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Almost-From-Scratch Pizza Works, Thanks to Greater Understanding of Ovens

February 19, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

In my early days of microwaving, I met a man who had just bought a new microwave oven and wanted to use it for frozen uncooked pizza. It took a lot of effort to convince him that the capabilities of the microwave, although considerable, did not include microwaving frozen raw pizza.

I explained the differences between microwaving and oven baking. I pointed out that the conventional oven had hot, dry air, which caused the crust to dry out and become brown, whereas the microwave didn't brown the food. I suggested that the moisture in the sauce and vegetables caused the microwave energy to "select" those areas to heat more rapidly because, to the microwaves, they were more attractive.

Yet, when all was said and done, it was not my efforts but rather a few failures on his part that persuaded the man to change his expectations. Finally, he learned to appreciate the good job the microwave does in reheating pizza first baked in a conventional oven.

Two things have changed since then.

First, there's frozen microwave pizza on the market. This convenience food has special crust ingredients and special packaging that encourage the crust and the topping to cook at the same time.

Second, people have a better understanding of microwaving and don't expect it to perform exactly as a conventional oven does.

Still, can you microwave a pizza from scratch? That depends on what you call a pizza. With all the improvements in microwave ovens, you still can't start with raw yeast dough and sauce toppings. But you can microwave French bread pizza. And you can make delicious English muffin pizzas with a variety of toppings. Both are great for informal do-it-yourself buffets and teen-age parties.

One cookbook suggests a "crust" made from modified pie pastry. Unlike the yeast-based crust, which can toughen in the microwave, pie pastry is rich enough to stay tender and flaky while microwaving. When microwaved alone with no topping, it becomes dry and crisp. I tried this and, after some modification, came up with the following recipe for Microwave Pizza From Scratch.

I used a round 12-inch glass "pizza pan," with a small rim. But this recipe can be made successfully in a regular 9-inch pie plate.

Just as with any regular pizza, you can substitute ingredients. We tried all-purpose and whole-wheat flours in the crust and were surprised that we preferred the white by a large margin--the whole-wheat flavor seemed too overpowering. For my son, who hates mushrooms, I made one pizza substituting a medium-size firm tomato, thinly sliced, for the mushrooms. It tasted great.

I also have included a recipe for French bread pizza. When pineapple pizza became famous on the West Coast, I created a pineapple-French bread version that is quite tasty. The pineapple adds texture and a slightly sweet flavor to the pizza. As a variation, I also tried substituting microwaved bacon for Italian sausage, and that combination is good, too.


1 1/4 cups flour

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening or margarine

1/4 cup cold water, about

8 ounces ground beef or sausage

Microwave Pizza Sauce

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Stir together flour, 1/3 cup cornmeal and salt in medium mixing bowl. With pastry blender, cut in shortening until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with water and stir with fork until all flour is dampened and pastry can be formed into ball. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons more to moisten pastry, if necessary.

Sprinkle 12-inch round glass or microwave-safe pottery plate with remaining 1 tablespoon cornmeal. Roll pastry into 13-inch circle and transfer to plate. Pinch and flute edges of pastry so sides stand up about half-inch.

Place microwave-safe trivet, bacon rack or inverted plate in microwave oven. Set plate with crust on top of trivet. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 5 minutes, checking pastry and carefully patting down areas that appear to be puffing up. After 5 minutes, rotate plate half-turn and continue microwaving 3 to 6 more minutes, rotating half-turn every 3 minutes, until crust is dry in all areas.

In 1-quart microwave-safe dish, crumble meat. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 4 to 6 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes, until no pink remains in meat. Drain.

Spread Microwave Pizza Sauce over microwaved crust. Sprinkle with cooked meat, mushrooms, green onions, green pepper, mozzarella and Parmesan. Microwave on HIGH 3 to 5 minutes until topping is hot and most of cheese is melted. Makes 4 servings.

Note: To make pizza in pie plate, roll out and fit pie crust into 9-inch pie plate with high sides. Complete as directed in recipe.

Microwave Pizza Sauce

1 cup tomato sauce

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

Dash cayenne pepper

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