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The Yeast Also Rises©

The Yeast Also Rises©

by Arlene Wright-Correll
Home Farm Herbery

The other morning I had two ladies come to Home Farm Herbery kitchen to learn how to make bread the quick and easy way and we had a grand time including a lot of questions.

One of the questions was about the type of yeast to buy and were there any differences between yeast.

I made a lot of different types of bread including crusty European Artisan bread which I sell at our local farmers market 3 times a week and take to special customers who cannot leave their offices during the work hours. It is a great hobby and it allows me to send the net proceeds to my favorite charity which happens to be St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Well to get back to the yeast questions it got me thinking about it as an article. One of the questions asked is there a difference between instant, RapidRise and bread machine yeast? Instant machine yeast and bread machine yeast are the same yeast. RapidRise, Fleischmann’s branded instant yeast, is also instant yeast, but a different strain than SAF or Red Star. Over the years I have used all of them including making bread the hard way so many years ago that I bought cubes of compacted yeast and kept it in the freezer.

I have found that RapidRise is faster out of the gate than SAF or Red Star, but gives out sooner. Since I make my dough in batches that make 4 loaves at a time and I make it 24 hours before I use it because I like to have my dough leisurely rise. The reason is two fold, a long rise brings out bread’s flavor and my batches of dough can sit for up to 14 days in the refrigerator until I use it up, I happen to like SAF/Red Star yeast.

Another question was, “Can I use active dry and instant yeasts interchangeably?”

The answer is yes they can be substituted for one another although I have found that active dry yeast is a little bit slower to rise than instant, as far as dough rising goes. However, in a long rise such as one that lasts from 2 to 3 hours, the active dry yeast catches up.

So just figure it this way. When you have a recipe using instant yeast and it calls for the dough to “double in size, about 1 hour,” you should be prepared to add 15 to 20 minutes to this time if you’re using active dry yeast.

Dough is judged by how much it’s risen, not how long it takes. Many different things effect the rising of dough such as cold weather, low barometric pressure, how hot my kitchen is when I bake, and tons of other factors affect dough rising times. Just remember to use them as a guide, not an unbreakable rule.

Bread baking involves living things (yeast), your own personal touch in kneading technique, and the atmosphere of your kitchen which includes the size of it, is it a small space or a large space like mine is and when my ceiling fans are revolving the time is longer and when my kitchen is hot from a lot of baking the rising time is shorter thus making many variables that it’s almost impossible to say that the dough will double in size in 60 minutes should you have a recipe that says something like that.

I have, over the years, discovered that baking with yeast is a combination of art, science and a bit of magic and I no longer use the kneading method, I just mix by hand, let is sit in its tubs, I stay flexible and everything seems just fine.

Going from the old time methods of making 8 loves at a time when we had farm hands or lots of kids to feed to going down to just 2 of us I changed to a bread machine and that is the one time when you might not want to use instant and active dry yeasts interchangeably. Bread machines use a higher temperature to raise dough, substituting instant for active dry yeast usually causes bread to over-rise, then collapse. If you do not have bread machine yeast and you need to substitute instant yeast for active dry, reduce the amount of instant yeast by 25% when you add it to your bread machine.

Another question asked was, “How much yeast is in a “packet” of yeast?”

A packet used to include 1 tablespoon of yeast now it is closer to 2 generous teaspoons since companies have improved manufacturing methods that produce stronger, more active yeast.

Another question was, “Exactly what does yeast do?”

The answer is quite simple, yeast makes bread rise. Whereas baking soda and baking powder make your muffins and cakes rise, yeast makes breads of all kinds rise. Sandwich bread, dinner rolls, pizza crust, artisan hearth breads and just about any kind of bread you can name such as this wonderful Ciabatta hearth baked bread I make.

In order to work yeast needs a good supply of oxygen and it stops reproducing once it’s in bread dough. When it is in the bread dough it starts to eat sugar (sucrose and fructose) first; once that’s gone, yeast converts the starch in flour into sugar; thus flour is capable of providing yeast with a continuous food source.

CO2, alcohol, and organic acids are the byproducts of feeding yeast. CO2 released by yeast is trapped in bread dough’s elastic web of gluten just like blowing up a balloon. Alcohol and organic acids disperse throughout the dough, enhancing baked bread’s flavor and as long as moisture and food are available, yeast will continue to eat and produce CO2, alcohol, and organic acids. If your bread stops rising, it’s usually not because the yeast isn’t working or has died and that is because the gluten has somehow become “leaky,” failing to retain CO2.

Along the way of writing this article I looked up the dictionary’s definition of yeast and it said that yeast is a single-cell organism, part of the fungi kingdom. The yeast we use most often today, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is one of the oldest domesticated organisms known to mankind: it’s been helping humans bake bread and brew alcohol for thousands of years. Fittingly, the Latin translation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is “sweet fungi of beer.”

My research went on to tell me that Saccharomyces cerevisiae is just one strain of the more than 1,500 identified species of yeast. I went on to discover that those 1,500 identified yeasts are just an estimated 1% of the yeast population in the world; most species remain as yet unnamed.

So in order to have a reliable supply of yeast on hand for all of our baking needs, it was necessary for manufacturers to “domesticate” wild yeast thus stabilizing it, and in the process making it 200 times stronger than its wild counterpart. Now plant scientists who work with a yeast manufacturer identify certain characteristics of wild yeast that they decide are desirable; isolate them, and then replicate them. The resulting yeast is given a “training” diet to make it reproduce. Formerly based on molasses, most manufacturers now feed their growing yeast with corn syrup. Once the cells have replicated to a critical mass – a process that generally takes about a week – they’re filtered, dried, packaged, and sent off to the market where you and I buy it to make wonderful, healthy bread providing we use organic, unbleached flour, providing that anything we add to the bread also is chemical-free, organic and healthy.

Tread the Earth Lightly

Arlene Wright-Correll

Home Farm Herbery

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