Protips column at Serious Eats, and I had a three-pack of Pizza Yeast staring at me. I also had some sourdough waiting for me in the fridge. I was planning on making sourdough pizza, but then I figured that I might as well make two pizzas. I had plenty of other ingredients, so why not?
So I made one pizza using a sourdough dough that I made two days before that had been sitting in the refrigerator. The second pizza was made using Fleishmann's pizza yeast, which is a super-shortcut method. No rising needed - you just make the dough and use it right away.
The two doughs felt very different when I was working with them. The sourdough had that luxurious bubble-gum stretchy feel. Smooth and stretchy. The pizza-yeast-dough felt like dough. Just regular dough. But sort of puffy already, even though it had just been mixed. Like the yeasts were all using bicycle pumps to inflate their bubbles.
When it came to forming the dough into pizza, there was another difference, The pizza-yeast-dough was much more extensible than the sourdough. I didn't expect that.
I portioned the toppings as evenly as I could manage. Both had pizza sauce, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Coming out of the oven, they looked an awful lot alike.
But looks aren't everything. What did they taste like?
Well, that depends on who you ask. My taste tester didn't detect a whole lot of difference between the two. On the other hand, I noticed the difference right away. The sourdough had more character and the crust had a bit more crunch.
The pizza made with the pizza yeast was more doughy and fluffy and spongy:
Okay, they still look a lot alike, but they felt much, much different.
Before I started, I was prepared to HATE the pizza yeast. To be honest, it wasn't bad. I've had worse crusts at local pizza places. It wasn't the tastiest thing I've ever had - most of what I tasted was salt - but I could probably fix that pretty easily. Cut back on the salt, use honey instead of sugar, and maybe use a flavored oil or toss in some grated cheese.
As far as the texture, if I worked with it enough, I'll bet I could work that out, too.
I still don't love the pizza yeast, but if your sourdough died and you didn't have time for a regular dough to rise, I can see how it might be handy to have on hand. And if you're not much of a baker but you want to make pizza at home, this is a pretty good option.
The interesting thing is that the package says pretty clearly that this yeast isn't meant for bread. So you know what I'm going to try, don't you. Uh huh. Let the yeast police come and get me if they don't like it.