Baking Bread with Instant Yeast
Instant yeast is a type of baker’s yeast. Many professional bakers prefer it to other types of yeast, but you can also use it at home. It gained popularity for home bread making when North Americans started to bake artisanal breads in their own kitchens. Because it’s also the best yeast for baking in a bread machine, it has become a lot easier to find in recent years.
Originally, it was a bit harder to find and it was often more expensive than the active dry yeast that was standard in the 20th century. Now, you can buy it in most grocery stores. It is also possible to order instant yeast online.
What is Instant Yeast?
Instant yeast is a type of baker’s yeast. It’s used both in home baking and commercial bread making. Like traditional dry active yeast, it’s made by drying fresh yeast. During this process some of the living yeast cells die off and stick to the remaining ones, forming little granules with a protective layer.
This protective layer increases the shelf life of dry yeast remarkably over cakes of fresh yeast. If you normally use active dry yeast you’ll notice the granules of instant yeast look the same, only smaller. This is what makes this type of yeast work faster.
Instant yeast absorbs water faster than active dry yeast. This means it works faster – thus the “instant” in its name. Although it is a form of dry yeast, you don’t need to rehydrate it before you use it. This also adds to the time savings when you choose to bake bread with instant yeast.
Buying Instant Yeast
When buying instant yeast at the grocery store, remember that it’s sometimes also labelled “rapid rise yeast” or “bread machine yeast.” Look for it in the baking aisle, next to the active dry yeast. It’s available in single-use packets, which are great if you only bake bread once in a while. But you can also find jars of instant yeast in varying sizes. If you bake a lot of bread, the most economical format is the vacuum-packed brick of instant yeast. Most of these are about one pound, or 454 grams in weight.
How to Store Instant Yeast
Instant dry yeast usually has a guaranteed shelf life of two years. This applies to yeast that is stored unopened at room temperature. Once opened, it’s best to store the yeast in an airtight jar. Most sources say instant yeast will keep up to six months if refrigerated or kept in the freezer.
When we baked bread daily, I stored my yeast in a Mason jar in the fridge. Even though we bake less often now, I tend to still use a glass jar to store my instant yeast. I have had a batch of yeast die off on me, but that was after it had been in the fridge for about a year.
How to Use Instant Yeast
Cut Out the Proofing
You probably learned about proofing yeast when you first learned to bake yeast bread. This is what you’re doing when you dissolve sugar in warm water and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Yeast is made up of tiny organisms that feed on sugar and give off carbon dioxide. When the yeast is thriving, these tiny creatures will feed on the sugar water and create a froth that proves they are alive. This tells you that if you add this yeast and sugar water to your bread recipe, the bread will rise as it should.
You don’t have to proof rapid rise yeast. Simply add the yeast directly to the dry ingredients in your bread recipe. This applies both to traditional bread making and baking in a bread machine use. There is no need to proof it in water unless you’ve had your yeast for a very long time. If you’re worried the yeast might have lost its potency during storage, go ahead and proof it before adding it to your bread dough.
How to Get the Most from Your Yeast
I usually add instant yeast directly to the dry ingredients when I bake bread. It doesn’t work as well if it comes into direct contact with salt or sugar, though. So if you’re layering ingredients in a bread machine, watch out for that. If you’re mixing bread dough by hand or using a stand mixer, it’s easiest to add the yeast to the flour with the other dry ingredients. Add the fat and water afterwards.
Keep in mind that rapid rise yeast doesn’t like to be cold. I like to use warm water in my bread baking, even though some recipes call for cold water. (Cold water is usually best for delayed rise bread (“no knead bread.”)
If you store your yeast in the fridge or freezer, you should let it warm to room temperature before adding it to your bread recipe. So if you know you’ll be baking bread in the morning, just measure out the required amount of yeast, and leave it in a small container on the countertop or in a cupboard overnight.
Active Dry Yeast to Instant Yeast Conversion
If your recipe calls for quick rise or bread machine yeast, use instant yeast measure for measure to bake your bread. “Fast-acting,” “rapid rise,” and “bread machine” yeast are all the same as instant yeast. No need to convert your bread recipe.
Yeast Conversion for Traditional Bread Baking
This applies if you are mixing your bread dough by hand or using a stand mixer. If your recipe calls for active dry yeast, multiply the amount by 0.75. This tells you how much fast acting yeast to use. So if the recipe called for 1 tsp active dry yeast, use 3/4 tsp of fast acting yeast. For 2 tsp active dry yeast, use 1-1/2 tsp fast acting yeast.
Many older recipes don’t specify the types of yeast they use. Also, yeast in jars is a fairly recent thing. Packets or envelopes of yeast were typical until a few years ago. So older recipes might call for “1 packet of yeast.” That means about 2-1/4 tsp of dry active yeast. If you need to convert, use about 1-2/3 tsp instant yeast.
If you forget to convert, or if the measurement for instant yeast in your bread recipe is odd, don’t worry. I’ve used instant yeast measure for measure in recipes that called for active dry yeast. It works out fine. Generally, the instant yeast bread dough just rises faster.
Bread recipes that call for fresh yeast, also called cake yeast, are less common. But if you should come upon one of these, the amount of yeast will be given in grams. Use instant yeast at 40% the amount of fresh yeast, by weight. Not sure how much that is in teaspoons? Check this table for help with cake yeast to active dry yeast to instant yeast conversion.
Yeast Conversion for Bread Machines
If you need to convert a bread machine recipe that calls for fresh or dry active yeast, the rule of thumb is to use a half teaspoon of instant yeast per cup of flour. So if your recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, you need 2 tsp instant yeast. If the recipe needs 6 cups of flour, use 3 tsp instant yeast.
Whether you want to make the perfect French baguette or a multigrain bread topped with crunchy seeds, you can bake it at home. If your recipe calls for instant yeast, now you know how to use it! What kind of bread will you be baking?
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Original content © 2001-2018 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
This is an updated version of an article I originally published at Associated Content, which later became Yahoo! Voices. Both sites are now defunct.
Public domain images by Pixabay users aureliofoxrj, PDPics, and Couleur
Fruitcake photo by jeffreyw/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!