One of our good subscribers emailed me the other day with a question about yeast. I probably gave him way too much detail but I thought I would share this. The more you know about yeast, the better baker you will be.
- Hot water or water with too much chlorine or salt will kill yeast. You might try bottled water from the store. Make sure your water is under 120 degrees.
- What looks like yeast is not really yeast. They are little maltodextrin or other balls encapsulating yeast spores. The yeast spores are microscopic. Those little balls dissolve in the water to release the spores.
- Let the dough rise–a lot. In most applications, let it rise until it has doubled in size and then form the loaves. Forming the loaves forces much of the gas out and redistributes the yeast. Don’t handle the bread too much. You don’t need to force all the gas out.
- Let the loaves rise until they are puffy, maybe just starting to form blisters, before hurrying them to your oven.
- The yeast that you put in your dough, that’s just seed yeast to get the process started. Those little critters are growing and multiplying–at the right temperature doubling every ten minutes.
- Yeast has the ability to convert starch into sugars upon which to feed. As they feed, they give off carbon dioxide (gas) and alcohol. The alcohol gives us the good yeast flavor.
At lower temperatures, say below 60 degrees, yeast is less efficient and gives off less carbon dioxide gas and more alcohol. That can make for some incredible tasting bread. (Commercial bakers sometimes place their bread in a “retarder” to slow the growth of the yeast and improve the flavor. I’ve stuck my dough in a cold garage for up to three days to improve the flavor)