Pizza dough without yeast is like the sky without stars. Or strawberries without cream. Yeast is what gives your pizza its puff. Without any yeast, your pizza dough would be dense, hard, and nasty.
How does yeast work?
Yeast is essentially a type of fungus, but not the type that causes itchy feet. Yeast works by breaking down (or fermenting) the natural sugars in your dough. As it ferments these sugars, it releases little bubbles of carbon dioxide into the dough. Along with the alcohols and acids that are released by fermentation, these bubbles are what puff the dough up and give your pizza that authentic, bready flavor.
As soon as the pizza dough hits your pizza stone, the oven’s heat starts to kill the yeast. The air bubbles expand in the heat, and your pizza puffs up — like magic.
Which yeast is best for pizza?
There are four commonly used types of yeast. All of them make great pizza dough, but the best one for you will depend on your exact needs. We’ve done the research to help you choose the best yeast for your pizza.
Sourdough Starter — Best Flavor
Our favorite type of yeast is the sourdough starter because it’s the most authentic, inexpensive type of yeast. Sourdough starter is most commonly used to make its namesake bread (which is another delight that you can make using a pizza stone). It’s made from yeast particles that occur naturally in the air around you.
It’s like alchemy for pizza dough — with some flour, water, and patience, you can turn air into yeast. Well, sort of.
Sourdough is especially good for pizza dough if you are sensitive to gluten. The fungi and bacteria that are present in sourdough starter are the same ones that are present in your gut. These tiny gut florae can help to break down the gluten in the pizza, making it easier for you to digest.
Sourdough starter makes the most authentically delicious, gut-friendly pizza dough, but it takes more time and effort to prepare. But if you have the time, it’s definitely worthwhile!
Active Dry Yeast — Most Common
Active dry yeast is the most commonly used type of yeast for making baked goods. It is yeast that has been dried out so that it has a longer shelf-life. As with all dehydrated food, you just need to add some warm water to bring it back to life, or activate it.
Active dry yeast is cheaply available in most supermarkets, and that is what makes it so convenient. Dough made with active dry yeast still requires time to prove. That being said, active dry yeast is usually the most accessible, making it a great everyday choice.
Instant Yeast — Most Convenient
Instant yeast is not much different from active dry yeast. The main difference is that instant yeast has certain additives that make it more reactive. This means that it doesn’t have to be mixed with water to be activated.
You can usually sprinkle instant yeast straight onto your dough mixture. Because it doesn’t need to be activated first, instant yeast is also less susceptible to being affected by extra salt and sugar in the dough.
Can I make pizza dough without yeast?
Yeast is a biological leavening agent because it’s made up of living organisms. There are alternatives to yeasts such as baking powder (chemical leavening agent), and steam (vaporous leavening agent). It may seem easier to use one of these alternatives, but to get authentic puff and scrumptious flavor, we recommend using yeast.
Top Tips for Using Yeast
Yeast is a basic microorganism that has been used in food production for millennia. Even though it is so commonly used, it might still take a few attempts to get the hang of it.
To make your experience with yeast as painless as possible, we’ve gathered some pointers:
- Yeast works best at around 75℉ - 80℉. At warmer temperatures, it starts to die, and at colder temperatures, it becomes inactive.
- If your yeast is bubbling, it’s alive and working. If it isn’t bubbling, you’ll have to start again.
- All dough needs time to prove once the yeast has been added (even “instant” yeast).
- Use a transparent, air-tight container to prove your dough.
- Adding salt to your dough mixture could kill the yeast, so use it carefully.
- Adding extra sugar to your dough can help “feed” yeast, but this isn’t always necessary.
I knead pizza dough
Pizza dough and yeast go together like Sonny & Cher. Finding the yeast that works best for your pizza dough might take some trial and error, but that mouth-watering, airy crust dripping with cheese is worth the effort. If you have some tricks that could help improve the standard of pizza in the world, give us a shout. We’d love to hear from you!