No, this article is not about those French bread pizzas cramming the frozen food section of your local market. What I want to do today is give you some ideas on how to make your own French bread pizzas as an added feature, regardless of where you place them on your menu –– sandwiches, pizza, flatbread or appetizers.
The fact is that I am not totally satisfied with continuing to use the term “French bread pizza.” It could be Italian bread pizza, flatbread pizza or sub sandwich pizza. Pick the name that might register the strongest with your customers and in what fashion you might wish to market this product.
For example, most any topping that you would use on your regular pizza could go on a French bread pizza. But let’s get creative. Let’s take this idea of a French bread pizza to a whole new level.
First, let me start with the basics. Use a loaf of French or Italian bread. Let’s assume that it is around 18 inches long. Cut the bread in half to form two nine-inch pieces. Conversely, you can buy submarine buns of varying lengths, but let’s go with those that are, say, seven or eight inches long. Or, to follow the current trend, you can set it up so that you end up with two foot-long buns or rolls.
Once you have the bread sized the way you want it, cut it in half horizontally. Now hollow out each slice of the bread (save the bread to use as fresh breadcrumbs). By hollowing out the bread, it keeps the filling, sauce and cheese all in place, which makes it easier for the customer to eat by hand (if that’s the choice) and to serve or deliver.
Now comes the fun part. Where do we go from here? Let us explore the range of possibilities.
You can toast the hollowed out portion of the roll (both sides) by putting the two pieces under a broiler or on the grill (this is optional). If you do the toasting, then while the roll is still warm, rub the inside of each piece with a clove of garlic.
Smear marinara or meat sauce into the hollow of the bread. Sprinkle some grated Romano cheese (or any good melting cheese like mozzarella) over the sauce and run the bread under the salamander or broiler or through the oven to melt the cheese. That’s as simple as it gets.
Let’s try a submarine French bread pizza. Layer an array of Italian cold cuts into the hollow (don’t chop the meat and cheeses, because it makes it harder to hold and eat), then add a layer of giardiniera or olive salad. Top with slices of provolone cheese. Give it some heat to melt the cheese. Presto! It’s as simple as that.
Or it can be as simple as tossing chopped fresh tomatoes with olive oil, basil and chopped fresh mozzarella. Arrange this “salad” in the hollow of the bread. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan or Romano over the ingredients. No need for added heat now.
In the hollow of each roll, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese over the bottom. Layer thin slices of fresh tomatoes over the ricotta. Sprinkle grated mozzarella over the tomatoes, followed by a sprinkle of oregano. Give the roll some heat. You can also add leaves of fresh spinach to this one to add more interest. Use your imagination.
A couple of last thoughts: French bread rolls travel (delivery) great; just make sure they are either wrapped well or are put in a sturdy box. And, this product is a good alternative to pizza for someone who wants to eat light. Also, kids love the shape and idea of this product.
Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.