The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Two tablespoons of active dried yeast

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Two tablespoons of active dried yeast

I've just been reading some recipes for bread which suggest two tablespoons of active dried yeast  - for quite an average sized loaf. I've been used to the idea of a quarter of a teaspoon being enough to raise a two pound dough (and it is, and does). Does two tablespoons seem excessive to anyone else???Also, recipes for "sourdough" bread - using dried yeast to form the biga, and dried yeast to produce the main dough. This doesn't resemble sourdough as I understand it - which would use no commercial yeat at all? Or have I got this all wrong??!!
Andrew

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Most recipes I have seen call for two teaspoons (tsp) rather than two tablespoons (tbs). Two teaspoons is enough for just about any loaf up to 5 lbs IMHO.

Some sourdough starter recipes call for adding a pinch of commercial yeast to the original starter; I agree that this would probably not result in the desired culture. Some sourdough bread recipes call for a bit of commercial yeast in the final dough (1/8 teaspoon in most RLB recipes) to ensure good rise; the jury is out on how this affects the flavour I think.

sPh

JIP's picture
JIP

Going by what I read any commercial yeast placed in a starter would quickly take over any wild yeasts that are present.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I was reading in BBA the other day about how Peter Reinhart had won this trip to France to tour several bakeries and see how they work. I recall reading that part of the ritual at one shop was examining the starter and looking at the activity level to determine if it needed any help. If so they would add a little yeast to the batch to pep it up. Since I don't have any good way to know what the microorganisms make up is other than smell, I do add a little (usually a pinch) in the final dough if the preferment isn't as active as I would like.

The other thing is that I have started using a 1/4 cup or more white starter to most of my yeasted recipes just because I like how it makes the dough feel better, smoother and more satin like. I tried a test using the 3 cup mix that came with my new Cloche form KA, one with and one without the starter. I only used 1/4 cup of starter in the pre ferment and it made a big differance in the extensibility of the dough. It also adds a level of flavor and aroma that I like.

I have been having trouble keeping my white starter in a stable form. I mean one day it might be frothy and the next couple days it might be more relaxed. I have been feeding it twice a day usually with KA AP. I'm starting to think the Ph of my water might be high. I started using bottled water and it got more small bubbles. Last week I ordered a small PH meter from ebay so we'll see what I have. A pool guy told me that most of the bottled water in our area (Midwest) comes from Lake Michigan and it's stable at 7.2 or so where the well water is closer to 9. When I read these long posts about starter troubles I wonder if a lot of folks aren't having PH problems. I mean there are really only four variables, flour, water, temperature and PH. If everyone used KA AP flour at room temp and the same water PH we should all get the same results. So, I'm anxious to get the meter and do some tests on my own situation. I may end up with a formula for a gallon of well water and a certain amount of vinegar to make it right.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

My well water tested at 9 or 9.5 pH, and I had a devil of a time at first with my starters. My Poland Spring water cooler water tests right at 7 or so. I would, however, suggest trying ascorbic acid instead of vinegar to bring your pH down. I found that if I brought the water (before adding flour) for my first starter day down to a pH of about 3.5 with something like 250mg of ascorbic acid per 6 oz of water (this is from memory and may not be exactly right), or so by adding ascorbic acid, my starter started every time with no "first night explosion" and no "flat phase" for days on end. The pH after adding the flour would be back up at about 6 or so at first, but it would come down much more quickly than when I just used my well water. I think acetic acid might not be ideal as an acid, because in the scientific papers about yeast and lactobacillus, it looks like sourdough yeast is strongly attenuated by acetic acid. Anyway, for what it's worth ascorbic acid worked really well (this idea was suggested via an email by Peter Reinhart). I literally crushed up a piece of a vitamin C tablet into my first day starter.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I think I understand you are only doctoring your water for starter preparation. I'm having trouble getting consistent activity so I thought I would try and figure out what the best water PH is for culture growth. Another thing the pool guy said is that well water has a lot of CO2 gas trapped that raises the PH readings at first. According to him the CO2 disperses, the PH goes down in a few minutes. If that's true maybe I'm on to something. Pool guys are a little like politicians sometimes so I'm waiting for the meter to arrive before I declare victory.

My plan would be to create water to use in the bakery that encourages the right kind of bacterial growth. I guess the whole purpose of any yeast is to raise the dough so it's edible and maybe add some flavor. From what I understand there are times when your starter will be perking away and it's not the yeast doing it. Apparently there is a first burst of activity that is sometimes confused with a successful starter that is some other bacteria flashing off. It's all very confusing if you ask me.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The ascorbic acid and pH concerns would apply regardless of the pH of the water used in the discussion above. I just think my problems were made worse by the high pH water, which gives the wrong organisms just that much longer to thrive before the acid levels become too much for them. The issue I was addressing was the "early burst of activity after which the starter dies for a while problem", which is discussed at the bottom of Mike Avery's starting a starter page. I think that water did sit around for more than five minutes while I made various measurements, but maybe that is something I missed. I use my Poland Spring water cooler water now for feedings, which has a pH of just about 7, and I haven't had any problems at all with the culture now that it is healthy and vigorous. With a 1:2:2 feeding, I think acid levels are only low for a very short time after the feeding, so it is much less likely to have any sort of contamination problem.

Anyway, to avoid the early flare-up (like in first 12-24 hours) of activity caused by unwanted bacteria that thrives at lower acid levels, followed by death and much delay in the recovery of the starter, it helps to acidify the culture a little in the first 24-48 hours. That makes it a lot harder for the wrong stuff to thrive in the culture in that first 24 hours. One very popular version of doing that is to use pineapple juice, which has some chemical properties (don't remember the argument for it anymore) that are good for this particular purpose instead of water in the first day starter formula, but many other approaches also work. I tried wine, lemon juice, and ascorbic acid, among others, and they all seemed to work OK. Actually, even vinegar worked, but it seems to me acetic acid is less recommended for this purpose, since it particularly has an attenuating effect on yeast, and is therefore probably not good when you're trying to get it started. In my versions of this, I would add enough of the ingredient to get the pH of the water to about 3.5. That seemed to work well. I had some deaths of cultures if I went too far and made the pH down around 2.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion (and doesn't create confusion). It's interesting, because when I was investigating this problem, there were plenty of people who absolutely never encountered this problem and thought it was just crazy. However, various testers discovered this to be real, and Peter Reinhart has confirmed that his recipe will work better substituting pineapple juice into his starter recipe. I heard that KA was researching this also, and thinks that certain flours may carry the organism. For example, Mike Avery says he only had the problem when he added whole wheat, which was what I had added, since I didn't have any whole rye flour when I did all these experiments.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I've always made my sourdough with only the starter - no yeast. It works fine - sometimes it takes longer than others - but then, it's a living thing - it's bound to vary a bit. And I love the taste.
 But I was astonished when I was reading "No Knead to Knead" to find that the author makes "sourdough" bread with yeast in the biga then yeast in the main dough - and no soudough starter at all. Then in another recipe (Pane Rustico) there is small amount of yeast in the biga and none in the main dough, which is supposed to  double in volume in 30 to 40 minutes.. And some recipes with 2 tablespoons active dried yeast to 5 cups unbleached bread flour. Has anyone used any of these recipes? I would have thought two tablespoons of yeast would make a very strongly yeasted flavour. I've noticed in Maggie Gleezer's book and Dan Lepard's, that there is great consistency from recipe to recipe, which makes sense. This other book seems very inconsistent and I'd be pleased to hear from anyone who has used it before starting to experiment!!!
Thanks,
Andrew

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

Hi Andrew

There's so much rubbish written about sourdough. When someone is making money from it also you have to be a little sceptical. Sometimes there motive is perfectly sound but there knowledge and experience are lacking. 
You cannot make sourdough from commercial yeast. If you substitute the phrase 'natural leaven' for 'sourdough' it all becomes obvious. You can add a bit of commercial yeast to your main dough if you like and it is legal in France to add a tiny percentage of commercial yeast to the main dough and still call it 'natural leaven'. But how can you call it natural leaven if the leaven is made from commercial yeast? Commercial yeast is so much more aggressive than Candida milleri sb sp that the lactobacilli won't have any time to do any flavouring so you will never notice their presence. Contrary to popular belief they never die out either if you are continually using your starter. Perhaps if you don't use it very often and the acidity falls so much that the commercial yeast is totally killed off then yes it might turn into a natural leaven but you'd never know for sure so why bother. Any book that suggests adding yeast to sourdough starters should be treated cautiously with regards to sourdough. Though, they may be very good commercial bakers. I can think of one good example. 
I strongly urge you to familiarise yourself with the workings of bread then you'll be able to quickly suss out the recipe for the novice, impatient baker and the serious want-to-be artisan baker.
Commercial bakers are bound by tight profit margins. They can't afford to make the kind of great bread we can make for ourselves.  
mac

AMHC's picture
AMHC

I work at a water treatment plant and we use CO2 to decrease the pH level, by adding it the pH goes down.

browndog's picture
browndog

I've never investigated the rationale behind this amount of yeast but I have run across it not infrequently in various recipes. Usually I scale it back by at least a teaspoon and a half, but occasionaly (maybe two times I've actually done this) I throw in the whole 2 tablespoons, if I trust the recipe source pretty well. There does seem be a heartier rise with the larger quantity, maybe useful in recipes with heavy add-ins. Or maybe it's a default way to get airy French loaves. Or maybe it's just misplaced conventional baking 'wisdom'. When I have indulged I can't say I've noticed any offensive yeasty flavor, neither have I ever thought a loaf suffered because I 'skimped'. Mainly just seemed to rise faster, which is after all the American way.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I also think the yeast required varies with altitude.  It is no crime to change the yeast amount in a recipe if you can get away with less and still have good results.  I remember some 25 years ago having a tough time until I read somewhere to double the amount at sea level and I was practically on the beach!  The amount of yeast in the New Orleans French Bread therefore, doesn't really suprise me.  Also, just like cakes, bread can also be affected by weather conditions and rapid changes in airpressure.  I never quite figured out if bread rises inconsistantly during tornado weather and don't remember baking during a huricane.   Maybe someone does?   Mini Oven

browndog's picture
browndog

Looks like a tornado's coming, Dorothy, time to start the challah! ... Mini Oven, I usually cower in fear under tables and in door frames during tornadoes and the like. Not usually planning my next bake, but apparently I need to approach life more vigorously.