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When aging pizza dough in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, I mix the salt and "Saf-Instant Dry Baker's Yeast" (a Japanese brand) with the flour and add room-temperature or cold water. I always get lots of yeast bubbles within hours in the fridge, and lots of rise when par-baking, so I know the yeast is happy.

When I tried making same-day dough, I fell back to habits I learned as a kid, to mix the yeast with water as hot as I could stand my finger in. I mixed salt in that water too, and that was the only time in years of weekly baking I got no rise. Question part 1: Does salt kill the yeast??

Question part 2: Is there any reason to even use hot water if room-temp water works fine with this brand of yeast?

Question part 3: is there any reason not to simply use the mix of dry ingredients that I have success with with refrigerated doughs? If not, why do books/recipes/relatives insist on the hot water dissolve-the-yeast step, which means you have a couple more utensils to wash?

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The answer is, as you suspected, you killed your yeast.

If you look at your original description of the process, you add the yeast to flour, along with salt and then add hot water, the flour is presumably room temperature, so it acts as a cooling agent and spreads the heat out so that most of the yeast survives and the final mixture is about body temp (37 C, or 98.6 F), which happens to be about the best temperature for yeast to grow. You do however need a little warmer to activate dried yeast, but this will be only a matter of 40 C/105 F

When you do this with just the yeast and water: You say that you use water that is as hot as your finger can stand. This happens to be about 55-60 C/130-140 F, yeast are killed by water hotter than about 45 C/120 F. To determine the tmperature, do not use your finger, these tend to be less heat sensitive than other body parts, instead drop a little on your wrist, if it feels comfortable, then it is good to go. If it feels hot the water may be too hot.

You can indeed just mix the flour, yeast, salt and add warm water for an instant dough, there is often no need to proof the yeast (this is the water step). The proofing step does lower the risk of your dough not rising because the yeast were inactive though, and then you have wasted ingredients...

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    maybe i just have super sensitive fingers, but the described method works for me perfectly. My mom taught me to let the tab water run until i can't stand being in it anymore and then use that to activate my dry yeast. However, I always let my finger stay in the water during the whole water-heating-up-phase, maybe that's making the difference. I guess you can stand 50°C for a short time, but certainly not for long. Long story short: I think you are right, but i wouldn't dismiss this method entirely, as it definitely is convenient. – Gretel_f Jul 29 at 11:01
  • @Gretel_f, it's safer not to use hot water from the tap. The hotter the water, the more easily it dissolves contaminants in your plumbing. If there's lead in your pipes or fixtures, more of it can get into your water. Lead Contamination - Tap Water - The New York Times – Juhasz Jul 29 at 23:00
  • "You do however need a little warmer to activate dried yeast," Definitely not the case at least with this brand. As I thought I made clear, even refrigerated water at like 5C works fine, even if I put the dough right back in the refrigerator for a couple days. – Swiss Frank Jul 30 at 2:01
  • @Juhasz Right. You are absolutely right, you definitely need to be careful with that. I'm not from the US and here we don't have lead pipes anymore, maybe that's why I never felt I had to worry about it too much. But it's definitely a good warning! – Gretel_f Jul 30 at 5:50
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You need a thermometer to make sure your yeast is not killed by water over 120 degrees. You might learn that your hand is not as heat sensitive as when you were doing this before.

Sometimes it is a great idea to prove the yeast works by putting in your water and making sure it bubbles and foams before use. If you bake very often, like me, you know your yeast is good to go without proof. Remember, when you buy new granulated yeast, freeze it for a much longer future using it. Also yeast just needs water and flour to activate. Warm water makes it rise quickly so you don't have to wait for your dough to rise.

The salt is added for flavor. Salt soaks up water. Yeast needs water to react. The salt actually competes with the yeast. But the yeast reaction is slowed down.

  • Your advice is exactly what I'd give to an occasional baker, but I bake weekly and have done for six years and have had one single failure, and that was when I mixed in salt. I go through a little box of yeast in a couple months or so. I'm reading salt also helps gluten strength, but I put margerita salt on the bottom of the pizza so I'm trying to cut down on salt in the dough to compensate. May not be a good tradeoff though. – Swiss Frank Jul 31 at 5:01

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