Lots of people are wary of working with yeast simply because they feel it is tricky to get it right. However, it is not. Using and activating yeast is quite simple.
Before we get into the activation of yeast, let us learn about yeast and the available different varieties.
First and foremost, yeast is a single-cell living organism that acts as a leavening agent in baking and cooking. It requires sugar and moisture to grow. Yeast causes the sugars in the rest of the ingredients to ferment, creating carbon dioxide. Then, the elastic dough traps the gas which makes the dough rise. This substance also gives the desired flavour and texture to yeast-based recipes.
Five types of yeast are generally used in baking. They are:
- Active dry yeast
- Instant yeast
- Fresh yeast
- Rapid dry yeast
- Frozen yeast
What does “activating” yeast mean?
Activating yeast means that it is proving the yeast is still alive and can be used in baking recipes. Fresh or cake yeast is already activated and can be readily used without additional steps. Active dry yeast is dehydrated and does not start working until it is rehydrated. Whilst baking bread, proofing the yeast makes sure that fermentation happens and the bread rises properly.
How to activate yeast?
There are different methods to activate the different types of yeast. Yeast activates at 38–43ºC. Even if the water/milk is a smidge too cold, the yeast won’t activate. Too hot and the yeast will perish. Here are methods you need to know to activate the commonly available ones:
- Put some warm water (38–43ºC) in a bowl.
- Add a pinch of sugar.
- Add your dry yeast.
- Leave it to proof for 5-7 minutes.
- You will be left with a foamy liquid.
- Add it to your dry ingredients.
Instant yeast requires no activation since it is already “activated”. Just break some instant yeast and add it to the other ingredients.
However, it is important to check if the instant yeast is still alive and active. Add some to 1/4 cup of warm water and leave it for 10 minutes. If you come back to find a bubbling cup of yeast, then it is good to be used.
You will find fresh yeast as tiny “yeast cakes” in the refrigerated section of your local store. Fresh yeast lasts only about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Fresh yeast is already active, so you don’t have to do anything extra. Proof it in tepid water (26–32ºC). No addition of sugar is necessary.
Fresh yeast can be frozen by mixing it with flour. Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by mixing 2 parts crumbled fresh yeast with 5 parts refined wheat flour or maida.
- Put it in a small bag, and freeze it.
- When you’re ready to use it, pour 100 millilitres* of warm water and a pinch of sugar.
- Leave it to prove. But, since it is frozen, this will take longer than the usual 10-15 minutes.
*100-millilitre of water is based on a mixture of 12 grams of yeast and 30 grams of flour. The amount will differ depending on the amount of frozen yeast you need.
Activate yeast in milk
Milk can be used in the place of milk to activate the yeast. Milk has a few advantages over water too. For starters, milk has natural sugars like lactose or fructose. These natural sugars can help activate it whether it is in the form of lactose from cow’s milk or fructose from plant milk.
Activating yeast in milk uses the same steps as activating it in water. However, your yeast mix may not froth too much with milk and you would need to give it more time, around 10-12 minutes.
What is the autolyse method in baking?
Autolyse is a gentle method of mixing flour and water in a bread recipe. It is followed by a 20 to 60 minute rest period. After the rest, the rest of the ingredients are added and kneading begins. This simple rest period allows for some magnificent changes to occur in the bread dough.
Now that you have learnt the various types of yeast available, how it is activated, what are you waiting for? Put that apron on and get baking!
It is best to store yeast in the freezer (Dry Yeast). If your yeast mixture doesn’t bloom, it means your yeast might have gotten bad. You would need to buy a newer pack.
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My name is Sohail Nath and I welcome you to my happy place, @boy.eatsworld.
This blog, my creativity’s nest covers travel inspirations, authentic yet homemade recipe and food blogs.