Finding Yeast

I don’t know about you, but I’m quickly realizing how much I take for granted the blessing of an abundant, accessible food supply being a normal part of life. Not much is normal right now. For the moment all of us are confined to our homes avoiding an enemy we can’t see. How strange it is that going to the grocery store is now an “essential” need to leave home.

When I hit my panic button weeks ago about having enough food, everyone else was doing the same. I rushed off to the grocery store to gather my favorite and usual food supplies. My mind raced with ideas about what I should have on hand to cook from scratch, how much storage space do I have for extra food, how long would fresh foods last… you know the feeling. Never mind finding toilet paper. For me it was all about finding yeast.

I love to bake bread. It’s my comfort food. Nothing makes me happier than to leave a warm loaf in the hands of a friend. Usually multiple packets of yeast live in my pantry beside all kinds of flour, but I only had two packets. That would not be enough. Yeast was the first thing on my list.

The week before all the upheaval, my grocery store displayed its usual well stocked shelves. Suddenly those shelves were stripped bare of just about everything, including yeast that always sat unnoticed on the top shelf above the flour. Guess what: no flour on the shelves below either. My first thought: just how many people bake bread? I personally only know two. I had no idea yeast would bolt from the shelves or that yeast was even a pantry essential.

Finding yeast became a single-minded mission, almost an obsession. After searching four barely stocked stores over the week, I finally found a few of those little yeast packets sitting on an otherwise empty shelf. My first thought: take them all, but no, that would be hoarding. Best leave yeast for another baker. But wait- there wasn’t any flour on the shelves below. What good is yeast without flour? Searching through the stores revealed many shelves empty of canned goods, frozen food and eggs suggesting just how desperate we were to secure the foods we take for granted and need for good nutrition.

No doubt in the past month, you have found a rhythm and method for getting the groceries you need. The food supply chain is adjusting to the new and radical demands. Friends report seeing plenty of yeast and have even brought me some. Thank you!

I’ve been baking bread. It feels good to do it. The smell of baking bread folds me into comfort and calm. My face smiles at the first bite of a warm slice. Since I can’t share a loaf with you, I’ll share my recipe, but you do need yeast. Try baking a loaf even if you wouldn’t call yourself a bread baker.

BEST EVER BREAD

1 packet (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast or rapid rise yeast (If using rapid rise yeast see step 2.)

1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 teaspoon sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 egg plus milk (or water) to equal 1 cup liquid

3 cups unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour

Recipe works best with a standing electric mixer with a dough hook, but also works in a food processer with metal blade. Dough may be kneaded by hand.

Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose so will rise a bit higher.

Traditional active dry yeast takes longer to rise than rapid rise yeast. Each needs a slightly different process. Both produce great bread. Use one or the other. The instructions focus on active dry yeast.

  1. Active Dry Yeast: Proof in a measuring cup by stirring yeast into the 1/4 cup warm water with the 1 teaspoon sugar. Yeast will “waken” and create a foam in five to ten minutes. (If this doesn’t happen, yeast may be old or water is too hot.)
  2. Rapid Rise Yeast: Add yeast directly to the mixing bowl along with other ingredients. Add 1/4 cup water to the 1 cup egg + milk to equal 1-1/4 cup liquid that should be approximately 120 degrees to activate the yeast added to the flour. The follow the kneading instructions.
  3. Kneading: To the mixer bowl, add salt, sugar, butter, egg/milk mixture, proofed yeast and the flour. Mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes. Dough will gather around the hook with some loosely sticking to the bowl. If a lot seems to be sticking and the dough is sticky, add 1 tablespoon flour, continue kneading adding more flour 1 tablespoon at a time if needed. With the right amount of flour only a small amount of dough will stick to the bowl.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl. Gather kneaded dough into a ball. It will be soft and smooth, not sticky. Slide dough around the bowl to lightly coat with oil. Cover with a towel. Place in a warm spot until double in size. With active yeast it will take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Rapid yeast- 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Punch risen dough down. Let rest 10 minutes. Shape into a loaf or cut into three pieces to be rolled into strips and braided. Put bread in a 9×5 inch loaf pan or on sheet pan oiled or lined with parchment. Let rise covered until nearly double 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread 25 to 30 minutes in loaf pan or 20 to 25 minutes on sheet pan until golden brown on the top and bottom.
  7. Remove bread from pan and place on a cooling rack. Bread slices best when just warm.

Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator (April 2020)

Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator

Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.

On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.