The purpose of yeast is to begin the process of fermentation, which is the conversion of sugars into alcohol. Active yeast feeds on the sugars in flour and produces carbon dioxide gas in the process. The gases get trapped within the dough and cause it to rise...giving the finished pizza crust its light and airy texture. The gluten creates a lattice of protein that acts as a web and captures the gas. High gluten flour creates a tighter layer of protein and traps more gas than lower gluten flours...the outcome is a lighter texture for the high gluten dough's, and a more dense texture for low gluten dough's. We prefer to use high gluten flour for making our pizzas because it provides a light, flaky crust. We use Active Dry Yeast in many of our pizza recipes because it is practical and easy for using at home, and will not expire for one to two years. The yeast remains dormant in the package until ready for use until it is activated. When you read bread or pizza crust recipes you may see that some call for dissolving yeast in a warm liquid first and then adding to the flour...while others call for yeast added to flour and then warm liquid added. Either of these methods is ok...do what is easy for you. The process of dissolving yeast in a warm liquid is called Proofing. It is a method of "testing" that the yeast is still active and alive before adding it to other ingredients. The science of making yeast has improved and is very reliable that this process is not needed anymore. Feel free to add the yeast directly to the flour and then add the warm liquid. I still proof the yeast...call me old fashioned. Really, I do this not because I am concerned with whether the yeast is still alive...but because I find it quick and easy. When I am going to create a batch of dough I can quickly grab a packet of yeast, pour warm H2O into a small container, add the yeast and a small amount of sugar, and begin the activation of the yeast. While the yeast is activating I go about getting the other ingredients and getting the equipment I need in order. Use the process that is easiest for you... The yeast can be destroyed if the water is too cold or too hot. The water temperature should be between 105° F. and 115° F. Use an instant read thermometer if you have one, if not, test the water against the inside of your wrist by holding it below the faucet...it should feel very warm but not hot.
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