Thursday 21 November 2013

Foundations no.9 - Using Yeast

When you first saw my Butterkuchen post, did the yeast put you off?

I know several accomplished bakers who shy away from it and as it was also mentioned a few times in my survey, I thought I would write a post trying to demystify using yeast. I'm not an expert at bread making but I do like making enriched breads and, as you can see in my successive Hot Cross Bun posts, I've increased in confidence over the years.

There are several types of yeast you might come across: dried (often called active dry), instant, fresh (a.k.a. cake/compressed) and sourdough starters. For the sweet bread baking I do, I use instant or fresh.

Instant yeast is generally easy to find. You can get it in sachets (often 7g or around 2 teaspoons) or bigger packs. I prefer instant to active dried yeast as you can mix it straight into the ingredients (dried yeast needs activating, usually by mixing it with warm liquids and leaving it for a bit). Instant yeast is formed into lots of tiny rod shapes (as you can see in the photo above) to give a big surface area, which means the yeast starts working quickly once it comes into contact with liquid.

Sometimes the packets have other ingredients - emulsifiers are relatively common, as is the addition of ascorbic acid (a.k.a. vitamin C - some say it increases the rise and/or helps create consistent results, I imagine partly because the optimum pH for yeast fermentation is slightly acidic).

{The photo series below shows a batch of dough rising in my relatively cold kitchen a few days ago - the number in the corner refers to the number of minutes.}

In Switzerland you can buy fresh yeast in the chiller cabinet in supermarkets - even the small ones. It's harder to find in the UK. Bakeries will sometimes give or sell you a small amount but it can be a struggle to find somewhere that bakes on site (surprisingly, one of the best bets is the bakery in a big supermarket). You can also get it online from the Bertinet Kitchen Bakery (they also sell via amazon) - it's delivered in temperature-controlled packaging and I was really pleased with the batch I received last week. It's often sold in small blocks of 42g (you can see one on the right in the top photo). Generally I crumble it into the wet ingredients but it can also be added straight into the dough.

One of my favourite things about working with yeast is the way my hands smell after I've crumbled fresh yeast into the bowl.

To convert a recipe from instant yeast to fresh, triple the quantity (i.e. 7g instant = 21g fresh). Essentially, 10g fresh = 4g active dry = 3.3g instant.

Yeast is a single-celled fungus. There are many species of yeast - the one we use for brewing and baking is called Saccharomyces cerevisae.

Yeast metabolizes sugar in the dough to produce energy for itself. This anaerobic reaction creates carbon dioxide and alcohol:

The carbon dioxide gas is trapped by the dough and inflates it. When you put the dough in the oven the alcohol evaporates - becomes a gas - and therefore also expands, adding to the early rise called oven spring.

This occurs even in a dough where sugar is not added as an ingredient because enzymes in the dough (such as amylase, which we also have in our digestive system) work on the starch, breaking it down into glucose.

Generally, the idea is to use as little yeast as possible to get the rise - a slow rise gives better flavour, partly because of other flavour molecules that develop during fermentation. This is why many recipes call for the first rise to occur overnight in the fridge or use a pre-ferment. If the recipe doesn't tell you to rise the dough overnight and you decide to, you can reduce the amount of yeast (I'd go for half or a third).

Yeast will work fastest at around 38C/100F, but this won't necessarily give you the best result. If you want a quick rise then a temperature of around 26C/80F (a warm place/airing cupboard, perhaps) is convenient - otherwise go for room temperature (usually around 21C/70F) or the fridge.

I've also heard that you can freeze fresh yeast in small pieces to improve the length of time you can keep it. I froze some a few days ago but I haven't tried using it yet so I can't verify it personally. We've always kept fresh yeast in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and dried yeast in the cupboard.

As you can see in the photos, dough can take a bit of time to get going - be patient. It may take longer than the recipe states. The more enriched the dough, the slower the rise is likely to be. Spices (especially cinnamon) can also slow the fermentation - which is why cinnamon rolls usually have the spices in the buttery filling.

So, overall, the three things most likely to cause problems are:

Yeast is a living organism and so, at temperature extremes, it will die (like you or I). The main time this is a danger with enriched breads is if you're scalding milk, melting butter or heating something similar just before you add it to the dough - you need to make sure it cools down (transferring it to a metal bowl and putting it in the fridge will speed it up). I go for body temperature.

Too much salt or salt that gets directly into contact with the yeast will also cause problems. The key with most recipes is to stir the salt into the dry ingredients before you add the yeast so that the salt is distributed through the flour (so you don't spoon the yeast directly on top of the salt you've just tipped into the bowl). You can also add them to different sides of the bowl.

If your yeast is out of date, hasn't been used in time or hasn't been stored correctly, it probably won't work. Check the packet date and the amount of time you can use it after opening (for instance, a packet of instant I have states that the sachet must be used within 48 hours of opening). Fresh yeast should be a pale creamy colour, ever-so-slightly damp and smell nice.


This is the ninth post in my Foundations series, which explains techniques like making meringue (part one, part two) and brown butter.

Four recipes that use yeast:
Cinnamon Cardamon Kringel Bread
Blueberry Braided Bread


  1. My first experiment with yeast, some ten years ago, was for hot cross buns. I foolishly thought it would work like baking powder and they'd be ready in 30mns, like scones. Needless to say, that didn't work out. Now I'm much better at it and make all sorts of things (Hungary is a very fresh yeast-friendly country) but I've never thought too much about the science behind it all so that made for a very interesting read, thank you! Two things I love about working with yeast are the smooth feel of a good dough, and the smell, especially for sweet buttery doughs.

  2. I love yeasted doughs. Nothing beats a loaf of homemade bread (especially when there is Nutella involved).

  3. Brilliant post lovely x

  4. This is a great post, thanks =) I love working with fresh yeast, and I generally think bread tastes better made with it. I usually just go to the bakery in a large supermarket and ask for it. I have tried a selection of supermarkets in different parts of the UK and in my experience in Tesco it is free, in Sainsbury's they charge 20p per 50g (I think) and in Asda I usually get told they can't sell it to me because they "don't sell things which are alive".

  5. I haven't seen fresh yeast since I was a kid! Great tutorial!

  6. Great post, yeast is fascinating, the science of yeast is so interesting.

  7. I'm so sorry to hear that you've have problems with the recipe - I take the reliability of my recipes very seriously. Can you tell me a bit more about what went wrong? Did you make the whole cake three times or just the topping? I'm going to make the cake again this evening so I will look out again for any problems with it - as I mentioned in the post I have tested the recipe three times and had results consistent with the photos each time (the photos represent the third test).

    I mentioned in the recipe that the caramel has a tendency to split if it is not stirred or whisked once the butter has been added - this happened in my first test but once it had been stirred back together and scraped into the tin there were no problems with texture or flavour etc. The caramel should be off the heat when you stir in the butter and salt (heat until...) and should be cooled off the heat (as in the photos) until scraped into the tin. I will adjust the recipe wording to make sure this is 100% clear.

    If you would rather, you could try the topping with 30g of cold double cream or creme fraiche - the main reason for the addition of the cold butter is to stop the caramel cooking and enrich the topping (though personally, for this recipe, I like the butter). Cream should make a more stable mixture.

    Once again, I am sorry to hear that you were disappointed.

  8. Thanks for your clarifications, Cecily - I'm touched that you helped. I should probably note that I don't cook the caramel any further once the butter has been added - I apologise for any confusion.

  9. Just to say quickly that I made the cake again this evening and the topping and cake in general came out as they did before. I hope to hear more about your experiences soon.

  10. Thank you thank you thank you!! I love your foundations series and this post on yeast is definitely one of my favourites :)

  11. Disappointed. Looked so lovely in the blog (as it always does) but caramel turned into hard toffee (kids delighted, but Sunday lunch pud now have to be re-thought). Followed the instructions - but cook on an induction hob so perhaps the heat was too intense. I didn't stir the sugar, but swirled as instructed, took it off the heat & whisked in the butter as directed. Saucepan may never be the same. This is the 3rd thing I've cooked from your site, and they have all been disappointing. Probably a reflection on my cooking skills - but the coconut & apricot loaf cake was just a glorified madeira cake, the Butterkuchen didn't really taste of very much. I love the blog - it's so beautifully crafted and written, so I feel annoyed. Perhaps I'll stick to window shopping from now on.

  12. I'm really upset to hear that you've had problems with the recipe and feel disappointed.

    If the pan has bits of caramel stuck to it then fill it with warm or hot water or soak it - the caramel will all dissolve, leaving the pan clean.

    I think what happened is that the caramel cooled too much before going into the tin. It's meant to set up to a hard caramel in the tin before baking - this is why I use butter instead of cream. It means that the caramel doesn't escape during baking but merges with the cake and pears and you get the occasional crispy corner after baking. I'll amend the recipe to make this clearer.

    As for the others, I'm sorry to hear you were disappointed. I don't really know what to say - my testers and I loved the flavour of both of them. I'm sorry that you didn't feel the same way - I try very hard to make things as good as they can be.

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  14. TheRoamingKitchen26 November 2013 at 14:05

    This is crazy useful! Thank you for helping to demystify yeast.

  15. A kingdom for a Cake26 November 2013 at 18:05

    I enjoy reading your posts very much and this one is not an exception. Although we mainly learn through experience, I usually like to know about the science behind it. Thank you.
    To all of you looking for fresh yeast in the UK - look for local Polish/Russian shops, they always stock them!!

  16. Woo-hoo! It's that time of year!
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    Greetings from Helsinki ;-)

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  25. In Sweden, as in Denmark, you can find fresh yeast in every supermarket. In the UK, ocado has a Swedish section where they sell Swedish yeast - jäst - 4 x 50g. I can highly recommend it! Also, thank you Emma for the most inspiring baking blog out there!

  26. Thanks for your post!
    I've tried several time to bake with yeast (instant or active dry, or homemade sourdough starters). Every time the dough rises to a nice volume when I let it rest the first time, but when I punch it down and put it in the oven (even if I let it rest another few hours before baking it) it doesn't rise and I get very dense bread or buns, that taste good but are so hard and heavy! Any idea of what I might be doing wrong? Thank you!!

  27. Antonia @ Health Inspirations5 December 2013 at 16:10

    I don't mind working with yeast, but am finding it relatively difficult to find fresh yeast in the UK (as you pointed out). In Austria it's very common to have it in pretty much every supermarket!

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  29. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:22

    Hot cross buns were my training ground too - my first year I thought I could get away with one rise, but they were very rock-like! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it - it's nice to think about the background of things.

  30. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:22

    Oh nutella! I love the smell of bread baking.

  31. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:22

    Thanks Urvashi!

  32. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:24

    I think so too, though supposedly if you try them side by side you can't tell. Thanks for the information about the fresh yeast - I've only got it in Tesco I think. I love the idea that Asda won't sell it because it's alive!

  33. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:26

    May I ask where in the world you live? I find it really interesting that different countries use yeast in different ways.

  34. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:27

    Heh! True, though sometimes you can get lovely flavour with a long rise in the fridge or on chilly days :)

  35. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:28

    Thanks Suzanne, I'm so pleased you liked it - I think yeast is fascinating too.

  36. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:29

    Aw, thank you - I'm so glad you like the series and this post :)

  37. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:30

    It's funny, isn't it! Different countries seem to have such different cultures around yeast.

  38. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:30

    Thank you! I'm so pleased you think it's useful.

  39. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:33

    I agree that you mainly learn by experience - nothing can replace it. I still think that knowing more about something before you try can help make your first attempts more successful. Thanks for the tip about the Polish/Russian shops, good to know.

  40. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:36

    I've heard that it's everywhere in Sweden too - it's interesting how things are different. I have noticed the Ocado yeast though last time I tried it was out of stock. And thank you, I'm so pleased you like it!

  41. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:43

    I'm not sure, that seems odd if you're giving it another rise - is it with the same recipe? I tend to be quite gentle at the knocking back stage now - just a few light folds then get on with shaping. Maybe that would help?

  42. poiresauchocolat6 December 2013 at 10:44

    It's annoying, isn't it - I think the easiest way is probably online here, though you do have to buy it in bulk. It's the same in Switzerland - so easy to get.

  43. I've tried different recipes, temperatures... I'll try being more gentle, and maybe let it rise even longer... thanks for your help!

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  56. My Name is Erick Wilson..I never believed in Love Spells or Magics until I met this special spell caster when i went to Africa to Execute some business..He is really powerful..My wife divorce me with no reason for almost 4 years and i tried all i could to have her back cos i really love her so much but all my effort did not work out.. we met at our early age at the college and we both have feelings for each other and we got married happily for 5 years with no kid and she woke up one morning and she told me she’s going on a divorce..i thought it was a joke and when she came back from work she tender to me a divorce letter and she packed all her loads from my house..i ran mad and i tried all i could to have her back but all did not work out..i was lonely for almost 4 years…So when i told the spell caster what happened he said he will help me and he asked for her full name and her picture..i gave him that..At first i was skeptical but i gave it a try cos h ave tried so many spell casters and there is no solution…so when he finished with the readings,he got back to me that she’s with a man and that man is the reason why she left me…The spell caster said he will help me with a spell that will surely bring her back.but i never believe all this…he told me i will see a positive result within 3 days..3 days later,she called me herself and came to me apologizing and she told me she will come back to me..I cant believe this,it was like a dream cos i never believe this will work out after trying many spell casters and there is no solution..The spell caster is so powerful and after that he helped me with a pregnancy spell and my wife got pregnant a month later..we are now happy been together again and with lovely kid..This spell caster has really changed my life and i will forever thankful to him..he has helped many friends too with similar problem too and they are happy and thankful to him..This man is indeed the most powerful spell caster have ever experienced in life..Am Posting this to the Forum in case there is anyone who has similar problem and still looking for a way can reach him here: , CONTACT THIS POWERFUL SPELL CASTER TODAY VIA EMAIL:,

  57. My Name is JANE.I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4 weeks to our wedding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her facebook and she changed her facebook status from married to Single...when i went to her to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..I lost my job as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life...I tried all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed through in getting her back and how i lost my job...he told me he gonna help me...i don't believe that in the first place.but he swore he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to US the following day and i called him when i got home and he said he's busy casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days that is Thursday...My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew what she's doing and her sudden behavior was not intentional and she promised not to do that was like am dreaming when i heard that from her and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him my wife called and he said i haven't seen anything yet... he said i will also get my job back in 3 days time..and when its Sunday,they called me at my place of work that i should resume working on Monday and they gonna compensate me for the time limit have spent at home without working..My life is back into shape,i have my girlfriend back and we are happily married now with kids and i have my job back too.This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested in meeting the man for can mail him to , I cant give out his number cos he told me he don't want to be disturbed by many people across the world..he said his email is okay and he' will replied to any emails asap..hope he helped u out too..good luck:, AGAIN HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS: ,

  58. Hello everybody, my names is Cindy Davis Am from Canada i want to give thanks and honor to Dr.ATILA for the great work he did for me, he brought my lover within 24 hours which i never taught it will ever come through in my life, but this great man Dr. ATILA proved to me that powers can do wonders, i got his contact from a friend in the USA who he helped, this friend of mine told me that this man is great but i felt as hmm are you sure? cause i hardly believe those kind of things,so she told me not to worry that when i contact him, that she is guaranteeing me 100% that my lover will come back that if it does not work that she will be the one to give me back my money, to show her sincerity to me, she gave me her car that if it does not work that and she did not pay me the money that i spent that she i should collect her car and she gave me all the documents, i was so so surprised she was very serious about it so that was how i contacted him and i told him what i want he just told me that everything will be done within 24 hours so with the assurance my friend gave me i was having confident, so in the next 24 hours that he told me i just heard a knock on my door i never knew it was mark, so that was how i opened the door the first thing he did was to go on his knees, he started begging me to forgive him that he is very sorry for everything, i was really surprised and was also happy, so that was how i forgive him and now we are living together happily than ever before, and am using the media to invite my friends on my wedding which will coming up on 30/10/2013, am very happy thanks be to Lucy who gave me his contact and honor be onto Great DR. ATILA who helped a lot, if you need his help or you want to thank him for me you can contact him through or cell number +2348169457829

  59. am nelson by name i want to appreciate Dr odudu for what he has done for me in just 24hours, my wife left me because i was facing some difficulty in my working place with that she run away because i could not take good care of her in just fours i found my wife all over the country but no were to be found, in that process of four month i was lonely no body to help me out when i complain to my colluage directed me to Dr odudu the great spell cast when i contacted him on his private phone is +2348051913076 he cast a restoration spell for me immediately the spell is done my director called me for apology and i resumed work immediately and i was also paid for the time i spend at home at the same process my wife that i found for over four months came too all with the help of Dr odudu since that time every thing went for good am now living a peaceful life with my wife and my working place.thanks to Dr odudu for all his help contact him on or call +2348051913076.

  60. am nelson by name i want to appreciate Dr odudu for what he has done for me in just 24hours, my wife left me because i was facing some difficulty in my working place with that she run away because i could not take good care of her in just fours i found my wife all over the country but no were to be found, in that process of four month i was lonely no body to help me out when i complain to my colleague directed me to Dr odudu the great spell cast when i contacted him on his private phone is +2348051913076 he cast a restoration spell for me immediately the spell is done my director called me for apology and i resumed work immediately and i was also paid for the time i spend at home at the same process my wife that i found for over four months came too all with the help of Dr odudu since that time every thing went for good am now living a peaceful life with my wife and my working place.thanks to Dr odudu for all his help contact him on or call +2348051913076.

  61. Thanks to Dr.Zabaza for bringing back my lover, my lover left me for my best friend. Until i saw Dr.Zabaza that helped me bring him back to me within 48 hours. if you are in any kind of problem please contact Dr.Zabaza on his email address on or call Dr.Zabaza on his personal phone number on +2348182620374 for any help.

  62. Am so grateful to Dr.kizzekpe for what he has done for me,At first i was thinking he was a scamer and also thinking if i was doing the right,But when i decided to contact him i told him my problem he laughed and told me that everything will be okay within 40hours,So i decided to give it a try in which i contacted him he told me that i should remove all taught from my mind and be happy,Really on the second day i just got a call from someone.The person was weeping then i decided to ask who was i speaking to then he called his name RICARDO i was shocked i asked him what happened he said he is really sorry for what he has done to me for the past 4years for leaving me alone.That i should please forgive him that he will make it up with me.So then i said let him come over which he did as he was coming he got me a new car and also said i should have access to his account top prove to me that he will never leave me for anything now we are bought together and we are going to celebrate this Xmas in any country of my choice,Which we are preparing for.Now we are together and he can't do without me friends am so happy to Dr.kizzekpe for bringing back happiness to my life.i swear with my life Dr.kizzekpe his a man to trust you can contact him on his private mail

  63. On this day i am very happy to tell the world that Evelyn is back to me thanks to Dr.Zabaza who use is great powers to cast a spell that brought Evelyn back to me within 48 hours. I really want to tell the world that Dr.Zabaza is genius and powerful this means that is capable to restore any broken relationship or marriage just within the period of 48 hours. And due to the fact that Dr.Zabaza is very helpful and must people will need is help to restore there relationship or marriage i will write out the contact information of Dr.Zabaza which are +2348182620374 and Believe me Dr.Zabaza is the right person to restore your relationship just exactly the way you want it to be.




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