We are damn near the end of the alphabet and on the letter Y. Again, now a lot of foodstuffs to choose from so I thought it’d be cool to feature YEAST on this episode.
I think Yeast is amazing stuff and we really take it for granted. It’s in nearly all the bread we eat, a whole lot of the alcoholic drinks out there (beer and wine mostly) and truth be told it is all around us, all the time. This is a cooking show and so I will not focus on the nasty, pathogenic strains of yeast that can cause infections and illness. No, today it’s all about the healthy happy yeast floating all around us, resting on the skins of our fruits (especially grapes and apples) and veggies and ready to do good. And then there’s the yeasts you can buy at the store for baking or the nutritional yeast (brewer’s yeast) for eating—great stuff and pure protein!
I got an appreciation for yeast early on when I was in high school and my brother and father started to do a lot of home brewing. There were different strains of yeast involved in their alchemy and I still remember the unusual scent of the stuff in our kitchen. A couple years back I was working as an apprentice winemaker at Peay Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast in California. It was there that I learned the power of natural fermentation, which we relied on to ferment our grapes and turn that sweet, sweet juice into glorious wine. There was enough precious yeast stuck to the skins of our grapes to begin fermentation totally naturally—a really remarkable feat! After a couple days the crushed grapes would jump in temperature and start to foam as the yeast ate the sugar and burped out CO2 and alcohol. Occasionally I’d have to kickstart the process with a small yeast (or yeast husk) addition to a tank of macerating grapes, I’d stink like yeast for the rest of the day. The packages fascinated me though, different strains from France that were meant for different types of wine (Grenache, Syrah, etc.) and each one had a distinctive, unusual, fruity, musky scent.
It was also in Sonoma that I fell in love with an outstanding sourdough bakery named the Wildflour Bakery in Freestone. These guys use a sourdough starter that is over 15 years old and creates the most amazingly delicious breads in the world. I was blessed and honored to receive a piece of their starter which I have been lovingly tending for the past year and half, I named it Omar.
But you don’t need a bubbly sticky mess of starter or exotic imported Grenache yeast to get down in your kitchen. Every grocery store sells packets of yeast and if you’ve never made anything with it, shame on you! So let’s get crackin’! Pizza it is on tap for the mighty yeast episode. I have never, ever understood why anyone buys pizza kits, frozen pizzas or orders delivery. It makes no sense to me. You can make your own pizza in no time flat with your own fixings. I always make extra dough and par-bake a bunch of crusts to store in Ziplocs in the freezer. Voila! I have killer, ready-to-eat pizzas any time. With a salad, you can’t ask for a better lunch or quick dinner. Oh yeah, did I mention that it literally costs pennies to make pizza dough? Totally.
On the show I rock out a pear pizza. Originally I did a more traditional margarheita too, but we cut that out of the edit and left in the more funk-a-fied offerig. I love to make alternative pies and this one is a great one!
When it comes to yeast, there are health benefits. You know it.