I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the best at following instructions, more likely to skim the text than read everything word for word. Attention to detail isn’t really a strength of mine. But I learned the hard way just how important it is to keep track of your yeast. Is it active dry? Is it instant? And, more importantly, what does your recipe call for?
In addition to the Zimtsterne and Linzer cookies that I made for Christmas dinner, I also made three French baguettes from The Baker’s Apprentice. It’s a recipe I’ve made a number of times now, maybe four or five? It’s just tasty bread.
When I was shaping the dough, however, I knew something was wrong. It felt different. Admittedly, it was Christmas morning and I was rushing but the dough rested and proofed for at least the minimum the recipe calls for at each step. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to put the shaped loaves into the oven that I really knew something was wrong. They were measly, sick looking loaves: long and skinny. They’d barely proofed!
Nevertheless, I put them into the oven thinking they’d bake up. They barely did. The baguettes were better for crostini than accompanying a turkey dinner. The crust was good but the texture inside was super dense.
But what was the problem?
I went over the ingredients and was positive I hadn’t left anything out. Everything was the same except the yeast. My grocery store had stopped carrying the Fleischmann’s yeast that I always bought. Now I was using Red Star. Could that make the difference? Was it just bad yeast?
But then I made the soft pretzels a few days later and everything turned out well. I used the same yeast.
Something was bugging me about the yeast though. In the back of my head I’d known all along but didn’t really consider it until after I’d purchased a 4oz jar of the yeast: since switching brands I was using active dry yeast not instant yeast.
I leafed through The BBA. All the recipes call for instant yeast.
I (skimmed) the section in the preface of the book on yeast. Not only is there a difference but you have to use different amounts depending on the type you’re using. The author, Peter Reinhart, explains he uses instant yeast so that he only needs to use 33% of the amount that he’d need to use than if he were using fresh yeast. If you’re using active dry yeast, you need to use 40 to 50% of the amount that you’d need to use than if you were using fresh yeast.
So is this problem solved? I’ll soon find out.
And if it’s not: can I sell anyone an unopened 4oz jar of active dry yeast?