Tired Of Baking Fails? Get to Know Your Yeast to Get Fluffy Dough

5 min read

The soft texture of bread that enhances flavour and taste is attributed to an important ingredient called yeast.

It is a single-celled organism used by bakers since ancient times to create bread, a staple food in many parts of the world.

Yeast helps in the process of fermentation of the dense dough to rise into a fluffy loaf.

Bread is one of the earliest foods prepared by heating. But. historians do not know when yeast was first used to bake bread.

A few records mention, that it comes from Ancient Egypt where the Egyptians used it to make bread some 5000 years ago.

Interestingly they thought that fermentation was a miracle!

The process was understood much later when Louis Pasteur discovered it in 1857.

The first bread was made in Gaul and Iberia with beer foam in the first century AD.

History says that bakers got the yeast from the beer brewers in the 19th century to make sweet-fermented bread.

This was called the Dutch process because Dutch distillers were the first to sell yeast commercially.

What Is Yeast?

Yeast is a living organism that feeds on sugar and converts it into alcohol and carbon-di-oxide through fermentation which provides the texture and flavour to the dishes.

Yeast needs food and moisture to live and grow.

Types Of Yeast

There are two main forms of yeast, namely baker's yeast and brewer's yeast. Both yeasts are produced by a one-celled fungus called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Baker’s yeast feeds on the starch in the dough to produce carbon dioxide bubbles that help to raise the bread. Brewer’s yeast also known as beer yeast turns liquid into alcohol.

Commercially produced yeast is of three types, namely active dry, instant dry, and fresh. Each of these has different properties and varying flavours.

Simran Oberoi Multani, the founder of Ovenderful and Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community, says, “Dried yeast is dehydrated for packaging and to be available for later use with a longer shelf life."

“Fresh yeast has high moisture content and needs to be used accordingly in any recipe with adjustments according to the recipe.”
Simran Oberoi Multani, founder, Ovenderful and Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community

Active Dry Yeast

This yeast is made by partially drying live yeast. This yeast is sold in packets and has a shelf-life of several months if stored at room temperature until the date of expiry.

It is heat sensitive and should never be stored in very warm areas. This yeast can die if exposed to 120 degrees F temperature. It can be stored in airtight containers in a freezer for longer shelf life.

Active dry yeast should be dissolved in lukewarm water (between 100 - 120 degrees F) or milk to make it active.

The mixture should increase in size and become foamy otherwise the packet of yeast has lost its properties and cannot be used to get the desired results.

This yeast has a longer fermentation process and thus is suitable for recipes that have a longer proofing time.

Instant Dry Yeast

The texture of this yeast is finer, and it has smaller grains than active dry yeast.

Instant yeast can be directly added in the dry ingredients. However, to check its freshness, you can proof the yeast to see if it is active.

While both active dry and instant yeast help in leavening bread and give a light airy texture, they have some differences.

Fresh Yeast

This comes in individually packed solid blocks. It has a crumbly with a rubbery texture with high moisture content and the least stable shelf life. It requires refrigeration and lasts only for two weeks.

Mould develops if stored in humid or unclean containers making it unsafe to consume. Fresh yeast has high moisture content and needs to be used accordingly with recipe adjustments. It is also called compressed yeast.

“Active dried yeast and instant dried yeast can be stored for months but fresh yeast needs to be consumed within a week or 10 days at the most.”
Simran Oberoi Multani, founder, Ovenderful and Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community

Rashi Dwivedi a mother to an enthusiastic seven-year-old, a mindful parenting coach, and a home baker, who focuses on only healthy bakes, started baking about six years ago.

Initially, she baked only cakes and cookies and never thought of baking bread as it sounded “very difficult and complex.” She was unsure of which yeast to use and how to use it and researched extensively about baking bread.

How To Select?

Simran says, the selection of yeast depends on the availability and the kind of baking.

Fresh yeast is not easily available but if one is baking with sourdough and have a starter ready to use, that works as yeast.

For regular bread the easily available dry yeast can be used.


While working with active dry yeast, Rashi found out that proofing this yeast before adding to the flour isn’t easy.

“Right temperature of the water is crucial for activating active dry yeast as too hot kills it and too cold fails to activate it.”
Rashi Dwivedi. Long time home baker

After a few failed experiments, she got it right. “Once you make your first 2 or 3 breads, you will know how the dough feels when you knead, and then it becomes easy”, she explains.

Today, Rashi bakes expertly with multiple flours like semolina, oats, jowar, and ragi flour.

Every bread is a different experience, and you learn new ways of making it. An interesting fact Rashi learned was putting yeast/ salt and sugar in form of a triangle so that you do not overlap salt and yeast and avoid killing yeast if using fresh yeast.

Tips For Good Results

  • Always check the expiry date before using
  • Do not overuse
  • Use it in the right kind of baked goods
  • Use the right kind of yeast and brand
  • Follow the instructions for activating and using it properly.
  • Right water temperature (test of right water temperature- it should be warm and comfortable enough to dip your finger in the water)
  • Always check whether the yeast is active and usable. (active yeast test - add a tsp of yeast to a mixture of warm water and unrefined sugar. If it bubbles and foams it is active)
  • Store in the fridge after opening a new packet.

Bread baking needs patience and practice. There will be failed experiments. Do not set a target for perfection – like getting the fluffiest and softest bread at the first go.

“Never give up”, she says, “It’s only a matter of few initial loaves and you will understand just the right measurements for baking your bread.”

(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)

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