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Fresh yeast vs. dry yeast: what are the differences?

When to use which yeast and how to replace it

Who doesn't like the smell of freshly baked bread - especially when wandering through their own apartment? But as much as you would like to get a loaf of bread out of your own oven week after week (let alone a baking pan full of homemade cinnamon rolls that crown every Sunday), many people respect, if not even fear, baking with yeast.

Yeast (and how to use it correctly) can make a big difference in all types of baked goods: from heavy brioche that ruins your Sunday to rock-hard yeast plaits that won't find any attention in the bread basket. If you know how to use which yeast, you can overcome your fear and see how easy it can be to bake with her.

Can't decide between fresh yeast and dry yeast? Is there any difference between them and can one replace one with the other? It's time to find answers to these questions - fluffy cinnamon rolls and homemade bread, get ready for us!

Yeast is a unicellular microorganism and belongs to the family of fungi and molds. While there are thousands of types of yeast, we only use one type in baking: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as baker's yeast. In English it is also known by the term "sugar eating yeast". The name is apt because it refers to the fact that the yeast "eats" the sugar and starch in bread dough and converts them into carbon dioxide gases. This increases the size of the dough in volume and gets its well-known light and airy consistency.This process is then continued during baking.

But why is this baker's yeast available in different forms? The answer is simple: yeast used to be only available fresh, but technological advances have allowed food companies to remove the liquid from the yeast. In around 1941, dry yeast was available for the first time, which could be stored more easily and longer and which could be mass-produced.

How is yeast made?

Yeasts occur naturally, but the commercial baker's yeast used today is a specially selected yeast obtained from sourdough yeast or brewer's yeast. It is further bred and processed for baking and thus has a significantly stronger driving force. In order for the yeast to multiply, it goes through a multi-stage culture process with a liquid culture medium that contains, among other things, molasses, nutrient salts and B vitamins. The yeast is first propagated in pure culture over several days, then in pure cultivation systems and finally in large fermenters. At the end it ends up in large storage tanks, where the fresh yeast is then filtered, pressed into the familiar small cubes and packaged. Dry yeast is made by drying the fresh yeast.

Can you freeze yeast?

Yes, you can easily store fresh yeast in the freezer for several months (or even years). To do this, wrap them in cling film and store them in an airtight jar in the freezer. Before using frozen yeast, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm it to room temperature before using it. If it looks dry after thawing, stop using it and next time make sure to wrap the yeast extra airtight. Dry yeast also lasts longer in the freezer than the best-before date indicates.

Fresh yeast is a mixture of yeast and water that is formed into a crumbly, solid block. It is preferred by experienced bakers because it is supposed to give the dough a rounder, slightly sweeter taste and to allow it to rise better than the dry version.

Don't be intimidated by fresh yeast - once you get the hang of it, you're guaranteed to succeed! Start by crumbling fresh yeast into some of the lukewarm liquid in the recipe and let the mixture stand for a moment and "activate" it. You can tell that the yeast is now starting its work by the formation of bubbles. When this appears, you can mix the liquid with the rest of the ingredients.

Fresh yeast can usually be found in the dairy or refrigerated section of your supermarket. Since it spoils quickly, it's best to only buy as much as you need for your recipe. When stored in the refrigerator, fresh yeast should be used within 2 weeks (however, as mentioned, you can freeze it).

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Fresh yeast recipes

Fresh yeast is ideal for use in breads that require long, slow fermentation and ideally should at least double their volume, as fresh yeast has a longer-lasting driving force than dry yeast. This works particularly well when the recipe calls for several periods of rest, like this yeast plait with herbs or this homemade flatbread.

The same applies to sweet recipes whose dough should be particularly fluffy and loose, such as filled Berliners or the infamous cinnamon buns - we also know how difficult it is sometimes to spend so much time waiting while baking, but believe us : It will always be worth it in the end!

Dry yeast is a dehydrated, ground form of yeast and is the most popular yeast for home use. Dry yeast was developed during World War II to solve the problem of limited refrigeration. It contains a "dormant" yeast that can be stored at room temperature for several months before use. You can also store dry yeast in the refrigerator or freezer in a dark container, where it will last between 4 - 6 months or up to a year.

Contrary to popular belief, dry yeast does not have to be dissolved in liquid before being added, but can be added directly to the dry ingredients. However, there are some hobby bakers who first mix the dry yeast with a small amount of the liquid required for the recipe and then add the remaining ingredients. To be on the safe side, you can follow the instructions for use on the respective packaging.

If you're not sure whether your dry yeast is still active and functional, add half a teaspoon of the yeast to warm water along with a pinch of sugar. Active yeast will vesicle within 10 minutes.

Although dry yeast is the favorite yeast of most home bakers, there are still some people who refuse to use it. Maybe it's because the word "fresh" makes the cube of yeast more trustworthy?

Either way: When used correctly, the results between the two types of yeast cannot be distinguished. Even if you prefer fresh yeast, it is always good to have dry yeast in the house - especially if you feel the urge to #procrastibaking.

Dry yeast is great when things have to be done quickly. Convince your friends who only swear by fresh yeast with these homemade yeast rolls with cherries, sweet marzipan challah hedgehogs or a hearty fig and walnut bread.

Can you replace fresh yeast and dry yeast with each other?

As you have probably guessed by now, swapping fresh yeast and dry yeast for one another is not a problem, as they serve the same purpose and work in a similar way. However, there are a few things to watch out for while doing this.

If you want to replace fresh yeast with dry yeast in a recipe, use twice the amount specified in the recipe, and vice versa. Just remember that fresh yeast needs to be dissolved in lukewarm liquid before using it in the batter. If you want to swap dry yeast for fresh yeast, you can skip this process and add the dry yeast directly to the rest of the ingredients.

This infographic shows you the conversion again:

In addition to these common types of yeast for baking, there are a few other types that serve different purposes.

Liquid yeast, as you have probably guessed, is yeast in liquid form. Some bakeries actually use them for baking, but they are most commonly used for brewing beer. Liquid yeast is sold in sachets with a separately packaged nutrient solution. If you mix the two together, the yeasts are activated.

Looking at yeast production, we have already learned that brewer's yeast is one of the starting points. While not used in baking, it is known for its beneficial health effects. You can find them as a powder, in capsules, tablets or already in various cosmetic products. Brewer's yeast is said to be good for the skin, hair, nerves and the immune system and contains many B vitamins and other minerals.

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast, so you cannot use it to ferment dough. Sold in flakes or as a powder, this form of yeast is used to flavor dishes. Yeast flakes are particularly popular with vegans because they give dishes a cheesy, nutty taste and contain many B vitamins and minerals. Interested? Then take a look at our recipe for vegan lasagna with spinach and mushrooms.

Written on September 1, 2018