Yeast is an essential ingredient for any baker. That crunchy bite of a baguette paired with a soft inside would be impossible without yeast. Interestingly enough, Egyptians used wild yeast to make bread some 4,000 years ago. William Sitwell’s “A History of Food in 100 Recipes,” interpreted from Egyptian hieroglyphs that the people had found that yeast spores helped result in fluffier bread loaves.
In 2021, we know a bit more about how these single-celled microorganisms operate. By feeding on sugars, yeast generates carbon dioxide that creates airy structures and a rise in your bakes.
Today, we are going to talk about the different types of yeast and when to use them. Yeast is in most bread recipes and using the right type will help you have a great loaf. There are 4 types we will look into and each one is just a little different.
Different Types Of Yeast
Baking is an important part of any kitchen, and understanding the different types of yeast that we use in our bread recipes can help you work towards a better loaf. Today I want to take a look at four common baker's yeasts: active dry yeast, instant yeast, fresh cake, or compressed fresh dough leavening agent as well as Rapid Rise yeast. The first thing to remember about these is they all have their own properties. Like how quickly it works or if it needs water added before baking. When choosing what kind for your recipe make sure you know which one will best suit your recipe. Remember, not every type is made equal. There could be differences in taste and texture depending on what the recipe calls for.
Active Dry Yeast
Active dry yeast is the most common type of yeast. If you grab the first packet or container of yeast you see in a grocery store, it’s probably active dry yeast! Many recipes will call for active dry yeast. Think of your favorite cinnamon rolls, sweet dough, or your favorite yeast breads. They use active dry yeast most of the time. So for me, it’s a good rule of thumb to have some on-hand if you’re a lover of baked goods like me.
Active dry yeast potency does vary over time and can be damaged by high temperatures. You will want to keep liquids below 115℉ before you even get to baking.
This yeast is easily activated with a bit of water and sugar. This process is referred to as yeast proofing. Yeast proofing is the process of “waking up” or “activating” your yeast so that it can do its job in your final bake.
But do you actually have to proof your yeast before using it in a bake? Some argue that proofing active dry yeast is unnecessary, while others swear by it. Most agree that active dry yeast needs to be proofed before use, while instant yeast does not need to be proofed ahead of time. We’ll get to instant yeast in a moment.
To proof active dry yeast, mix 1 packet of yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar with ¼ cup of warm water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes at room temperature and witness the mixture beginning to froth or bubble up. This process of fermentation is the direct result of your yeast molecules consuming the sugar and releasing carbon dioxide gas.
Reduce the amount of water in your recipe by ¼ cup and you’ll be ready to go when it’s time to add in your active yeast!
Instant Yeast And When To Use It
Instant yeast is also referred to as bread machine yeast. This yeast will last longer when stored compared to active dry yeast. It is also ground into smaller particles compared to active dry yeast. It dissolves more quickly into your mixtures and doughs as well. Common brands of instant yeast include SAF instant yeast and Dr. Oetker.
Because of this, instant yeast is also known as the type of dry yeast that does not need to be proofed or reactivated before use. You can use instant yeast directly in your dough mixture dry ingredients without setting it aside to proof first.
Instant yeast has an additional major benefit when compared to active dry yeast. It is infinitely more stable than active dry yeast, and can even be frozen for years before use. Instant yeast is ground and packaged in a way that allows the yeast to remain stable and active longer on the shelf. It is also tolerant of water temperatures up to 130℉.
Instant yeast does produce a slightly different flavor when compared to active dry yeast, but in most cases, either can be used. Stick to whichever yeast is easier for you to buy, and consider trying the other for a slightly different flavor or to save time.
Fast-Acting Instant Yeast Also Known As Rapid Rise Yeast
Alright, the names will get a bit confusing now, but stick with me! Fast-acting instant yeast is a subcategory of instant yeast. Common brands include RapidRise or Quick-Rise. Depending on where you live or shop, you’ll be surprised to find that only one of either instant yeast or fast-acting instant yeast is available.
Essentially, this quick-acting yeast product was designed to allow you to bake on a time crunch. This makes fast-acting instant yeast a horrible choice when recipes call for bakes that require a long first rise or a second rise period.
However, fast-acting instant yeast is extremely common and nothing to fear. Use fast-acting yeast directly in doughy mixtures without proofing. You’ll be on the road to perfected one-rise bakes in no time!
Fresh yeast was the original yeast product, and yet it is used the least often in today’s kitchens. It is also referred to as compressed or cake yeast and has a 70% water content. It is a crumbly substance that requires no proofing and produces the most carbon dioxide of all other yeast forms.
Of course, there are drawbacks and reasons as to why you won’t find fresh yeast in most kitchens! It is highly perishable and needs to stay refrigerated. As most of us use smaller amounts of yeast at a time, these drawbacks are enough for most to choose a drier type of yeast to store.
Storing The Yeast
We want to keep the yeast organisms alive as long as possible! Only take out what you need from the individual packets before placing them into an airtight container. Or alternatively, store your unused package of yeast in sealed bags or plastic wrap in a dry place. Just make sure they're wrapped tightly so that no moisture can get inside.
Remember though: Different types of yeasts will have different shelf lives which depend on factors such for example how dry it is where it's being kept. Don't forget about refrigerating any opened packages if you don't plan on using all their contents right away. This way they'll stay fresh for a longer time. And always pay attention to the expiration date. Anytime your yeast is questionable, be sure to test it with some sugar and warm water to make sure it still bubbles and froths up before using it. There is nothing worse than your bread dough not rising due to old yeast that is beyond its shelf life.
Baking with Yeast and Yeast Substitutions
Even with fresh yeast off the table, it can be overwhelming to choose which types of yeast to stock and which to pass on including in your pantry. Thankfully, there are a few common substitutions that you can rely on in a pinch.
You can use 25% more active dry yeast in place of instant yeast, as long as you still have time to proof the yeast. This works since active dry yeast granules are larger than instant yeast granules, and are therefore less reactive. The increase in active dry yeast makes up for this difference.
Substituting instant or fast-acting instant yeast for active dry yeast is the same conversion backward. Use 25% less instant or fast-acting instant yeast when replacing active dry yeast.
Finally, if you need to replace active dry yeast with fresh yeast, you’ll need to use about 2x as much fresh yeast to accomplish the same result. No matter the bake you’re trying to accomplish, there’s a yeast solution even if you don’t have the ideal yeast on hand.
Here at SerenaLissy.com, we explore delicious recipes and the science behind baking, too. Explore our recipes, including this Raspberry Mousse Chocolate Cheesecake recipe, or give our article on Flour 101 – The Different Types of Flour and When to Use Them a read today. And if you are ready to start making bread, check out our Bread Baking Tips For Beginners.
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