It’s been a minute. Thank you to everyone who has been checking the Facebook page and coming back to the site looking for new content. If you didn’t see, the Flour Facts and Yeast Facts pages are full of words, finally. This summer got crazy—turns out baking bread regularly can be a bit of a struggle when you go on vacation out of the country and, upon your return, split your time between working at/recuperating from a summer camp, helping your partner pack up his abode, and searching for a job in a new city.
Finally, I snatched a day in the kitchen to answer a question that has burned in the back of my mind for years now: Why shouldn’t I double the yeast in a recipe?
Sure, I’ve read that doubling yeast can yield disastrous, unpalatable results. I’ve even warned friends against this tempting bread hack, but the best explanation I came up with was “I haven’t tried doubling yeast, and neither should you.” Pretty flimsy, no? Where’s the proof? As an avid reader who is pretty ok at vetting her sources—Peter Reinhart is the real deal, ok—I feel comfortable deferring to the experts. As a baker who wants to obtain some level of expertise herself, I feel uncomfortable telling friends and readers to not do something because theoretically the results would be really bad even though performing the test is pretty simple.
Trust Science! Question Everything!: essentially the motto of this experiment.
There I was, craving some organization in my life as one of my main hangs lost furniture while accumulating boxes and incredible, energetic children tested my back and arm strength for several hours each day; struggling to decide which recipe to try next for this blog; bursting with a desire to play around with yeast after finishing my page on those tiny, burping organisms. There was only one place for me to turn: SCIENCE!!!
For this experiment, I decided to bake three loaves using the recipe for American Sandwich Bread as my inspiration. The control loaf contained the recipe’s prescribed amount of yeast. The half yeast loaf contained half the yeast of the control. The double yeast loaf contained double the yeast of the control. Names can be so wonderfully informative. Here’s how those numbers turn out for this recipe:
Half = 1 tablespoon instant yeast
Control = 2 tablespoons instant yeast
Double = 4 tablespoons instant yeast
Now, at this juncture, I faced a choice: do I set a standard rising time for every batch or do I set my benchmark as the point when each batch doubles in size? Because I suspect people who are tempted to double yeast might do so to cut back on rising time, I kept time variable in order to see just how much time you would save. Keeping a fixed rising time would produce some wacky results, though, so bookmark that thought.
Because I allowed each batch to double in size, pictures from the production of these loaves aren’t remarkably exciting, but do go back and check out the American Sandwich Bread post if you’d like a refresher on how this loaf comes into being.
Without further ado…results!
Half Yeast: 4 hours and 5 minutes total rise time
Crumb: Most regular of three. I’m actually really proud of how this loaf turned out
Oven spring: Beautiful dome, delightfully symmetric
Smell: Very mild
Taste: Not at all yeasty, sweet, milder taste than the control loaf
Control: 2 hours and 12 minutes total rise time
Crumb: Slightly less regular than the half yeast loaf but nothing surprising
Oven spring: Slightly uneven rise to one side
Smell: Sweet, slightly yeasty, barely boozy
Taste: Sweet, slightly boozy factor not present in half yeast loaf
Double Yeast: 1 hour and 22 minutes total rise time
Crumb: Most irregular of the three but still not bad
Oven spring: Very uneven to one side, crazy tall
Smell: Definite off-smell, boozy rather than sweet, reminds me of getting a whiff of rubbing alcohol
Taste: Lingering bitterness, pronounced yeast flavor and off-taste
FYI, take some of these observations with a grain of salt. I was tasting these loaves in an attempt to find differences, and while differences definitely came through, many people might not care or notice off-flavors if given a slice from one of these loaves in a zero-pressure context.
Is a loaf made with double the ideal amount of yeast palatable?
- Much to my chagrin, my double-yeasted bread tastes ok.
- The additional yeast adds weird, undesirable flavors, however, because as it turns out, yeast doesn’t taste wonderful.
Is a loaf made with half the ideal amount of yeast palatable?
- Yes! Oh my goodness, yes. This loaf is fantastic. I subjected several friends to a taste test and all of them ended up preferring the half yeast loaf.
Everything seemed to work out fine. Why?
- A huge factor in the relative success of each of these loaves was time to rise. I gave each loaf no more or no less than the time required for it to double in volume, and as a result, I was able to ensure that no over-proofing or under-proofing occurred, maintaining the structural integrity of each loaf.
- Also, because this is an enriched dough, the wonders of butter and honey and milk probably covered up some off-flavors.
When might I make double-yeasted bread?
- Let’s say I just started a new job, and in an attempt to make a good impression on my coworkers, I offer to make bread for the office to bring in tomorrow. Everyone is so excited and can’t wait to try my bread—in my experience, non-bread bakers think people who bake bread are magical flying narwhals of wonder. Of course, for this hypothetical situation to occur, none of my coworkers can know how to make bread. Let’s say all of this is true, but oh no! I get stuck in super horrible traffic on my way home and don’t get back until 11 pm! Truly awful. All I want to do is sleep. I can’t let my coworkers down, though, so I pull this hack out and pray that nobody really cares about the taste too much, hopefully they just appreciate that I made bread. I pass out by 1:30. My office feasts on sandwich bread the next day. Mission accomplished.
- But really, if you want to have at it and make double-yeasted bread, go for it, more power to ya, you do you.
When might I make half-yeasted bread?
- Let’s say it’s an incredibly lazy Sunday and I want some delicious bread. Maybe then. But if I have any sort of time restraints, I’ll just follow the recipe.
There you have it! Go forth and double yeast your bread. Or at least know that, if you double yeast this bread, it’s not the end of the world as we know it. Just don’t expect a super miraculous rise and keep a close eye on that blob to ensure it doesn’t over-proof.
I’m about to embark on a moving adventure for the next week, so look out for another post in the next 3. I’m feeling an urge to show off some long-fermented sourdough madness which my gluten-sensitive father reports as less irritating than other bread.
Until then! Happy August, all!