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Please Explain Yeast.....

Without getting too scientific...please explain the differences of the many types of yeast out there used in baking. (Instant vs Active vs Quick-rise). I'm actually looking for what would be the best type to use in a pizza dough? Does it even matter? Do the different types actually change the flavor of the "end" product you're baking? Does it just come down to personal preference? Help.......Thanks!

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  1. Hi Phoebe,

    There aren't that many types of yeast out there, basically only three types: fresh, active, and instant or rapid/quick-rise. Instant and quick-rise are the same thing, I think. Active yeast should be proofed (dissolved in warm water to activate it before adding to the dough); instant or quick rise does not need proofing, you can add it to the dough with the dry ingredients and once it gets moist it starts working immediately.

    It probably doesn't matter which you use, but I actually prefer a slower rise when using yeast, so I avoid instant or quick rise unless I'm in a real hurry. Long slow rises or ferments give better flavor than a fast rise and bake.

    There is also fresh yeast, which you didn't mention, and probably haven't seen on your grocer's shelves. Here are three very useful links, all reliable sources, for info on yeast (and I'd venture that you'll find a good pizza dough recipe or two on each as well):


    Yeast is a cheap ingredient, if I were confused about which to try, I would experiment with whatever yeast I could get my hands on to determine my personal preference and that's my advice to you: try both to determine which works best for you and gives you the flavor you prefer. Good luck!

    3 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      Can't you just use less of the quick yeast for a long slow rise? That's what the noknead breads call for.

      1. re: paulj

        I suppose one could less quick yeast and go for a long slow rise, but might it be possible that the instant yeast gives up a lot of leavening power for that fast rise and doesn't have the staying power necessary for a long slow rise? Interesting experiment, but not for me to try since I don't buy both kinds of yeast

      2. re: janniecooks

        jannie cooks...Thanks for all the info. I didn't mention "fresh" because it's just not available in my area. I purchased a bag of SAF instant from King A's...and it just doesn't seem to do as well as the quick rise I buy in packets.

      3. Until recently I always used active yeast in the little packets because that's what there was for home bakers. Reading about instant yeast in many sources, and attracted to it because it doesn't need the finicky step of proofing in warm liquid, I've been using it for about a year. As far as I can tell, the change hasn't significantly affected the flavor and texture of what I make with it, mainly bread, and the rise is quicker and higher.

        I've never made pizza dough and couldn't say if it's any different.

        1. Fleshmans make a pizza dough yeast that doesnt require a resting period before shaping the dough.

          1 Reply
          1. re: horseshoe

            It's not the yeast that needs to rest before shaping, it is the gluten. Fleishmann's pizza yeast is rapid rise yeast with added dough conditioners to relax the gluten and allow the dough to be worked with immediately. http://www.pizzacrustyeast.com/new_pi...

          2. Buy SAF instant yeast by the pound, store it in the freezer in glass jars. IMO, that's all you need to know about yeast. It works, it stores at least two years., costs a fraction of the cost of the individual packets.

            1. Active yeast needs to be dissolved in warm water (around 110F) before you use.
              Instant yeast (aka quick rise or bread machine yeast) does not need to be dissolved in water.

              In regards to pizza dough, I've tried many recipes and never really had a bad dough. It comes down to the rest of the ingredients.

              However, with that said, my favorite pizza dough recipe is from the Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. The recipe calls for a small amount of instant yeast and allowing the dough to rise overnight in the refrigerator. The results are usually a thinner crust pizza that's cripsy on the bottom and tender on the inside.

              1. I used to use quick rise for my pizza dough, and it came out real nice. I found that yeast Ideal because at the time I was just starting out using yeast and I felt that quick rise was like having training wheels.

                I'm now using active. There's not a massive difference, but I find the texture to be better, fluffier I guess.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Musie

                  I find the opposite to be true for me...that's why I asked this question originally. I find I get a better dough/rise using rapid/quick rise acting yeast. Purchased a bag of SAF instant, and no matter the rise time...or recipe...the quick yeast is better.

                  1. re: Phoebe

                    I've read that the main differences between instant yeast and Fleishman's in the yellow packets are that the former is ground finer and the latter includes more dead yeast for some reason, otherwise it wouldn't need proofing. Don't know how true that is. No mention of different strains of yeast such as would make a difference in the dough's flavor.

                2. The type of yeast used in pizza dough has almost nothing do to with the outcome vs. technique, which is HUGE. Any yeast will be fine. What matters for flavor is again, technique and ingredients. If you are willing and curious, it would be a fantastic learning experiment to do back to back tests using different yeasts. Practice is what really makes the biggest difference with dough products anyway. You could repeat the experiment using different flours. What a great way to develop your dough sense.

                  I have a wood-fired oven at home so I spend a lot of time making both pizza and bread doughs. I have made probably thousands of pounds of pizza dough at home. I can tell the difference between the three white flours I have in my pantry in both the raw dough and the finished product. I'm positive I could do this blind. Likewise, if someone else constructed the dough using my formula, I could tell the difference--technique and handling is that critical. OTOH, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference from one yeast to another.

                  For the most flavorful yeast dough, a cold retard is imperative. As a bonus, this also makes for the best textured doughs (IMO, although non-retarded doughs do have their place, they lack the creamy mouthfeel one gets from a retarded dough) provided you are adept at handling them. Most beginners way, way over handle dough and pizza dough is the least forgiving because it's so simple.
                  FWIW, I bake sourdough almost exclusively, but when I'm doing a yeast dough I use SAF instant.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: splatgirl

                    Splatgirl, love that you recommend experimentation, and aren't recommending "the best" method or ingredient. Especially with the experience of "thousands of pounds of pizza dough" under your belt. Enjoyed your post.

                    1. re: splatgirl

                      The pizza dough recipe I use is one that I've used for going on 15+ years. It's from Bon Appetit mag for grilled pizza. In my opinion...the only way to do pizza. (Unfortunately, I don't have a wood fire oven) I know how important it is not to overwork the dough. It just seems that my dough always comes out better when using quick-rise yeast. No matter how long I let the dough rise. It does get expensive using packets, instead of the SAF instant I have in a bag. I have tried using different flours and always come back to AP.

                      1. re: Phoebe

                        I say if you're happy with the results, stick to what you know. It's very possible your observations are correct, but a side by side comparison would be interesting.

                      2. re: splatgirl

                        HI, I have been trying for a year to get the dough right for my wood-fired pizza oven. You seem to know exactly what you're doing. Would you be willing to share your recipe?

                      3. Fast rise yeast is good for pizza dough since you probably want to bake it soon after it's mixed and not have to wait for a second rise. I actually like to make a dense sponge using active (regular) yeast for most breads if I have time, and let it sit overnight or in the refrigerator for 12-48 hours. One trick I've learned after 40 years of bread baking is that tap water is bad. Most municipal water plants add a lot of chlorine to the water to kill organic impurities (such as yeast.) I use bottled water or a completely different liquid for bread. Also, add salt only after proofing, because salt tends to retard yeast action. With experience you can use salt to regulate how fast you want your dough to rise. Experimentation is what home bread making is all about, and the more dough you work with, the better you'll get at determining when it's ready to shape or bake.
                        The weather on any given day affects the dough. For example, when the weather is rainy, the barometric pressure is low and humidity is high so your dough will usually rise higher than on a high pressure/dry/sunny day. This has more to do with the flour's gluten and its moisture-bearing capacity than with the yeast action. I'm so envious of splatgirl! My dream house would be built around a wood-fired oven (indoor-outdoor!)

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: jilkat25

                          Maybe it's just the fabled New York City tap water, but I use it (Brita-filtered) in yeast breads and the dough rises like mad, much faster than the recipes say. Credit it to the instant yeast, or something, but whatever chemical is in the water, the yeast seems to love it.

                          1. re: John Francis

                            Yes, I can't knock the chemicals/chlorine in tap water thing, but it's never been a problem for me for either yeast or sourdoughs, straight from the tap. Fortunately.

                          2. re: jilkat25

                            I mostly use fast rise yeast because of the end product and not the speed. I have no problem making a dough the day before....or even the same day, and having to wait for a second rise. I must confess though...I have always used tap water and there's a lot of chlorine in it. Never knew it could change the outcome of my dough. I'll definately stop this practice and used bottled next time. I also only add salt after the yeast has proofed. Thanks for the tips!

                            1. re: Phoebe

                              Keep in mind that some brands of bottled water are nothing more than tap water with a label. Also that bottled water, especially when the bottle is plastic, has health issues of its own. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottled_.... And then there's the environmental impact of disposing of all those plastic water bottles.

                              1. re: John Francis

                                That's why I've never bought into the bottled water thing. Guess I'll continue doing wha I've been doing!!!

                              2. re: Phoebe

                                I've read on a baking forum that you can just leave your tap water out overnight and most of the chlorine will dissipate, saving you the trouble and expense of buying bottled for baking.

                                1. re: LisaPA

                                  I thought so. That's what we used to do for our goldfish water, when we changed it, MANY years ago. No one mentioned it...so I thought maybe I was remembering this incorrectly. Thanks for confirming!

                              3. re: jilkat25

                                the best pizza restaurants and recipes will always retard the dough overnight, not only for the slow rise, long fermentation converting the starch molecules to fermentable sugars for the yeast, but also so 24 hrs later when an order comes in, the gluten is completely relaxed, easy to spin into a thin dough in seconds:)