In late January, Hailey Bieber shared her recipe for “pizza toast” on TikTok. It’s pretty simple stuff—marinara, tomatoes, burrata, etc. on a slab of sourdough—but it instantly went viral, I’m sure in no small part because people like knowing that supermodels actually eat food. But besides that, there’s something comforting, simple, and nostalgic about creating “pizza” from an already-cooked baked good as opposed to raw dough, which many of us don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to make from scratch. I’m thinking pizza bagels. I’m thinking Boboli. But mostly I’m thinking French bread pizza straight out of the freezer.
Invented in the ‘60s in an Ithaca, New York, food truck, French bread pizza has been a frozen-section staple since Stouffer’s started mass marketing it in the mid-1970s. Today, despite an underground effort to revive and elevate the form, it’s become an outdated classic sort of like Turkey Tetrazzini or Creamed Chipped Beef. Lady Biebs’s TikTok recipe may be a variation on a theme, but I’d like to think it indicates that French bread pizza is ready for a proper comeback.
I can’t stress this enough: Frozen French bread pizza is delicious. The bisected boat of French bread it’s built upon may not look or taste like a baguette from a bakery, but it’s crispy on the outside, squishy in the center, and deliciously greasy all around. It’s downright buttery. A French bread pizza looks small, but its thickness makes it a perfect, rib-sticking meal. I always cut mine into three equal pieces, just so I can savor it a little longer.
French bread pizza is also an exercise in patience, a real character builder of a frozen food. I learned at a young age that just because the box includes microwave directions doesn’t mean you should follow them. I can’t speak for other brands (Red Baron also makes a French bread pizza), but Stouffer’s FBPs come with two sets of cooking instructions: a microwave-to-oven quick-cook method and a straight-up oven/toaster oven method. The former takes 7.5 minutes; the latter takes 24 minutes—but it’s totally worth the wait. Please, stop cooking French bread pizzas in microwaves! Put on a Seinfeld rerun and relax. It’s part of the experience and it builds anticipation. Oh, and if you’re attached to the skin on the roof of your mouth, get ready to wait just a little longer after one of these puppies emerges from the oven. Stouffer’s says to let it rest for a minute after cooking; I say give it five.
Another tip: stick with plain cheese. Stouffer’s sells Supreme and Pepperoni iterations, but each has its flaws (Supreme has those creepy little sausage balls and too many pepper skins; Pepperoni is just way, way too greasy and is guaranteed to give anyone over 30 debilitating heartburn). A plain FBP is perfection. If plain is too plain, you can add whatever toppings you like. And, hey, maybe your video will go viral on TikTok.