The Low Carb Luxury Newsletter: 

Volume III / Number 05: March 15, 2002: Page 7
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      Answering Mail
Confused About Yeast?

Dear Lora,

I never, ever did any of my own baking before starting low-carb. And now I feel a little unprepared for making my own (low carb) breads. I've been gathering the ingredients to get started, but when I went to the store, I found a ton of different kinds and brands of yeast. Which one to buy? What's the difference? How does it work (and why?) Help!!


Denise Browne

Dear Denise,

Baking with Yeast We completely understand how confusing it can be to a new baker... especially if you've never used yeast before. First, let's look at what yeast is...

The breads we eat today is the result of an age-old process dating back at least four thousand years. Several civilizations, including Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and later Gauls and Iberians, produced fermentation food products. Bread, wine, and beer were all obtained by empirical processes that at the time were a mystery to them... but they all used yeast. Originally, yeast was nothing more than a by-product from the process of manufacturing alcohol from the grain.

Yeast is responsible for leavening the dough, maturing the gluten and providing the characteristic yeast leavened flavor and aroma. In order to function properly it needs food, moisture and a suitable environment.

What is the difference between Active Dry and Instant Yeast?

Red Star Yeast Yeast, a living organism, is deactivated (but not killed) by drying.

Active Dry Yeast is made of larger granule that requires soaking in water before it's added to the bread mixture. Active Dry Yeast is coated with inactive yeast cells that protect the active yeast cells.

Instant, or fast rising yeast, is made of smaller granules. Unlike active dry yeast, instant yeast doesn't need to be "proofed" (dissolved in water before being used.) It can be added directly to the flour mixture which activates the yeast cells.

Instant yeast is dried at a much lower temperature than active dry, producing more live cells and thus quicker and more vigorous action when it's added to flour and water. Instant yeast is also often referred to as: "quick yeast", "rapid rise active dry yeast", "quick rise active dry yeast", "fast-rising active dry yeast", or "fast rising yeast." It's also nearly identical (and in some cases is identical) to some brands' "bread machine yeast".

How do I tell if the yeast is active?

You can test your yeast's viability with 1 cup of warm tap water, 1 Tablespoon of yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix together, and if the mixture bubbles or grows, then it's active. If it does nothing, (or if there are only a couple of bubbles) then it's dead or too inactive, and should be thrown away.

Each yeast manufacturer uses a slightly different strain of organism, and each yeast has its own characteristics. We trust that, through experimentation, you'll discover your own favorite.

Don't be misled by the expiration date on your bag of yeast. The date is for commercial bakeries, where yeast is left open and unrefrigerated. Yeast stored airtight in your home freezer should be good for up to one year. (It is not necessary to warm the yeast up after taking it out of the freezer — by the time you get out all of the other ingredients, your yeast is usually warm enough.)

And our favorite yeast?

One of our favorite instant yeasts is SAF Perfect Rise Gourmet Yeast, made by France's LeSaffre Yeast Corporation.

They are the makers of both SAF and Red Star products (yes, LeSaffre has purchased Red Star.) It seems to be a perfect match with low carb baked goods, which have less starch and more gluten.   (You can see our Review of SAF Yeast, done July 2000.)


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