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Great For Those Who "Knead To Be Loved"
on January 11, 2015
There are basically five brands of baker's yeast in the US - Fleischman's, Red Star, SAF, Bakipan and Fermipan. Most supermarkets carry only Fleischman;s and Red Star, and if there's a difference in the two, I've never been able to detect it. Red Star, SAF and bakipan Yeast are owned the same company, LeSaffre, and I haven't noticed any difference between it and the supermarket brands.
The difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast is the instant yeast has smaller particles that activate more quickly, and thus dough rises more rapidly, sometimes cutting rise times up to 50%. Youo can't easily adjust rise times in a bread machine, so you want to use 2/3 as much instant yeast as active dry. Refrigerated dough expect some of the rise to happen when the dough warms, so it's better to use active dry for them
Like active dry yeast, you proof it in water that's 110-115F. That's slightly warmer than body temperaturre, but by no means hot. You can put the yeast in with the flour instead of proofing it, and liquids that are 130F are best. Bread machines expect liquids about 80F. Thermometers are cheap; ingredients (including your time, energy and reputation) are not.
A packet of yeast is 0.25 ounces, so a pound is equal to 21 3-packet strips of yeast, saving you about 85% on your yeast costs. The two pound size costs 50% more than this one-pound size, so if you use a LOT of yeast, buy it instead. (If you have a septic tank, flush a teaspoon once a week for a "green" alternative to Rid-X.) When using this yeast, measure out 2.25 teaspoons to replace one packet of yeast.
Yeast is best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer, but it should be used at room temperature. The yeast expands to about 3 cups when you break the vacuum, so fill a pint glass jar with yeast and stash it in the freezer, and use a glass one-cup container in the refrigerator as your "working" supply. When you are making something, remove the jar from the fridge, measure out what you need, and immediately reseal the glass jar and return it to the fridge before moisture can condense. An opened package is supposed to last 4 months in a tightly sealed, refrigerated bottle, but it lasts a year or more for me by doing that.
Proofing tells you whether the yeast is still active. Dissolve a teaspoon of table sugar into a half cup of 110-115F water, then stir in 2.25 teaspoons of yeast until none of it floats on top. In 10 minutes, the bubbles should reach the one-cup line on the measuring cup. If it doesn't, you need to replace your yeast. If it's close, you can use extra yeast, but you need to order more yeast right away, because too much yeast gives dough an off taste.
I have a Salvation Army store tablespoon I've dented up so it holds just that much, used only as my "yeast scoop", much like people have coffee scoops, Miralax measuring cups, measuring cups in the lids of their laundry detergent, etc. Some would call me lazy; I call it efficient.
To use this yeast in a recipe that calls for cake yeast, you need to know what size cake is called for. Currently, yeast cakes are 2 ounces, but different sizes were made by different companies in the past. As a rule of thumb, one packet will leaven up to four cups of flour. Using bulk yeast, that means at least 0.6 teaspoons of yeast per cup of flour.
Yeast has a love/hate relationship with sugar. Too much sugar competes for the water, and stressed-out thirsty yeast doesn't work very hard, resulting in a heavy product. Sweet doughs (more than a half cup of sugar to four cups of flour) need extra yeast, perhaps as much as double. Yeasts eat sugar, though, and when you have only the wheat sugars, no added sugar, as in pizza crust, you get the chewy crust of a pizza.
Fat gives your baked goods more moistness, but it slows rising and too much will stop it entirely. High protein flours, such as bread flours, have the structure to rise high, but if you knead it too long, the dough is too stiff to rise properly. Cake flour made Colonel Sanders' original chicken finger-licking good, but it hasn't enough gluten to build a strong loaf twelve ways. Self-rising flours have baking powder and baking soda in them, both of which are unhealthy for a growing yeast. And you want to be careful not to use too much salt, and to blend it thoroughly with the flour before adding liquids, because it will slow or stop rising.
I live in seniors housing, and the first week I was here, I brought fresh hot dinner rolls to a potluck dinner, and ever since, I get called "Steve, the bread baker". Great homemade breads and other baked goods will open a lot of doors, socially, and it mostly required *bread* flour, good yeast, and (especially if your hands have become acquainted with "Art Ritis" as mine have), a good stand mixer with dough hook.