There’s a lot of mystique surrounding yeast because how it is handled will affect the results of baked goods. Here are some tips that will help take the mystery out of baking with yeast:
Check the expiration date on the package. Outdated yeast won’t become active and the bread won’t rise.
To substitute one form of yeast for another, use these equivalents: one envelope of active dry yeast equals 2 1/4 teaspoons of bulk active dry yeast or one third of a 2-ounce cake of compressed fresh yeast.
To substitute fast-acting yeast for regular yeast, reduce the rise time in the recipe by about half.
Test the yeast before beginning. If you’re concerned that your yeast may not be active, dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in a 1/2 cup of warm water (110 to 115°F). Slowly sprinkle one packet of yeast into the water. Stir the mixture and set a timer for 10 minutes. In 3 to 4 minutes, the yeast should have absorbed enough liquid to activate and will come to the surface. If at the end of 10 minutes the yeast has multiplied to the 1-cup mark and has a rounded crown, it’s still very active and fresh and can be used in your recipe. Remember to deduct the 1/2 cup of water used for the test from the total liquid used in the recipe. This process is sometimes referred to as proofing the yeast.
Use a yeast or candy thermometer to accurately determine the temperature of liquids. Yeast is a living organism. If the liquid in which the dry yeast is dissolved is too hot, it will kill the yeast cells. If it’s too cold, the yeast will remain dormant and won’t raise the dough. Use very warm liquid (120 to 130°F) if the active dry yeast will be added to dry ingredients. If it’s to be added to liquid ingredients, use warm liquid (110 to 115°F).
Place dough in a warm spot to rise. Yeast dough rises, or “proofs,” best when the temperature is 80 to 85°F. To make sure the dough is warm enough:
Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and/or a cloth towel.
Place the bowl on a wire rack over a pan of hot water in a draft-free spot.
OR place the bowl on the top rack of an unheated oven. Put a pan of hot water on the rack below it.
OR turn the oven on at 400°F for 1 minute, then turn it off. Place the bowl on the center rack of the oven and close the door.
Test the dough to make sure that it has risen sufficiently. When you think the dough has doubled in size, lightly poke two fingers about a 1/2 inch into the dough. If the indentations remain, the dough has risen enough.