On Belle’s baking wishlist today: pink donuts, bagels, ba’na bread, pancakes, and lollipops. Her faith in my ability to make lollipops is adorable…I imagine I need corn syrup, flavoring, sugar, maybe food coloring? But we started pizza dough last night, so that’s what we made today. Also, it’s Pi(e) Day.
Belle’s speech has gotten a lot clearer since the last time we posted recipes, which means I’m getting to talk about baking science, in terms an almost three year old would understand. Hooray! Our recipe calls for yeast, which is where we focused our science lesson.
Yeast in the jar: napping
Yeast with warm liquid: taking a bath and swimming and having babies and farting
Adding sugar: something for the yeast to eat
Bubbly, foamy liquid: yeast farts after eating
Risen dough with bubbles: from all the yeast farts
Can you tell we have a lot of conversations about bodily functions? In reality, the active dry yeast is more or less in hibernation without moisture. If the liquid is too hot (greater than about 110°F), the yeast will be killed. If the liquid is too cold (less than about 95°) the yeast won’t multiply. Giving it sugar allows for quick eating and multiplying. Starch, like flour, is a better food for longer term consumption, and the gluten strands in it trap the CO2. Once salt is added, it creates a less-ideal environment for yeast multiplication, so there’s not as much foaming or CO2 off-gassing. CO2 is the byproduct of fermentation (this process of multiplying), and when it gets trapped in the gluten, the dough rises. There are some cool experiments floating around the internet that examine this process in a more scientific manner, but for our purposes, we just make dough.
Meanwhile, we are still focused on some of our usual skills: sequencing (scoop, tip, check), labeling our tools (now including a thermometer), size comparisons (“we need a spoon twice as big”) and sensory vocabulary (wet, sticky, dusty).
Skills worked on:
- Early science (fermentation, life cycle, liquid/solid/gas)
- Kitchen improvisation and flavor combinations (what tastes good together on a pizza?)
- Fine motor (scooping)
- Gross motor (mixing, kneading, stretching dough)
- Early math (estimates, halving dough)
- Patience (overnight rise)
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Plastic wrap or tea towel
Recipe (30 min active prep, overnight rise; yield: 2 pizzas):
- 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (there are about 2 1/4 tsp in a standard yeast packet)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 c warm whey or water (100-110°F)
- 3 1/4 c flour
- 2 1/2 t salt
- Flour or cornmeal for dusting
- Herbs and spices
- Warm 1 1/2 c whey or water to 100-110°F. Whey is a byproduct of drained Instant Pot yogurt in our house and takes about 50 sec to warm in a microwave on high; it will give a lacto-fermented flavor a little like sourdough. Otherwise, tap water is fine. Use a thermometer to ensure correct temperature. Wait for it to cool, if necessary.
- Measure out 1/4 tsp of yeast into the mixing bowl. If you use part of a package of yeast, put the remainder in an airtight container to keep humidity out.
- Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar on top.
- Add the warm liquid to the mixing bowl, and wait 5 minutes. It should be a uniform foamy tan now, definitely not clear liquid with visible granules.
- Add 2 1/2 tsp salt to the liquid to slow yeast fermentation, then add 3 1/4 c flour (or whole wheat flour).
- Use one hand to mix flour and liquid into a shaggy dough and form into a ball.
- Divide into two bowls. Cover each with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm place like near a radiator or in a closed oven with the oven light on. Let rest 12-24 hours. Dough will double.
- The next day, oil or flour hands and punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead back into a ball. At this point, you can put it into an oiled ziplock bag to freeze (allow 24 hours to thaw in fridge).
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Stretch the dough in your hands, using gravity to help you. Use cornmeal liberally to prevent sticking.
- Top with sauce, toppings, and cheese. Meat should be pre-cooked; small, uniformly sized veggies may be frozen or fresh.
- Cook on pizza stone or cookie sheet until cheese bubbles and dough seems firm, about 15 min. Let cool 3-5 min before cutting and serving.
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