This page explores the various bread yeasts and leaveners used to make bread in the oven or bread machine. It looks at bread machine yeast, instant yeast, active dry yeast, sourdough starters, baking powder & powder, etc. These leavening agents help baked goods to rise in order to create a softer & fluffier bread.
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Common Bread Yeasts & Similar Products – Bread yeast is a living organism that puts out CO2 bubbles (which helps the bread to rise) as it “eats” the natural sugars contained in a bread recipe. Bread yeast is a slow rising leavener versus much faster rising leaveners such as baking soda.
- Bread Machine Yeast – New/active bread machine yeast is one of the the most essential bread machine ingredients!!! Dead yeast is not positive for bread making. Bread machine yeast is a type of instant yeast. It is used commonly to make bread machine baked goods but also can be used to make oven baked breads.
- Check the bread machine yeast in your local supermarket after New Year’s. Right after this date (for a month or two), some supermarkets often discount their bread machine yeast by 25-50%. Since the holiday “baking” season is over, some supermarkets try discounting in order to move the yeast (so it doesn’t sit on the shelf for another year). This can lead to great potential savings since bread machine yeast is expensive, especially during the holiday “baking season”.
- Instant Yeast – Instant yeast does not have to be dissolved & preactivated in a liquid before using. It can be used to make bread machine breads as well as oven baked breads.
- Active Dry Yeast – This yeast is often used to make oven-baked breads. It is not a bread machine yeast or instant yeast. Active dry yeast needs to be preactivated in a liquid before use (whereas instant yeast and bread machine yeast do not have to be preactivated). Active dry yeast is usually not used to make bread machine breads.
- Sourdough Starter – This ingredient is needed in order to create delicious sourdough bread. Sourdough starters are a combination of yeasts and bacteria that create the classic sour taste associated with sourdough breads.
- However, be aware that different sourdough starters can impart different tastes to your breads. For example, San Francisco-style sourdough starters are often a little more sour than most other sourdough starters. You should look for popular sourdough starters (i.e. many Amazon 5 star reviews) when first exploring starters to make sourdough breads.
- For more information on the sourdough fermentation process, you might like to read the Wikipedia page on Sourdough.
Other Leaveners – These leaveners are often used to make sweet “quick breads” such as banana bread, pumpkin bread, etc. They are also used to make soda bread, no yeast bread, etc. When making a baked good, check the recipe and make sure not to confuse baking powder and baking soda (as they are different products).
- Baking Powder – Baking powder is usually a mixture of bicarbonate (roughly 30%) and a weak acidic ingredient. The acid activates the bicarbonate in order to release CO2 bubbles (which causes the baked good to rise). In contrast, baking soda is more powerful but requires the addition of a slightly acidic ingredient to the recipe (i.e. molasses, brown sugar or buttermilk) in order to activate the baking soda.
- Baking Powder (Aluminum Free) – This baking powder is made without any aluminum. Some people like to avoid any aluminum exposure in their food due to various health reasons. Read the container label carefully as many baking powders are not aluminum free.
- Baking Soda – When making banana bread or cookies, you shouldn’t rely on the old baking soda that has been deodorizing your refrigerator for the past two years. You might not get optimal results. 🙂 Baking soda is more powerful than baking powder but requires the addition of a slightly acidic ingredient in the recipe (i.e. molasses, brown sugar or buttermilk) in order to activate properly.