Craftsy Class Review: Perfect Pizza at Home with Peter Reinhart

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Yes, I got another class completed this month! I introduce you to... Perfect Pizza at Home with Peter Reinhart.

(Before you gluten-free folks out there think, "Pizza? I can't eat that, I'll stop reading this post right now...." Stick it out. You'll get rewarded at the end!)

This is a quick little freebie class--one of the freebies that Craftsy offers to rope you in...I mean, to introduce you to the Craftsy platform. I chose it because we're big fans of pizza in our house, especially grilled pizza, and because I really like Peter Reinhart as a teacher. (Click here to see my review of his Artisan Bread Making class.) He's really good at what he does! It's been waiting for me on my list of classes for a long time, only because making pizza from scratch takes time I don't often have these days. But I found myself with a little time available this past weekend so bumped it up to the head of the pack.

Fri PM pizza--using Reinhart's sauce recipe with my own dough recipe (for speed). Standard toppings: tomato sauce, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, shredded mozzarella.

Fri PM pizza--using Reinhart's sauce recipe with my own dough recipe (for speed). Standard toppings: tomato sauce, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, shredded mozzarella.

The lesson on pizza dough felt pretty familiar to me, having already done his bread class. Other than the process of making dough, however, he goes through four different recipes for dough, depending on what style of pizza you want, and talks about the slight difference in baking and results given the different doughs.

The catch here: These dough recipes all require refrigerating overnight, which I hadn't realized when I set out Friday afternoon to make pizza for Friday night dinner. So I stuck that dough in the fridge and then went back to my usual pizza dough recipe that only needs to rise about an hour or so. But I did use his sauce recipe for the Friday night version. The sauce recipe is very simple, requires no cooking, and was exactly the kind of sauce we like! Definitely a keeper.

After doughs, he talks about sauces and toppings--pesto, tomato sauce, herb oils, and then options for what goes on top of the sauce. Again, recipes are included in the class materials, and he does a nice job talking through considerations for ingredients, possible substitutions, and what each ingredient brings to the table. By the way, if you're a fan of cheese--he spends several minutes talking about different cheeses, fat contents, moisture contents, and flavor profiles, including a couple of cheeses I'd never even heard of!

Saturday Lunch pizza--his dough, his stretching method. It looks more pale in this picture than it was. I always brush olive oil with herbs and garlic on the crust right before and immediately following baking, so that's what you're seeing on the crust. This version: Parmesan cream sauce, caramelized onions, spinach, and goat cheese. Yum!

Saturday Lunch pizza--his dough, his stretching method. It looks more pale in this picture than it was. I always brush olive oil with herbs and garlic on the crust right before and immediately following baking, so that's what you're seeing on the crust. This version: Parmesan cream sauce, caramelized onions, spinach, and goat cheese. Yum!

The lesson on making and baking pizzas includes a demonstration of how to stretch the dough with your hands--not the tossing-in-the-air-and-spinning technique (and he explains why that wouldn't work with these dough recipes), but a gentle turning around your fists to make it stretch evenly and in a neat circle. I tried it for the first time making both pizzas and it worked well, but I had problems getting them round. Fortunately, geometry has no impact on flavor.

Finally, he walks through the making and baking process for each style of pizza, offering lots of great tips and what to watch for along the way. When the demo pizzas come out of the oven, he then discusses several options for finishing touches and presentation.

Focaccia prepared for second rise, doused in herb oil. I used an Italian seasoning blend with garlic powder and a little salt for the two that are green; the third is the same blend with some paprika added just for fun.

Focaccia prepared for second rise, doused in herb oil. I used an Italian seasoning blend with garlic powder and a little salt for the two that are green; the third is the same blend with some paprika added just for fun.

One of the pizza dough recipes is a focaccia recipe, so when my MIL asked me to bring an appetizer for Father's Day dinner at her house, I jumped at the chance to make that one too. You refrigerate it overnight in the cake pans, so on baking day you just add your herb oil, do another "dimpling" with your fingers, give it a second rise (1-3 hours depending on a lot of factors) and bake. It seems like an impressive dish to other people but the dough is super-simple and does most of the work itself while you're off doing other things. Note here: I had to go back to the Artisan Bread class for more complete information about making focaccia; in the pizza class he uses the focaccia dough for making pizza and gives only cursory information about the baking.

Focaccia complete. And very yummy, too.

Focaccia complete. And very yummy, too.

The catch with the freebie classes is the course instructors don't necessarily participate in the conversations the way they do on their for-sale classes, but there's always an active conversation among students. So you should still feel free to ask questions--surely someone will answer! It's also worthwhile to read through others' questions and the responses to see what tips you might pick up.

One thing I've learned from doing a few cooking classes on Craftsy--print off all the materials first and have them at your side as you're watching the lessons. Often the course instructor gives extra information or clarification in the video lessons that's not on the materials. Yes, I take video notes, but I often prefer to have the printed version at my side while I'm actually cooking, so it's helpful to write the info from the video lessons on the print materials for reference later. (For example, in the pizza class, you won't find the information about baking in the print materials--that's in the video lessons.)

Is it the perfect pizza? Depends on your definition of perfect but I have to say, it's pretty dang good. Being able to do a nearly side-by-side comparison between his dough recipe and method and my usual one: his had a nicer texture, I think. Flavor-wise, hard to tell as I added herbs to my usual recipe and didn't when I did his recipe--I probably will do that in the future; I love herbs baked right into my crust. The pizza dough recipe made enough that my daughter and I each had a "personal sized" pizza for lunch, and I froze five more personal-sized balls of dough for later. (I didn't cut them completely evenly--probably could've gotten six if I'd weighed them out.) The focaccia recipe makes three pans full, if you're using round cake pans or, in my case, two cake pans and a deep dish pie plate.

The Basics:

  • It's free!
  • 6 lessons, ranging in time from about 5 minutes to nearly 40 minutes
  • The first lesson is the usual less-than-one-minute introduction to Craftsy. if you're an old hand like me, you can just skip that one. Lesson 2 starts the class proper with a discussion of the class and then a little more about the Craftsy platform.
  • Lesson three is about dough, lesson four about sauce and cheese, lesson five about making and baking the different styles of pizza. And then some of you will be thrilled to see lesson six: Gluten-Free Pizza. Yep, there it is, gluten-free folks--your reward! I didn't test that recipe out so I can't speak to it. But I trust Peter Reinhart!

I highly recommend this class. Why? First of all--ummm...it's free? Why not? Second, I'm a fan of Peter Reinhart, as I said before. You can tell he's been teaching for awhile--very smooth, easy to watch and easy to follow, knows how to fill time with more great information while waiting for things to bake, and shows his enthusiasm for his topic. Plus, even though I've been making homemade pizza for awhile, using a few different methods, I still learned a lot from this class!

Again, that's Perfect Pizza at Home with Peter Reinhart, and it's free!

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