Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pizza From Scratch aka My Adventures in Yeast

I have always had a complicated relationship with yeast. Well, maybe not always. But at least since 1985, the year my Science Fair projected I called "Yeast The Helpful Fungi" scored me a grade of a solid C. The idea was great. Bake two mini loaves of bread. One with yeast and the other without and compare the results. Write a nice little report about yeast. Collect high marks. It didn't work out that way though. My parents were out of town the weekend before the project was due. So my Grandma Nancy - who by the way is a WONDERFUL cook and baker - embarked on this project together. We tried all day and all night and we could not get the batch after batch of dough we made to rise. So my wonderful display for the furthering of sciences ended up being a couple of hard lumps of cooked dough that resemembled uncolored play-dough. It was probably the worst, yet most deserved grade I got in junior high. My project sucked.

Fast forward to around Christmas time last year. Everyday Foods magazine (LOVE IT) had an easy recipe for yeast rolls. So I tried it and the rolls were really good and cute as all get out. I declared myself free of the yeast curse that I had been carrying for the last 20+ years and proudly announced to my mother that I would be bring the bread from Christmas. Thank goodness my mother had the sense to buy some backup rolls because the second batch turned out nothing like the first, and no one wanted to eat the little unleavened, heavy knots I ended up bringing to the celebration. (Thanks, Mom!)
Today, I hope I won't jinx myself when I say that I have finally found a yeast recipe that I can make. Consistantly. We eat pizzas around here about once a week now, and I have been making the dough myself, for like a month now, without any failures. I found the recipe on and they attribute it to Giada DiLaurentis. Its about the easiest thing ever to make.
Dissolve 1/4 ounce of yeast in 3/4 cup of warm water. (I add 1tsp sugar here instead of later to give the yeast something to eat.) Wait 5 minutes. Then add 3 tbs oil, 2 cups of flour and 2 1/4 tsp salt. Mix until dough ball forms. (Add more flour if necessary.) Pour a little more oil on the dough and flip it around until oil is coating the boil. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot and.....

After an hour, the dough has risen!

While waiting for the yeasty magic to happen. I make sauce. Lets see. Onions, garlic, chiles, a sweet red pepper (not a huge fan of the veg, but get it in the farm share so I hide it in my soups and sauces), some tomatoes that I froze earlier in the year, and some oregano, parsley, and basil. Cook root vegetables and peppers til tender, add tomatoes, then at the last minute add herbs. Blend it up with immersion blender. (I have a tendency to fling hot sauce around the kitchen in this step.)

Here's a picture of some pretty cheese.

The Captain was in charge of pizza #1. He did some sauce, mozzerella, kalamata olives, basil, black pepper, and a dried chile.

Pizza #2 was my baby and I went for my new favorite. Sliced red potatoes, rosemary, parmigianno regianno, cracked black pepper, a dried chile, olive oil and some French grey salt.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven on the top and bottom racks for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

Here's pizza #1 out of the oven.

And pizza #2.

Serve with beer or wine. :)

I like these pizzas because they are a good way to use up some vegetables, and its a nice way to go meatless for a night, but it doesn't really FEEL like a meatless night. Plus, they are kind of fun to make together.
As a side, I would like to note that apparently my battle with yeast rages on. I went to start the crust not 5 minutes after the kitchen floor that I had JUST cleaned had dried. When I opened the jar of yeast, I somehow managed to spill a bunch of it all over the counter and newly cleaned floor.

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