Here’s the final installment in our Overcoming Yeastaphobia series. There’s not really any rhyme or reason to the points in the article. It’s really just a bunch of random thoughts that popped into my head this past week as I was thinking about (and actually using) yeast. I hope they help you down the path to greater confidence with yeast.
Yeast can expire so be careful about using it past its expiration date.
If your yeast doesn’t proof, it might not be you! Sometimes yeast is bad.
If you’re adding yeast to dry ingredients and then pouring in hot liquids, mix up the dry ingredients before you add the hot liquids. You never want to pour hot liquids directly on the yeast.
How do you know when bread is done? That’s a hard one. I’ve never been very good at that. You’re supposed to “tap” a loaf and if it sounds hollow, then it’s done. What the heck does that sound like? So I just cook it according to the recipe directions and if that isn’t long enough or if it’s too long (which I don’t discover until I cut it), I make adjustments the next time. My recipe for French bread says 20 minutes but 20 minutes wasn’t long enough so I always cook it for 25. Rolls are easier. If they’re just starting to turn golden brown, they’re done! My refrigerator cinnamon roll recipe is a little harder because sometimes the top gets brown before the inside is done. In that case, I just poke into the center of one and see how it looks.
If you don’t have a pastry cloth, you’re making your bread making harder then it needs to be. The pastry cloth works well when you’re making a bread you have to roll out, like refrigerator white rolls or refrigerator cinnamon rolls. It keeps the counter from becoming a big mess and you can use less flour to roll out the dough. I use my pastry cloth all the time.
I purchase big packages of yeast from Sam’s or Costco. The cost is about $6 for two big packages which is a LOT cheaper then the little packets or the little jar at the grocery store. If you’re going to be baking much bread and don’t have a membership (I don’t), you probably know someone who does and who might be willing to get some for you. It’s definitely worth it. Two packages (they come in packs of two) last me about 6 months. I keep the unopened package in the pantry. I open the other package, pour it into a Tupperware container and store it in the refrigerator. One packet of yeast is the same as 2-1/2 teaspoons of the dry yeast. I usually use a tablespoon, though.
Bread machine recipes can be adapted for regular bread making. I can’t give you specific directions on how to do it because it’s going to vary with each recipe. But as you gain experience making bread, you’ll be able to adapt the recipes yourself.
An electric knife makes loaf cutting a lot easier. If you don’t have one, at least use a large serrated knife.
You might see a bread recipe that calls for bread flour. Bread flour is a high-gluten flour that causes extra loftiness or chewiness. I never buy bread flour because it’s more expensive. If a recipe calls for bread flour, I just use regular all-purpose flour.
If your bread recipe calls for all-purpose flour but you would prefer to use wheat, you can replace half the white with wheat. Some recipes might allow more wheat but you’ll have to experiment with each recipe. You will not usually be able to completely replace wheat for white.
See, yeast isn’t scary. Once you start using it and see that it’s not so bad, you’ll be making bread all the time. Like we’ve said before, there’s just nothing better than a loaf of fresh-from-the-oven homemade bread. So give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.