Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trader Giotto's 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

I don't think I've ever had pizza on a whole wheat crust before. I've had veggie pizza, meat-lovers pizza, pizza with cheese inside the crust, New York-style, Chicago-style, margherita pizza (white pizza), pizza from the oldest brick oven in the U.S. (Lombardi's), pizza-flavored chips, pizza-flavored pretzel sticks, microwave pizza, Lunchables pizza, pizza bites, pizza poppers, and pizza burgers. I love pizza, and I've had just about every kind of pizza there is...in the U.S. at least.

But this Trader Giotto's Pizza Dough was unlike any pizza product I've ever had.

Sonia and I wrangled up a bunch of different pizza ingredients from the local TJ's, and decided to bake a 100% Trader Joe's pizza, with this dough as the base. Even before putting it in the oven, we could tell it was...well, different. First of all, it's darker than most pizza dough. It was a bit grainy -- and stiffer than ordinary white dough.

After baking, we immediately noticed that the pizza crust was unlike the norm. It was leathery. The bottom of the pizza felt a bit like smooth human skin. Not particularly appetizing, but our hunger compelled us to try some. It was definitely chewier than regular pizza dough, but not to the point that it was difficult or awkward to eat. The flavor was more earthy...and richer than a normal pizza crust. That was to be expected, as whole grains tend to produce more bold, raw flavors than processed, bleached flours. The inner parts of the crust were lighter than the outside. They looked raw-ish. The dough sat heavy in our stomachs. It filled us up fast.

On top of the pizza, we put Trader Giotto's Tomato Basil Marinara sauce. It was good. Sonia pointed out that it's a tad on the thin side. If you're looking for pizza sauce with a whole lot of body, you might want to try something else, although I was quite pleased with this sauce's flavor. I'm sure it would be excellent on pasta or mozzarella sticks or what have you.

Speaking of mozzarella, we also threw on some Trader Joe's Shredded Mozarella Cheese. I thought mozarella was Italian. Why didn't they call it Trader Giotto's Mozarella Cheese? We could have made an entirely Trader Giotto's pizza...

Oh well. We have used this shredded mozarella on tacos, salads, and nachos, too. It's always good -- and not too expensive.


All in all, the ingredients blended well. We've actually made this pizza twice now. The second time, I think we put a little more marinara sauce on it. I prefer it with lots of sauce. I really don't like tomatoes, but strangely enough, I love almost anything derived from tomatoes. The bold taste of the pizza sauce just barely manages to balance out the strong presence of the whole-grain dough. The cheese tends to melt in your mouth long before you're done chewing the dough. It's a unique pizza experience.

One other thing I might mention is that the dough...well, er, um...how do I say this tactfully without grossing anyone out? It had a slight laxative effect on both of us. I mean, all whole grains are supposed to do that, but this stuff...well, let's just say it was a tad more potent than most whole-grain products. Ahem, moving along...

In summary, Trader Giotto's 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Dough is good, but different. Don't try this if you want a safe, normal pizza. Try it if you're feeling adventurous. It's hard to describe completely.

Both Trader Giotto's Tomato Basil Marinara sauce and Trader Joe's Shredded Mozarella Cheese are quality ingredients that can be used not only to make Trader Joe's pizzas, but they come in handy for a plethora of culinary occasions.

As for the Trader Giotto's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, Sonia gives it a 3.5. Me too. Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Trader Giotto's Tomato Basil Marinara. Sonia gives it a 4. As do I. Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Shredded Mozarella Cheese. Sonia gives it a 4. I give it a 4.5. Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

4 comments:

  1. I just wrote out a novel about pizza dough and ways to get a perfect thin crust with their dough, but once again, the internet deleted it and now I'm frustrated.

    Possibly later I will come back and comment it all again, haha :(

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  2. "I really don't like tomatoes, but strangely enough, I love almost anything derived from tomatoes."

    This probably means you've never had a really perfectly ripe fresh tomato. Once you do, you will never forget it. And you will probably never have another one! As they are like the proverbial ripe honeydew melon…there is only one per person per their whole life!

    I know that you will love a perfect tomato, because you do really love tomatoes as sauces etc., those sauces are made from perfectly ripe tomatoes btw.

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  3. If the dough felt leathery and was raw-ish....that's because it WAS undercooked...as soon as i read that description I thought, "oops, they undercooked it." If you cooked it right out of the fridge it was all balled up tight and wouldn't relax, and started much colder than the baking instructions assume. That may have had something to do with the laxative effect too: undercooked dough contains yeasts that are still alive and kicking and doing their thing, which is producing gas. Great when it's making your bread rise, not so great when it's in your atomach. I've found with almost any convienence food, it needs to be cooked longer than the instructions suggest. I'd encourage you to try it again, but let it come to room temp before you shape it (this relaxes the dough, too). I made a lot of oddly-shaped pizzas before I learned that trick.

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  4. I thought I would mention that like a lot of TJ's fresher offerings, the pizza dough will vary by region. We used to have to have wonderful, firm dough here in Northern California, but a few years ago it became very soft -- so soft it can be hard to handle. Visiting LA recently, though, I was pleased to find the good old firm dough still available down there.

    So keep in mind, your mileage may vary.

    PS be sure you are cooking your pizza as hot as your oven will go -- that's one of the secrets to a crispy rather than leathery crust.

    ReplyDelete