A few months ago I wrote an article about the history of the Chef Boyardee Pizza Maker kit. To be truthful, I had never even noticed its existence, having come from a family where Mom made her own pan pizza once in a while or we simply ordered fantastic take-out pizza from Cuomo's Pizzeria, located right around the corner from our house. Cuomo's was where I developed my passion about pizza... I helped grind the cheese, mixed the dough, helped making rounds of dough, worked the counter a bit,I delivered pizzas, and folded literally thousands of pizza boxes. I know pizza... but not "kit pizza".
In the Boyardee post, I promised that I would test this kit out when I had the chance. Well, I did more than that. I created a Pizza Crust Kit Challenge between the Chef Boyardee kit and the generic brand of pizza crust in a packet. While the Boyardee Pizza Maker kit comes with cheese and a can of sauce, the generic pizza dough is a packet to make a crust only. Both can make two small or one large pizza.
First, I opened the Boyardee kit...
This is what I found inside: Two packets of flour/yeast mixture, one packet of grated cheese and one can of "Pizza Maker Sauce". First I checked out the cheese by tasting it. This is a blend of Romano and Parmesan with some fillers like rice flour and powdered cellulose, but to my surprise, this tasted a lot better than any of the grated jar cheese that I've tasted. Oddly, as far as I can tell, Boyardee (or its parent company, Conagra) doesn't make a jar grated cheese. They should! I tested just about every major brand of grated cheese a while back and this little packet outdid them all.
I've read that many people have a nostalgic view of the way their Mom's would make this "kit" pizza back in the Fifties or Sixties and actually prefer making it with only this little packet of grated cheese. I'll be adding some grated mozzarella.
As for the sauce, I thought I might find it acceptable and expected a watery, basic pizza sauce, but what I found was an overly sweet and syrupy sauce that I couldn't even consider putting on a pizza. It tasted like the sauce Boyardee uses in their canned pasta recipes. Personally, since Chef Boyardee (cheese or beef) Ravioli was one of the few meals I started making for myself when I was about 9 years old, I have a nostalgic love of their sauce... but this sauce was much more sweet and inappropriate for a pizza. The ingredients list high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient. No thanks. Out came my sauce and I poured the can down the drain.
As for the flour packets, it seems that they list yeast in the ingredients along with "leavening", so I supposed the dough would have some decent body to it after it rises.
Next, I read the instructions. I was amazed to see that no where did they mention "kneading". They instruct to mix the flour/years mix and "very warm water" in a bowl with a fork. They forgot to mention that water over 120 F will kill yeast. "Very warm water" seemed vague to me. My temperature was around 115.
OK, so I mixed with a fork and this is what I got...
So I kneaded for a minute or so anyway...
I oiled a bowl (with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not "Wesson oil" as they directed), covered with plastic wrap and put the dough aside to rise, but not for 5 minutes or 20 minutes ("for a lighter crust") as they directed in the instructions, but for one hour. I know better. At this point, I preheated my oven to 425 F, as per directions.
After the dough had risen, I punched it down, turned it out on my floured board and formed the pizza. I transferred it to a parchment lined wooden peel. Always the rogue, I did not follow their instructions to "spread the dough in a non-stick pizza pan". If I did want to bake this pizza in a pan, I would have oiled the pan with light olive oil anyway (most dough will stick, even in a Teflon pan). I would be baking this pizza directly on my pizza steel with parchment under it. I wanted to get the crispiest crust possible.
I then topped the dough with my own sauce, and then topped with shredded mozzarella and the packet of Parmesan/Romano cheese that was in the kit. Instead of baking for 20-22 minutes as per directions, I baked for 15 minutes on my pizza steel at 425 F and got great results as you can see... The photo on the right shows a nice crusty bottom with all the feel and "fold-ability" as a New York City slice of pizza. Their cheese was a nice compliment to the mozzarella, but I was so glad I used my own sauce.
In the end, I would rate their "kit" only 1 star if I had made it with their sauce and in a pan. The way I made it I rate it a solid 5 out of 5 stars. But in the end, I can't really recommend spending $3.50 on this pizza kit since their can of sauce is not worth using. The only elements I'd recommend using is their cheese and the flour/yeast mix. It's just not worth it when I can make a pizza dough from scratch very easily for very little cost.
My suggestion to Chef Boyardee? Two of the components of the Kit are excellent. Create stand-alone products for each... a jar of your grated cheese and a packet of the pizza crust flour/yeast mix. I would highly recommend both if they existed!
Making the Store Brand Pizza Crust Mix
I tend to shop at either Stop and Shop or Giant supermarkets, which is where I picked up their store brand Pizza Crust Mix. As I said earlier, this is to make a crust only... you provide all the toppings.
Still doing my rogue thing... I didn't use a "greased" a pan, I didn't use "hot tap water", I let the dough rise for one hour, not just 10 minutes. I did bake at 450 for 5 minutes or so.
I used my own sauce, mozzarella and baked the pizza on top of a parchment sheet on my pizza steel.
The results were... interesting.
As you see below, there wasn't much rise. When I saw "leavening" listed in the ingredients, with no mention of yeast, I expected this result. This is probably a baking powder based leavening.
Good looking pizza, right? Well, the taste was powdery. It was a very thin crust pizza... like a cracker crust. But again, there was nothing tasty about the crust... even a bit metallic tasting. I rate this 1 star out of 5. I like a thin crusty pizza once in a while, but this just didn't cut it.
In the end results, both pizza crust mixes failed as far as I'm concerned. If Boyardee offered their crust as a stand alone product, I might be a customer and would recommend it. The generic? Forget about it.
Please.... make pizza at home. Here's how!