7In this post I will highlight the differences between the most common kinds of yeast we can find on the marketplace, in order to understand if there’s one we should prefer when making pizza dough - or any dough, for that matter.
I will give you some geeky info and I will explain how to replace one with the other.
Here’s a spoiler: you can use any yeast you have at hand, in my opinion there’s no need to prefer one over the other. So if you’re not a bit of a curious kind of person, I guess you have already found your answer. But if you want to know the “why” of my statement…well, keep reading!
Yeast plays an essential role in our dough, it’s the true protagonist of the whole rising process, so let me tell you what it actually is.
Yeast is a biological entity, a complete organism made by a single cell, that belongs to the “Fungus” family. It lives both with and without oxygen, but its metabolism is different depending on the conditions: when there’s oxygen surrounding a yeast’s cell, it will duplicate itself. When there’s no more oxygen, the yeast will start this famous fermentation many people talk about - I am not sure how consciously, though.
We know many different strains of yeast, but we’re interested in the one that has been selected to be marketed, being the best all-round solution. Its name is “Saccharomyces Cerevisiae”. This little critter is lovingly bred and fed with molasses before it reaches the supermarket and our pantry in one of its three most common forms.
Let’s see them.
Fresh yeast, also called compressed, or cake yeast. It’s sold in small blocks with 70-72% of moisture. These blocks bustle with life: one gram of compressed yeast contains at least 1000 cells of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.
You can plunge the block into water and dissolve it or crumble it in the flour. Although there's a bigger affinity with flour because it contains the sugars yeast will feed on, the difference is not really relevant.
This was the only kind of yeast back in the days, and it’s still very common in Italy, where I come from.
However, I’m not sure it’s too easy to find everywhere else - I can tell it’s definitely NOT in the UK where I live at the moment. If you really want to try, maybe you can ask your favourite bakery and see if they use it and if they can sell you some.
By the way, consider that a while ago somebody had a good idea and said: “Why don’t we dehydrate some fresh yeast, in order to increase its shelf life and make it easier and more convenient to store?”.
👉 This brings us to the other two kinds of yeast you can find on the shelves of most supermarkets.
The Dry Active yeast, that comes in small granules. They are simply cells of yeast covered in starch that contain 6-8% of moisture . The manufacturer always suggests activating the yeast in lukewarm water (let me add a not-so-irrelevant detail, it should be 28-30°C / 82.4-86°F), where the starch will dissolve and the actual yeast will be released. It’s often recommended to add a pinch of sugar so there’s some food promptly available to the yeast.
The Instant Yeast comes in tiny sticks with 4-6% moisture and you can use it straight away, it doesn't need any special treatment. It’s usually recommended to sprinkle it on top of the flour, because it will start its activity once the water is added. Basically the commercial name “instant” yeast refers to the fact that you can use it immediately and skip the activation part. In fact, this kind of yeast is also sold with different commercial names that refer to the speed, like “fast action”, “fast rise” or something similar.
As I said, both active and instant yeast are made by dehydrating fresh yeast.
This means that these three kinds of yeast contain the very same biological entity.
And it also means that they work in the same way.
Finally, this means that there’s no reason why I should prefer one kind of yeast over the other to make my dough.
Also, the suggestions on how to use the two kinds of dry yeast are just suggestions. In fact, when I make dough, I always dissolve the yeast into the water, no matter the type of yeast I’m using. My results are consistent enough and, if you have been following me on Instagram or Facebook, you know they look like this:
If you want to know HOW I get these results, the best way to start is my YouTube channel, where I shared a free crash course. If you’re ready to step to the next level, then you should consider my complete video-course on Udemy. The same course is also on Skillshare, where you can watch it for free if you take advantage of their free trial.
Finally, a few words on how to substitute any kind of yeast with one of the other two I mentioned in this post.
You can use active and instant in the same amount: if your recipe calls for 1 gram of active yeast but you only have instant…nevermind, use it without changing the amount.
Now, if you’ve read carefully you might object to this, as there might be a small difference in the moisture content between active (6-8%) and instant yeast (4-6%). This means that instant yeast might contain slightly more yeast’s cells. Actually, Peter Reinhart says that active yeast contains 25% more dead yeast's cells compared to instant yeast. I never found any scientific evidence to back up this statement - not that I've spent hours searching, though 😅
In the end, the difference would be 4% at most, which is negligible if we consider the tiny amounts we use when baking at home. I mean, you might as well buy a precision scale to measure cents of grams if you think that the difference would be relevant.
I substitute active and instant yeast 1:1 plain and simple.
Finally, if you manage to find fresh yeast, the conversion rate is 1:3. If your recipe calls for 1 gram of dry yeast, then use 3 grams of fresh yeast. Once again, the ratio comes from the moisture content: dry yeast has 6% on average, consequently the dry part is 94%. Fresh yeast has 70% so the dry part is 30%. The actual ratio is 1:3.31914. Once again, you can safely round the number.
I hope you liked this article, feel free to leave a comment to discuss or ask questions. If you found some value and you feel like supporting me, keep scrolling down and you will see several ways to pat my back!
See you next time 🍕
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