More than half of the recipes on this blog use yeast so I thought it was about time that I write a little guidebook about baking with yeast for you to refer to if you have any yeast related questions!
Starting with the basics of Yeast
Yeast works as a leavening agent, which means that it helps things rise. It works by eating sugar (often the ones that are found in flour) and turning them into gas. This gas is what then leavens your bread, breakfast pastry, or cake!
Instant Yeast vs. Active Dry Yeast
Both Instant yeast and Active Dry Yeast can be used interchangeably in terms of weight – so if one of my recipes calls for instant yeast and you only have active dry yeast, just replace it 1:1. Instant yeast can always be whisked in with the dry ingredients and it will get to work quickly once the warm wet ingredients are added. Active Dry yeast is often bloomed first in the warm liquid and this is not totally necessary but it can help give the yeast a head start.
How do I know if my yeast has expired?
- Check the expiration date. However this is not always accurate so if you think your yeast may still be fresh go to the next step.
- To check if your yeast can be used for baking, warm the main liquid that is going into the recipe, whether that be milk or water. Then sprinkle the yeast over the top and cover with a towel for 10 minutes. If the mixture is bubbly and foamy it is good to add into the recipe. If not, the yeast has expired and will no longer work to leaven your recipe.
Tips for Baking with yeast
- Make sure your warmed liquid that is being added to the yeast is never hotter than 100 degrees F.
- To ensure optimal rise, make sure that none of the ingredients that are being added to the dough are cold. Anything cold will slow the rise of the dough dramatically.
- When waiting for the dough to rise, place it somewhere warm. This could be in a sunny spot in your house, or you can turn just the light of your oven on and place the bowl inside. DO NOT turn the oven on, only the light.
How to store yeast?
The best way to store yeast is in a cool dark place. I like to buy the larger amount of yeast that comes in a vacuum sealed bag. Pour it into a large mason jar, screw on the lid of the jar and place it in the fridge.
Why isn’t my yeast working?
If you have tested your yeast and you know that it is active but your dough isn’t rising, there could be a few problems:
- The area the bowl is sitting in may not be warm enough which means the dough will rise slowly. The space should ideally be between 80-90 degrees F.
- Salt kills yeast. Therefore it is always important to mix the yeast with the other ingredients before adding in the salt.
How do I know when my yeast has fully risen?
The general guide is that the dough should double in size. Always keep an eye on your dough and start checking it after 30 minutes. You don’t want to overproof your dough because it will not expand much during baking and it could even collapse. So once the dough has doubled in size, it is ready to use.
Tips from my Oma on baking with yeast
This is probably my favorite section because these items aren’t proven anywhere but I have always followed them because they are what my Oma told me.
- In addition to never letting salt touch the yeast directly, butter should also be added to that list.
- Yeasted doughs love egg yolks. Egg yolks add richness to the dough which can often be lacking in yeasted dough.
- The best way to bloom active dry yeast is by whisking the flour and sugar together in the mixing bowl. Then make a well in the center and pour in the yeast and warmed liquid. Stir the yeast and milk together and add in a little bit of the flour and sugar from the edges of the bowl.
- If you think you have kneaded the dough long enough, keep going. Ok so this one definitely depends, but unless you are making a laminated dough (with layers of butter) the number 1 mistake I see people make is not kneading the dough long enough. There is a saying in German that the dough should be as smooth as your skin. So my general rule of thumb is that once the dough comes together and the sides of the bowl are clean, knead the dough for 3-5 more minutes.
My favorite Yeasted Breakfast Pastries
My favorite Yeasted Cakes
If you found this helpful I would so appreciate if you would review this post! Also, if you have any questions that I didn’t cover in the blog post, please leave them in the comment section below and I will be sure to answer them!