ingredients like sauces, especially those with a watery base.  Pesto, ok.  A tablespoon or two or chunky marinara, ok.  But roasted plum tomatoes — much better.  Keep it dry.

4.  Tear the mozzarella into small pieces.  The idea is to expose as much of the surface area as possible, so the moisture evaporates.  The convection oven is especially good at this.  Anyway, after the other ingredients are on the pizza, I cut a few slices from a mozzarella ball, then rip up the slices and put them on top.  Spread them out.  Keep in mind that the point isn’t to create one big rubbery layer of mozzarella cheese that covers the rest of the ingredients.   It’s to provide little dots of creamy cheese to tantalize the diner.

5.  Pour it off.   If all else fails, and the water is pooling on the top of the pizza when you pull it out of the oven. lift the pizza with a large chef knife and tip it so the water runs off. 

6.  Drain the cheese.   OK, you can always hang the mozzarella balls in cheesecloth over a bowl and drain it overnight.  We don’t do that.  It’s hard to do in a sanitary way in a restaurant our size, and it’s hard to predict perfectly how much mozzarella you’re going to need, so you end up wasting cheese.  It keeps better in salt water; pull it out and it has a short lifespan. 

Yeah, it’s all a lot of trouble.  But you just can’t beat fresh mozzarella on a pizza. 

 

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