Yeast in Pizza Dough – A Beginner’s Guide

Behind every great pizza is a well-crafted dough, and at the heart of that dough lies the magical ingredient otherwise known as yeast. If you’re new to making pizza, understanding the role of yeast in pizza dough is essential to achieving a groovy crust.

Lucky for you, in this beginner’s guide, we delve into those essentials of yeast that you need to know about when it comes to making epic pizza.

The Basics of Yeast

Yeast is a tiny microorganism (an actual living thing) that brings both bread and pizza dough to life. Here’s the very basics of what you need to know:

Types of Yeast

There’s three primary types of yeast used in pizza dough (as in, you pick one of the three, rather than using all three together). These are what’s known as types of commercial yeast: 1. fresh yeast, 2. active dried yeast and 3. instant dried yeast. Then there’s what’s known as a ‘starter’ if you’re making sourdough pizza, which is a form of natural or wild yeast. When making pizza, it’s important to learn the differences and how to use yeast effectively.

Fermentation

Yeast consumes sugars from the flour in the dough, producing carbon dioxide gas. This gas then gets trapped within the dough, creating those groovy bubbles or air pockets in your crust, causing the dough to rise. This all happens during the proofing of the dough, or what’s known as the fermentation process.

Flavour Development

Yeast is basically a flavour magician. It produces compounds that gives dough a much more special, complex taste than if yeast wasn’t used. The longer that yeast is left to work its magic (within reason), the better tasting pizza you’ll have.

Getting Started with Yeast

Choosing the Right Yeast

Discover which yeast type is best suited for the style of pizza you want to make. It tends to be easiest for beginners to just use instant dried yeast to start with, although fresh yeast is typically considered most authentic when it comes to traditional pizza. With instant yeast, it’s easily accessible and super simple to use.

Amount of Yeast to Use

You might be surprised at how little yeast you need to use to make pizza dough. This can typically be anywhere from 0.05% -1% of the dough’s flour weight. It’s also important to know that you only need half the amount of active dried yeast compared to fresh yeast, and if using instant dried yeast, only a third when compared to fresh yeast.

Yeast Activation

Active dried yeast in particular needs to be ‘activated’ before using, meaning that it needs to be mixed with warm water before combining with the flour, water and salt. Instant dried yeast and fresh yeast don’t need to be activated – you can just add them to the other dough ingredients.

Mixing and Kneading

Yeast should ideally be evenly distributed throughout your dough, which is achieved by mixing it thoroughly with the other pizza base ingredients (traditionally just flour, water and salt). Proper kneading of dough develops gluten and provides structure to your crust, which gives yeast a good environment to work within.

Proofing / Fermentation

The fermentation process is where you get to decide how long to put your yeast to work for, which will determine just how groovy your pizza will end up tasting. Also often referred to as ‘rising’ time, shorter or longer rises will give different results. Temperature also plays a significant role in how yeast behaves, with cold fermentation (proofing in the fridge) producing a better taste and texture to your pizza dough.

Common Yeast Issues

Although yeast is totally groovy and magical, it can be the source of many pizza problems if you don’t know how to use it. Potential issues include making a dough that doesn’t rise, has a stupidly dense crust, or producing pizza with an overly yeasty taste. Hence the importance of learning all you need to know about yeast when it comes to pizza.

In Summary 

Yeast is one of just four magical ingredients you need to make a great pizza dough. And considering you only need a tiny bit of yeast to make perfect pizza, it really is magical. There’s a lot to learn about yeast as a beginner pizza maker, like the different types, how much to use, and how long to let it ferment in the dough. If you want to know more, feel free to check out this groovy guide to making top-notch pizza