VeganMoFo, Day 28: The Perfect Pizza (Press)

October 28th, 2009 8:38 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Though I’ve been focusing on healthy, frugal vegan foods this month, I have a confession to make: I’m a pizza addict. The Mr. and I have pizza for dinner several times a week. And it’s not exactly the healthy, low-fat, veggie-loaded, cheeseless kind – not even close!

Usually, we make these cute lil’ mini-/personal pizzas using pita bread as the base, but every few weeks or so, we go all out and make large pizzas from scratch.

2009-02-21 - Vegan Gourmet Pizza - 0004

Okay, well, not totally from scratch: the dough is fresh, but the sauce is canned, as are the black olives. I guess you could say that the faux pepperoni and soy cheese are made from scratch, just not by us (our artisans of choice are Lightlife and Follow Your Heart, respectively). The sundried tomatoes may or may not be homegrown and homemade (read: dried); while I still have a batch from 2008 stashed in the freezer, our garden was a huge fail this year, and we’ll probably deplete our stores by the end of November. But it’s too painful a subject to discuss quite yet. Sigh.

Anyhow, the pita pizzas make for a quick and convenient meal; not only does the pita bread allow you to forgo the dough-making step, but the pita is also small enough that the pizzas are edible as-is, no cutting required. The larger pizzas are another story.

While fresh-made dough requires some planning ahead, it’s more time-consuming than difficult. Rather, we’ve found ourselves plagued by a problem of a different sort: namely, slicing the layer of thick, gooey vegan cheese and through the crispy crust underneath. Though I’ve never had dairy-based cheese (I’m allergic to milk, making the transition to veganism that much easier), Shane swears that pizzas with vegan cheese are infinitely harder to cut than their non-vegan counterparts. For a while I assumed that the problem lay in our cheap-ass cutlery, but we always manage to make a mess of our pizza toppings, no matter the sharpness (or dullness) of the knives used. We even tried a few of those charming little pizza-cutters-on-a-wheel, with little luck.

About twelve months ago, Shane started going on about an idea he had for “the perfect pizza cutter.” I rolled my eyes not a few times, especially since he was going through this Billy Mays* / Anthony Sullivan fascination phase. But he kept on with it, contacting local metallurgists and welders in his spare time. I more or less humored him, thinking that it would be so insanely expensive to commission a custom-made piece from a professional that the idea wouldn’t go anywhere. And a few metalworkers did give crazy high quotes – we’re talking $500 and up (thanks, but no thanks). Still he persisted, and got in touch with a welder – with experience in kitchen utensil development, to boot! – who was willing to do the job for fee low enough that I couldn’t say no.

And so the Perfect Pizza Press was born!

2009-09-26 - Perfect Pizza Press Prototype - 0002

I have to hand it to him: he came up with a really kickass idea.

The basic premise is this: you start by rolling your dough out onto the stone (or pan) as usual, cover the dough with sauce, and then – before adding any additional toppings – press the pizza cutter down into the dough.

2009-09-26 - Perfect Pizza Press Prototype - 0004

(The plan was for the prototype to fit our pizza stone precisely – though, true to form, Shane managed to get the measurement wrong. The original Pizza Press is about 1.5″ too big in diameter for our pizza stone, but luckily it’s still usable.)

From there, you sprinkle on whatever toppings strike yer fancy – Daiya cheese, broccoli, grilled tofu, tempeh, pineapples, chocolate sprinkles, you get the idea – and then bake as you would normally, Pizza Press and all.

2009-09-26 - Perfect Pizza Press Prototype - 0005

Once the pizza is done baking and has cooled a little, simply lift the Pizza Press up, and the individual slices stay put. The Pizza Press prototype is constructed of stainless steel; though some of cheese stuck to the metal the first time around, once you “season” the metal, this becomes a non-issue.

2009-09-26 - Perfect Pizza Press Prototype - 0006

While we’d hoped that the Pizza Press would simply relieve us of our cutting problem, we also discovered two unexpected benefits:

1 – Because the metal isolates each slice from the next, you can add different toppings to each slice without worrying about “contaminating” the adjacent slices. Say, for example, you like Lightlife pepperoni (me!), while your partner prefers Lightlife sausage (Shane!). No worries! Everyone gets the topping of her choice with the Perfect Pizza Press, no picking necessary. This is especially useful for mixed households, wherein you’ve an omni and a vegan tussling over cheeses. (Though, to be honest, I’d probably strongarm my partner into eating vegan, at least in my presence and at this stage in my life. Fortunately, this isn’t the case, as Shane’s a willing vegan, thank Dog.)

2 – If you like your crust crispy – and wtf doesn’t!? – the stainless steel effectively bakes the edges of each slice, for added crispycrunchygoodness.

Really, my only complaint is that the Pizza Press is too damn big to fit in our dishwasher. Well, that’s not 100% accurate; it’s too big to fit in our dishwasher, given that a) we only run it once a day and b) the top shelf, where it would fit, is dominated by dog food bowls. Also, our prototype isn’t flawless – since it’s a prototype and all – and the metal is a little uneven, so that it doesn’t rest flush with a flat surface. Thus, there are a few places where the dough’s not completely sliced through, necessitating a little extra cutting. Of course, this is a rather easy problem to solve through professional/mass production.

Ah, mass production! You may have inferred through my continued use of a product name that this is something we’re thinking about selling. And we are, sort of. Meaning we’re still in the early stages of research and development, trying to figure out if this is even remotely feasible.

Once we received the prototype and saw that the idea was solid, Shane did a patent search. (He’d already searched online for similar products for sale, with no results; initially, we’d hoped to just buy a pizza press from someone else!) The closest ideas, while kind of similar in shape (round and spoke-like), all involve cutting into the pizza after it’s been baked, necessitating in costly, high-maintenance blades. Naturally, this also increases the cost of the item exponentially: similar, post-bake pizza cutters retail at $300 and up. An industrial model, for all you Food Network types, will cost you $1400 plus. In contrast, we paid a mere $75 for a custom-made piece. Even at the premium price (because costs should only decrease with batch production, right?), we’ve come out ahead of the competition!

Anyhow, the next step is meeting with local manufacturers to get an idea of how much they’d charge per unit. We also need to factor in other costs and tasks, including designing and building a website; creating a company logo; writing up product instructions and/or brochures, complete with “DO NOT EVER TOUCH THE PERFECT PIZZA PRESS WHILE HOT!!!1!” legalese warnings; hiring an accountant and lawyer; incorporating a business; setting up an online checkout process; etc., etc., etc. There’s so much to consider, it makes my head ache to think about it for too long.

We’ve also been thinking about fun, vegan stuff. Though this isn’t a specifically vegan product – as in, omni’s can get just as much use out of it – it is vegan, barring any weird, unforeseen animal byproducts that might be used in the manufacturing process. Of course, this is something we plan to grill potential manufacturers about, as is the overall “greenness” of their facilities. And then there’s product packaging; recycled cardboard, yes please!

This could also be an awesome opportunity for some undercover guerrilla vegan activism. For example, we thought it might be cool to package the Press with a booklet chock full of pizza recipes – all vegan, natch. Throw in some coupons from vegan manufacturers, particularly those that offer potential pizza toppings – Lightlife, Yves, Tofutti, Butler, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, et al. – and we might even convert a few cheese addicts!

Of course, there’s also the question of how much we should emphasize “the vegan angle.” Too much, and the activism isn’t so guerrilla anymore; but too little doesn’t work either, as I’m not willing to compromise (or even hide) my beliefs.

Last but not least, we would loveloveLOVE to use this as a way to raise money and awareness for vegan organizations. We hope to donate a percentage of the profits to a vegan non-profit – and when I say “vegan,” I mean vegan. No HSUS welfare crap here! (Oh Tofurky, why must you break my heart so?) I’d love to feature a different animal sanctuary or advocacy group every month – there are way too many kickass groups to choose just one!

But I’m getting miles ahead of myself! Amidst our brainstorming, Shane and I have been trying to keep the excitement level to a minimum, lest things not work out and our souls get crushed under the weight of bitter disappointment. I kid, I kid. Even if the idea doesn’t go anywhere, we still got what we came for: The Perfect Pizza Press. Two of them, actually: the welder who made our prototype so enjoyed the challenge that he made a second one, on the house, in his downtime and using spare pieces of metal left over from other projects. How vegan is that?

Now that I’ve blathered on for 1600+ words, the least I can do is ask you to tell me a bit about yourself. What does your perfect (vegan) pizza look like?

Photo via Flickr user Christaface; more vegan pizza porn here. Try not to yum in your pants, mkay?

* RIP BILLY! (And yes, I’m yelling, because Billy would totally appreciate that!)

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7 Responses to “VeganMoFo, Day 28: The Perfect Pizza (Press)”

  1. Shannon Says:

    I would totally buy a Perfect Pizza Press! I’ve seen something similar for pie–you bake this metal slice-shaped server right into the pie, so you can lift that first slice out without mangling the whole thing. I don’t make pies, but for people who do and care about that first pretty slice, I imagine it would be quite useful.

    My perfect pizza? Hmmm…whenever I get dragged to Carrabba’s, I always have them make me a cheeseless pizza with kalamata olives, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Something like that would probably be my favorite.

  2. Deb Says:

    Hey, as long as you’re in the business now of getting things made like this, can I put in a request? Some kind of seitan sausage mold for baking…you know, to take the place of the aluminum foil used in the seitan o’ greatness, and similar? ;)

    This pizza press looks awesome. I recently made a few pizzas, and I was hooked. And then I guess I got lazy and/or forgot about pizza making. This makes me want to make pizzas again!

  3. Stephanie E. Says:

    Look at you, going all entrepreneur on us! I’m impressed with your & Shane’s creativity and initiative. :) Keep us posted!

  4. Kelly G. Says:

    @ Shannon – That pie gadget sounds like something I could use – I’ve been known to mangle a pie or two in my day! And kalamata olives – why have I never thought to put those on homemade pizza, hmmm?

    @ Deb – You make your own seitan? Hard core! I was going to suggest a conventional “sausage” mold, but I can’t seem to find any online, just “beefy patty” molds. Will have to investigate further….

    @ Stephanie – Why thank you, ma’am. Will do :)

  5. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 23: lolz the douche away » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] my – by which I mean Shane's – pizza press idea of last October? We are totally doing it! Slowly but surely, anyway. Our website isn't quite […]

  6. vegan nomz roundup!: pizza ed. » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] you remember the Perfect Pizza Press, yes? It’s a pizza cutter-esque kitchen utensil that Shane invented in ’09. He hired a […]

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