“The invention is based on a deep knowledge of what happens during cooking,” said Di Maio, lead author of the study and associate professor of materials science at the University of Naples Federico II, via email. “We had fun in the lab.”
The research team, which included a chemical engineer and a doctoral student working as a pizza chef (pizza chef), used simple ingredients — tap water, iodized sea salt and flour — and processes to make sourdough and yeast-free dough, so they could compare the two. They even used a time-lapse imaging setup to see how the rising process affected the final structure of both the leavened and unleavened dough.
They measured that the yeast dough became more pliable and grew in area by about 20%, while the other dough barely changed over time and decreased slightly in area.
The researchers’ previous experience has demonstrated its pivotal role in compensating for the absence of yeast. Di Maio has studied how bubbles form in polymers including polyurethane, which is used as a component of paints, varnishes, adhesives and foams. He knew that both baking and polyurethane formed after two simultaneous processes, curing and foaming (producing a mass of tiny bubbles).
The researchers put a small, unleavened pizza dough no larger than a penny in size into a hot autoclave. Over the course of a few minutes, they then shifted the pressure levels up and down while dissolving the gas in the dough at high pressure levels. As the pressure was slowly released from the autoclave, bubbles formed in the dough.
The study authors said the texture of the final dough was similar to that of traditional yeast dough.
“The key to the process is to design the rate of pressure release and not to squeeze the dough that likes to gently stretch,” Di Maio said in a press release.
“We mainly studied how dough behaves with and without yeast — how softness changes with fermentation (rise), and how dough responds to a temperature program during baking,” Rossana Pasquino, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. . “This was fundamental to the design of a dough-pressing protocol without yeast.”
Because the authors were slowly making the bubbles, they were not quite the same as the bubbles in the yeast dough.
Unfortunately, Di Maio said, “the project is very immature” – so you can’t try this at home, unless you have a steam sterilizer and a way to pump gas into your pizza dough. But as someone with a yeast allergy, Di Maio hopes the new method can be used for other fermented foods, such as cake, in the future, “to help people enjoy healthy and delicious food,” he said.
“We will now start a study on a full-size pizza on lab equipment that should be ready in two months. Then, depending on the results, we will consider selling the idea to companies,” added Di Maio. “I think two years will be enough, if everything works out and the good people get involved.”