The amount of yeast you need is probably less than you think. Try reducing the yeast amount in your recipe so that you can control fermentation, and allow it to rest for longer to create a better taste and lighter texture from the effects of fermentation.
How much yeast in pizza dough?
The amount of yeast depends on how long the fermentation time will be, and the temperature of the dough at fermentation. Longer fermentation or warmer temperatures need less yeast, as yeast multiplies over time and does so at faster rates when warmer.
Baker’s percent are a way to compare recipes. They are percentages of other ingredient’s weight to the flour weight. Typical yeast percent would be 0.02% – 1% yeast. I use my own recipe with 0.1% yeast – so for 2 dough balls I use 330g flour and 0.33g yeast (about 2 pinches). See the full ingredients and instructions on my pizza recipe.
Yeast is about relatively in terms of time and temperature. So I’ve added a table with some temperatures and time so that you can pick something that works for you. I’ll talk a bit about my own preference for yeast I use in my own recipe.
Calculating Yeast Amount
Because it’s all about relativity, we can make an estimate of the times and temperatures and relative yeast amount we need. If we assume we are holding our dough at a usual room temperature of 70F/21C, or in the fridge at around 40F/4C. The accompanying table gives an idea of how much yeast to use before the dough is at its optimum – there is obviously a window before and after where the dough is usable.
|Temperature||Fermentation Time||Instant Dry Yeast Percentage||Example Yeast Amount Per 500g Flour (3 dough balls)|
|Room Temperature||2 hours||0.5%||2.5g|
|Room Temperature||5 hours||0.2%||1g|
|Room Temperature||8 hours||0.1%||0.5g|
|Room Temperature||18 hours||0.03%||0.15g|
For ease, I will refer to instant dried yeast as the yeast mentioned. Typically fresh yeast needs 3x as much in weight.
Bakers percentages allow us to compare recipes independently of the weight. They are calculated as a percentage weight of the flour weight – 500g flour and 1% yeast would be 5g yeast.
The fermentation time is the amount of time after the dough has been kneaded. Usually you would let the dough rise as a bulk for a first period, and then ball it up and let them rise again. I’ve gone for 2 hours as a minimum because a minimum fermentation would probably be 1 hour bulk and 1 hour in the ball. Remember though that longer fermentation makes better dough.
Accompanying to my own testing, much of the credit for these numbers has to go to this forum post. For the cold fermentation, remember that it has an initial hour or more resting at room temperature before it is balled up and goes in the fridge. That’s why the yeast amount is slightly lower than if you put the dough straight in the fridge – the warm temperature gives it a spike. I’ve tested most of the yeast quantities first hand, so have confidence in the table’s accuracy.
Why Use Less Yeast?
Unfortunately there is no speeding up the benefits of longer fermentation. Time breaks down the dough to make a nicer texture, and acids and alcohol are produced to develop that flavor and aroma found in good bread. While adding more yeast will help it rise and add holes to the dough ready for baking, you miss out on the flavor and texture benefits by speeding things up.
The benefits of using less yeast is that the dough doesn’t balloon in size with gas over a longer period. As the yeast eats the sugars in the flour, the dough also loses strength, flattens out and gets more difficult to shape without breaking. Another downside is that the alcohols and acids which are released in fermentation give the dough a taste that gets over powering and sour. Yeast multiples as it consumes sugar, so the small amount of yeast to start with, will actually grow over time.
The yeast quantity in my recipe is low at 0.1%, but I have found it works great for both a short fermentation of 2-8 hours at room temperature, or a full 48 hours in the fridge (as long as you start give it 2 hours at room temperature to kick start it first). I found that using higher yeast amounts meant that the dough would rise too much and become very weak when left out to rise at room temperature. If you want better dough, you really do need less yeast.
I debated making two different dough recipes on this website, with different quantities. But after lots of testing, I found that an optimal amount of 0.1% allowed both a fermentation at room temperature or a cold fermentation – so I kept things simple. My testing found that too much yeast can easily cause over fermentation, but too little yeast rarely gives the problem of being under fermented.
How To Measure Yeast
If you are using such small amounts then it can be difficult to accurately measure the yeast. The best way is to get a scales that measures at least to 0.1g, but better still, measure to 0.01g. You can buy these on Amazon. Check out my recommended equipment page.
If you want to approximate then you can always split the yeast on a table top. If you can measure 1g of yeast then you can line this up on a hard surface using a bank card and then split it into 3 for 0.33g. Or if you are using packet yeast that comes in 7g packets for example, you can split into 7 parts for 1g.
What Is Happening With The Yeast
So what’s going on here? Dough is actually just a big ball of chemical reactions that make something quite unique and tasty. Dried yeast is an inactive form of alive yeast, which is slowed down by having the moisture taken out. When you hydrate it again with water it gets going. It needs food, so it eats the sugars in the flour and then it multiplies. As this process happens, it gives off CO2 gas, alcohol and other byproducts – this is called fermentation. This makes the dough rise and gives off that smell like a bakery.
Temperature is a key thing which speeds up yeast activity and fermentation. But only up to a point – about 35°C/95°F and then things start getting too warm. At around 50°C/122°F and above, the yeast will start dying. It all eventually dies in the oven. Below 20°C/68°F and the fermentation slows, so the temperatures in a fridge cause the yeast to slow right down significantly.
Another reaction is between the flour and water. When they meet, they start turning the protein in the flour into gluten. This creates the stringy network inside the dough, and helps hold on to the gas bubbles, making it rise and form a crust. The gluten is tight when it is developed from kneading, and then it relaxes over time. Along with the yeast breaking down the starches, this alters the dough texture over time to be nice and tender.
Other Factors That Affect Yeast And Fermentation
Salt has a few affects on the dough. Firstly it affects the yeast and slows down fermentation. So a saltier dough is used in places like Italy where it is hot and they traditionally didn’t have fridges. They make dough that would sit out all day and still be usable later, building a better taste at the same time. Salt also tightens the gluten network. If you’ve ever mixed a dough by hand and added the salt last, you physically feel it tighten up as you add it and mix it in.
Higher hydration also speeds up fermentation. The dough is more fluid, so it can bubble and move around more, and this speeds up the chemistry.
Bad Advice In Other Recipes
Many beginner recipes will give yeast quantities much higher – up to 1.5% of the recipe. This runs the risk of the yeast getting very active and blowing out. You could try and control it, some recipes recommend using ice water, but why bother? Just lower the yeast and avoid these extra steps. And feel confident that your dough can hold at room temperature for a longer period.
Pizza is all about relatively, from the ingredients, the environment, the cooking process. It takes some time to build up the feel and sight of a dough that is “just right” and this comes from practicing making pizza every week.
Experiment with different yeast and fermentation times with your dough which are found in the table of this article. After much trial and error I settled on my own recipe, and like it because it’s easy, and consistent.
Hopefully you now have an answer to how much yeast to use in your pizza dough. Check back to the table in this article when you are making your next pizza.