Working with Active Dry Yeast

YeastBefore you bake that loaf of bread, let’s stop a moment and discuss the temperature.

I don’t mean how hot it is outside, I mean the right temperature of the liquids used to activate yeast so that your bread and rolls rise high and light.

You can be precise and use a thermometer, but as my Aunt-in-law Mama D always said – “Don’t make a federal case out of using yeast.”

I always listen to her.

The following three words are a great way to remember the non-federal case way to activate yeast.

  1.  Warm
  1. Very warm
  1. Hot

There are only two things that can kill your yeast, leaving the Three Cheese Bread flat instead of leavening it.

  1. Time – check the expiration date before opening the packet and this one is no trouble at all.
  1. Heat – the only thing you need to be mindful about.

I am quite sure that none of you want to kill the yeast, so when we bake, we’ll only work with warm or very warm liquids.

Using Warm Liquid:

Many recipes call for dissolving yeast into warm liquid. Warm, not Very Warm, and definitely not Hot.

You are 98.6°F. The liquid needs to be about 105-110°F. In other words, it needs to be a little warmer than you. Stick your finger into the heated liquid. If it feels warm but not hot, then it is fine. See how easy that was?

Stir the yeast into the warm liquid until it dissolves, let the bowl set about 5-10 minutes, and watch for the bubbling action that means it is ready to go! For the science behind yeasty action, click here.

Basic Italian Bread is a good example of when to use Warm liquid.

Mama D by Tony Bennett

Mama D as painted by Tony Bennett. He loved her cooking.

Using Very Warm Liquid:

Very Warm liquid is used when your recipe calls for mixing the dry yeast into the flour and then adding liquid. Liquid needs to be warmer here to compensate for the fact that the yeast is mixed up with flour and other ingredients.

Very Warm is about 120-130°F.

At that temperature, when you stick your finger into the heated liquid, it will feel not just a little warm, but very warm indeed – although it’s still not hot.

Tony’s Wheat Bread is a good example of when to use Very Warm liquid. It’s a terrifically easy recipe that makes a delicious go-to bread for the kids sandwiches.

Mindfully Considered:

If the Warm liquid was tea, it might need to be nuked a little to taste good. If the tea was Very Warm, you could easily drink it down without blowing on it. For Hot tea, you would need to blow on it a bit before sipping. Three easy words to remember so you don’t need to make a federal case out of active dry yeast.

May your bread always rise,


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