I’ve been baking bread for 24 years. In that time I have used SAF Instant yeast – pretty much the bakery standard as it will take a lot of abuse and still work. Several weeks ago, I mistakenly purchased the “old fashioned” yeast – yeast that has to be proofed before using.
My mom used to proof yeast from little yeast cakes she bought in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I remember being very intrigued with the process. My first attempts at baking bread were with purchased granulated yeast that had to be proofed before being added to the flour. I generally killed the yeast in various different ways – mostly overheating it, either that or freezing it into total inactivity!
When I started my bakery I declared I had not intention of baking bread – had been so disastrous for me in the past. That didn’t last long – we went to our first bakery show and learned the mysteries of instant yeast – add it dry to the flour and add the liquids – mix like heck and you had bread – how easy is that?!! Over the years I pretty much perfected the process so my bread was very consistent and not too bad!! Most of the time I had a decent texture.
Back to the granulated yeast I purchased recently. The minute I opened the package I knew what I had. And, I knew what I had to do to use it. And being the baker that I am, I had only this yeast – had used the last of the instant yeast the week before.
I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about baking over the past 24 years. So I set out to use this yeast that had been my nemisis in the past. I heated the water with the canola oil, added 1/2 the milk to cool it somewhat – added the yeast and stirred it to dissolve and then, this is the hard part for me, waited.
As you can see in the picture, it wasn’t long before the yeast began to work. At this stage, it still needed to proof a few more minutes. I have found over the last couple of weeks using this, that if I let the yeast rise up pretty airy, it works great in the dough.
This batch was for a dozen cinnamon rolls. After letting the dough rise, I turned it out on the table and rolled it out. You will actually see air bubbles in the dough from the yeast. You don’t have this with instant yeast.
After rolling out the dough, I coat is with butter, and cinnamon sugar ((I mix the cinnamon and sugar together before coating the dough – it’s a good way to tell if you have enough cinnamon). Then roll up tightly and cut. I place the rolls on a baking sheet sprayed with a release spray. Then let them rise – about 30-45 minutes. I bake them in a stone deck oven at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes. You have to really watch them if you bake in an oven that hot. I also bake them in a woodfired oven at the same temperature. That oven has radiant heat and everything bakes a lot differently. You can use a hotter oven with out burning, but still have to watch what you’re doing.
After the rolls come out of the oven, I glaze with powdered sugar, butter, and milk. Then enjoy!!
So, the proof is in the yeast – by proofing the granulated yeast and using it in place of the instant yeast, I had better texture to my bread with a finer crumb. The dough had more spring and air to it which also adds to a better texture. As a proponent of the slow movement in cooking, I highly recommend you try the granulated yeast over the instant. Yes, it takes longer, but oh, it’s so worth it!!