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Old 12-17-2005, 11:41 AM   #1
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Problems with yeast....

I bake a lot of bread. I love bread. But yeast only works for me 1 in 10 times. I have tried everything to get it to work more frequently, like making sure the water is 110º, even trying different lower temps, I always make sure the yeast is fresh, I always proof the yeast, I have tried different combinations of flour/sugar, I have tried letting it rise at all different temperatures, you name it, I've tried it. Any more suggestions?

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Old 12-17-2005, 11:45 AM   #2
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I've found yeast to be fickle stuff as well so I'll be watchintg for answers here. There is also a wonderful bread thread which was started this year - you might ask those fine bread bakers!
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Old 12-17-2005, 04:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deathvalleydan
I bake a lot of bread. I love bread. But yeast only works for me 1 in 10 times. I have tried everything to get it to work more frequently, like making sure the water is 110º, even trying different lower temps, I always make sure the yeast is fresh, I always proof the yeast, I have tried different combinations of flour/sugar, I have tried letting it rise at all different temperatures, you name it, I've tried it. Any more suggestions?
Are you sure the yeast is the problem? Yeast is pretty robust stuff. Maybe the bread isn't kneaded enough to develop the gluten (which traps the gas given off the the yeast) or maybe you're not giving it enough time to rise (if it fits your schedule, you can also try letting the dough rise overnight in the 'frig). Maybe your recipes call for AP flour and you should try bread flour. Are there certain kinds of yeast-rising breads that give you trouble? If you give us more details, I bet we could help you trouble-shoot. Post back! we'll be here to help.
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Old 12-18-2005, 06:55 AM   #4
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It could be a temperature problem....
110° is too much for yeast, the optimum lies at about 85°F (30°C)

mix the yeast with warm (85°F) water and the sugar in a cavity(?) of the flour, top with some flour.
leave it alone for about 15min and then go on as the recipe suggests.

the dry ingredients should have room temperature, fat should work better when heated
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Old 12-18-2005, 12:26 PM   #5
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I have more problems now that it is winter, as I don't often heat my house. Usually it's about 45ºF (7ºC) inside, so that must be part of the problem. However, even during the summer when my house occasionally got as hot as 110ºF (43ºC), yeast was still hit and miss.

I always use all purpose flour, and I always kneed until the dough is elastic. In the winter, I turn on the oven prior to starting a bread recipe so the top gets warm enough to provide a good enviornment for the yeast.

When yeast works, it usually rises very quickly, double in volume in about 15 minutes, but if there is no change whatsoever in 45 minutes, I usually call failure. You can tell when you roll out the dough if it has risen at all by the amount of air pockets (usually none).

Nothing seems to work all the time, although I have far more success with basic french breads than buttery rolls. I have also found if a recipe calls for a yeast batter rather than a dough, it tends to rise more frequently.

Perhaps I kneed too much? Hope this helps...
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Old 12-18-2005, 01:23 PM   #6
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What kind of yeast do you use?

Active Dry?
Rapid Rise?
Cake?

Depending on which you use, It could very well take longer than 45 mintues for it to double in volume.

Do you bloom your yeast in warm sugar water? For the failures, do you see the yeast blooming in the water or not?
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Old 12-18-2005, 01:50 PM   #7
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I always use rapid rise, in the little packets. I also always prime the yeast til it is frothy and smells yeasty. I just got done a whole wheat bread recipe and it is rising right now. It has been 20 minutes, I think it may be working. I kneeded the $^*#% out of it and it may make a difference, we'll see.
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Old 12-19-2005, 07:54 AM   #8
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Problems with yeast (and temperatures...and ...)

ON YEAST
Quote:
Originally Posted by deathvalleydan
I always use rapid rise, in the little packets. I also always prime the yeast til it is frothy and smells yeasty.
The type of yeast you're using may be part of the problem. Unfortunately marketing idiots use marketing hype to describe yeast and its hard to figure out what yeast is suited to what kind of bread.

For most yeast-rising bread baking, either Active Dry or Instant yeast are fine.

Active Dry yeast seems to be the yeast most widely available. Fortunately, both Fleishmann and Red Star/SAF (same company - they merged!) call it Active Dry. Active Dry yeast must be dissolved in water prior to use.

Instant yeast may be labeled Bread Machine Yeast - eg: Fleishmann's Bread Machine yeast and Red Star Bread Machine yeast. This is misleading; it doesn't matter if you use a bread machine, stand mixer or your hands to mix and knead your dough. Instant yeast is added to dry ingredients; unlike Active Dry you should not dissolve it in water prior to use.

Do check out my small diatribe on yeast for more info on both Instant and Active Dry yeast and for tips on dissolving Active Dry yeast.

Quote:
When yeast works, it usually rises very quickly, double in volume in about 15 minutes, but if there is no change whatsoever in 45 minutes, I usually call failure.
Rapid/quick rise yeast is primarily designed to give a quick initial rise, however it tends to poop out under extended rising times. Fleishmann's Rapid Rise and Red Star Quick Rise yeast are essentially the same. Like instant yeast, they are meant to be added to dry ingredients so do not dissolve in water first. You may find them recommended for bread machines but this is simply because bread machines (and the bread recipes specifically designed for bread machines) are aimed at bakers who want edible (but not necessarily superior) bread fast-fast-fast. I personally would *NOT* use rapid/quick rise yeast in my bread because long rise(s) contribute to flavor and this type of yeast is *not* designed for that approach.

I would recommend either Active Dry [AD] or instant yeast for bread making.

ON RISING TEMPERATURES
Quote:
I have more problems now that it is winter, as I don't often heat my house. Usually it's about 45ºF (7ºC) inside, so that must be part of the problem. However, even during the summer when my house occasionally got as hot as 110ºF (43ºC), yeast was still hit and miss.
The variability of temperature in your home is a problem. Yeast becomes dormant at about 40F. "Room temperature" is assumed to be around 70F-75F; professional bakers often use special proofing containers or environments that hold the temperature around 80F. In sum, an average range for letting dough rise would be from the low 70sF to the low 80sF.

Below 70F we approach the technique of letting the dough rise overnight in the frig (a home refrigerator typically is between 40-50F) but this assumes the dough is at "room temperature" when it is put in the 'frig and gradually cools off until the entire mass of dough reaches 40F, at which point the yeast becomes dormant (but *not* dead). If the temp in your kitchen is above the low 80sF I would recommend letting the dough rise overnight (8-16 hrs, typically around 12 hrs) in the 'frig.

Quote:
In the winter, I turn on the oven prior to starting a bread recipe so the top gets warm enough to provide a good environment for the yeast.
I assume when you turn on the oven in winter you are simply warming the whole kitchen, *not* placing the kneaded dough on top of the stove. If the bowl is placed on the stove you *may* be heating the bottom of the dough too much and killing some of the yeast. (Even if you're not over-heating the bottom, you're applying uneven heat to the dough - hotter at the bottom, cooler at the top - which may affect the rise.) If your oven has a tight seal, you could try putting a large pan of simmering water on the floor of a cold oven (the oven is *not* turned on) and the bowl, covered, on a rack at least 5" above the water. Try to avoid letting the dough proof on or near a heat source (such as a heating vent or radiator) where the heat is uneven.

ON FLOUR
Quote:
I always use all purpose flour
If it is available in your area, try switching to bread flour. All purpose flour is a mix of "weak" and "strong" flours and the actual proportions may vary from region to region. Just use bread flour in the same amount as the AP flour the recipe calls for. While the type of flour you use seems to be the least of your problems, you may find that, for most recipes, bread flour works better because it has more of the good stuff that becomes gluten when the dough is kneaded and gluten is what traps the carbon-dioxide given off by growing yeast.

Also, you may want temporarily to avoid breads that call for large amounts of whole grain flour (such as whole wheat or rye) until you can reliably produce well risen bread. At that point you'll have a better idea of what techniques work best for you and you can explore the whole-grain breads.

OTHER COMMENTS
Quote:
Nothing seems to work all the time, although I have far more success with basic French breads than buttery rolls.
You're right! Different breads call for different techniques. A dough made with a high percent of butter is different than a french bread which typically contains no fat. Fat (butter/margarine/oil) contributes to flavor and keeping qualities but high amounts also retard the rising power of the yeast. A good recipe adjusts for these factors.
Quote:
I have also found if a recipe calls for a yeast batter rather than a dough, it tends to rise more frequently.
A yeast batter (also called a sponge) contributes to rising because it provides an optimal environment for yeast growth. Typically a sponge is made with water, some white flour and yeast (maybe a *small* amount of sweetener) but no fat or salt. It helps to beat the sponge for several minutes since that will help develop the gluten; even a wire whip or a wimpy hand mixer can be used at this stage. Fat, salt, sweetener and (of course) the rest of the flour(s) are added after the sponge has doubled in bulk; the kneaded dough gets a 2nd rise in the bowl and a last rise in the pan. Essentially you have allowed the yeast to multiply happily in the sponge so you have more yeast working for you in the final dough. Pretty much any standard loaf-bread recipe can benefit from this approach and most recipes are easily converted. I almost always start with a sponge when I make a loaf-style bread.

Hope this helps. Don't hesitate to post back to this thread (or PM me) if you have additional questions or problems (or just want some encouragement!) - SF
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Old 12-19-2005, 11:48 AM   #9
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Wow! Subfuscpersona, good stuff. I've learned a few things I didn't know about the rising properties of yeast. This will help me imensely. Thanks.

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Old 12-19-2005, 02:04 PM   #10
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Wow, that has helped me alot to Now I need to go make some bread! Tracy
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Old 12-19-2005, 03:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
Wow! Subfuscpersona, good stuff. I've learned a few things I didn't know about the rising properties of yeast. This will help me imensely. Thanks. Goodweed of the North
hi Goodweed - I'm honored to receive a compliment from an experienced baker like you.

deathvalleydan should be congratulated for taking the time to provide us with the *details* of his baking attempts. As the saying goes, "the devil is in the details" and only by knowing the particulars can someone offer useful assistance.

When deathvallydan said
Quote:
I always use rapid rise, in the little packets...When yeast works, it usually rises very quickly, double in volume in about 15 minutes, but if there is no change whatsoever in 45 minutes, I usually call failure.
I *guessed* that he was using a type of yeast designed for one-rise recipes in bread machines. (I have no idea if I was correct - we'll have to wait for a reply from him).

I did a fair amount of reserach on the 'net prior to posting my response. I can't tell you how thoroughly irritated (an overly kind phrase) I got at the imprecise, unclear and actually *wrong* results I read.

FYI, the primary distributers of yeast for home bakers are Fleishmanns and Lesaffre (which markets its products with the brand name of either "Red Star" or "SAF"). The info on "Red Star" yeast was from Red Star Products while that for Fleischmann's was from Fleischmann's Yeast Products. If you actaully *read* these links, you will be confronted with 99% marketing hype and 1% information. I pity the poor beginning baker who attempts to make sense of this information.

Bread baking is not rocket science. Humans have been making bread for millenia (often under very primitive conditions) and, with some knowledge, practice and patience, we can too.

As anyone who reads my posts on bread knows, I'm a bread-baking enthusiast and I try to encourage and help all bakers who wish to explore the (seemlingly) endless varieties of bread one can comfortably and reliably make at home. I am far from being an "expert" but I enjoy learning how to make a variety of breads.

I've learned a great deal from posters at DC since I joined (I'm a "lurker" in many topics). Its the best 'net resource I know of for good information from experienced home cooks.
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Old 12-19-2005, 04:20 PM   #12
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Subfuscpersona, I agree. What I got from your posting that was of particular interest for me was that fat inhibits the growth of yeast. That tidbit was new to me. I pretty much knew the rest. But that one part will help me immensely as I tend to add fat to my bread to give the final product a more moist texture. Usually, I have time to allow a long rise-time. But when time is short, I now understand that less is more, when it comes to the fat and salt ratios in my bread dough.

And I agree, that when a poster, in this case deathvalleydan, give precise info about what's going wrong, it makes it much easier to torubleshoot the problem and offer helpful and accurate advise. Thanks dvd.

And I am honored to receive info from someone willing to do the work, someone who will sift the facts from the hype. Like you, I won't give info unless I know it is sound. That's why I haven't written the "Breads, Quickbreads, and Patries" cookbook yet. Though I am fairly skilled with quickbreads and many pastries, including pancakes and waffels, crepes, sweet rolls, both yeast risen and chemically leavened, my scratch cakes need work, and my breads, though usually successful, have failed me at times. I can't write the book until I know these products inside and out. That's why your info was important to me. It gives me another bit of knowledge that I can use to improve my bread skills. I know I could read cake and bread-making books by others, but feel that would be cheating. I need to know what works, how it works, and why it works, so that I can teach others the same thing through my cookbooks. If I don't do that, then I am merely a poser.

So again, thanks.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 12-19-2005, 07:57 PM   #13
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Wow!!! Super thanks to subfuscpersona!!!

It's wonderful that you took the time to research all that information. You are right that bread shouldn't be rocket science, and the fat content info was also new news to me. Do you know if bleached or unbleached flour makes a difference? I have often wondered that. How about the % content of wheat flour?

I use the RED STAR QUICK RISE packets, and the only bread machienes I use are my two arms. I can't wait til I have time to try and do a yeast recipe again with all those helpful tips.

Thanks again, Dan
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Old 12-20-2005, 07:49 AM   #14
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Answers to Questions posted 12-19-2005- 08:57 PM by deathvalleydan

Quote:
Originally Posted by deathvalleydan
Do you know if bleached or unbleached flour makes a difference? I have often wondered that.
I've always use *unbleached* AP flour since I could never understand why flour had to be bleached anyway and my general philosophy is to go with the least processed food stuffs.

Unbleached is also recommended by Peter Reinhart, who says (in The Bread Bakers Apprenctice) "...it is preferable to use unbleached...because the yellowish tint in unbleached four is caused by beta-carotene...the presence of beta-carotene...contributes better aroma and better flavor to the bread...the use of unbleached flour is especially important in simple lean breads...such as baguettes and other French, Italian and Vienna-style breads"

I do recommend using bread flour rather than AP in your bread recipes, at least in the beginning. I had untold failures using AP flour in bread when I began baking and when I switched to bread flour I had a much greater rater of success getting a well-risen loaf.

Quote:
How about the % content of wheat flour?
Since your success rate is about 10% (though perhaps it is higher with some types of breads than others) I would go with a white bread first and then branch out to whole grains. If you want to use whole wheat, make it, in the beginning, no more than about 25% of the total flour content and use bread flour, not AP, for the white flour. The higher the proportion of WW flour, the heavier the bread. I always use some bread flour even in my "whole grain" loaves.

When you buy WW flour, make sure to get stone ground whole wheat flour. There is a noticeable flavor difference. Commerical milling processes heat flour to very high temperatures; stone-grind is slower and produces much less heat. High heat during milling reduces flavor in the final product.

Always read the label on your WW flour - some brands of WW flour in the supermarket leave out the germ of the wheat kernel (longer shelf life for the supermarket - inferior flour for the consumer). The King Arthur line of flours, if available in your area, are excellent.

Quote:
I use the RED STAR QUICK RISE packets, and the only bread machienes I use are my two arms.
When I read the blurbs on the Red Star Yeast Products page, it looks to me like the you do *not* want RED STAR® QUICK·RISE™ Yeast but rather RED STAR® Bread Machine Yeast (or just get Active Dry yeast to be on the safe side - the descriptions on this site are a bit hard to decipher).

If you are near a wholesale supermarket (like Costco, Sams Club, etc), see if they carry baking yeast in one-pound packages. This will save you mucho $$$.

The instant yeast packages look like this

and you'll notice they just say "Instant Yeast", which (thankfully) tells us exactly what it is without any marketing babble.

The active dry packages look like this

and you'll notice they just say "Active Dry Yeast", which (thankfully) tells us exactly what it is without any marketing babble.

(you can buy one-pound bags of yeast on-line but the cost of shipping doubles the price so it is hardly cost-effective).

The expiration date on yeast refers to the amount of time it can be stored without refrigeration unopened. I keep opened yeast in my freezer. The bag is clipped closed and double bagged in a resealable plastic bag. The longest I have kept yeast this way was 4 years, with no noticeable decline in rising power. Many other posters to this forum have reported similar results.

The amounts of Active Dry vs Instant Yeast for a recipe vary slightly, so if you need to convert from one to another check out http://breaddaily.tripod.com/yeast.htm for a conversion table.
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