I haven’t always been a fan of french bread pizza. I know, it’s like the easiest meal in the world and I should be embracing it forever, but it’s the soggy bread factor. I just can’t get over how the fluffy bread has a tendency to soak up all that pizza sauce and instead of that being a good thing, it ends in disaster: wet, soupy bread. Ick.
So I set out to find a way to make french bread pizza work for me and my soggybreadphobia. It’s a serious thing.
And after a few tries and experiments, I think I’ve got it. Hallelujah! Here are the keys to success since I’m sure you are dying to know: 1) lightly pressing down on the halved french bread (smooshing it, if you will) and 2) creating a barrier between the bread and the pizza sauce (hello, Parmesan!). I am not the only one who clearly is averse to the soggy french bread pizza of my youth (sorry, mom); each of the tips above come from great sources (Serious Eats and Cook’s Country). I took their brilliant knowledge and kind of did my own thing with it.
I will say that if you are using homemade french bread (I almost always make this recipe with at least half whole wheat flour if not more), it doesn’t like to be smooshied quite as flat as the super pillowy and fluffy storebought kind. Chalk it up to the powerful buoyancy of homemade bread…or something like that. However, the compression still helps the crust to become a bit more dense to minimize the soaking factor, so persevere even in the face of bouncy bread, ok?
The good news is that even with these revolutionary new tricks, french bread pizza still manages to be one of the easiest meals in the world (storebought bread is a no-brainer and homemade can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen). I’m really quite happy that I’ve made up with french bread pizza; I think we’ll be seeing each other quite often from now on.
If you use this fabulous pizza sauce recipe, you'll have some leftover which is perfect for dipping pizza slices if you or someone you know likes things a bit more saucy. Otherwise, a full batch of the sauce is perfect for a doubled recipe (2 loaves of french bread yielding 4 loaves of pizza). Also, I use freshly grated Parmesan cheese - shredded on the small holes of my box grater and not the stuff in a can. I was quite vague on the pizza toppings - that's up to you! This recipe is more about the method and besides, the options for toppings are endless.
- 1 loaf (about 12-inches) french bread, storebought or homemade
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Garlic powder, for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, more or less
- 1-2 cups pizza sauce (I use this super simple homemade recipe)
- Pizza toppings of choice
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Slice the french bread in half the long way, forming two long halves (like a hot dog bun but don't keep them attached). Lightly press on the bread with the palms of your hands or with the bottom of a flat baking sheet until the bread is compressed to about half of what it was (generally about 1/2-inch or so thick, but like I mentioned in my post, homemade french bread doesn't flatten quite as well in my experience).
- Drizzle the olive oil on both halves, about 1/2 tablespoon for each half, and brush lightly into the dough. Sprinkle with just a touch of garlic powder.
- Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese across each loaf. Place the loaves of bread on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes, until the Parmesan cheese is just barely starting to turn golden and has hardened a bit to the touch. Take care not to burn the Parmesan!
- Spread pizza sauce on top of the Parmesan-crusted loaves and top with pizza toppings of your choice. I usually go with about 1 cup of mozzarella cheese for each half and throw on some pepperoni and olives but the sky is definitely the limit here!
- Bake the pizzas for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the bread are starting to crisp up and turn golden.
- Using a serrated knife, cut into pieces and serve immediately.