Ever looked at yeast and had heart palpitations? because it stood between you and a great loaf of bread. Well fear no more. In this edition we will get to the guts of yeast, what it is, how to use it, so next time that loaf of bread won't stop progress. What is yeast? For starters it is a tiny microorganism that grows all around us, and it is said to be the oldest plant cultivated by man. It's purpose is to serve as the middle man in production of carbon dioxide which we all know makes products baked in the oven rise. Yeast feeds off the sugar in flour and releases carbon dioxide in the process. With no place to go, the carbon dioxide fills thousands of balloon shaped bubbles in the dough. Once the bread is baked this process is what gives the bread its airy texture.
For the purpose of this being about the everyday cook, I will not go into great detail about Fresh Yeast, this comes in cake form and is soft. This yeast is very time-sensitive and most often is found in the food service industry. The two yeasts that are available in supermarkets are Active-dry yeast and Instant yeast. (both are known as Fast-rising, Rapid-rise, Quick rise and Bread Machine yeast.) These are what most recipes call for; one package equals about 1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 tsps . To make sure that your yeast is active and not stale, sprinkle it on hot water , temperature should be about 105F to 115F, if active it should begin foaming after five minutes. It can be stored at room temperature, until the expiration date but refrigerating it will make it last longer. Just make sure that the yeast is sealed and kept away from air and moisture.
For many years the only yeast available was fresh yeast or the cake yeast, and it has a very short shelf life. Fleishmann's Yeast (the brand most often seen in supermarkets) cut the housewife's job on making bread in half by developing a process of granulating the yeast which formed tiny particles that were dried and then vacuum-sealed. This process allows the yeast to remain dormant until the consumer opens and activates. COOL HUH??? Yeast should not be scary it is relatively easy to use as long as it is not expired. One word to the wise, never on a dare or whatever the case may be, you never know....eat raw active yeast, it will continue to grow in your intestines and rob your body of nutrients.. Just saying.....
We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us; the balance goes to waste and loss of energy.~William Osler