If you want your dough to rise, one of the most important ingredients in your pizza recipe needs to be yeast. However, there are choices to be made and selecting the right yeast can be the difference between the best pizza you have ever tasted and a deflated pizza crust.
In this post, we are going to be looking at how you can step your pizzas up a notch by using the right types of yeast.
What Is Yeast?
Yeast is a component of most of the best pizza recipes in the world. While this ingredient may seem insignificant, yeast is actually one of the most important things in pizza recipes.
What may surprise you most is that unlike the other ingredients in your recipe, yeast is a living thing! It is a single-celled organism and is a type of fungus. There are more than 1500 species of yeast and this important ingredient can make a huge difference in terms of getting your pizza dough to rise.
To make great pizzas, you need the dough to rise, but this cannot be done with flour, water, sugar and salt alone. Yeast is one of the integral dry ingredients and since it is living, it will feed on the gluten created in your pizza dough. Let’s take a look at how this works.
One you have mixed your pizza dough components together and kneaded the dough, you will typically leave it to rise. This rising time will vary depending on whether you leave the dough ball at room temperature or whether you keep it in the fridge. Either way, the yeast will work in a similar manner.
As we have mentioned, yeast feeds on the sugars that are found within the dough. As it does this, it will produce carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide then forms air bubbles in the dough and this is what causes it to rise.
Your dough needs to rise in order to achieve the fluffy pizza crust that is often associated with some of the best pizza recipes known to man; like those you would taste at all of the top pizza restaurants. Getting this quality at home, means using yeast.
Which Is Better, Active Dry Yeast Or Instant Yeast?
There are two main types of yeast; active dry yeast, known as ADY and instant yeast. Instant yeast, as its name may suggest can be use right off the shelf and mixed directly into your dry ingredients. However, active dry yeast must first be dissolved in water.
Both active dry yeast and instant yeast work in a similar way, however, the results of your final recipe will differ when using one or the other.
Let’s begin by looking at active dry yeast. This is one of the most common types of yeast and is what people typically think of when purchasing yeast. This is not a fresh yeast but rather a dry kind of yeast whose texture is very much like corn meal.
This active dry yeast must be dissolved in warm water before it can be added to the flour and other pizza ingredients. While this may seem like an additional step, it doesn’t take long and most of these are very fast acting.
Conversely, instant yeast is a product which can be used directly out of the packet. It has a very generous shelf life of up to two years. You may also notice that instant yeast is sold as quick rise or rapid rise yeast. These products are very much the same other than the fact that they are milled into smaller particles.
This means that when they are added to the flour and other parts of the pizza dough mixture, they react much more quickly. Often, in certain types of baking, the dough would need to go through two proofing processes; when using rapid rise yeast, baking can take place after one rise.
In truth, you can use any type of yeast in your pizza dough recipe and get a decent result. But just as you would choose certain types of flour, choosing the correct yeast will improve your recipes dramatically.
A lot of pizza recipes recommend using instant yeast as opposed to ADY, and this is largely because of the longer shelf life and more quick acting nature of the product. But more importantly, many of the newer types of instant yeast are much better performing. Proofing time is typically reduced and the results are normally that your pizza crust is much fluffier and bouncier, particularly after baking.
That being said, many people do prefer to use ADY, but if you are going to go for this sort of yeast, it is important to make sure that you alter the amount you add into the flour. With ADY, bakers need to increase the amount of dough they use by 1 / 4.
What Is Fresh Yeast?
Aside from the two types of dried yeast, there is also fresh yeast. Fresh yeast is typically used in a professional capacity, but there is nothing to say that you cannot use fresh yeast at home. However, you must remember that fresh yeast will perish quickly at room temperature and as such, it should always be kept in the refrigerator when not in use.
Unlike dried yeasts, fresh yeast is much softer and more moist. It can produce excellent results for your crust but much like ADY, it must be proofed in water before it can be used.
Is Pizza Yeast The Same As Active Dry Yeast?
In grocery stores around the world, you may often see yeast being sold as ‘pizza yeast.’ While there are different kinds of yeast, pizza yeast is typically the same as a regular dry yeast.
In the home of pizza, Italy, many chefs use brewers yeast which is a type of yeast used in the creation of alcoholic beverages like beer. This yeast converts liquid into alcohol but it is interchangeable with baking yeast.
However, one of the main differences with pizza yeast compared to other yeast types is that these yeasts contain what is known as a dough relaxer. These dough relaxers prevent strong gluten formations from developing meaning that the dough remains a lot more stretchy. This then means that there is little need to leave the finished dough ball to proof as the yeast cells wouldn’t have much to feed on.
However, as the dough is baked in the oven, pizza yeasts get to work causing the dough to rise as it cooks. All of the hard work is done during cooking.
But the problem with pizza yeast, compared to all other yeast types is that because the yeast does not have the chance to react with the sugar, much of the flavor and texture are lost leaving you with a crust that is more leathery and chewy rather than crisp, as it should be.
Furthermore, when dough is left to proof and the yeast and sugar to their thing, all of that delicious pizza dough flavor can develop. When this process is removed, you will often end up with crusts that are devoid of any flavor making them less like professional pizzas and more like something made by a complete beginner.
How Do You Activate Yeast For Pizza?
Now that we are aware of all the different sorts of yeast that you can use, let’s take a look at how you activate yeast for pizza.
We have learned that when we use active dry yeast or fresh yeast this will need to be proofed. if you are using an instant yeast, you won’t need to worry about this part of the recipe and you can simply add the yeast directly into your flour.
To begin, you will need to warm some water to around 110ºf. You will then add in your yeast and sugar. The activation process doesn’t take long and after five minutes, it should be complete, and you can begin mixing it into all the other parts of the dough recipe.
You will be able to tell when the yeast mix is ready to use as it will have developed a bubbly texture.
You can active fresh yeast in the same way but of all the steps to this, one of the main concerns is that many people do not have their water warm enough. If it is not hot enough, the yeast will not activate and you will be unable to create that all-important pizza flavor and texture that you are working so hard to achieve.
Which Brand Of Yeast Is Best?
The journey to creating pizza that is full of flavor and has a fluffy texture can feel like a long one, especially when you are presented with so many different brands of yeast. While the purpose of this post is to discuss the best type of yeast, we thought it was also important to look at the various brands.
King Arthur Baking has an excellent selection of yeasts, flours and other important components of pizza baking. On the King Arthur website, there are both ADYs and instant yeasts giving you a diverse choice.
However, when it comes to brand, we would suggest Caputo dry yeast. This Italian company makes a great selection of wheat flours, yeasts and other things with years of experience. In this post, on their website, they detail exactly how their products are produced, demonstrating the quality.
Making pizza is all about getting the dough right; of course, topping it off with your favorite toppings to give a unique flavor is also important. But when it comes to making your dough, a critical factor is to ensure that you use yeast. Why? Because yeast is what makes the dough rise.
This living organism feeds on the sugars in the mixture and as a result of this, small bubbles of air are created. As you leave your dough to proof, these bubbles of air expand and cause it to rise. Essentially giving you a much larger piece of dough.
Although there are certain yeast products that are made specifically for pizza baking, these often contain dough relaxers which slow down the gluten creation. This means that you do not need to ferment the dough but this often results in a decrease in flavor and a less than desirable texture.
Fresh yeast is good for pizza but using dry yeast is particularly fruitful in creating beautiful crusts that are fluffy and ‘just like mama used to make.’ Instant yeast will typically work faster and give excellent results which is why it is recommended in almost all pizza dough recipes. Furthermore, it is incredibly easy to use.