Yeast 101: Learn about the different kinds of yeast and how to use them when baking bread!
Be sure to download my Baking With Yeast Cheatsheet!
Today we’re talking all about yeast! I just love working with yeast. There is just something so satisfying watching your yeast proof, your dough rise, and of course the heavenly scent of fresh baked bread.
Like baking powder and baking soda, yeast is a leavening agent but a natural one. Yeast is actually a living organism that is a member of the fungus group. Because it is a living organism, it means you can kill it. It also means it needs to be activated or proofed before you use it. Yeast during the proofing process is awakened, turns sugars into carbon dioxide. Basically it’s feeding time for yeast. That carbon dioxide that is created will get trapped within the gluten network that is formed during the kneading process.
But if you’re new to baking bread and using yeast you might notice there are a bunch of different kinds of yeast out there. Active? Rapid? Fresh? Wild?
With all the different kinds of yeast, it can get a bit confusing out there. But let’s start by breaking down the different kinds of yeast into two main groups.
There are two main types of yeast: wild vs. commercial.
Wild Yeast – this stuff is all around us. Before the days of commercial yeast, this was all we had. Which meant we had to capture it, nurture it. Wild yeast can be “captured” by starting what’s called a sourdough starter. Basically by mixing a little bit of flour and water together and letting it sit for a few days, the natural yeast in the air will find its way to your starter and start feeding. And multiplying. Like any relationship, with some love and patience, you will have a ready supply of yeast at your fingertips.
Commercial: There are several types of commercial yeast. Except for fresh yeast, the rest can be found in your local grocery store.
Fresh yeast (or cake, compressed or wet as it is also called) is used by bakeries and the professionals. It must be stored properly in the refrigerator or freezer because it can expire quickly. It’s best to use this stuff within 10 days. It usually comes in a block (or cake) form. You still need to activate or proof this yeast before adding to your recipe. You would want to use this type of yeast for traditional bread recipes, not in those one hour quick bread type of recipes. And you don’t want to use this in your bread machine as well. I prefer the yeast types listed below because I can store them for much longer and can find them in my local grocery store. Now you might be luckier than me and find cake yeast in your grocery store…
1 (o.6 ounce) cube of cake yeast = 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
Active dry: This type of yeast might be the type you think of when you think of yeast. This yeast is found as larger granules than the other types listed below. And this means, it will take a longer time to rise than instant or rapid rise. I’ve also heard that it’s due to the process to dehydrate the yeast, which kills some of the yeast. So it will take longer to rise than the others.
Store this yeast in the fridge or freezer for the longest shelf life. If unopened, it will keep up to a year in the fridge or freezer. No need to thaw before using. If it’s opened, then it will keep for 6 months in the fridge and up to 12 months in the freezer. Just store the opened packages of yeast in a plastic bag.
This type of yeast needs to activated (or proofed) before adding to the rest of your ingredients.
1 package of active dry yeast = about 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce
To learn how to proof your yeast, watch this video…
Rapid (or Quick Rise): This works 50% faster than active dry due to the addition of certain enzymes and additives. Although speed is a great thing, because it works so fast sometimes it loses out on developing all that flavor we know and love in bread. But that means you can skip a second rise of your dough and go straight to shaping your dough after it’s been kneaded. Store this at room temperature.
Instant: Instant yeast is milled into smaller particles than active dry, which means no need to proof your yeast before hand. This yeast can be added directly to your dry ingredients. Dough using this yeast will still need to go through two rises. Store this yeast at room temperature (unless it’s been opened, then store in the fridge or freezer. If unopened, it can store for a year at room temperature. If opened, it will keep for 6 months in the fridge, and 12 months in the freezer.
Bread Machine – Don’t be scared away by the name. This type of yeast is meant for bread machines but can also be used interchangeably in a traditional bread recipe as well. It is a type of instant yeast, which means no need to activate first just simply add it directly to your dry ingredients.
To Substitute One Type of Commercial Yeast For Another Follow the Conversion Measurements Below:
Multiply the amount of instant yeast by 3 for the equivalent amount of fresh yeast.
Multiply the amount of active dry yeast by 2.5 for the equivalent amount of fresh yeast.
Multiply the amount of instant yeast by 1.25 for the equivalent of active dry yeast.
(Source From: What’s Cooking America)
Quick tips when working with yeast:
- Watch the temperature of your water. Yeast is a living thing so that means it can also die. So be careful that your water is not too hot before adding your yeast. The water should be somewhere between 105oF – 110oF. Use a thermometer to know for sure!
- Check your expiration date! If after proofing your yeast for 5 minutes in warm water, you don’t see any bubbles there is a chance your yeast has expired.
- Check to see if your yeast is fresh. Measure out the liquid of your recipe, then pour about a half cup of that liquid into a bowl and add a pinch of sugar and sprinkle your yeast over. Let it sit for a few minutes to see if it bubbles.
So now that you’re an expert on yeast, let’s put your knowledge to good use! Here are a few recipes that use yeast as their leavening agent.
- Traditional Challah Bread
- Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls
- Quick Cinnamon Rolls
- World’s Best Dinner Rolls
And be sure to give my Ultimate Guide To Baking Homemade Bread Recipes a read for more nerdy bread fun 🙂
So now that you understand the different kinds of yeast, go create some bread magic in your own kitchen! And don’t forget to download my FREE baking with yeast cheatsheet!
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