How to tell if Your Yeast is Dead or Dying
Yeast is the magic that makes bread into bread. Without it, we would all be eating crackers.
One way to see if your yeast is dead or alive is to make a batch of bread; however, if your yeast is indeed dead – that is a very wasteful method. I make bread 6 loaves at a time. so it would be quite a loss if I used bad yeast.
Instead of sacrificing your loaves, you can test your yeast before baking.
HOW TO PROOF YEAST
Proofing is how to test yeast for vitality.
- Fill a 1 cup measuring cup (or a half-pint jar) with 1/4 cup of water that is 110 degrees (or close).
- Add 1 tsp honey or sugar.
- Add 1 tsp of yeast.
- Stir and set in a warm place undisturbed for 10 minutes.
After the 5 minute mark, you should see signs of life. After 10 minutes, the yeast should be foamy and bubbly and expanding. It should have expanded to fill over half of the cup/jar and have a distinct yeasty smell. This is yeast that is alive and well.
If the yeast doesn’t bubble, foam or react – it is dead.
If the yeast is reacting very slowly or moderately, I would toss it and purchase new yeast. Using yeast that is partially expired will result in problem loaves.
EXPIRATION DATE DECEPTION
Expiration dates are only guidelines.
I have had found dead yeast even though the expiration date was still months in the future. I have also been able to use yeast well past the expiration date by storing it in the freezer.
PROPERLY STORING YEAST
My yeast comes vacuum sealed in the packaging. As soon as I open the package I transfer the yeast into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
If you store your yeast in the fridge or freezer, it is always ready to use. You do not need to allow it to defrost or come to room temperature.
Freezing will not harm yeast. It puts the little guys in a state of suspension. Frozen yeast will usually last (and still be active) after the expiration date.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t always test our yeast (by proofing) before we bake. Sometimes we find ourselves staring at loaves that refuse to rise. And this is when we realize that we may have a yeast problem.
INDICATORS THAT YOU HAVE DEAD YEAST
There are some things you can look for that could save your bread BEFORE you shape your loaves.
Activate the Yeast BEFORE you add the flour.
Simply add the wet ingredients (water, oil, honey [or sugar- if using instead of honey]) and the yeast first. Then wait.
The yeast should spring to life and begin to foam to the ceiling. If you don’t see happy, bubbling yeast – don’t add the flour.
IS MY YEAST DEAD?
Many breadmaking fails in home kitchens can be traced back to dead (or dying) yeast.
Indicators that your yeast is dead (or about to be)-
- Very little foaming and bubbling is observed when the yeast activates.
- It takes a LONG time for the yeast to begin activating.
- Bread rises very slowly or not at all.
- Loaves rise, but the tops are lumpy instead of smooth.
- Loaves are flat on top instead of domed and round.
- Loaves rise, but fall during baking.
- Loaves rise, but cave in the center.
- Loaves are small, dense and hard.
All of these problems can happen if the yeast is past its prime.
IT’S NOT YOU – IT’S YEAST
Take comfort that, if your bread was a bust due to dead yeast, you are not alone. Seasoned breadmakers run into a batch of dead yeast now and then. It happens to all of us at some point.
The great news is that dead yeast is a breadmaking problem that is easily resolved! Simply buy some fresh yeast and your loaves will be as light and high as ever.
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