Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pizza Pizza

Pizza. It's my specialty, and today's class was just about that. We were also feeding parents, who were coming to school to fill in some sort of survey, so the production of enough food to feed about 50 mouths were also on the agenda.

Alas, this was the lesson for bread in general, so I began by speaking a little bit to yeast and gluten. Yeast are these neat little bacteria that can be stored stably at room temp, but when you give them a combination of water, warmth and food (the sugars in flour or, umm, sugar), and they eat and poop out CO2, the gas that makes things puff up when baked. That which is puffing is defined by the proteins in the flour called gluten -- the more gluten you have, the firmer, tougher hole structure the bread will have. Less gluten, you have more tender, looser hole structure like for cake or wonderbread.

The lesson was rather straight forward. Make the dough, let it rest and rise for an hour while prepping the toppings. Stretch dough, top, bake, serve. It was nice that there was a good variety of tasks to keep every one hopping, and cleaning. I brought in two pizza stones for the convection oven, but the pilot lights on the two conventional ovens were out so we had a bit of a pinch point in our production. We produced about 30 pies, some of surprisingly good quality, some of pretty laughable  looks. One student could not get the hang of stretching, and bungled 4 in a row and wanted to give up. I told her we made extra on purpose, and that she should just keep going. And she did, and the 5th was fine. I told her I wanted to smack her hard, in a good way. 

I went on a bit about how less is more, how a properly stretched pizza skin can not accept too many topping without it becoming a soupy mess when it hits the plate. I also stressed the importance of keeping the pizza peel dry, or the pizza would stick and create an ungodly mess. A few times they left the pizza on the board too long and I showed them how to lift up an edge and blow, unsticking the raw skin. Funnily enough, no one's pizza died except for the very last one, where the student built her pie on a damp peel.

Undecided what to cook next week. On the sign in sheet, got some nice feedback, tho: