Everything you need to know about yeast to bake the perfect bread, pizzas, donuts, and more!

What is Yeast?

Scientifically speaking, yeasts are eukaryotic, single-celled microorganisms that are part of the fungus kingdom. But I am a baker, not a scientist, so that means nothing to me (thanks, Wikipedia). The only yeast that concerns me is baker’s yeast, which is a leavening agent used in the baking of bread and other bakery products.

What’s the difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast?

Both of these perform the same function, i.e. help your dough grow. It is in the way that they are manufactured that they differ, which makes them activate in different ways.

Active Dry Yeast

This is the most common type of yeast that is found everywhere. It is a type of dry yeast that is dormant until it is activated or “woken up” when dissolved into warm water.

Instant Yeast

This is also another type of dried yeast, but it is dried faster and milled into tinier particles, making it easier to dissolve. This means that it does not need to be mixed with water before adding to your doughs.

How to substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast or active dry yeast for instant yeast?

When it comes to baking, you can use both of these interchangeably in most recipes without affecting the final result. However, there is one small difference in the recipe process depending on which one you use.

If you are using instant yeast, you can simply add it to the rest of the ingredients and get to kneading. But, if you are using active dry yeast, you need to let it bloom first. In clearer terms, you should dissolve the yeast in some lukewarm water (about 2 tbsp from the required amount) and sugar and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast should bubble and rise up during this time, after which you can proceed with the recipe as usual.

Why didn’t my bread rise?

More often than not, the answer to this question is related to yeast. Either your yeast was not fresh enough or the water was too hot/cold (yeast dies in water that is too hot and doesn’t rise in water that is too cold). Your water should be lukewarm, not hot, which is around 43 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t want to bust out your food thermometer, just know that it should feel slightly warm (like a baby’s bathwater) and definitely not hot enough to cause any pain.

If you are using active dry yeast, it can be an easy way to gauge if your yeast is good. If it bubbles and rises, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, you’re better off throwing it away and redoing it (or using a fresh packet) because there is no way that your bread is going to rise once you add it into the dough if it does not bloom in the water!

You should also make sure to knead your dough really well, stretching it and working it as much as possible until it is completely smooth. This helps in the development of gluten, which makes your bread rise and also makes it really soft and delicious.

How does the weather affect yeast?

Yeast thrives in heat, which means that it rises faster in warmer climates. Humidity also plays a role in how well your dough absorbs moisture and rises, which is why a lot of yeasted dough recipes do not give an exact measurement for water.

If you live in really hot climates, your dough may rise quicker than the recipe says, and if you live in really cold climates, you may need to create some heat specifically to help it along (such as turning the oven on to the lowest heat possible).

How to store yeast?

It would be ideal to buy yeast in small packets so you can use it up in one go, but that’s not always practical or cost-effective when you bake with it quite often. In that case, you should store your yeast in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry place (i.e. your refrigerator).

For me, it always seems easier to place the yeast in the door section of my freezer. I’ve had an open pack tied up with a rubber band (used every week) sit there perfectly well for over 3 months!

Which is better?

There is no definitive answer to this question because it comes down to personal preference. As someone who bakes very often, I find it easier to use instant yeast as it eliminates an entire step and cuts down my prep time by 10-15 minutes.

However, if you are a newbie, I would suggest sticking to active dry yeast. That’s because you may not use it as often and allowing the yeast to bloom in water ensures that your baked goods will come out perfect. As I said earlier, if the yeast doesn’t bloom in warm water, there’s no point in proceeding with the rest of the recipe. It’s better to start again!

Hope that answers all your yeast-related conundrums! If you have any more questions for me, leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.

Here are some recipes with yeast to get you started:

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