My fear of yeast is pretty epic. We are talking category 5 fear here - the kind of thing that keeps you awake at night, shivering under your down comforter in 90 degree weather. I am constantly cold so I do that anyway, but I realize the average person might find such a situation slightly discomforting. Hence the analogy.
Anyway. I have a feeling that this trepidation stems from the fact that I worked in a yeast lab for three summers. You stare at little yeast cells under a microscope for 8 hours a day and then try to tell me that those little packets in the supermarket don't give you nightmares or send a shiver down your spine. It's impossible.
But there comes a time when you just need to throw caution to the wind. Bite the bullet. Take one for the team. And so when Tiffany came to visit I thought to myself, "Hey. Wouldn't it be fun if we made pizza?" At least then she would be there to protect me from the big bad dry active yeast. Just in case it realized that I had subjected many of its forebears to all kinds of mutagenesis and decided to stage a coup. You never know with these things. Always best to be cautious.
So I got home from class the day that we were going to take on this feat of monstrous proportions and mixed together my first batch of dough using Giada's recipe from the food network website. Something about it seemed kind of off but I went to the gym anyway, leaving it in a covered bowl on the table to rise. I figured if it looked the same when I got back, I would just start again. Sure enough, I returned home to find the same small, unrisen lump of flour and water that I had left.
Those damn buggers must have smelled the blood of their ancestors on my hands and decided to jump ship while they still could. The evil you know is always better than the one you don't kind-of thing.
Take two. I preheated my water to the exact right temperature (anywhere between 105 and 115 - I went with 110 according to my candy thermometer). Mixed in my yeast with a little bit of sugar. Waited. All of a sudden, after about 5 minutes, when I was just beginning to give up hope I heard some bubbling coming from the bowl on the table. Sure enough, the yeast was foaming! I did a few cartwheels around my kitchen table to celebrate, fervently mixed together the rest of the ingredients and left it to rise. When I came back an hour later, it had more than doubled in size. (Donna insert - I tend to have that effect on people.) It was huge. (Michael Scott insert - That's what she said.).
So we punched down the dough, rolled it out, and topped it with some mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, arugula, and roasted garlic. Threw it in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the bottom was brown (my dad says that is the only way to truly know when a pizza is done). And the rest is history.
This was actually one of the best pizza crusts I've ever had. Nice and fluffy. But then again, I've never been one for a thin crust.
Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Arugula, Mozzarella, and Roasted Garlic
Serves 3-4, adapted from Giada de Laurentis
1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl to blend. Let stand for 5 minutes (it should be bubbling). Mix the flour and salt in a food processor to blend. Combine the flour with the yeast mixture just until the dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
1 head garlic
1 cup mozzarella
1 large tomato, sliced
2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400. Slice the head of garlic in half and wrap each half in aluminum foil. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until cloves are slightly browned and soft.
3. Raise the oven temperature to 450. Roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch round. Grease your pizza plate. Place the dough onto the plate.
4. Add a layer of mozzarella, followed by the sliced tomato, arugula, and roasted garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake, about 15 minutes until the crust is browned on the bottom.
I also need to announce that this week I will be the host of Presto Pasta Nights! This is an awesome weekly event created by Ruth over at Once Upon A Feast to celebrate our love of everyone's favorite carb. The rules can be found here. Basically, send in your pasta dishes to me at email@example.com and cc-ing Ruth (firstname.lastname@example.org) before Thursday at midnight. Be sure to tell me the link to your dish as well as to send in a picture! I can't wait to see what you guys are cooking up.