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Using a process similar to how soda is made, scientists have created yeast-free pizza


And now a story that might get a rise out of you. Researchers in Italy have created a pizza dough without yeast, and they swear it tastes just as good as the regular stuff. Here's NPR's Ari Daniel.

ARI DANIEL, BYLINE: Ernesto Di Maio is severely allergic to the yeast in leavened foods.

ERNESTO DI MAIO: I have to go somewhere and hide because I will be fully covered with bumps and bubbles on the whole body. It's really brutal.

DANIEL: Di Maio is a materials scientist at the University of Naples Federico II and he's had to swear off bread and pizza, which can make outings in Italy awkward.

DI MAIO: People would say, don't you like pizza? Why are you having pasta? And that's strange.

DANIEL: So Di Maio cooked up a project to make pizza dough that still rises but without yeast. He pulled in a couple of grad students and another colleague, chemical engineer Rossana Pasquino, who studies how materials flow and spread out.

ROSSANA PASQUINO: So pizza is a funny material because it flows, but it has to be also like rubber. It has to be elastic enough when it's cooked to be perfect when you eat it.

DANIEL: Yeast causes the dough to rise by burping carbon dioxide, creating air bubbles that get trapped by the dough, puffing it up. But the challenge was to get that telltale rise without yeast. The team had on hand a really small autoclave, a kind of pressurized oven, where they took their yeast-free dough and, at the exact right time, temperature and pressure, flooded it with gas - kind of like how you'd carbonate soda. And then by gradually releasing the pressure and adding heat, the bubbles grew, and the dough rose as it baked. The result...

DI MAIO: Really small pizzas.

DANIEL: The size of half a penny, says Ernesto Di Maio. And the taste...

DI MAIO: It was exactly like the yeast pizza.

DANIEL: The results are published in today's issue of the journal Physics of Fluids. But not everyone's convinced. Francisco Migoya is the head chef for Modernist Cuisine, a collection of chefs, scientists and artists focused on culinary innovation. He wasn't involved in the study.

FRANCISCO MIGOYA: Yeast does so many things to dough besides fermentation, like the flavors that you find, the complexity of aromas. You know, I'd really need to taste it to make sure that what you guys are saying has any sort of objective truth to it.

DANIEL: That may well be in the cards. The next step for the Italian research team is to get a bigger autoclave and make something larger than a pizza sized for a mouse. Ari Daniel, NPR News.


Ari Daniel is a reporter for NPR's Science desk where he covers global health and development.

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