Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let's talk about Yeast

The success of your bread will depend largely on the yeast, which happens to be one of the most intimidating parts of bread, right? Let's walk through the process together so it's not just a guessing game when you do it for the first time. The quantities of the yeast and water used here are specific to making Amish White Bread. If you are not making this recipe, the same steps will apply, but the quantities of yeast and water may be different. Read your recipe carefully to see how much of these ingredients you will be using.

Start with 2 cups of warm water. I put my water in a 2 cup measuring bowl and placed it in the microwave for 60 seconds. I positioned a thermometer on the edge of the measuring bowl after it was removed from the microwave and it read about 120 degrees. Yes, you need a thermometer. For the yeast to dissolve, the water should be about 110-115 degrees. My water, at 120 degrees, was a little too warm. My thermometer must read 110-115 degrees before going to the next step.

When your temperature is between 110-115 degrees, add the desired amount of yeast. For the Amish White Bread recipe, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Quick Rise Active Yeast. You can buy yeast in either 1/4 ounce packages or a 4 ounce jar. If you are using the packages, one package is about 1 tablespoon yeast, so you would be using 1 1/2 packages of yeast.

Now that we have added the yeast to our warm water, the yeast must proof until we go any further. Proof is a baking term used to describe the process of dissolving active dry yeast into water, or another liquid. We want to ensure that the yeast is alive and kicking before we add it to the rest of our recipe. That way, our entire recipe does not flop from using bad yeast.

We know that the yeast is alive and ready for the next step when it resembles a creamy foam. Look at the picture creamy foam here. This is probably a minute after adding the yeast to the warm water. The look is changing, but we are not there yet.

Here is the water-yeast mixture after another minute or so. Again, it is changing, but we are not to a creamy foam yet. There are bubbles and the balls of yeast on the top of the water look more dissolved than previously, but we still have a little further to go.

Now we're talking. The picture below was taken after another couple of minutes. Look at the top of the liquid and it looks like a layer has formed on the surface, plus it is bubbly or foamy, and it resembles cream. We are there! It's a creamy foam. Our yeast is ready to be incorporated into dough.

You did it! It wasn't even that bad, was it? We are now ready to start the next step in the recipe.....

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