Let it Rise! All About Yeast - Part 2
Types of yeast, signs of life, troubleshooting, and my Classic Cinnamon Roll Recipe!
Hi Bakers! It seems like there is an infinite amount of things to discuss when it comes to yeast-risen baked goods - how it works, different recipes, what might go wrong, etc. I was not able to cover everything in last week’s newsletter, All About Yeast, so please enjoy part two below:
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Types of Yeast (for baking)
1. Active Dry Yeast
This is likely one of the more common types of commercial yeast that you can find at your grocery store. It comes in small glass jars and pre-measured packets.
This type of yeast is made from dehydrated fresh or compressed yeast. It is dry and granular. It is dormant (alive, but sleeping), and will need to be activated by the liquids in the recipes to “wake up.”
If you know that your yeast is new/alive/not expired, then some recipes will have you just add it in straight with the other ingredients. Oftentimes, you will want to “prove” that it is still viable. This simple step dissolves the dehydrated yeast and should show signs of life within minutes, letting you know that all is alive and well. Not only will this give the baker more confidence that the dough will rise, I find that activating the yeast with warm water or milk jump-starts the proofing process and makes it go a bit quicker.
To proof active dry yeast:
Stir yeast into warm water or milk. The liquid should be between 100°F to 110°F. No need for a thermometer, just touch it - it should feel slightly warmer than your own body temperature. I usually add a pinch of sugar to get the feeding frenzy started.
After about 5 minutes, the yeast will dissolve. If the yeast is active, the mixture will be foamy and bubbly on top. Yay! Proceed with your recipe.
Remember that yeast is very temperature sensitive, so make sure your liquid is not too hot or it will kill the yeast.
2. Instant Yeast
This type of yeast is even smaller in size than active dry yeast. It dissolves more quickly and starts working faster than active dry yeast. I’ll rarely proof instant yeast before adding it to a recipe unless I question its shelf life.
Instant yeast can be used interchangeably with active dry yeast (although it sometimes makes dough rise faster - so keep an eye out). To increase the shelf life, store both instant and active dry yeast in the refrigerator after opening.
3. Rapid Rise
Even faster than instant yeast, Rapid Rise does work fairly quickly. However, as we learned last week, faster doesn’t always mean better. A longer proof produces more flavor, which may be sacrificed for a speedier rise.
4. Fresh Yeast
This type of yeast is sold in moist cakes or blocks. They are more commonly used in commercial bakeries than in the home kitchen, at least in North America. It has a short shelf life, so I would only recommend it for frequent bread bakers or those that bake in large quantities. If you decide to try it out, make sure to store fresh yeast (wrapped well) in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To be honest, I have never baked with fresh yeast. What I do know is that it is moist and should crumble easily. It should be proofed to determine its viability. Use twice the amount of fresh yeast than active dry or instant yeast.
5. Wild Yeast
You won’t find this at your typical grocery store. Most wild yeast is made on your kitchen counter! In fact, I just fed mine in preparation for a loaf of sourdough later this week.
Wild yeast is made from two ingredients: flour and water. The mixture is left out at room temperature in order to soak up yeast and bacteria from the flour and environment. Because it is home grown, different wild yeasts will have different characteristics depending on the particular bacteria, water, and flour found in its environment - making certain strains like San Francisco sourdough so popular.
Sourdough “discard” may be used to create various other types of yeast-risen bakes, but we will save that conversation for a different day.
What went wrong? Why isn’t your dough rising?
Followed the recipe closely but still having trouble with your yeasted bakes? It could be one of these common culprits:
1. The yeast is expired or dead
The dough shows no signs of life and does not rise after a long period of time. Make sure your yeast has not expired and is stored properly. This is one reason why we check for vital signs before using active dry yeast.
It is too cold for the dough to rise efficiently. Yeast works the best in temperatures over 70°F. Unless you are purposefully doing a slow rise in the refrigerator, make sure the environment is warm enough. Cold kitchens won’t kill yeast, but it will make the rise time longer. Proofing the yeast in warm water gives it a jump start, especially if you know your home is on the cooler side.
On the other hand, temperatures that are too hot can kill off yeast. If dissolved in too hot of water, then it’s nearly impossible to keep going. Yeast begins to die off at 130°F to 145°F.
3. Improper Kneading
Adequate kneading is necessary to develop gluten. Webs of gluten are needed to create structure and to capture the gasses that yeast emits.
4. Too much flour
The kneaded dough needs to be elastic-like. It needs to stretch like a balloon to hold in the gasses. Too much flour will inhibit the dough’s ability to stretch and rise.
5. Is it enriched?
Doughs with butter, eggs, and lots of sugar are slow risers. Be sure to allow more time for making sweet doughs or opt for a cold, overnight rise.
6. The dough was left uncovered
Always cover rising dough or else a skin can develop on top and keep it from rising properly. Use plastic wrap, a clean kitchen towel, or a designated shower or dough cap.
Too much salt can inhibit yeast production. Likewise, when salt and yeast come in direct contact with each other, the salt can harm the yeast. Make sure to incorporate the salt into the flour before adding the yeast.
Classic Cinnamon Rolls
While I’ve shared iterations of this recipe in the past, it is time for a much-needed update. I am talking about Classic Cinnamon Rolls with a buttery, cinnamon and brown sugar filling, with sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting on top.
Below you will find clear, detailed instructions for even better buns. I’ve also included a timeline for using a long, overnight rise that gets you one step closer to warm, gooey cinnamon rolls with your morning cup of coffee without any extra work.