I get all sorts of questions asked of me by you guys and I try my best to give you a meaningful response but if I don't know the answer, I reach out to experts in their field for their responses. Here's an example.
I received the following email from Grace R. asking,
Hi, I make pizza for a living; I have been told that salt kills yeast. I use salt & sugar with the dry yeast, eggs, oil and water, which is about 135-140 degrees. Was I misinformed? Is it a combination of elements, or has the restaurant just been lucky for the past 26 years? Just curious. Thanks...
So I asked two of my favorite experts, Chef Jennifer Field and Chef Ruth Gresser. Jenni is a graduate of the Orlando Culinary Academy in Florida and Ruth is a graduate of Madelein Kamman's Classical and Modern French Cooking School in Glen, New Hampshire and owner of the top pizza restaurant in Washington, DC.
Here's what they had to say:
Chef Jennifer Field - It's a matter of balance. Salt does retard yeast growth, and in concentrations that are too high, it can indeed kill the yeast. In judicious amounts, salt brings out the bread's flavor and controls yeast growth so that the resulting crumb is nice and even.
If you ever make a dough without salt, you'll notice a lot more and faster, rise and after baking, you'll see large, irregular holes in the bread where the yeast just got carried away. So, it's not that the restaurant has been lucky; it's just that their pizza dough recipe is balanced so the yeast can do its thing while the salt keeps them in check.
Chef Ruth Gresser - In response to Grace's yeast question, she heard correctly that salt and/or too much sugar can kill the yeast. However, yeast has become much less perishable and more reliable over the years and the likelihood of that happening is less than it used to be. Nonetheless, I believe that Grace's success is not luck, but due to the kind of yeast she uses.
We use regular dry yeast here at Pizzeria Paradiso and so proof it without salt or sugar in water that is 100 to 105 degrees F. It sounds to me as if Grace uses instant yeast that is used by mixing it into the dry ingredients that are then combined with the liquid ingredients, including water, at a much higher temperature of 120 to 130 degrees F. Grace says her water is at 135 to 140 but perhaps after it is mixed with the other liquid ingredients, the combined temperature is in the range of 120 to 130 degrees F.
Thanks, chefs for your responses.