Baker’s Yeast, Brewer’s Yeast, Nutritional Yeast, Instant Dry Yeast, Active Dry Yeast, Yeast Cakes, Compressed Yeast, Fast Rise Yeast, Rapid Rise Yeast, Quick Rise, Bread Machine Yeast, Wild Yeast … how are you supposed to know what to use when baking gluten-free bread??!
Good question! Luckily there is a pretty easy answer!
First things first — what is “yeast?” Simply put, yeast is a living micro-organism that converts sugar and starch into carbon dioxide and alcohol, making it the perfect ingredient for beer brewers, wine makers and bread bakers — anywhere you need bubbles.
Yeast can be divided into 4 general categories: Dried Yeast; Fresh Yeast; Wild Yeast; and Brewer’s Yeast.
For basic, at-home gluten-free bread baking purposes, we’re sticking with the first category, but in case you are curious, I’ll give you the nutshell version of the other three kinds of yeast (it’s great trivia to impress your friends!).
(And in case you’re wondering, the yeasts we’re going to be talking about are gluten-free, unless otherwise noted.)
This yeast (also called “Cake Yeast”) is alive and extremely perishable since it has not been dried. It also does not need to be dissolved in water before being used. To work with fresh yeast, you simply soften the yeast cake in warm water or just crumble it into the dry ingredients. Fresh yeast requires two rises, so it is not ideal for gluten-free breads, which require only one rise. To substitute fresh yeast in a recipe calling for active dry yeast, use one cake for each package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of Active Dry or Instant Yeast called for in the recipe.
Ever made a sourdough starter? That’s Wild Yeast. Starters are comprised of a mixture of equal parts flour and water, “colonized” by yeast and friendly bacteria. To make your own starter, simply sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of active dry yeast onto 2 cups of warm water and let sit for 15 minutes, then whisk in 2 cups of gluten-free all purpose flour. Cover loosely, and let the mixture sit. You need to “feed” it, as my friend Amy says – “like a pet!” Read more about how Amy has perfected the gluten-free sourdough starter on her blog.
Brewer’s Yeast/Nutritional Yeast:
To confuse things further, there are two kinds of Brewer’s Yeasts: one used to produce alcohol and bubbles in beer; the other used as a nutritional supplement. The latter is what is used in cooking – it is deactivated, and will not produce any alcohol or bubbles.
While there is a difference between the Brewer’s Yeast used for cooking and Nutritional Yeast, they are actually made from the same strain of yeast. Brewer’s Yeast for cooking is a by-product of beer production and thus, retains some of the bitter flavor from the hops; Nutritional Yeast is not as bitter because it is grown on molasses.
One would assume that people eating gluten free would need to avoid “Brewer’s” yeast, opting for “Nutritional” yeast instead; however, one brand I have used takes confusion to new heights by calling itself “Brewer’s Yeast: High Potency Instant Natural Nutritional Yeast.” At first, I passed it by, but the product rep assured me it was gluten-free. How could this be? Apparently because this particular ”Brewer’s Yeast” product is grown on beet molasses, rather than being a by-product of gluten-containing beer processing. Right. I wish they could get their terminology straight! (Yet another reason to read labels thoroughly in every case!)
As a nutritional supplement, this yeast offers a cheesy/nutty flavor that vegans love to use in recipes where the cheese is not used — it’s even great on popcorn! It is also full of protein and B vitamins, and thus is highly prized, particularly in the vegetarian community. I have a great recipe for gluten-free crustless (vegan) quiche in my new cookbook, Free for All Cooking; it is also reprinted on the MadeJustRight baking site. It’s fun to make something so simple and easy for your family’s dinner, and know it’s chock full of yummy good-for-you goodness — you really should give nutritional yeast a try in some of your recipes, too!
This form of Baker’s yeast is alive but inactive due to lack of moisture. Quick Rise, Rapid Rise, Fast Rise, Instant Dry and Bread Machine Yeast are all basically the same, but are different from “Active Dry Yeast” in that they are more finely granulated and are dried to a lower moisture level, so they need not be dissolved in water to become hydrated before mixing (i.e. no proofing!).
What does that mean to you? It means that these instant dry yeasts can be added to the dry ingredients during mixing or can be added last, on top of other dry ingredients in a bread machine. Furthermore, these fast rise yeasts usually contain ascorbic acid which increases the height you’ll achieve with most baked loaves.
Active Dry yeast has larger granules and must be dissolved completely for the yeast to become “active,” so it is best to dissolve it in warm water (100° to 110°F) before using. It also takes more Active Dry yeast to rise a bread loaf than it does Quick Rise yeast, so those recipes often smell and taste more “yeasty.”
Dried yeast of either kind is most often sold in 3-pack strips or in 4-ounce jars. Store at away from moisture and at room temperature, and use by the expiration date; it does keep longer if refrigerated or frozen, but bring it to room temperature before using. All of these types of yeast are gluten-free and many say so on the packaging.
Gluten-Free Bread Baking — which yeast and why?
So by now you’re probably asking why gluten-free yeast breads require only one rise, and therefore work well with the instant yeast varieties.
Well, we have come to the point in this program where we can celebrate the fact that gluten-free yeast breads are actually faster to make and to bake because they do not contain gluten. Obvious, I know, but that means that there is no “punch down” step, no second rise, and no kneading required. In fact, all those steps are done just to “exercise” the gluten, which is totally lacking in our breads (right?!). So actually, not only do you not need to take those steps, you don’t want to do them either, or you will kill your precious gluten-free bread!
Trust me: when making gluten-free bread, simply mix/beat well; cover & rise; bake; enjoy. That’s it. Easy as can be. You can even do it with a wooden spoon and bowl, although I’ll admit I use my stand mixer every time I have a choice. Don’t believe me? Watch this video and believe!