The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

question about when to add yeast

kerrifair's picture

question about when to add yeast

I don't know how I don't know this, but when using active dry yeast, why is it that some formulas say to proof the yeast in water and others say to mix it with dry ingredients and then add the water?

proth5's picture

According to most yeast manufacturers, active dry yeast should be dissolved in water (not "proofed") before adding it to the dough mixture.

What we are told (and what is true), is that the granulation size in active dry yeast is larger than that of instant yeast and that there are more dead yeast cells, so that dissolving it in liquid makes sure that the live yeast cells come in contact with liquids in the recipe.

Older recipes often call for it to be "proofed", that is, adding a pinch of sugar to the water in which the yeast has been dissolved and then waiting until it becomes foamy to assure that the yeast is still good.  Most yeast manufacturers tell us that this is no longer needed as current mehtods of yeast production yield reliable product.  Although you may want to proof if the yeast is past its expiration date.

There was a time that the Fleischmann's company promoted a method of mixing called "Rapid Mix" - this involved adding active dry yeast to all of the dry ingredients and then using somewhat warmer than usual liquids in the mix (they no longer actively promote this, but I have the old recipes in my collection).  It worked just fine and I am sure there are still recipes written this way.  Since instant yeasts have been developed, the yeast manufacturers (and recipe writers) tell us to use instant yeast in these types of mixes, but again,before instant yeast this technique worked just fine.

I think that yeast companies focus on creating absolutely fool proof recipes so that even a people who generally don't bake (or even, anymore, cook) on a regular basis can experience success.  This leads them to make claims that more experienced bakers find to be somewhat "not right" in practice.  You can't blame them - they want to sell yeast.

For most of our artisan breads - I would follow the "dissolve active dry yeast" technique because:

  1. It really is what the yeast manufacturers tell us to do and does make some sense
  2. We generally like to control dough temperature and target it somewhat lower than what the "Rapid Mix" technique will produce

However, I can't really insist.

If you want to read up on the history of yeast, the Fleischmann's website offers some interesting information (OK, somewhat skewed to their veiwpoint on "home baking" and its goals) and a table that compares the types of yeasts.

Hope this helps.

Renee B's picture
Renee B

If you google your question (active dry yeast vs. instant yeast), you will find a lot of information (most of it from this site) about your question.  Most people say that instant yeast can be added to dry ingredients while active dry must always be rehydrated, some say with any temperature of water, some say with warm.  Personally, I buy a two pound bag of Red Star active dry because its cheapest.  I dont have time to rehydrate yeast all day.  so I just throw that active dry in with the dry ingredients and make sure my water is at 120 degrees when I dump it in the mixer.  It works just fine, I let it sit out for 20-60 minutes before retarding in the fridge and that's it, though I do use a little liquid levain in all of my recipes now because the dough seems to do better out of the fridge with it.  But I've done it without starter just fine.

kerrifair's picture

Thank you both so much!  I prefer fresh yeast but it is hard to find other than through a foodservice purveyor.. I was curious.  The info has been very helpful!