As you may have notice, yeast has been making more and more of an appearance in the blog. I’m baking more breads and cakes that have this ingredient that can be a tad temperamental. Here are a couple of tips that I learned along the way. All of my tips are for active dry yeast. I’m not so ready to venture into the other scary unknown called “fresh yeast” just yet.
Storing – once opened always store in a cool, dry place, preferably the refrigerator (a must for fresh yeast), but bring to room temperature before using.
Yeast needs both a warm environment and food to grow. The process is often called “proofing the yeast.” Yeast should be dissolved in warm water (100-110 degrees F), but not hot water or it will die. Sugar is usually added to “feed” and grow the yeast. You should see activity within 5 minutes, bubbling and expansion during yeast activation. If you see no activity, your yeast is too old, the water was too warm or too cold. Game over, and you need to start over.
Then it needs the right environment for it to multiply and grow, which includes a warm, nurturing temperature – 70 to 85F is best.
But all of our kitchens are different, how in the world do we created this when it’s cold outside? I have come up with a couple of ways, which have all worked for me.
First, covering the dough – most recipes suggest using a towel. I have found that a towel does not protect it from drafts, so the best way would be to use plastic wrap, tightly sealing it around the bowl. You have use a rubber band to hold it in place as well.
Next up the rising.
Need that dough to rise fast? Use a microwavable neck wrap to speed up the process. Heat the neck warmer in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, and then fit the warmer snugly around the bowl of dough.
Another is to create a proofing box, with your dishwasher. Yep you read it right - the DISHWASHER. This works well in dry climate. Turn the dishwasher for about 4 minutes, or long enough for some warm water to fill the bottom. TURN OFF THE DISHWASHER, open the door and place the dough to be proofed in bowl, cover it with plastic warp, set it on the bottom rack of the dishwasher, and close the door. REMINDER – make sure you TURN OFF the dishwasher; otherwise the water will start to run again when you close the door.
Don’t trust yourself with the dishwasher tip? Try the microwave. Place a mug filled with ½ cup water and run on high power for about 1 minute. Open the microwave; push the cup to the back corner and set the dough bowl inside. The warmed mug will keep the interior between 80-90 degrees for up to 90 minutes.
No microwave around? Place the dough in a container, preferably shallow and with a flat bottom, and then float the container in a larger, covered stockpot almost full of warm water (90 to 100 degrees).
Last but not least, let’s not forget your oven. Warm up the oven at its lowest setting, then shut it off, sprinkle a bit of water all over to create a hot, humid environment. Keeping the light on, place your dough in there, close the door and let it rise… the only thing you have to watch out for is to make sure your oven its not too hot. Using a thermostat to gauge the temperature BEFORE you put the dough is always a good thing.
So there you have it, various tips to make sure that yeast is not the boss of you.