Which yeast should I use?

Sometimes it can be confusing when faced with the dilemma of which yeast to use and how best to use it. Should you use fresh yeast, and how much? What about active dried? Is that different to easy-bake? I answer your questions in the video below:

Fresh Yeast

This variety can be hard to get hold of here in the UK. I can sometimes get it if I am ordering my shopping from Ocado. I have also found it next to the butter in the larger Morrisons stores. You may be able to ask for it in the bakery department in larger supermarkets. Be aware though that it is not always the freshest from this last source. You can order it online from Shipton Mill and Bakery Bits. I have also heard that you may be able to get it from your local Polish shop. Let me know where you get your fresh yeast from in the comments below to help others.

If you can get hold of fresh yeast it can be very satisfying to use. There is a tactile benefit that you get from squishing it into the flour. If it’s fresh it will feel like play dough or window putty (which you might remember if you are as old as me). It should smell sweet. If it is crumbly and smells sour then it’s past its best and should not be used.

You must keep fresh yeast in the fridge. It lasts 3-4 weeks from manufacture. You can freeze it, but it does lose some of its rising power. So you may need to use a bit more than you normally would to get the same results. Be aware that when yeast defrosts it thaws as a liquid.

I use between 5-10g of fresh yeast if I am using 500g of flour. This is less than is recommended in most recipes but I like to reduce my yeast and let my dough prove for longer. You can use up to 25g for 500g flour, but expect your dough to rise quickly.

If I am making a dough with water then I rub my yeast into the flour like I would rub butter into flour when making pastry. If I am using eggs, milk, butter or a high percentage of oil then I will dissolve it in a little bit of water first. Otherwise, the yeast gets coated by the fats and might not fully dissolve through the dough as I mix.

Easy Bake/ Instant/ Fast Action Yeast

This is probably the easiest and most convenient variety to use. It is a very small pellet and can be added to the flour without being dissolved or activated first. As you add water to the flour it will dissolve readily into the dough. It has added ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to speed up its rising power making this quick to work. It produces more carbon dioxide than active dried yeast so you will notice the dough rising more and faster if you do a side by side comparison with the two dry yeasts.

This yeast comes in a tin, small bag or in sachets. The sachets are most convenient as they stay freshest for longest. Once the larger packets are open and exposed to air the yeast will lose some of its power over time.

I use about 2-3g when I make a loaf with 500g of flour. This means that one 7g sachet last me 2-3 loaves. I tend to use it within a week or so of opening the sachet and seal it well.

Active Dried Yeast

This type of yeast normally comes in a yellow tin in UK supermarkets. It looks like small round pellets. When compared to easy bake yeast the pellet is 2-3 times larger. This type of yeast has to be dissolved in water before using. It also needs warm water at about 40C to be properly activated.

As Harold McGee notes in his tome On Food and Cooking:

At cooler soaking temperatures, the yeast cells recover poorly and release substances that interfere with gluten formation (glutathione).
p. 533

This type of yeast is not suitable for use in a bread maker because it needs activating in liquid before use. The pellet will not dissolve as you mix the dough, as the easy bake/ instant variety does.

I use about 5g of this variety in loaf made with 500g of flour.

Reducing the amount you use

You might have noticed that the amount or each variety of yeast I use in my breads is lower than recommended in most recipes. I prefer to use less and let my dough prove for longer. Reducing the amount you use will also improve the flavour, texture and digestibility of your bread. It also makes it easier to fit making bread into a busy day as you can leave it for longer between stages. I have also written an article about reducing the amount of yeast that you use in your loaf. So definitely take a look at it to help improve your bread making.

Learn more about bread making

If you would like to learn more and transform into a keen and confident bread maker you can join my Bread Made Easy Membership to access my online bread courses and a monthly live demo and bread chat.

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You can also join us for a fun relaxing day of baking at our cookery school in Ironbridge, Shropshire

Take a look at my YouTube channel for other videos that will help you make great bread at home.

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