Monday, August 1, 2011


  Ah yeast.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have a love/hate relationship with yeast.  I love the baked goods that it’s used in. I love the fact that it takes a bit of work and know-how to use it.  I love that you can literally see the chemical reaction taking place. There’s nothing like spending all day on batch of cinnamon rolls, waiting and watching the dough rise only to punch it down and watch it rise again.  To smell the cinnamon cooking in the oven. To watch your family and friends eat them with delight and know that "Yeah, I did that."

What I hate about yeast is the flip-side of the same coin.  I hate it when you spend all day on a batch of cinnamon rolls only to find out that your yeast didn’t work.  Yeast is different from baking soda and baking powder because it’s a living thing.  What this means is that it has an attitude.  So if you don’t treat it right, it will fight back.  And let me tell ya, when you wrangle with yeast, you never come away a winner *Quick side story: I made cinnamon rolls last night.  The yeast worked beautifully.  I was so pleased that it was rising no problem.  I finally got to the part where you roll the dough out and slather it in butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  Check, check, check. I had it in the bag.  Piece of cake.  And then I got ready to roll them up in a log to cut them into the rolls and... the dough was stuck to the counter.  I don't mean just a tiny bit, I'm talking the whole stinking thing.  I tried fixing it.  Tried using a spatula to help it along.  Nothing!  I got halfway through the roll and it had ripped completely.  I had the worst temper tantrum known to man.  It would have put a teething two-year-old to shame. As a matter of fact,  Jesalyn was looking at me like "seriously mamma, it's just dough, get over it."  After I stomped up and down and screamed for like 10 min, I grabbed the pile of dough on the counter, and threw it, ever so viciously, in the trash and then proceeded to pout the rest of the night.* 

All this to say: Yeast is tricky.  As I've said before, if the water isn't warm enough, the yeast won't activate.  If the water is too hot, the yeast will be killed.  Both of these result in dough not rising, flat tough bread, and possibly the tantrum of a toddler.  According to Joy of baking the following chart should help you get just the right temperature so that your yeast will turn out beautifully. 

Less the 50F (10C) the yeast is inactive

At 60F - 70F ( 15C-21C) the yeast action is slow

90F - 100F (32C-38C) the yeast is at its optimum temperature for fermentation 

Higher than 104F (40C) the yeast starts to slow

At 138F (58C) yeast is killed

I recommend a food thermometer if you have one. I drove myself crazy with it until I got one.  If your not as OCD as I am, 90F - 100F water feels like bath water.  You can hold your hand under it and it will feel warm but not hot.  My momma taught me that and I don't think she ever used a thermometer.  

So what about when you put the bread in a 350F oven??   As the dough begins to warm in the oven, it will release the last  little bit of carbon dioxide it has in it to expand the air pockets and then the yeast will die.  At this point, the dough will just begin to brown and cook. 

Good Luck and Happy Baking!!!

No comments: