Choosing the right yeast

Yeasted breads

Baking can be intimidating, especially when it comes to making foods with yeast. There are many different types of yeast available, and baking disaster stories abound concerning dense, misshapen loaves or out-of-control dough monsters. But yeast baking doesn’t have to be scary, says Susan Reid, Publications Manager at King Arthur Flour. In an interview with Epicurious, Reid dispels common yeast baking myths and provides guidance on choosing which yeast to use.

The only types of yeast that Reid says most bakers need to know about are active dry yeast and instant yeast, which are also the most easily available. In almost every instance, they can be subsituted for one another. Active dry yeast is made “by removing the water in live yeast and grinding it into fine granules.” Instant yeast is ground even finer to dissolve more quickly, but it’s not just active dry yeast processed further. 

“Instant is a slightly different strain, so it produces a bit of a different flavor,” Reid says. But “frankly, you can use [both active dry and instant yeast] exactly the same way.” So there is no need to stock both types of yeast, just stick with one for consistency. Reid recommends the SAF Red Instant Yeast used in the King Arthur Flour test kitchens. (SAF owns Red Star, a popular supermarket brand.)

One common misconception is that you must proof active dry yeast by dissolving it in warm water before using it. That step is not necessary, according to Reid. Active dry yeast “is produced in a such a way that it can be added directly to the bread dough with the dry ingredients.” The reason yeast was traditionally proofed is to make sure it was still alive and able to do its job, a problem found more with fresh yeast. Fresh and rapid rise yeast are also explained in the Epicurious article.

For best results you should store your yeast in the freezer, where Reid says it will last up to a year. My experience is that it will last several years in the freezer – I recently baked bread with yeast that had a “use-by” date of 2011.

Photos, l to r:  Daring bakers’ yeast meringue coffee cake from Life’s a Feast by Jamie Schler and Basic soft white sandwich loaf from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

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  • mfto  on  January 23, 2015

    I have been using SAF yeast since I first made no-knead bread and followed the amount of yeast to use. However, even though SAF yeast and active dry yeast can be used the same way, they are not measured the same. Recently I got out my very, very old bread machine which still works fine. The recipes that were included with the machine list a package of active dry yeast. When I substituted SAF, the dough rose to the top of the machine and stuck there. Google to the rescue. The yeast conversion listed on King Arthur’s is from Rose Levy Beranbaum. Now I know to substitute 2 teaspoons of SAF for 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast. No more bread machine disasters (at least because of yeast).

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