Baking With Yeast: Kitchen Q&A

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Yeast is an essential ingredient in many recipes for making bread, pastries and even pizza dough. Its job is to help doughs rise and add flavor. This week’s Kitchen Questions & Answers is all about yeast, do you know how to tell if a packet or jar of yeast is still ok to use? Or what the best way to store yeast is? How about whether or not yeast can be frozen? These questions and more are answered below…

Baking With Yeast: Kitchen Q&A

Both Dried & Fresh Yeast Are A Staple In The Baker's Pantry

Both Dried & Fresh Yeast Are A Staple In The Baker's Pantry

  • How can I tell if a packet of yeast is still good to use? If there’s no expiry date to be found, you can test it by adding 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water then stir in the packet of yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes and if the yeast foams up to the 1/2 cup mark, it is active and can be used in recipes. This process is known as “proofing” yeast.
  • What is cake yeast and where can I buy it? Cake yeast is also known as compressed yeast or fresh yeast. It’s more powerful than dried yeast and is white or light brown and crumbly. Where to find it? You may have difficulty locating cake or fresh yeast at your local supermarket, many stores don’t carry it since it has a fast expiry date. Look for it in the refrigerated section of the store.
  • Should yeast be refrigerated? Can it be frozen? How should it be stored? Keep dry yeast sealed in packets or airtight containers to protect it from any moisture, keep away from heat and store in a dry location. Once the packet or jar is opened, keep sealed in an airtight container and refrigerate. You can also freeze yeast to extend its shelf life. Fresh yeast must be refrigerated and its shelf-life is short, about two weeks. Fresh yeast can be frozen to extend its shelf life (defrost in refrigerator before using).
  • What’s the best way to use refrigerated or frozen yeast? Dry yeast can be used in its frozen or chilled state but for best results, let it come to room temperature first.
  • What’s the difference between active dry yeast and quick rise or rapid-rise yeast? Quick rising or rapid-rise yeast only needs one dough rising before being baked so it’s a faster process. Is quicker always better though? Because active dry yeast takes longer, more flavor is developed in the dough.
  • What kind of yeast should I use in my bread machine? Usually you’ll find that instant yeast is required in bread machine recipes because it can be mixed in with ingredients directly without being proofed first. Instant yeast also needs just one dough rising, making it ideal for bread machines.
  • Is it ok to use yeast after the expiry date? Using old yeast in your baking will likely flop since the yeast won’t be strong enough to do its job. You can proof the yeast to see if it’s still usable (see first tip for how to proof yeast).
  • Does it really matter what the water temperature is when adding yeast? Yes it does, too cool and the yeast won’t work quickly, too hot and it can kill the yeast. Lukewarm is just right, it gives yeast the warmth it needs to activate without killing it.
  • How much yeast is in a packet? About 2 1/4 teaspoons. This is useful to know if you buy a jar of dry yeast and your recipe states the amount to use in packets (and vice versa).
  • Why is it usually instructed to cover yeast doughs during rising? Yeast needs warmth to work well and cool drafts can slow down the process. This is why you’ll regularly come across tips to warm your kitchen up before doing any baking with yeast. Here’s a tip for adding warmth in a cool kitchen: Set covered dough in cabinet (or oven) beside pan of boiling water. When water cools, re-heat–Source: Quick Tips: Baking Short Cuts.
  • Why is yeast usually proofed first before adding to ingredients? It was traditionally done to ensure the yeast was working and active. Many bakers today still prefer proofing the yeast first just to make sure the yeast is good to use.
  • How does yeast act differently in high-altitude locations? Yeast rises more quickly in high altitudes, which can be nice time-wise but this does affect the final product (in both taste and texture). If dough rises too quickly it can also cause breads to collapse during baking since the dough didn’t have enough time to build structure. Try reducing the yeast amount a bit if you live in a high-altitude area or find your doughs rise too fast, or you could use cooler water instead of lukewarm when proofing the yeast.
  • What is wild yeast? This is also known as sourdough starter or sponge starter. When using wild yeast you can omit dry or fresh yeast in recipes.
  • How do I substitute instant yeast or active dry yeast for fresh yeast? And vice versa? If a recipe uses fresh yeast and you wish to substitute it with instant yeast, the rule of thumb is to use a third of the fresh yeast amount stated. If you wish to replace fresh yeast for instant yeast, use three times the amount of instant yeast required. To use active dry yeast instead of fresh yeast, divide the fresh yeast amount by 2.5 to determine the amount of active dry yeast to use. If a recipe states an amount of active dry yeast and you wish to use fresh yeast, multiply the amount by 2.5. Whew! Got that? I’ve added a quick conversion chart below to make things easier.
  • Did You Know: Never mix salt directly with the yeast and water mixture as the salt kills the raising action. Source.

Yeast Conversion Chart

1 tsp Active Dry Yeast = 3/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast = 2.5 tsp Fresh Yeast
1 tsp Instant Yeast = 1.25 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 tsp Instant Yeast = 3 tsp Fresh Yeast

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Published: March 9, 2010

What Readers Are Saying:
One Comment to “Baking With Yeast: Kitchen Q&A”
  1. Eileene says:

    I get my cake yeast at the local bakery. I get it by the pound for about $2.00. I then take it and measure it out in small quantites and wrap in foil then in a freezer bag , and freeze it. Lasts forever. You can also dry it and use portions like in the individual pkgs. It works for me.

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