Learn what active dry yeast and how to to use it all your bread recipes! This baking tutorial will explain the difference between active dry yeast vs instant yeast, how to activate your yeast and so much more.
Whether it’s a loaf of sandwich bread, a batch warm sticky cinnamon rolls or homemade pizza dough one of the key ingredients you can’t leave out is your yeast. But if you’re new to baking recipes using yeast, then you might have some questions! And the big one might be – what is active dry yeast?
When I first start baking bread one of the first things I noticed was that there were all different kinds of yeast to use. But one yeast I noticed was called for most in baking bread – active dry yeast.
Active dry yeast is a common yeast you will use in baking your bread recipes so if you’re curious to learn more about this little packet of granules, then this post will have you learn all the key things to make the best bread ever.
What is yeast?
Yeast, are living cells, that is a natural leavening agent that helps make our breads rise. Yeast is also essential in beer and wine-making.
Yeast is a microscopic, single-celled living organism that is part of the fungus group. The yeast cells feed on sugars and starch in your flour and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
When using yeast in baking, the carbon dioxide is what makes our breads rise and it also helps give our breads flavor. The carbon dioxide is trapped inside the dough causing it to expand.
There are two yeast types in baking, commercial or wild. Commercial yeast can be found as fresh yeast or dried yeast. And wild yeast is what is naturally found in the air, and is what a sourdough starter consists of.
What is active dried yeast?
Active dried yeast is a form of commercial dried yeast purchased in individual packets. Each packet contains 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g, or 1/4-ounce). This is the most common yeast you will find in the baking aisle of your grocery stores.
Active dry yeast was named because it needed to be activated first before using in your recipe.
Each packet contains dehydrated yeast granules. In a sense, the yeast is asleep. And it’s our job to wake it up! The yeast will become activated, or “wake up” when it comes in contact with liquid and sugars in your recipe.
How do you use active dry yeast?
Active dry yeast, as it was named, used to have to be activated in warm water with a little bit of sugar before adding it to the rest of the recipe but that’s no longer the case.
Active dry yeast can now be added directly to the rest of your dry ingredients in your recipe.
However, you can still proof, or activate, the yeast first if you want to give your yeast a head start, and ensure that your yeast is still active and hasn’t expired.
How to proof active dry yeast
Proofing, or activating, the yeast means to simply combine the yeast with water and sugar to wake up the yeast from its dormant state. The water will rehydrate the yeast, and the yeast will feed on the sugar once it’s awake. It’s a good way to kickstart the yeast activity.
Many bakers still prefer to proof their yeast first before adding it to the rest of the recipe. Some bakers say that it will dissolve better into the rest of the ingredients by doing so. If a recipe calls for proofing the yeast first, I always follow the recipe and proof first.
Proofing first, is also a good way to see if your yeast is still active. Since yeast is a living thing, it does have a shelf life. Check the package’s expiration date to ensure it hasn’t expired.
To proof active dry yeast:
- Add 1/2 cup of lukewarm water (or you can use milk if your recipe calls for it) to a 1-cup measuring cup (you can always proof with less liquid if your recipe uses less). Water should be between 100 and 110oF. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. Do not let the water temperature go above 120oF
- Stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it sit for 1 minute
- Sprinkle in the yeast amount your recipe calls for. Stir into the water.
- Wait 5-10 minutes until the yeast mixture has doubled in height. The yeast mixture should be very bubbly and foamy. If it doesn’t, then do not use it and get new yeast. Add the yeast mixture to your recipe as directed. Be sure to adjust the amount of water and sugar in your recipe.
What is the difference between active dry and instant yeast?
Active dry yeast and instant yeast are not the same thing. Both are dried forms of commercial yeast, but they will react slightly different in your yeast bread recipes.
- Grain size: Active dry yeast is found in a larger grain size than instant yeast. The fine granules found in instant yeast allows it to dissolve more easily into the flour and the other ingredients.
- Can add directly: Where active dry yeast was recommended to be proofed first before using in your recipe, instant yeast was developed to be added directly to your dough because of its finer granules. However, you can still proof either yeast or simply add then to the rest of your ingredients.
- Rising time: One of the main differences between the two types of yeast is the dough rising time. Instant yeast, sometimes known as fast acting yeast, bread machine yeast, or quick rise yeast, will work faster in your dough than active dry yeast. Active dry yeast will also take longer for your breads to proof than if using instant yeast. You will need to add an extra 15-20 minutes to the bread proofing time.
Which yeast is better to make bread?
I’m not sure there’s just one right answer here. Both yeasts have the pros and cons. The type of yeast you choose can be up to your personal preference! Regardless of which type of yeast you use, my favorite brand I use and bake with all the time is Red Star Yeast – it’s a high quality yeast and produces excellent results!
Two things to consider on which yeast to choose: time and flavor.
Active dry yeast will take longer for the bread to rise but can result in more depth of flavor of your bread due to the longer rise time. Instant yeast will take less time, but may develop as much flavor.
When it comes to which yeast to use in my bread, I try to stick to whatever the recipe was tested with. However that being said, you can substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast.
Substituting active dry yeast for instant yeast
You can substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast in a 1:1 ratio when making bread dough by hand or in a mixer. You can also substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast in the same way.
Just remember if substituting active dry yeast for instant yeast, the rise time for the bread dough will increase by about 20 minutes, since active dry yeast does not react as quickly.
However you should not substitute one yeast for the other if using a bread machine. Bread machines use higher temperatures to make the dough, so it’s not best to substitute.
Storing active dry yeast
Active dry yeast can be stored, unopened, in a dry, cool place, your refrigerator, or even frozen for up to 2 years.
If the package of yeast is open it’s best to store in the freezer for up to a year in an airtight container. Let the yeast defrost and come to room temperature before using in your recipe. If it’s opened, and you plan on using it right away then you can keep it in the fridge.
If your package has been opened, and you’re unsure if it’s still fresh or not then be sure to proof it first to make sure it’s still active.
- Do not use hot water to proof your yeast. If your water is too hot it will kill the active yeast. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick your wrist in the water. If it’s warm then you’re good to go.
- Check the expiration date. Each packet of active yeast has an expiration date on it. Be sure to check it before using your yeast in the recipe.
- Store properly. Unopened packages can be stored in a cupboard, refrigerator, or freezer for up to 2 years. Opened packages will last a year in the freezer.
- Proof the yeast first if you’re unsure if it’s fresh. Although active dry yeast can now be added directly to your recipe, it’s best to still proof it if you’re unsure if it’s expired or not.
What can I use active dry yeast in?
Now that you know what active dry yeast is and how to use it, let’s bake with it! Here are some of my favorite baked goods that use yeast. If substituting instant yeast for active dry yeast in the recipe, remember the rising time will change.
- Donuts – Nothing better than a batch of homemade glazed donuts. Or try this sugar donut, and chocolate glaze donut version.
- Cinnamon rolls – Warm, sticky cinnamon rolls is the perfect way to use up a package of yeast. Try these healthy cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, chocolate cinnamon rolls, or these apple cinnamon rolls!
- Pretzels – Get your twist on and make homemade soft pretzels. Or try these pretzel dogs, cinnamon sugar pretzels, or pretzel buns.
- Sandwich Bread – Nothing beats a homemade loaf of sandwich bread. Or try this whole wheat sandwich bread version.
- Rolls – When it comes to the holidays, I love making some these no knead dinner rolls or these Parker House dinner rolls.
- Babka – If you’re looking for a fun new yeast bread challenge try making this apple babka or chocolate babka recipe.