For this Friday’s Science of Yum, my friends and I enjoyed a traditional college favorite: beer and pizza. Although this may sound bland, pizza is more delicious, healthy, and (depending on the toppings you get) can be less expensive than any commercial carry out.
For homemade pizza, you'll need:
2 cups hot water
1 and 1/2 packages quick rise yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4+ cup vegetable oil
2 cups wheat flour
2 1/2 cups white flour
Any other toppings you like
Dump warm water into a large bowl. Gently stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand for ten minutes.
This is when the real magic that makes the pizza crust delicious happens! Yeast is a single celled organism, actually part of the fungi kingdom like mushrooms and mold. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the most commonly used yeast in baking and brewing. Each brand of yeast sellers you see in the supermarket owns their own strain which they have bred to be what they feel is a superior yeast. As the bowl sits seemingly peaceful on your countertop, the yeast is busily eating the sugar and making its characteristic byproducts, alcohol and carbon dioxide:
C6H12O6 (glucose) →2C2H5OH + 2CO2
Letting the yeast sit for ten minutes allows it to live and reproduce for a bit, because when you add the next ingredient, salt, some of the yeast will die. After the salt add the Italian seasonings, then the flour. Stir in as much as you can, then begin kneading the dough. The kneading of the dough makes it more elastic because of the properties of the gluten protein in the wheat. It is this stretchy gluten material that captures the carbon dioxide of the yeast in bubbles, giving the dough and more spongy texture. The dough still needs time to maximize this yeast-gluten interaction, so let it rise for 30 min. This may also be a good time to start preheating your oven to 425 degrees.
Once the yeast has had some time to work its magic, you're ready to lay the dough onto two pizza pans (since we didn't have pizza pans, we used cookie sheets, which works just as well!).
Pour some vegetable oil onto the center of each pan. Divide the dough into two even balls, and place over oil in center of pans. Starting from the center, knead the dough out to the edges, making certain that there is always enough oil under the dough to coat the pan. Oil up the top of the dough as well. Bake this dough for 11-15 minutes, until you begin to see a slight browning of the crust. Now, if you’re brewing, you’re very interested in keeping the alcohol byproduct, but as we are making pizza crust, we simply allow the alcohol to evaporate when we bake the dough. It's the CO2 we're really interested in, and you'll see your dough get nice and thick from it as it bakes.
Take out the dough and add your sauce, cheese, and toppings. These can be chosen according to your preference, we used a pre-shredded pizza cheese mix, but cheddar, mozzarella, or provolone will do (just please don't use American cheese!). We added salami, olives, tomatoes, and eggplant as toppings.
Once the toppings are on, let them cook for 10-14 minutes, until there is a slight browning of the cheese. Now it’s ready to serve! We decided to give a full celebration of yeast's amazing abilities by including a round of brewskis!
Here’s a photo of the pizzas, which were delicious:
Since I had extra tomato and eggplant, we sliced them, let them soak in the left over juice from the olive can and threw on some Italian seasonings. It made a real tasty addition to the meal:
Image (yeast): www.mpf.biol.vt.edu/