The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do I actvate Active Dry Yeast?

Vicroamer's picture

How do I actvate Active Dry Yeast?

Apologies for the newbie question but I am just starting out on this breadmaking hobby and am having trouble with activating the yeast.

The instructions I have found from websites is to just mix it with warm water for 10 minutes to activate it one source said to mix a bit of sugar in as well, others say the sugar is not needed.

Having tried a few times(without sugar) my loaves failed to rise,

I have used the same yeast in a Biga recipe and it was fine, the Biga rose like a volcanic eruption but I have not been able to substitute it for the Instant Yeast used in most recipes.

Also Bread Improver what does it do, could that help.

Any advice appreciated.

proth5's picture

you are using "Active Dry Yeast" all you need to do is dissolve it in warm water. No sugar required.

If you add sugar, the yeast will eventually get foamy - which is the old fashioned way of testing to see if the yeast was still active.  Given that yeast technology has improved quite a bit from the old days, this is usually not needed.  Just dissolving the yeast will do.

But here is the rub - how warm should the water be? It needn't be that warm.  In the old days (I seem to be suffering from a bout of baking nostalgia) the temperature was "a drop on the wrist should be neither hot nor cold" - so ... about 80-90F if you use a thermometer.

Too warm and you will kill the yeast rather than activate it. Could be the source of your loaves not rising.

If you combined the yeast with the flour first, and then added "too warm" water, the flour would buffer the heat from the water - resulting in live yeast and a good rise.

Bread Improvers are added for many reasons - to help with the machining qualities of the dough, or to "tighten the gluten so it develops more quickly for example - none of which in this baker's opinion can't be better done by the home (or professional) baker with pre ferments, good technique or patience.  You did ask for any advice. :>)

Hope this is helpful.

Vicroamer's picture

OK thanks for reply, the temp must have been to "warm" I will try a test batch using a thermometer and some sugar as a test to see if it foams up.

MichaelH's picture

You could read the instructions on the packet. It will take about 30 seconds of your time, your choice.

Vicroamer's picture

No instructions on the pack, none at all.

GAPOMA's picture

I've added Active Dry yeast directly to my breads during mixing, and it has worked fine.  However, given 10 minutes before I bake, I prefer to activate my yeasts in water.  I usually use a pinch of brown sugar in the water to give the yeast a good head start.

FWIW, I did a little experiment a few years back.  I took 3 bowls, and added 1 cup of "warm" tap water to each bowl.  To the bowls I added:

     Bowl 1:  no sugar (just the water)
     Bowl 2:  ~ 1/2 tsp of "regular" granulated sugar
     Bowl 3:  ~ 1/2 tsp of brown sugar 

I then added 2 tsp of yeast to each bowl, mixed and sat back to watch what happened over the next 10 minutes.

     Bowl 1 - became cloudy, but never foamy and no sprouts of gas/foam.
     Bowl 2 - kind of, sort of, had a few sprouts of foam in 10 minutes, but the foam never became confluent.  Not much action at all.
     Bowl 3 - started to get spouts of foam in about 2 minutes, and was completely foamy and about 1" taller after 10 minutes.  TONS of action.

I then used all three to make bread.  They all worked fine, although I do think the brown sugar activated rose faster (or it might be my imagination).  Bottom line, they all worked.

Since then, I've always just added a pinch of brown sugar to my yeast if I'm going to activate it before mixing.  In my hands, on that day, the brown sugar worked better.  I have a few recipes that I use this brown sugar pre-activated yeast for, and they've NEVER failed me.

I never seem to get tired to watching after adding yeast to the brown sugar / water mixture.  Nothing seems to happen, then all of a sudden you see these volcanic clouds of yeast blooming into the water, seemingly from nowhere.  It always makes me want to shout "It's ALIVE!" like Dr. Frankenstein in the original movie. :)

- Greg

Vicroamer's picture

All OK now. The advice from the baking supplies shop where I bought the Active Dry Yeast was that my liquid was not warm enough. There beginners method is to first add the dry ingrediants first(flour, sugar, yeast etc.) then add the warm liquid, I'm warming the liquid to 45 deg celsius, the flour etc. temper the the liquids extra warmth. I've done this several times now, with good results.Thanks again everyone.