Greetings friends, Romans, countrymen!
Seeing as this is a food/science blog (NOT a food science blog, there’s a difference) I figured that it was probably time for me to actually write a science related post. But don’t worry, it’s still food related.
So today, let’s talk about one of the fundamental pieces of the greatest food on the planet. I’m talking about pizza dough. Everybody loves to talk about how amazing pizza is, but nobody ever gives pizza dough the credit it’s due. Pizza dough isn’t just for pizza, it’s hella versatile. You can use it for cinnamon rolls, calzones, garlic bread, the list is endless 😍
Let’s start by talking about what makes a good dough:
1. The basics: flour, water and salt. I like to use self raising flour, it helps the dough to rise quite nicely. Water helps to activate the yeast, and it needs to be lukewarm or about 40 degrees Celsius, any higher and you’ll kill the yeast (more about that later). A little salt in there introduces positive ions into the gluten structure that help hold it closer together and help your dough holds its shape.
2. The leavening agent: Through much experimentation and many errors I have been able to deduce that yeast is the way to go. Using bicarbonate of soda works perfectly well too, but it doesn’t give you the same taste that you would get with yeast. But otherwise, if you’re short on time and have no yeast then I’ve got you covered with a yeastless recipe for pizza dough right below. It’s lacking the yeasty taste (for lack of a better term) but it’s really good if you have a desperate craving for pizza and you’re short on time.
3. The fat: A little fat helps the texture of the bread. Adding butter/oil will affect the gluten structure, so that you get smaller bubbles of carbon dioxide so that the dough is less chewy.
4. The sugars: Your yeast needs something to feed on, it’s a living organism, so we add some sugar so that it produces those bubbles of carbon dioxide that we need for our bread to rise.
And now this is where the magic happens. You mix a bunch of ingredients together, leave it in a warm place for a while then you come back in an hour and BAM! A HUGE WHITE LOVELY FLUFFY PILLOW.
A brief history of what actually happened in your oven: Yeast is a fungus. A living, breathing organism. It uses a combination of oxygen and glucose to produce carbon dioxide and water in a process called respiration. But when yeast comes out of your little packet, it doesn’t look very magical, it’s just tiny brown grains. That’s because the yeast is deactivated. It’s in a state of hibernation and it can only be awakened by you and some lukewarm water, and a little bit of sugar can help keep it going. The general rule of all biological reactions is that the more heat you have, the faster the reaction will happen. So to say, the warmer the water and the warmer the environment you leave it in, the faster your bread will rise. But there’s a catch, remember how yeast is a living organism? Too much heat will kill your yeast. Much like if I stuck you in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours, well, you wouldn’t be looking so hot either. Ignoring my terrible joke, yeast has an optimum temperature of 35 degrees celsius. So to keep a warm environment for it, I’ll usually heat up my oven to its lowest temperature which is approximately 120 degrees Celsius, put the dough in, then let it sit in the oven with the door open for about 10 minutes before switching off the oven then closing the door after another 5 minutes.
It’s complicated, I know, but it’s so worth it.
Pizza Dough with Yeast
3 1/4 cups self raising flour
3 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp melted butter
1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and leave it until it starts foaming, about 10 minutes in order to activate the yeast. If your yeast is fast acting and it does not require you to dissolve it in water first then you can skip this step
2. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (if you haven’t dissolved it) to a large bowl and combine. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the water, honey and melted butter. Mix until the dough starts to come together before turning the dough onto a floured/oiled surface and kneading with your hands until the dough is elastic, about 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball.
3. Grease a large bowl with butter/olive oil and place your dough ball in the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place (35 degrees Celsius) for about an hour. You could switch on your oven and turn the heat up to about 100 degrees Celsius and put the bowl in there, whilst leaving the door open, then switch the oven off after about 10/15 minutes before closing the door after 5 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the oven once it has doubled in size, punch the dough to let the air bubbles out (notice the soft, delicate pillowy-ness of it) and then divide the dough in 2. You could use immediately in a pizza, cinnamon rolls or calzone recipe, or it could be frozen for use on another day.
Yeastless Pizza Dough Recipe
1 cup self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
2 tbsp melted butter
1. Sieve the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the natural yogurt, and melted butter. Mix well, don’t worry if it’s a bit wet, you will add extra flour in the kneading process.
2. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until elastic. At this point, you can roll out the dough and have it ready to use, or you can roll it into a ball and freeze it to use later.
My Form 4 biology teacher 🤓