If you're rolling up your sleeves and getting back to baking in quarantine, it can be confusing working out what yeast to use and when.
You may have been lucky enough to snag a sachet of active yeast or got your local bakery to part with some fresh yeast. But how do you let this leaving agent breath life into your bread?
Below, we walk you through the three main commercially available different yeasts, leaving you confident to bake with all three. The good news is, they are interchangeable, so don't be put off a recipe if you don't have the yeast listed. With a little knowledge, you can work around it!
There are 2 Main Types of Baker’s Yeast: wet yeast – also known as fresh yeast, cake yeast, or compressed yeast, and dry yeast - active and instant.
1. Wet Yeast
Known as fresh, compressed, or cake yeast, this soft and crumbly yeast is usually sold in blocks or cubes and not as easy to find as dry yeast. Try asking for fresh yeast in bakers' shops, or tracking it down in larger supermarkets.
Fresh yeast is about 70 percent water by weight and is composed of 100 percent living cells.
How to use: Fresh yeast doesn't need proofing— it dissolves easily if simply rubbed into sugar or dropped into warm liquid.
If you want to replace active or instant dried yeast in a recipe with fresh yeast instead, simply double the quantity and dissolve it in warm water just as you would dried yeast.
Pros: This yeast is fast, potent and reliable!
Cons: Highly perishable - it will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge or in the freezer for a few months.
2. Dry Yeast
For everyday baking, go for either active dry or instant yeast. Store it in an airtight container in the coldest part of your freezer.
a) Active Dry Yeast
Active dry yeasts arrive at their granular state by undergoing processes that reduce them to 95 per cent dry matter destroying many of the live cells in the process.
How to use: Active dry yeast must first be dissolved in a relatively hot liquid (proofed) to activate the living cells in the centre of the particles.
Pro: Lasts for months stored in a cool dry place.
Cons: Must be activated in water before using
b) Instant Yeasts (called "Instant," Quick Action, Easy Blend, "Rapid Rise," or "Bread")
Instant yeast or "bread machine yeast" is similar to active dried yeast but formed in much smaller particles allowing them to absorb moisture very quickly. Every dried particle is also living or active.
How to use: as the particles are smaller the yeast can be mixed directly with dry recipe ingredients without first being dissolved in water or proofed like active dry yeast.
Pros: It combines the potency of fresh yeast with the convenience of active dry, and it is considered by some to have a cleaner flavour than active dry because it contains no dead cells.
What's the difference between active dry and instant yeast?
There's a slight flavour variation between active dry and instant yeast, but the difference is negligible, so you can easily use both interchangeably.
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