What Is Yeast Used for in Baked Goods

Patrick Mooney
yeast bread

Many people who are new to baking ask "what is yeast used for in baked goods?" That is a question that gives rise to many answers. Let's explore the mysteries of the yeast.

Yeast and Bread Go Way Back

The use of yeast in baking dates back as far as 4000 BCE. There is archaeological evidence that the Egyptians intentionally added yeast to breads and used it in the brewing of beer. It is believed that the discovery of beer was an offshoot of the discovery of making bread. The Egyptians would sprout the grain they intended to use to make bread, dry it, grind it, and mix it into a dough. They would then par-bake the bread for storage. That bread would be broken up and soaked in water so it would ferment. Then, the resulting liquor would be strained before it was imbibed.

There are two different theories regarding how yeast started to be used intentionally in the making of bread. One theory proposes that since bread and beer were both being made in the same place, there was a lot of yeast flying around and bread that had been left exposed to the air picked up more spores and rose better. Since yeast is present in the air anyway, there would be even more of it at the bakery/brewery. Eventually, bakers learned how to collect yeast and add it to the bread to create a risen bread consistently.

The other theory states that since the beer was there, bakers used it to mix the bread instead of water since the yeast in the beer and the natural CO2 from the fermentation helped the bread dough rise. This second theory is considered to be more accurate.

This shows how beer is the cornerstone of civilization. In fact, beer and brewing is essential to the creation of yeast. The yeast that bakers use to make their breads rise is a byproduct of the brewing processes. It wasn't until a few centuries ago that yeast was available from any source other than brewers.

Which Yeast to Use

Now that we know what yeast is used for in baked goods, it's time to discuss the types of yeast. There are three yeasts that are used for baked goods and although they are all effective, the kind you use is really a personal preference. I particularly like fresh yeast because i feel it gives the bread a better rise and a better flavor. The types of yeasts available are:

Fresh Yeast

This is the best yeast to use. As it's name states, it is fresh and reliable and has the best taste. Downsides of this yeast are that it does not keep well, so you will need to use it within two weeks of buying it. This type of yeast is proofed in water alone, not in water mixed with sugar.

Active Dry Yeast

This is the kind of yeast you will find most often at the local market. This yeast needs to be activated by letting it soak in warm water that has been mixed with sugar.

Instant Yeast

This yeast does not need to be activated and can be mixed directly with the dry ingredients. In order to let the bread develop the same kinds of flavor that the first two yeasts will develop, consider a longer cooler proofing.

What is Yeast Used for in Baked Goods

When considering what yeast is used for in baked goods, the answers are many although the type is specific. You are looking at using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, the formal name given to yeast.

Yeast not only adds flavor to your breads but, most importantly, yeast eats sugar and makes CO2. This creates bubbles in the breads and baked goods to which it has been added. This adds rise to the bread, giving the baker a thick loaf with a fluffy texture and a delicate feel.

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What Is Yeast Used for in Baked Goods