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Kinds of Yeast Used to Bake Bread

Updated on July 18, 2011
Yeast starter for bread photo: basykes @flickr
Yeast starter for bread photo: basykes @flickr

What Is Yeast?

Yeast is a microscopic organism that is everywhere. It's in the ground, on leaves and plants, and floating in the air. Yeast serves a very useful purpose to humans, though. We use yeast as a leavener to help the process of fermentation, which is needed to properly bake bread.

The yeast causes carbon dioxide gas bubbles in the bread to rise. Find out how does yeast make bread rise? These tiny air pockets result in light, fluffy bread.

Two Types of Yeast Used to Bake Bread

We use two different types of yeast to make bread. One of them is instant yeast, also called fast rising, quick rise, rapid rise, or bread machine yeast. The other is active dry yeast, also called fresh yeast or cake yeast.

Either one can be used. There are a couple of benefits to using instant yeast. It cuts the rising time in half and it only has to rise once.

Active dry yeast has to be proofed with water before using. The water should be warm, but not too hot.

Instant yeast doesn't need any liquid to be active. It is fine enough that it doesn't have to be dissolved before being added to the dough. It's great for bread machines, as it can be added straight in with the flour and other dry ingredients. As mentioned above, it only needs to rise once. You don't have to punch the dough down.

You can also make your own yeast starter called sourdough starter using 'wild yeast' that is naturally present in the air.

Yeast Measurement Equivalents

If using a bread recipe that calls for yeast in an odd measure, use these equivalents:

1 package of instant or active dry yeast = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1 cake of fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast

If you need to substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast, use 1/4 less instant yeast

How to Test Yeast to See If It's Still Good

Should you need to test your yeast to see if it's still active, here's how:

When stirring the yeast in water to dissolve it, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. If it starts to bubble or foam after about ten minutes, the yeast is still good.

photo: Sifu Renka @flickr
photo: Sifu Renka @flickr

Storage of Yeast

Active dry yeast will keep for about a year if kept unopened away from excessive heat. Once active dry yeast has been opened, it will last about six months refrigerated and a year if frozen. Leave it in its own packaging. Keep it closed tightly and sealed in a plastic freezer bag. If you want to keep it for longer periods of time, freeze it. Leave it in its own sealed package. It can be used without needing to thaw out.

Instant yeast can be stored for a year at room temperature, if kept closed and away from extreme heat. After it has been opened, it keeps six months refrigerated, and a year if stored in the freezer. Leave it in its original package and put the package in a freezer storage bag.

How to Make Bread Video

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