May 5, 2010

Unintended Snobbery

You know how sometimes people are kind of snobby about things and you think, "Oh brother, it's all in your heaaaaaaaad." Mostly, I feel this way about food things - the person who swears freshly squeezed lemon juice or minced garlic is a thousand times better than the bottled/jarred version, or the person who insists that a mandolin is the only way to be a real cook.

Except, most of the time, when I try the other alternative, I find out that the snob was right and, whoops, now I'm a snob too.

When Mel from Mel's Kitchen Cafe (only my favorite recipe blog in the whole wide world) mentioned that pre-shredded cheese was an abomination (my word, not hers) and that you should shred your own cheese for a FAR superior product, I may have rolled my eyes a little. Until I made pizza with a block of mozzarella cheese instead of a bag (because it's what I had and also my block was seconds away from molding before my eyes and I couldn't bear to throw it away after paying good money for it) and my life was changed forever. Now I'm a shredded cheese snob. Pardon me.

Similarly, my sister-in-law gave me a pizza stone for Christmas. I was excited about it because I'd heard how great they were, but I figured, really, how different can it be? I mean, will it REALLY improve my pizza and other bread products that much?

Also, you're supposed to WASH your stone with water and soap before you use it and, for some reason, I was too lazy to do that. Yes, I could not be bothered for THREE MONTHS to take 30 seconds to wash my pizza stone. I am ashamed.

And then, one night when I was making pizza, I thought, "hmm, if I put my pizza on parchment paper, it won't matter if my pizza stone is not washed and I'll just use it unwashed." Which is what I did.

I'm guessing you already know what the punch line is. . . I'm totally a pizza stone snob now. I cannot tell you how VASTLY improved my pizza is.

I have never been the world's biggest fan of homemade pizza, mainly because of the crust, which was always too bready for me (I am ridiculously picky about bread products), and now I'm suddenly eating ALL the crust. It's the right texture, the taste is phenomenal, and it's crispy enough on the bottom that you can eat it one-handed (the true test of a pizza slice in my mind).

So here I am, on the dark side, looking down my nose at my formerly oft-used pizza pans, now relegated to making nothing but biscuits. And it may look like snobbery, but really, my pizza is so much tastier than it ever has been before.

31 comments:

  1. I am very interested in this pizza stone thing, as I love pizza to no end.

    But as to the shredded cheese? Am covering my ears 5-year-old style and going "lalalalala" because I love the convenience (and relative cheapness) of my pre-shredded, possibly chemical-laden cheese.

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  2. One of my best friends was married last fall. Her (now) husband is a huge pizza maker, and the only thing he wanted to add to their registry was a pizza stone! He uses it at least once a week and is always making different kinds. I don't have one, but maybe I should invest...

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  3. I feel like being particular is different than being a snob. To me, snobs preach THEIR way to me, despite any objections I might have, like cost, availability, already-tried-it, etc. I try to toe the line of "Have you tried this yet?" when I am teetering over the edge of snobdom, but I'm not always successful.

    I am pro-pizza stone and hand-grated cheese, however, for what it's worth.

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  4. I was the same way with my pizza stone. We received it as a gift for our wedding and it sat unused for five years. Then just a couple months ago my favorite food blog (ourbestbites.com) insisted I use one, so I did and it has changed my life forever! I hated making homemade pizza because my crust never turned out right, it was always so soggy! Love my pizza stone, perfect crust all the time.

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  5. I was just so darn pleased that my pizza crust wasn't soggy after the first time I used my pizza stone. And dude, no wonder we are friends I just made homemade pizza last night! I've yet to use unshredded cheese though, I'll give it a shot next time. Have you tried her feta pine nut pizza? Mmmm.

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  6. We grate our own parmesan but it never occurred to me to do the same with mozzarella. Interesting thought!

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  7. I remember having to shred cheese when I was growing up because I am either too old to have had the convenience of shredded cheese in a bag, or my mother was too cheap to buy it.
    A few weeks ago we ran out of shredded cheese and my daughters were thrilled to use the cheese shredder - they had never seen such a wonderful invention before and all fought over getting to shred some cheese. And, after adding it to my salad, I agree that it is superior to pre-shredded cheese. The shredder, however, is a pain to clean.

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  8. My pizza stone is just about my favorite thing in my kitchen.

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  9. Yeah, I have to agree with most of those things. Except maybe the garlic. I've tried it both ways and I like the pre-minced just because it's so much easier and I can't really taste a difference. Tom's as big of a pizza snob as you'll ever meet. We have a pizza stone (love it) and he insists on the cheese being grated right before you put it on the pizza. Thanks to Merrick, we've recently starting making homemade pizza every week. By the way, what is a Mandolin?

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  10. Hehe. We made a deal when we got married that Josh would grate all the cheese whenever I asked without complaint if I'd agree not to buy the pre-shredded stuff (which he was convinced was too expensive). Now, I can't really stand the stuff, especially the fact that it never seems to mold. That being said, it was an accident and I try not to admit that he was right.

    I hear chefs on tv say the same thing about freshly grated nutmeg so I bought some (super cheap in the ethnic foods aisle) but haven't really noticed a difference. Oh well, it was only $1.

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  11. I mean, you know that you sound like a snob when you insist on fresh garlic and lemon juice. But.....it makes a difference! So what do you do? Embrace snobdom and learn when to keep your mouth shut (for fear of offending).

    And I have noticed that pre-shredded cheese just doesn't melt the same as cheese you grate yourself. Why is that? It makes me start to wonder what they are doing to the cheese to change its melting properties. Are they coating something? Is it just inferior cheese? (And then the paranoia builds.....)

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  12. I am a 100 percent grate-my-own cheese snob. Pre-grated cheese is like 6 or 7 times more expensive than buying a brick. (I'm not kidding.) And, any pre-grated cheese I've ever tried had no flavor at all.

    I'll admit that most of the time I am lazy. For a long time I had a great food processor to do the grating, then my kids did it, now my husband usually does it.

    If you use a lot of fresh Parmesan and/or other hard dry cheeses - spend the money and get a good hand cranked grater. It will be worth every cent you spend on it. I do grate my own using this handy gadget, and haven't purchased the jarred stuff in probably 15 or more years.

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  13. PS: I haven't yet tried my pizza stone. Guess I need to do that, right?

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  14. I don't know about pizza stones, but I am definitely a fresh grated cheese snob. Not only is the pre-grated stuff expensive and not as good, I agree with Lady Susan-- it doesn't melt the same. Yuck.

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  15. I too have discovered a hidden snob within in many ways, but pizza stones are certainly snobbery we share!

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  16. hmmph. now I want pizza. and I mean now.

    I thought it said NOT to wash it... but I did thinking I was rebellious. Yep, that's about as rebellious as it gets for me lately.

    Now will you try bread????? :)

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  17. Being a potter on the side, I use kiln shelves in place of pizza stones. They are thicker, and you need to preheat them a little longer than the actual pizza stones, but they hold heat better, I put two in the oven one above the other. I start the pizza on the top one then move it down half way through the bake. Finishing it off between the two hot surfaces is great. I also cook at about as hot as my poor oven will go short of the cleaning cycle. The best pizza ever. I make pizza about once a week now.

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  18. I have a really good recipe for crust involving olive oil if you would like to try it??

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  19. oh janssen... you know i hate to say i told you so. just bought a new brick of mozerella today for "pizza friday." and fyi: NEVER wash your stone with soap. it will absorb into the stone. just use hot water. love that parchment stuff.
    my newfound pizza trick? heat your oven almost an hour before you throw the pizza on at 500 degrees or hotter. best crust ever in 8 minutes or less.
    we need a pizza night with the tutts/bradshaws soon.

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  20. This made me laugh (the rolling the eyes part)! I'm glad you finally gave block cheese a chance - and especially glad you noticed the difference!

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  21. I shred my own cheese too. In fact I am with you on being a cheese snob. At Costco, the pre-shredded cheese is actually CHEAPER than the brick (weird, right?) but I still buy the brick. I am also a rice snob. (Minute Rice? OH! The horrors!) But now I want a pizza stone too. Are there different brands? Or can you just buy one at Target?

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  22. Some cheeses (strong stuff like cheddar or jack) don't seem that different when you buy them pre-shredded. But mozzarella and parmesan? HUGE difference. You can't beat a fresh ball of mozzarella, and I don't trust a cheese that survives in a can in the pantry.

    Not to mention the funky preservative and anti-sticky chemicals they add to the pre-shredded cheeses. Ewwww.

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  23. Funny, I don't really notice a difference between bagged shredded cheese and block cheese shredded at home. I shred my own, but only because it's cheaper to buy the block and it's a lot easier to cut mold off a block than to pick out every moldy strand from a bag. Hmm. I guess my cheapness and laziness is saving me from the horrors of bagged shredded cheese.

    My life was changed forever when I started using a French Press for coffee and now I'm a such a coffee snob. It's a problem because the coffee at work (I can't wake up early enough to make my own on work days) is so much inferior that it breaks my heart a little bit every day.

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  24. I totally embrace my food snobbery! :) I adore fresh Parmesan and on my recipe posts on my blog I always put FRESH Parmesan instead of the other stuff.
    I'm also a total baking stone lover too. I love my Pampered Chef stones (used to even sell it). For the PC stones you're not supposed to use soap and water (they'll flavour the stone). They make a MUCH better homemade pizza crust and my cookies always turn out perfectly (there's that snob thing again).
    As for pre-shredded cheese? I'm too cheap to buy it. Does that make me a frugal snob? Can there be such a thing?
    For what it's worth ... I agree that freshly pressed garlic tastes better than the jarred stuff. Plus you don't risk ptomaine poisoning either like you do with the jarred garlic.

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  25. Shredding your own cheese only makes sense if the quality of your other ingredients is likewise good. If you're shredding your own cheese but then putting on a cheap jarred sauce, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

    LOVE my pizza stone, but some advice: Please don't wash it! Well, at least, don't wash it with soap! The stones are permeable which means the soap will soak in and penetrate it, giving up the flavor to your food. Plus, in order to get a good patina going on the stone, you want the oils and fats from your cooking left behind. The darker the stone, the better the stone. Only use a rough sponge and hot/warm water to clean; I promise you'll never regret it.

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  26. I'm intrigued by this pizza stone that you have that you're allowed to wash with soap. That's against the rules with mine, which I really hate.

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  27. If it's not too late...DO NOT WASH YOUR PIZZA STONE WITH SOAP AND WATER!!!!!! The stone soaks up the soap flavor, and, well, gross.

    Scrub the stone with hot water and salt when it needs washing. After washing, and especially at first, you should rub some cooking oil onto it with a paper towel to cure it. After a while, you won't need to do that very often.

    I LOVE my pizza stone. It's like my baby. Only I managed to forget it at the old house in the oven. If you weren't aware, the best place to store a stone is in the oven, even if you're using it. Exposure to the heat cures it further (which is good) and the stone helps the oven temperature to be more constant while cooking (which is also good).

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  28. I took 5 minutes out of my life tonight and shredded two 8 oz blocks of cheese and thought of you the ENTIRE time! I liked that I didn't feel the need to use as much because it was just thicker/richer or whatever. An added bonus? Getting to taste the pieces that don't grate as well. Yum. Thank you once again for your positive influence!!! p.s. own a pizza stone, have only used it for cookies.

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  29. Janssen, are you dissing that pizza I made that one time? Hehehehe... A stone sounds amazing, I'm totally sold!

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  30. I am a pizza stone snob. I admit it and once you have one you'll never go back. I once bought a pizza stone from Bed, Bath and Beyond on vacation to make pizza at our cabin. Our friends thought I was a little on the crazy side until they tasted the crunchy crust.

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