Tips for Baking with Yeast

It’s the monster in the back of beginning baker’s cupboards, it is the silent fear and doubt that keeps most of us from baking bread, and it is the dread of spending 3 hours working towards a delectable slice of homemade bread just to have the loaf come out of the oven with a density similar to a brick. The culprit of these issues: yeast.

The time has come to fear no more. That’s right! You don’t have to be afraid to use yeast and soon your family and friends will be raving about your homemade bread!

There is so much information out there about baking with yeast and the different types and kinds so I will give just the beginning basics here. However, if you are looking for more, head over to the Festival of Breads Pinterest Yeast board, where you will find a collection of helpful blogs and tutorials to teach you everything you “knead” to know. Or, visit our friends at Red Star Yeast for their Tips & Troubleshooting Guide.

Top Yeast Tips

Don’t kill the yeast with water that is too hot.

If you are using dry active yeast, it will need to be mixed with warm water. To check if the water is too hot, use the two finger test. Take two fingers and slowly insert them into your water all the way to the bottom and pull them out. If you can’t do this slowly or without saying “Ouch!” your water is too hot. Room temperature or slightly warm water works best.

There are 2 different kinds of yeast Dry Active & Instant or Rapid Rise.

Dry active yeast needs to be activated in warm water but instant yeast can be added directly to your recipe.

Salt counteracts yeast.

Many recipes do call for salt and a minimal amount is just fine. The key is to never let salt come in direct contact with the yeast. This means when you are “proofing” your yeast (mixing it with water to awaken it and make the dry yeast active) you can add ingredients such as sugar and oil. Once all the loose liquid is gone you can add the salt as it will not come in direct contact with the yeast.

Yeast feeds on sugar.

This doesn’t mean double the sugar to shorten the rise time or proofing time. That won’t work. However this is the reason that several recipes call for a small amount of sugar to be added to your proofing mixture. However, you do not need sugar to activate the yeast.

Measuring yeast.

One 1/4 (0.25) ounce packet of dry yeast equals 2+1/4 teaspoons of dry yeast.

Yeast feeds and reproduces best between 70°F and 80°F.

If your house is too cold, turn on the stove for just two minutes and then let your dough rise in there. (Don’t forget to turn the stove off!) If your house is too warm, find a cooler place for it to rise. Sometimes this is also the turned-off oven (though don’t pre-heat it this time)

Yeast will feed

on the sugar and starches in your dough and expire CO2, which is what causes the dough to rise.

Store dry yeast in the freezer.

Yeast goes dormant at 50˚F, and if you store yeast in the freezer, it will last much longer.


We hope you enjoy our baking tips and feel confident to start baking your own yeast bread.