Don’t fear the yeaster.

don't fear the yeast

I am constantly surprised by how many food bloggers are afraid to try yeast baking.

“Just try it!” I urge. “Yeast breads are so forgiving! Just try it! Trust me!”

I guess I’m going to have to just show you.

Here’s the recipe I used from King Arthur Flour with what I actually did is in italics.

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
“3 cups” is really just a guideline. You may need more; you may need less. Personally, I dumped the contents of my flour canister into the bowl then threw in a little more from the bag when the dough was still sticky.

1 cup (8 ounces) milk
I was out of milk. I used… I’d guess a couple tablespoons of evaporated milk and some warm water to make a cup.

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick, 1 ounce) butter or margarine
I took the butter out of the fridge, melted a piece and called it 2 tablespoons.

2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sugar
Easy enough.

1 1/4 teaspoons salt
I was actually out of salt and made this loaf while waiting for FreshDirect to arrive. There was some in the box, so I ripped it open and shook what was left into the bowl. Done and done.

2 teaspoons yeast
This I measured, as should you.

Mixing: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. (It may look ugly, like stringy, floury scraps. Fear not.) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (I usually set a timer, because I have no internal gauge of “6 to 8” minutes, but even then I usually end up stopping halfway to rest or wash the bowl I was just using so I can use it again in a couple minutes.) Add a bit of additional milk or flour (See? That’s why you don’t do all the flour at once. Keep some and work it in as you go and don’t get bogged down by “3 cups”.) if needed— the dough should be soft, but not sticky. (It’s amazing how fast you can pick up whether a dough is “right” or not. It’ll be soft, smooth, elastic, and not sticky.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. (I let this rise for an hour and it wasn’t all that puffy, but I still went on.)

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in the lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 60 minutes, until it’s domed about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. (After 60 minutes, I really had my doubts. It wasn’t an inch above the pan and I started to panic and started Googling “+bread +second rise +very slow +help” but I just left it for another 30 minutes and it made it.) A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly. (I never make myself poke the risen dough. It looks so nice; I don’t want to be jabbing at it.)

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven (My oven runs a little cold, so it was more like “somewhere between 350° and 375°.”) for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s light golden brown. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or by measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on rack before slicing. (Yeah, good luck to you if you think you can wait until the bread is totally cooled before cutting a slice.) Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

So, let’s see…

1. I didn’t measure my ingredients.
2. I haphazardly kneaded the dough.
3. I probably didn’t let it rise enough the first time.
4. I let it rise even longer the second time.
5. I had only a vague sense of my oven temperature.

If this was a pie crust, I would have thrown it out three times already.

Let’s see the end result:

end result

The crumb’s a little uneven, but come on. That bread is more or less perfect.

Now will you try baking with yeast?

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8 thoughts on “Don’t fear the yeaster.

  1. Kudos to you on a fab title for this post!

    And yeah, baking with yeast ain’t no thang. So long as you don’t kill the yeast by using any liquids that are too warm, it’s damn near impossible to ruin a yeast bread. It might not be the best bread in the world, but it’ll no doubt be edible. (But watch the salt. Too much salt will ruin anything.)

  2. I’m with you! It is always puzzling when food bloggers who routinely make billion layer cakes and meringue and all sorts of complicated desserts fear yeast. Not to mention the fact that paying around with yeast is one of the cheapest things you can do in the kitchen, no expensive chocolate to ruin etc.

  3. I’ve never been big on baking. Partly out of the fear you mentioned—I always thought voodoo, special incantations or at least a secret handshake was involved—and partly out of lack of interest. Your lovely post and obviously beautiful results have demolished both my objections, Kirsten. I don’t know whether to thank or curse you.

  4. Baking yeast bread is SO easy – I don’t know why more people don’t do it. Whenever I tell people I make my own bread they look at me as if I was crazy.

    Using a stand mixer makes it SO easy, just toss all the ingredients in and let the dough hook go at it for a few minutes.

    Baguettes are even easier than sandwich bread and all you need is yeast, flour, water, and salt.

  5. Perfect bread. I use yeast all the time. You seem to have used a tried yeast. In Finland we have this “fresh” yeast at stores. I do not know if that is rare?

    Congrats for you. Good result!

  6. In the US, fresh yeast is very rare and most home bakers used the dried granules of yeast. I have heard that in Europe, though, most people use fresh yeast.

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