Artisan bread is all the rage right now, and you can bake it at home for pennies on the dollar. Whether you’re looking to make the perfect French baguette or a multigrain bread packed with nutrients and topped with crunchy seeds for extra fiber, it can be baked at home. If your recipe calls for instant yeast and you aren’t sure what that is, don’t panic! This is the kind of yeast preferred by professional bakers, but instant yeast is easy to use. It’s also readily available in most grocery stores. And because you actually use less of it when you bake bread, switching to instant yeast could save you even more money over buying at the bakery.
What is Instant Yeast?
Instant yeast is a type of baker’s yeast used in both home and commercial bread making. Like traditional dry active yeast, instant yeast is made by drying fresh yeast. During this process some of the living yeast cells die off and stick to the remaining ones, forming little granules with a protective layer that increases the shelf life of the product remarkably over cakes of fresh yeast. If you normally use active dry yeast you’ll notice the granules of instant dry yeast look the same, only smaller.
Buying Instant Yeast
Instant yeast is made by Lallemand (Eagle and fermipan yeasts,) Lesaffre (SAF, bakipan, and Red Star yeasts) and Fleischmann’s. It is sometimes labelled “fast-acting,” “rapid rise,” or “bread machine” yeast. You can find rapid rise and bread machine yeasts in most grocery stores in foil packets or small jars. If you need larger quantities, you can find vacuum-packed bricks at superstores or you can order them online.
Storing Instant Yeast
Instant dry yeast usually has a guaranteed shelf life of two years if stored unopened at room temperature. Once opened, it’s best to store the yeast in an airtight jar. Most sources say instant yeast will keep up to six months if refrigerated or kept in the freezer. Since we bake bread daily, I store my yeast in a Mason jar in the fridge.
Using Instant Yeast
Instant yeast was developed for adding directly to the dry ingredients in your bread recipe. In both traditional break making and bread machine use, instant yeast can be mixed with the flour or other dry ingredients. There is no need to proof it in water unless you’ve had your yeast for a very long time and worry that it might have lost its potency.
If your recipe calls for quick rise or bread machine yeast, use instant yeast measure for measure to bake your bread. If you need to convert a recipe that calls for fresh or dry active yeast, the rule of thumb is to use a half teaspoon (2.5 mL) of yeast per cup of flour. If you have questions on using instant yeast in traditional bread recipes or bread machine baking, you can find detailed instructions and conversion tables on the Red Star instant yeast page.