Yeast is an indispensable component of bread making. Without it, our loaves of bread will not rise and lack great texture, flavour and aroma. But yeast differs in form and type. And if you’ve been baking with your bread maker, you’re probably thinking, am I using the right yeast? And what is bread machine yeast anyway? Read on to learn a few more things about this wonder ingredient.
What is Yeast?
But first, what is yeast exactly? Well, it’s a living organism that belongs to the fungus family. Its main job in bread making is to make your dough rise. As it feeds on the sugar added to your bread dough, yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol evaporates during kneading, while the carbon dioxide gas initiates the rising action.
Can’t we use baking powder or baking soda instead? Both of these are leavening agents, too. But unlike baking yeast, they depend on a chemical reaction to leaven your quick bread, such as muffins, pancakes or scones. Also, they only need liquids or oven heat to stimulate this action.
Yeast, however, takes it sweet time to work on your dough. That’s why we need the proofing phase. However, it is the only leavening ingredient that can cause the biological process called fermentation. And it’s because of this natural reaction that we get to enjoy that delicious bread taste and smell we know and love!
What are the Types of Yeast?
Bread yeast has two general forms: fresh and dry. Fresh or compressed cake yeast is moist or soft and requires freezing or refrigeration for storage. Its high perishability limits its use to professional bakers and is also why it’s necessary to do yeast proofing before use. Proofing is when you mix fresh yeast in lukewarm water and sugar to activate it or check its viability.
On the other hand, dry yeast looks like dehydrated granules. These are still your fresh yeast, only pressed and dried to improve its shelf life. It’s significantly easier to handle and store, making it perfect for home bakers. But under this form are three types of yeast:
- Active dry. Active dry yeast is the most common type for home baking. The granules are live yeast wrapped in dried, dead cells that need warm liquid to activate.
- Instant. Instant yeast has smaller granules containing more live cells, making it easier to dissolve and faster to activate. You do not need to activate it in water. This type also has ascorbic acid that acts as a dough conditioner to speed up rise time, enhance dough elasticity and increase bread volume.
- Rapid rise. Rapid-rise yeast is also your bread machine yeast. It is an instant yeast that usually has smaller granules coated with ascorbic acid and flour buffer. It’s also the fastest bread leavening agent among all three types of yeast for bread.
How is Bread Machine Yeast Different?
Since active dry and rapid-rise yeasts have the most distinct qualities, let’s compare the two.
If you are using active dry yeast in your bread machine recipe, you may need to dissolve it in warm water first to activate it. The water temperature should be between 40.5C and 46C. If it’s colder than this, the yeast will stay dormant. Too hot water, on the other hand, will kill it.
Bread machine yeast is easier to add. With lesser dead cells and finer granules, you do not need to do yeast proofing before use. You can safely add rapid-rise yeast with the rest of your ingredients. Just make sure that it does not come in contact with the wet ingredients in the recipe to avoid premature activation. This reminder further explains why you need to add your bread machine ingredients in the order listed in the recipe.
Less granulated active dry yeast works slower and requires two bread rises. Rapid-rise yeast, however, reacts more quickly and takes only one bread rise. That’s because its formulation works with a bread maker’s timed and fast-paced system.
With smaller granules, bread machine yeast can hydrate more quickly, too, causing a faster dough-rising action. Does your bread maker machine have a rapid bake option? This cycle works best with the rapid-rise yeast. And if you put these two components, you can make fresh bread in an hour or less.
Bread Flavour and Texture
While rapid-rise yeast causes faster rising time, the dough has little time to ferment and develop flavour. The shortened process also affects texture, which explains why a bread machine produces dense bread. On the other hand, active dry yeast takes time to react, resulting in better bread taste and mouthfeel.
You can neutralise bland taste with a delicious sandwich filling, though. Also, toasting bread can enhance flavour and texture. And since bread machine yeast leads to mild-tasting loaves, it is perfect for making flavourings like fruit, chocolate or spices shine through.
Can I Substitute Active Dry for Bread Machine Yeast?
Yes, you can. Bakers say that you can use any yeast type in place of another for as long as you read the package for activation instructions. Also, you need to know yeast substitution rules to make sure you’re adding enough substitute yeast to the recipe. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:
- If using active dry instead of instant or bread machine yeast: Increase the yeast amount by 25%. It’s because a quarter of your active dry yeast cells are dead, whereas instant yeast contains 100% live cells. So, if the recipe needs one teaspoon of instant yeast, you’ll be adding 1¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast as a substitute. Keep in mind that you need to use some of the liquid in the recipe to activate it.
- If using instant or bread machine yeast instead of active dry: Reduce the yeast amount by 25%. So, if the recipe needs one teaspoon of active dry yeast, you’ll be adding ¾ teaspoon of instant yeast as a substitute. Also, skip the yeast activation step and directly add the instant yeast to your ingredients instead. But make sure to retain the amount of liquid in the bread recipe, including the water meant for activating the yeast.
What is the Best Yeast for Bread Machines?
Now, the most important question would have to be which of the three dry yeast types is best for your bread machine. The choice depends heavily on the results you want. For instance, if you’re after the best of both worlds, meaning fast but flavourful bread baking, I’d say go for instant yeast. It activates quickly but requires two rise times, resulting in a tastier loaf of bread.
But if time is not an issue, I suggest baking with active dry yeast instead. While it requires a longer fermentation time, the flavour and aroma of your bread will undoubtedly be better. The bread machine yeast will have to be your last choice. Aside from being more costly compared with the two other yeast types, fast-paced bread baking often yields a less impressive outcome.
Keen to test your newfound yeast knowledge? Start with my list of easiest bread machine recipes!