A guide to baking with fresh vs. dried yeast

NNicholas January 27, 2024 7:01 AM

Whether you're a seasoned baker or a newbie, you've probably come across recipes requiring yeast. This tiny ingredient plays a crucial role in baking, especially in bread making. It's what makes our dough rise and gives bread its light and fluffy texture. In this guide, we'll explore the differences between fresh and dried yeast, and how to use them in your baking endeavors.

Understanding yeast

Yeast is a single-celled organism that ferments sugars and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. In baking, it's the carbon dioxide that causes the dough to rise, resulting in fluffy bread. There are two main types of yeast used in baking: fresh yeast (also known as cake yeast or compressed yeast) and dried yeast (which includes active dry yeast and instant yeast).

Fresh yeast vs. dried yeast: What's the difference?

Fresh yeast comes in a solid, moist block. It's very perishable and needs to be refrigerated. It has a soft, crumbly texture and a strong, yeasty smell. On the other hand, dried yeast comes in the form of small, dehydrated granules. It's shelf-stable and can be stored at room temperature.

Fresh Yeast Dried Yeast
Appearance Solid, moist block Small granules
Storage Refrigeration Room temperature
Shelf-life Short (2 weeks) Long (up to a year)
Activation Needs to be dissolved in warm liquid Not necessary for instant yeast, necessary for active dry yeast

Baking with fresh yeast

When baking with fresh yeast, it's usually crumbled into lukewarm liquid (water or milk) along with a little sugar. The yeast feeds on the sugar, producing bubbles of carbon dioxide which cause the dough to rise. Fresh yeast is very powerful and starts working quickly, but it also has a shorter shelf life and needs to be used within a couple of weeks.

Baking with dried yeast

Dried yeast, either active dry yeast or instant yeast, can be added directly to the dry ingredients without being activated first. However, some bakers prefer to activate it in warm liquid to ensure it's still alive. Dried yeast is less powerful than fresh yeast, so you'll usually need to use more of it in recipes. But it has a much longer shelf life and can be kept for up to a year.

Replacing fresh yeast with dried yeast (and vice versa)

In general, for every cube (42 grams) of fresh yeast, you can substitute it with 2 teaspoons (7 grams) of dried yeast. However, it's always best to follow the specific instructions in your recipe, as the amount of yeast needed can vary depending on other factors like the type of flour used and the desired rising time.

Best practices for baking with yeast

Here are some tips for baking with yeast:

  1. Always check the expiration date of your yeast. Expired yeast may not work properly.
  2. Store yeast properly to maintain its freshness. Fresh yeast should be refrigerated, while dried yeast should be kept in a cool, dry place.
  3. Don't use hot liquids to activate yeast. High temperatures can kill the yeast cells.
  4. If you're unsure whether your yeast is still good, you can do a simple test: dissolve a small amount in warm water with a pinch of sugar. If it starts bubbling after a few minutes, it's still active.

So, whether you choose to bake with fresh or dried yeast depends on your personal preference, the specific recipe, and how often you bake. Both types have their own advantages and can yield excellent results when used properly.

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