If you’ve been involved in any baking, you’ve probably worked with yeast to some degree. Yeast is fascinating, as it’s actually a type of single celled fungus that can be surprisingly useful. When you use the right type at the right time in baking, the yeast consumes sugar and creates alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The carbon dioxide helps your baking to rise, while the alcohol adds a little to the flavor.
The effect of yeast is most noticeable in recipes that also contain gluten. This is because some of the gluten structure captures carbon dioxide, leading to an increased rise. It’s difficult to get this same rise if you’re not using gluten.
Yeast is used in other situations too, particularly for making beer. However, today we’re most interested in yeast from the bread perspective. That means we’re talking about baker’s yeast, rather than brewer’s yeast.
A big part of the conversation is how to use fresh yeast. After all, dried yeast is often more common. It’s the type that many of us are familiar with and use regularly.
Thankfully, fresh yeast is used much like dried yeast – you simply combine it with your other dough ingredients. The main thing to watch is that you should crumble fresh yeast into your mix, rather than adding the block as it is.
How To Use Fresh Yeast
If you’ve only ever worked with dried yeast before, fresh yeast can seem a bit confusing. You’re faced with a moist and crumbly block with a distinct yeast smell. This is quite different than the powder or small granules found with dried yeast.
Despite this, fresh yeast is pretty easy to use.
The first step is to measure the amount you need and then crumble the yeast so that you have many small pieces. Crumbling the yeast is crucial, as this increases the surface area and reactivity. After this, there are two approaches you can take.
Use The Yeast Directly
The first approach is also the easiest; simply rub the yeast into your dry ingredients. There’s already plenty of moisture in the yeast itself, so you don’t need to go through the same proofing approach that you do with active dry yeast.
Using the yeast directly like this works best if it comes from a reliable source. This is crucial, as fresh yeast doesn’t have a long shelf life and needs to be kept in the fridge. Yeast purchased from an unfamiliar source might not have been treated with the care needed and might not even be viable.
Proof The Yeast
If you’re worried about the viability of your yeast or want a little more confidence, you can proof the yeast before adding it to your other ingredients. The technique here is the same as with active dry yeast, where you mix your yeast with sugar and a warm liquid (typically water or milk), then leave it to sit.
This process soon leads to small bubbles. These are an indication that the yeast is active and is responding to the ingredients. This step is crucial for active dry yeast, but is often recommended for fresh yeast as well.
Proofing fresh yeast isn’t essential. As we’ve discussed, the yeast will work fine if you use it directly in your recipes.
However, there are still reasons to consider proofing your yeast. Most importantly, mixing the yeast with water and sugar like this allows you to see whether the yeast is active. Otherwise, you risk going through the entire baking process, just to discover that your bread doesn’t rise.
Proofing also means you’re dissolving the yeast in liquid. This distributes it better and makes it easier to thoroughly mix the yeast through your dry ingredients. While your bread will still rise if you skip the proofing step, the action of the yeast could be a little more uneven and there’s a greater risk of lumps.
Adapt As Needed
Regardless of whether you proof the yeast or not, you’re likely to need to make some tweaks to any recipe you’re following. This could include leaving bread to rise for a little longer, adding some more flour, or changing the amount of yeast.
After all, many factors vary between situations. Your kitchen might be a little warmer than the recipe creator’s or your yeast might be a little less active. This is why baking is both an art and a science.
It may take you time to learn when to leave dough to rise for longer and how to adapt recipes. However, doing so is part of the joy of baking. The practice isn’t limited to fresh yeast anyway. You’ll need to make the same types of tweaks with dry yeast as well.
10 Ways To Use Fresh Yeast
First, and most obviously, fresh yeast is frequently used to make bread. This includes most types of breads you can imagine, including artisan loaves, focaccia bread, sweet breads, brioche, and more.
One way to get started is to look for bread recipe books. These provide many different ideas for types of bread and often include details about using yeast as well. You could also simply think about your favorite bread and look for recipes online. There’s an endless number of recipe blogs these days, so you’ll never be short of options.
That said, yeast isn’t used in every type of bread. Some, like Irish soda bread, use baking soda to provide the rise. There’s also the case of sourdough, which relies on wild yeast rather than yeast you buy and add.
Cinnamon rolls are another great choice. They’re actually an easy choice if you’re just getting started with yeast, as they’re less complex than bread and often require just one rise.
Of course, cinnamon isn’t the only flavoring option. You can easily change the filling, such as using chocolate spread or lemon curd. Maple walnut rolls are also delicious and easy to make.
You can even take a similar approach and make a savory dish instead, like garlic bread rolls or ones that include cheese and ham. There’s no end to the possible flavor combinations.
Donuts come in a variety of types. Some of these rely on yeast for leavening and end up with a light and almost fluffy interior with plenty of air pockets. Other donuts skip the yeast and end up being denser (but just as delicious).
There are many yeast-based recipes out there, all with their own features and flavors. You can even make filled donuts using yeast in the dough. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors for the glaze or filling either – there’s always room to improve.
Ginger beer isn’t always just soda. It can also be a fermented drink, one that starts with ginger, sugar, yeast, water, and a few more ingredients. Ginger beer is often made using brewer’s yeast (either fresh or dried), rather than baker’s yeast, but you could make it using baking yeast as well.
As is often the case, you’ll need to be patient when making fermented ginger beer. It generally takes at least two weeks to get a version that’s ready for drinking and multiple months to reach the ideal flavor profile.
The yeast doesn’t just help with getting the pizza crust to rise. It also provides a characteristic flavor that many of us know and love.
Calzones are a slightly different idea, yet follow the same principles that we’ve been talking about thus far. They’re great if you want to make something a little different, especially as you can experiment with the filling.
There are even gluten free calzone recipes. While these don’t have the texture of a traditional calzone, they’re still a delicious treat.
Waffles And Pancakes
Waffles and pancakes mostly rely on baking powder for leavening, but both can be made using yeast instead. Yeast-based versions are generally denser than those with baking powder and have a more complex flavor.
The difference in flavor and texture makes the yeast versions worth trying. However, you’ll need more patience than with regular waffles and pancakes, as the batter must rise before you can start cooking.
If you’ve never made pancakes or waffles with yeast before, it’s best to find a recipe designed for the purpose. Doing so is much easier than adapting a recipe yourself, and you’re likely to get a better result with a tested recipe.
Any Other Yeast-Based Recipe
Finally, you can use fresh yeast in most other recipes that call for yeast, regardless of whether the recipe focuses on dried yeast or fresh yeast. This includes many types of baking, not to mention pizza dough, yeast-raised pancakes, and plenty of others.
Beer normally relies on brewer’s yeast. This is quite different than the yeast you bake with and the two aren’t interchangeable. That said, some brewers do experiment with using fresh baker’s yeast in their beer.
How well this works is debatable and most of the time you’d want to rely on brewer’s yeast instead. Still, it’s always nice to have some interesting options at your fingertips.
As A Fertilizer
Yeast contains a variety of important vitamins and minerals, making it surprisingly effective as a fertilizer. To use it in this way, dissolve the yeast in warm water, allow it to cool, and pour it around your plants.
This approach is most relevant for expired yeast or for times where you have more yeast than you’re likely to use.
5 Delicious Recipes Using Fresh Yeast
These Cinnamon Sugar Donuts are truly delightful. Not only are they delicious, but they can also be made using common ingredients and no special tools.
The dough recipe here provides details for using fresh yeast or dried yeast, giving you the chance to try either version. There’s also in-depth information about how to complete each step and plenty of photos to make you drool.
This Easy Beer Bread with Walnuts is perfect if you want something a little different. It lives up to the name too, as beer is one of the main ingredients (dark beer is ideal, although you can make it with light beer too).
The beer doesn’t have a dramatic effect on the final product. Instead, it adds a slight beer-like aroma to the finished bread, which is enough to make it taste amazing. This flavor is complemented by the walnuts.
The recipe creator also suggests adding dried mint, as it pairs well with the walnuts. Of course, you could easily substitute the mint for a different herb if you wish to. Finally, you can make the bread by hand or in a bread make. It’s going to be delicious either way.
What do you think about using these Garlic Parmesan Dinner Rolls as an alternative to regular garlic bread? They would be fantastic for serving at a party or as a side to countless main meals. You might even use the rolls to make some delicious sandwiches.
The recipe for the rolls themselves is similar to regular dinner rolls. The main difference is that you’re including some garlic powder as well. Then you have garlic butter and parmesan to act as the topping. Of course, you could also spread some garlic butter in the middle of the rolls to make them even more decadent.
Do you love pizza? If so, this Traditional Italian Pizza Dough could be the recipe for you. It’s actually designed with fresh yeast in mind and is one of the simplest recipes you’ll find.
In fact, there are just four ingredients in the recipe: fresh yeast, salt, water, and flour. The type of flour you use makes a big difference here. You could change the flour if you really wanted – just be prepared to get different results.
These Vegan Pizza Rolls follow the pizza theme too, while bringing their own features to the table. They’re actually made using pizza dough, which is coupled with a tomato-based sauce and some type of filling.
As with a regular pizza, the options for fillings are endless. You just need to remember that the ingredients should be cut into small pieces. You can’t include too many either or the dough won’t roll up in the way you want.
Once you’re familiar with the process, you’ll be able to quickly make delicious vegan pizza rolls. Of course, you could always add meat and cheese to the filling if you’re not looking for a vegan option.
Types Of Yeast
Baker’s yeast actually falls into three main types: Active dry yeast, instant yeast, and fresh yeast.
Active dry yeast and instant yeast are both dormant yeast products, sold in granular form. Active dry yeast comes in small granules and is only activated once it has been dissolved in warm water.
The granules have been ground further for instant yeast, resulting in a fine powder. This type of yeast doesn’t need to be proofed, so you can use it directly in your recipe or in a bread maker.
Instant yeast and active dry yeast both have a decent shelf life. The instant version can last up to two years at room temperature, while active dry yeast may last up to a year. Of course, it’s best to read the storage instructions in both cases, as the shelf life may differ from product to product.
Fresh yeast is different. As we’ve seen, it comes in a moist brick rather than dry granules, meaning it adds a little more liquid to your recipe.
Fresh yeast is also active, instead of being dormant. Because of this, fresh yeast needs to be stored in the fridge and even then may only last a week or two. After this point the effectiveness of your yeast starts to noticeably decline.
Can You Use Fresh Yeast Instead Of Dried Yeast?
Despite differences in texture and appearance, fresh yeast and dried yeast are pretty similar. They often come from the same strain of yeast and function in the same way in your recipes, which means you can indeed substitute one type for another.
The biggest difference is the water content. Yet, this doesn’t have a big impact in home baking, simply because you’re only using a small amount of yeast at a time.
You may see some slight differences, like fresh yeast responding better to sugar and salt better than dried yeast. Still… these are differences you can account for with fermentation times and temperatures. The end result should be roughly the same regardless of the type of yeast you use.
In fact, recipes just focus on the type of yeast that is most widely available. If you’re in the United States, this means that dried yeast shows up in most recipes. In some other countries, fresh yeast is more commonly used, so this is included in recipes instead.
The Best Ratio Of Fresh Yeast To Dry Yeast
Because fresh yeast contains more liquid than dry yeast, you’ll need to use more of it in your recipe. The most common substitution is 3:1, where you’re using three times as much fresh yeast. For example, if your recipe called for 6 grams of dry yeast, you’d use 18 grams of fresh yeast. This ratio remains the same for instant yeast and active dry yeast.
Some recipes will even give you amounts for both fresh yeast and dry yeast, making your job easy. In that case, you should go with the fresh yeast amount written in the recipe, even if it doesn’t match the 3:1 ratio. Recipes with details about fresh and dried yeast should have been tested with both, so you can trust the ratios provided.