Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Green Eggs and Ham

I have a fear of yeast (the baking kind, not the lab kind). I never make recipes that involve yeast, rising, proofing, kneading or any other equally intimidating words. They bring up images of rolled up sleeves, beads of sweat forming on the forehead, and of little cups full of breeding, breathing, scum colored yeast. Blech. I cannot tell you why I have such a strange and powerful aversion to an organism that has served mankind for centuries, but I do.

I am here to tell you that I have made a small step toward conquering my yeastophobia. Under strict and patient supervision, I assisted in making my very first homemade pizza, complete with a made-from-scratch, yeast-leavened crust. It was scary, I won’t lie. But I made it through, ate pizza, and lived to tell the tale.

My kind supervisor added yeast to a warm water and sugar bath to wake up the little buggers and coax them into eating mode (I could not be trusted with such a key step). After the yeast solution was added to flour and salt it came time to knead the dough. For five whole minutes. Yeah, I know! Five minutes is a lot! I kneaded, I grunted, I got tired and whiney but it was worth it - the dough rose beautifully. I got to punch it down with a disproportionate amount of glee (and a little vindictiveness), after which it was rolled out by my attentive and generous supervisor (I still hate rolling pins and had to defer). The rolled out dough was covered in a thick, deep green Greek olive oil, a home-made tomato sauce with tons of browned garlic, and then it was time for the toppings.

I really have no self-control. Practically the entire contents of my fridge made their way onto this pizza. I roasted a red bell pepper and three Anaheim chiles, sliced green zebra heirloom tomatoes (note that all the vegetables were green…), tore prosciutto di Parma, cut rounds of fresh mozzarella, and what the hell, plopped a raw egg into the center. I am sure I could have found something else to sprinkle, layer, or shower on top (capers were up next … but they were vetoed) but the crust had to go into the oven before it became soggy.

Twelve minutes in a 600F oven, no pizza stone, no fancy equipment, just crossed fingers and a few bated breaths and there it was – a crunchy crust baked all the way through to the center, bubbling cheese, crispy prosciutto, melted tomatoes, and creamy, oozing egg in the middle. And let me tell you, it was fantastic – the taste of the pizza no doubt enhanced by the flavor of my victory over yeast, but delicious nonetheless. What lies ahead in my journey with yeast – cinnamon buns? Bread? Panettone? Who knows. But it all sounds a little less scary now.


JC said...

OMG that pizza looks awesome. Except for maybe the egg. That reminded me of New Mexico because sometimes you will see eggs on enchiladas there. Mmm, roasted peppers. I myself have no yeast qualms. I've made beer several times, and the yeast is kind of a crucial ingredient!

aimee said...

Frick, that really does look good. I have to question the rolling pin though - half the fun comes in tossing the dough on clenched fists to stretch it out into shape!

Jonathan said...

Holy crap. Your picture made it onto Ruhlman's blog. You are now an official food-blogging celebrity...I want your autograph...seriously, I want your autograph.

Hillary said...

Did you see "The Office" last night when Michael asked Jim if he's heard of the book "Green Eggs and Ham"? I literally burst out laughing, haha. Anyway, this pizza is so unique and fantastic-looking!

leena! said...

I think there are very few things eggs would not taste good on. Pizza does not make that list, so good on you! The pizza looked great! And if you really want to be fancy, download the Good Eats episode when Alton does pizza...he tells you how to make a pizza stone for $3 by buying special tiles from the hardware store. It rocks, especially if you have a light or small oven. It helps regulate the heat.

Anna said...

JC - How did your beer turn out? I am so curious to try homemade beer. Did it make your house smell?

Aimee - I tried to make the supervisor do the tossing trick but he flat out refused! Mumbled something about my ceilings being too low (BS). I think he had performance anxiety :)

Jonathan - I am totally famous. Totally.

Hillary - I really need to start watching TV. I have only seen The Office a couple of times but have found it hilarious. Yay for pizza! And ham!

JC said...

The last batch of beer turned out pretty good. It was supposed to be like Newcastle Brown Ale. It didn't make the house smell until some of the bottles exploded! I'm still mystified as to how that happened, I've made about 5 batches and that had never happened before.

I think sometimes I get some off flavors from the yeast because it's hard to keep the temperatures cold enough here (except in the winter). You know, unless you're willing to pay an arm and a leg for lots of air-conditioning (which I'm not). Ales shouldn't be fermented above 68-70F.

aimee said...

Low ceilings indeed! There's no need to toss any higher than a few inches if that's all you've got. I'm assuming your 'supervisor' had more than a few inches to work with?! I must admit, I do generally prefer to do my tossing in private. Performance anxiety is a bitch.

JC, trying to imitate the Newkie Dog? Shame on you. Shame on you.