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Everything you need to know about baking with yeast

Do you struggle with your bread dough not rising? Do you get a tough dense bread which is not soft or pillow-y and its unpleasantly hard on the outside? Chances are that you’re either not blooming your yeast right or you’re not giving your dough enough time to rise or a conducive environment to proof. Here I’m going to talk about different kinds of yeast and how to use them and what it takes for your dough to beautifully double up in volume.

You can find your average yeast for bread making at any local grocery store or you may order it online. There are generally three kinds of yeast that you may have:

  • Active dry yeast

  • Instant yeast

  • Fresh yeast


Active dry yeast

The most commonly available yeast in the Indian market is the active dry yeast. This yeast is required to be bloomed before you add it to your dough mixture. No matter what your recipe measurements are, the technique to bloom your active dry yeast remains the same. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll have the most fragrant and foamy yeast ready for your dough mixture. Before you move any further just make sure your yeast is not expired, because if so, it may not bloom even if you do everything right.

Warm your water to about 43-46℃ (110-115͘℉). Any hotter would burn your yeast and if too cold, it won’t activate the yeast. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can check the temperature by dipping your finger in the water, if you’re able to comfortably hold it in and it feels warm (not hot), then it should be the right temperature. It usually takes less than 30 seconds in the microwave to get your water to the right temperature

Yeast also needs food, for which you will need to add a little bit of sugar to the water for the yeast to feed on. You’ll notice in almost all bread recipes there is always a little bit of sugar. That is food for the yeast and its crucial for the blooming process

Next step is to add your yeast to the sugar and water mixture. You need to just gently sprinkle the yeast and give it a little stir.

Once you’ve added yeast, you will need to find a warm spot to put the mixture away from draft or any kind of movement. The best place is to just place it back in the microwave after you used it to heat your water. Do not turn on the microwave, just let the yeast rest for 5-10 minutes.

How to recognize it has successfully bloomed? You’ll be able to see a layer of foam in the mixture. It should be bubbly, foamy and fragrant when its ready!

*Tip: Store your active dry yeast at room temperature in an airtight container


Instant yeast

This is the easiest kind of yeast to work with. All you need to do is add it to your dry ingredients and make your dough according to recipe instructions. Instant yeast does not need to be bloomed beforehand.

But again, if your yeast is expired, you’ll end up ruining your dough. An easy way to check your instant yeast is to follow the blooming process, same as active dry yeast above, to see if its still active and not expired.


Fresh Yeast

Usually found in the frozen sections of supermarkets, it is also known as cake yeast or compressed yeast. Fresh yeast has a shorter shelf life, compared to the other two above, of about two weeks in the refrigerator. So unless you plan on using the entire brick within the coming two weeks, you might just end up throwing it out.

It has a soft crumbly texture and has a mild yeasty aroma at room temperature. You can bloom it the same way as active dry yeast by adding a little bit of sugar to warm water and letting it rest for 10 minutes until its foamy. You will need to use thrice the amount of fresh yeast when compared to active dry yeast. So, 5 grams of active dry yeast means about 15 grams of fresh yeast because fresh yeast has a higher water content while dry yeast is concentrated.


**Double proofing**

If your recipe calls for resting your dough twice, don’t ignore it. It’s a crucial step for that fluffy airy texture that breads are known for.

Simply put, double proofing gives the yeast in the dough time to release more CO2 to incorporate even more air into your dough allowing you to get a light and airy texture in your final product.

Always proof your dough in a warm 30-38℃ (85-100℉) draft free environment. Again, a microwave is your safest bet but you’re obviously not using your microwave during this period. Give it ample time to rise for best results.

Happy baking!


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