What is Yeast?
Yeast is a one-celled microorganism of the fungus type. Its enzyme action converts certain fermentable sugars and some of the starch present in dough into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. Fermentation converts sucrose (cane or beet sugar) into simpler sugars such as invert sugars (dextrose or levulose) and then into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. Because sugar is part of this fermentation process, artificial sweeteners should not be used for yeast breads.
Using Fresh Yeast
Yeast should always be stored at 32˚ to 34˚ F. Old yeast will not have the potency to produce the desired yield in the product.
To determine if your yeast is still active:
- Dissolve 1 tsp. sugar in 1/2 cup lukewarm water in a see-through measuring cup.
- Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. yeast slowly over the water.
- Stir and let stand for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, the yeast should have foamed up to reach the 1 cup mark.
- Yeast that does not reach this mark in 10 minutes will not produce a good loaf and should be discarded.
How to Use Yeast
All yeast (fresh and dry) should be mixed in a bit of liquid at the beginning of the mixing cycle. Salt (and some spices such as cinnamon) should never come into direct contact with the yeast mixture. Flour should be used as a buffer between yeast and salt (cinnamon). When using a bread machine, refer to your owners manual for the order in which to add ingredients and which settings are best for the type of bread you are making. Firenza bread mixes have been extensively tested in many manufacturer bread machines with the amount of yeast indicated on the Firenza Traditional Beer Bread, Firenza Sun-Dried Tomato and Cheese Focaccia, and Firenza Garlic and Cheese Focaccia mixes.
Note: Salt is used to keep the fermentation under control. Too much salt will keep the dough from rising enough, too little salt will allow the yeast to push the dough so high that it may even collapse. The correct balance of salt is included in all Firenza’s Traditional Beer Bread, Sun-Dried Tomato and Cheese Focaccia, and Firenza’s Garlic and Cheese Focaccia mixes.
Mixing Yeast Breads
Mixing times have a direct effect on leavening of the product. Proper mixing time, temperature and moisture are necessary to have strong and elastic gluten. The formation of flour gluten traps the carbon dioxide gas formed by yeast in a bread product. Yeast, baking powder and baking soda cannot do their jobs if the mixing times are not correct. Under or over mixing will destroy the gluten's ability to trap the carbon dioxide gas produced by yeast and the product will be undesirable.