Members of the healthcare profession consider yeast to be a disease-causing microorganism. The masters of the kitchen, however, consider yeast as their best friend. Without it, we would not be able to enjoy our breads, wines, beer, and other foodstuff. These food items rely on yeast’s fermentation abilities to bring out the goodness in these foods. Unfortunately, not all yeasts work in the same way. Learning the different types of yeast should help you determine the right type to use in a particular recipe.
A Primer on Yeast
Before we start looking at the different types of yeast, let us spend a few minutes understanding what this ‘ingredient’ is.
Yeast is a microorganism that is ever-present in our surroundings. You cannot see them. These microorganisms are on plants, in the air, and in the soil. Since they are microorganisms, they are alive. The reason why you need to use ‘live’ yeast organisms is to capitalize on their voracious appetite.
These microorganisms love to eat any type of sugar. Flour, vegetables, fruits, and other food items all contain sugar. When these microorganisms eat the sugar, they produce carbon dioxide. When used in baked products, the carbon dioxide creates many tiny air bubbles in the dough. This gives the bread or other baked goods a fluffy or airy texture.
The same is true in the making of wines and beers. Yeast organisms eat the sugars in the raw ingredients of these beverages. It leads to the release of both carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Types of Yeast for Baking
Yeast is a very important ingredient in any baking adventure. They allow the dough to rise and give it its fluffy texture. Baking yeast comes in different types.
- Fresh Yeast
This type of yeast is best reserved for professional pastry chefs and bakers. Other chefs call it wet or compressed yeast. Others call fresh yeast cake yeast. This type of baker’s yeast has a high moisture content. It is very soft and very perishable, too. It is critical to store it in the refrigerator at all times. One should always check the expiration date of these products. In general, fresh yeast should be used within 8 weeks from the date of its packaging.
This yeast requires proofing. This is to help make sure that the microorganisms are still alive and are able to perform their job. Proofing fresh yeast requires dissolving a small amount in warm water. You then add a small amount of sugar. If the solution begins to foam within 10 minutes, that means the yeast is still active. If you do not see foaming within the prescribed time, then the yeast is useless.
- Active Dry Yeast
This is the most common type of yeast that you can get from your supermarket shelves. They resemble very small pellets. Manufacturers of active dry yeast remove some of the moisture content of the liquid form of live microorganisms. This puts the microorganisms in a semi-dormant state. When compared to fresh yeast, active dry yeast is more stable. Always check the “best to use by” label that manufacturers put in their product. If left unopened, active dry yeast can stay active for 2 years from the time it was packaged.
There are those who think that active dry yeast requires proofing. This is not true. One can add the yeast straight into the recipe without proofing. However, one should be very careful not to expose it to liquids that have a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Instant Yeast
This baking yeast is almost similar to the active dry variety. The difference is that it has a fine, powdery texture instead of pellet-like consistency. Manufacturers also use a different strain of the microorganism to provide an ingredient that is able to rise a lot faster than other types. It is for this reason that people also call it the rapid rise yeast. Others call it the fast-acting or fast-rising yeast. Because of this characteristic, it can reduce the amount of time needed for the dough to rest.
Instant yeast also provides a more distinct flavor that some bakers love. It has more active yeast organisms than other types of baker’s yeast. It does not require proofing. It is also very stable. One can store it in an airtight container and store at room temperature.
- Rapid Dry Yeast
This is similar to instant yeast except that manufacturers added enzymes in the final formulation. The addition of enzymes hastens the digestive capabilities of the yeast microorganisms. This results in a rapid rise yeast.
Bakers use rapid dry yeast to eliminate the need for a first dough rise. They can go straight to the kneading process. If a traditional bread dough needs 4 hours to rise, using rapid dry yeast can shorten the process to only 2 hours. Overall, it is a great choice when you are pressed for time.
This is a type of yeast that you do not get from the grocery. In fact, the process relies on wild yeast organisms present in the atmosphere. Bakers who make sourdough bread often start with a basic mixture of baking flour and water. When the dough gets exposed to the yeast organisms in the air, they grow in the dough. This is the sourdough starter. If refreshed in a regular manner using flour and water, the living organisms in the sourdough starter can live for at least a century.
Bakers add the sourdough starter to other ingredients. This causes the bread dough to rise. It also imparts a distinct flavor to the bread. The main issue with this baking yeast is that it takes a long time to rise. On the plus side, it gives sourdough bread its characteristic chewy texture despite having a very firm crust.
Types of Yeast for Brewing
Aside from baking yeast, there are also microorganisms used in brewing beer. There are two general types of yeast that beer brewers use. They are the top-forming and bottom-forming yeasts. They are also known as ale yeast and lager yeast, respectively.
- Ale Yeasts
Ales have a fruity, sweet, and full-bodied taste. Yeast makers employ warm fermentation methods in the production of ales. The yeast that they use are top-fermenting yeasts. They thrive at warmer temperatures between 50°F and 77 degrees. As the beer ferments, yeast organisms rise to the surface. This creates a thick and rich head.
- Lager Yeasts
Almost every beer drinker in the world prefers lagers over ales. It is one of the most popular types of beer. What makes it different is the kind of processing that it undergoes. Instead of fermentation at high temperatures, the brewing process require a colder temperature. Manufacturers often brew their lagers in the range of 44 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because of the colder temperature, yeast organisms grow more slowly. They also do not create foam. The yeast organisms also settle at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.
Types of Yeast for Cooking
There are also types of yeast that are perfect for cooking. Most chefs refer to this type of yeast as the nutritional yeast. However, there is a difference between a nutritional yeast and a yeast extract. That is why we are going to look at them as two distinct types.
- Nutritional Yeast
The principal microorganism used in the manufacture of nutritional yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It comes in powdered form. Many people value it for its protein content. It is also rich in vitamins, especially the B-vitamins. The production of nutritional yeast is quite complex. It involves fermentation and pasteurization. This will help inactivate the microorganisms. Manufacturers then add nutrients to the product to give it its distinct nutrition profile.
The majority of the nutritional yeast on the market is available as a food supplement. One can buy them in either capsule or pill form. Others use them as seasoning for their dishes or as toppings to some of their recipes. This type of yeast is very different from baking or brewing yeasts. It has a cheese-like flavor because of the effects of pasteurization. It also has a nutty flavor, which makes it a good companion for certain dishes. It is very popular among vegetarians and vegans.
- Yeast Extract
Some people argue that yeast extract is the same as nutritional yeast. While both are great as food flavorings or additives, they differ in the way they are manufactured. Nutritional yeast involves the whole microorganism. Yeast extract, on the other hand, only includes the cell organelles of the microorganism. It does not include the cell wall of the yeast.
Because it does not include the cell wall, yeast extract imparts a more distinct flavor. It is best known for giving dishes their umami taste and savory flavors. Many processed foods also come with yeast extract. These can include snack foods, frozen meals, gravy, crackers, and stock, among others.
Yeast can come in three different categories. There is the baker’s yeast for all of your baking needs. There are also yeasts for brewing beer. Lastly, there are yeasts that are known for their nutritional benefits.
- Types of Yeast and How to Pick the Right One for Baking – Epicurious
- What is Yeast? A Guide to Different Types of Yeast – Savory Simple