Dry Yeast: Active, Instant, or Something Else?
From a reader:
Baking a good loaf of yeast bread can be so confusing at times, can't it? Ten years ago I would have told you that baking a loaf of bread was simple -- just throw in some flour, water, and a little yeast. It really is that simple, but it also goes a whole lot deeper!
Let's talk about yeasts. Dry yeasts. Active dry yeast. Instant active dry yeast. (And give me your opinions and wisdom in the comments section!)
My mom almost always used fresh cake yeast when I lived at home. She bought it in 1-pound blocks at a local bakery. (I think it cost $0.50 for a pound.) At home, she'd carefully cut it into portions and wrap each portion in waxed paper. The yeast portions then went into the freezer until needed, extending that 2-week shelf-life to a month or two or more.
As I got older, I was introduced to the convenience and affordability of buying dry yeast at bulk food stores. I didn't know much about the yeast I was using -- the white label simply said "dry yeast; 2.25 teaspoons equals 1 packet". We used it like we did the fresh -- "proofing" the yeast in some warm water before adding it to the bread.
When I got a bread machine, I started adding the yeast last, on top of the flour, like the instructions with the machine stated. It worked.
Later, someone asked me if I was using active dry yeast or instant active dry yeast. (Instant active dry yeast is in smaller particles and can be added right to the flour. I know this now.)
When I actually read the label on my yeast, I saw that I was using instant active dry yeast. So convenient, especially for using the bread machine's timer setting and throwing all of the ingredients in hours before it started kneading!
From another reader:
In your whole wheat bread recipe it calls for 2 tsp. of instant active dry yeast. Can I just use active dry yeast and if so, would it be the same amount and do I still mix it in with the flour or dissolve it first?
A month ago I would have told you that active dry yeast is supposed to be dissolved in warm water before using. (And yes, the amounts are exactly the same.)
But, a few weeks ago I ran out of my instant active dry yeast that I had brought with us from Ohio. I trekked to Costco and brought home a big 2-pound package of Red Star dry yeast. (For about $4 -- a very good price!)
When I got home, I realized that I had just bought active dry yeast and not instant active dry yeast.
The first few times I used it, I "proofed" it in some warm water first (the water called for in the recipe). And then I thought, "Why not?" and I just threw it in on top of the flour in my bread machine.
And guess what! It worked! So. Now I'm really confused. I'm using active dry yeast, but it's working just like the instant active dry yeast for me. Oh well, good bread is good bread and I'm not complaining!
Dear readers, what has been your experience with the different types of dry yeast? What works? What doesn't? Do you have a favorite brand?