Lets talk about yeast in baking. Obviously we know that yeast is a rising agent, most commonly used in bread. But did you know that yeast is actually alive? It is a single-cell microorganism that breaks sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. When activated, yeast cells feed on sugar and release gas that rises your dough.

active dry yeast

What temperature is best for yeast to rise?

At room temperature, yeast is asleep. But at 140 degrees, yeast dies. That is why there is a sweet spot, a warm enough temperature to get yeast moving without killing it and that temperature is about 80 degrees. If you don’t keep your house at 80 degrees or it is a particularly chilly day, you can put your yeast mixture into the microwave and shut the door. Don’t start the microwave, this is just a warm and draft free place for the dough to rise. Another good spot is your oven with the light on, the oven warms up with just the light on making it a cozy spot for your yeast to do its thing. Typically, it will take yeast 2 hours to release enough gas to rise your dough.

Active Dry Yeast vs. Instant Yeast

  • Active Dry Yeast: Aggressive drying process that results in more dead microorganisms. Active dry yeast must be dissolved in water before mixing into a dough.
  • Instant Yeast: Can be added to your dough with all the dry ingredients

Why Kneading is Important

Kneading helps the gluten bonds get stronger and more elastic. If you do not knead your dough enough then the bonds will be too weak to trap the gas released by the yeast and under develop your dough, leaving you with a yeasty taste and smell. Plus a flat bread.

Do you need sugar for yeast to work?

Yes! Sugar is necessary because the yeast feeds on it. But if you use a large amount of sugar then it slows down the fermentation process. To offset this you can activate your yeast before mixing it into your dough by whisking it in some warm liquid like water or milk and a small amount of sugar. Once it is all bubbly, about 5-10 minutes after whisking, add it to the rest of the dough. This will help the yeast adapt quicker to a high sugar environment.

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