YOU CAN DO IT!
Yeast is not magic, no matter how magical the products taste. It's science! Let's explore, shall we?
Yeasts are unicellular microorganisms. The word "yeast" comes from the Indo-European root yes-, meaning boil, foam, or bubble. In baking, the yeast converts sugars present in the dough into carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in little pockets and causes the dough to rise. When you slip the dough in the oven, the yeast dies, and the air pockets set, resulting in that heavenly texture, full of bubbles and holes. Yeasts are also used in the production of alcoholic beverages; the sugars present in fruits or grains are converted into ethanol, carbon dioxide, and other byproducts which affect the flavor. Learn more (I did!) about the history and ecology of yeasts here.
The trick to getting yeast to do your bidding is a simple matter of temperature. If the water or milk you use to "proof" the yeast isn't warm enough, it won't convince the yeast to wake up and start doing its job. If it's too hot, the yeast will die without having fulfilled its life's mission! Now, I'm sure you could find out the ideal temperature for yeast to grow, and then use a digital thermometer to make sure it's perfect. Or you could do this: stick your finger in it. If it's room temperature, it's not hot enough. If it burns you, it's too hot. If it feels like bath water (in other words, you can put your finger in it, but after a few seconds it starts to get a little uncomfortable), it's juuuuuust right. Good job, Goldilocks. You're ready to add the yeast.
Spoon some yeast into the hot liquid, stir it very briefly, and then leave it alone! You can't make it do anything. It has a mind of its own. Let it do its job. With any luck, in a few minutes, your yeast will have gone from this:
Here are my ready-to-go toppings:
|Green garlic, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and asparagus ribbons!|
Roll out the dough and place it on the hot pizza stone.
Brush with olive oil.
The cheesy, meaty toppings need more time than the asparagus-ribbon topping.
In goes the asparagus-lemon-parmesan-topped pizza!
Cook time is 8-12 minutes total, until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden and crispy.
I made a boy pizza (tomato sauce, jack cheese with basil, and prosciutto) and a girl pizza.
Dessert pizza! Apricot preserves, ricotta and lemon zest.
What can't you put on pizza?! Yum.
Ribboned Asparagus Pizza
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
makes 4 flatbread pizzas
makes 4 flatbread pizzas
1 cup very warm water
1 Tbsp. dry yeast
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
Olive oil (for brushing)
12 asparagus, peeled into ribbons
1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
zest of 2 lemons
4 stalks of green garlic, thinly sliced
Combine the warm water and yeast and let rest until yeast is foamy. Add salt and flour and mix together, then knead until it forms an elastic, not-sticky dough, adding more flour as necessary. Cover with a damp towl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Meanwhile, put a pizza stone in the oven, and preheat oven as hot as it goes. Divide dough in four pieces, and roll into thin, oblong shapes on a floured surface. Place the dough, two pieces at a time, onto the preheated pizza stone, brush with olive oil, and place in the oven for 4 minutes. Remove and add asparagus, green garlic, parmesan, and lemon zest. Return to oven and bake for 5-8 minutes longer, until the asparagus is wilted and the crust is golden and crisp. Slice and enjoy!