A Beginner’s Guide to Baking with Yeast


I have several yeast bread recipes waiting to be posted, but before I do that, I wanted to post some basic tips.  Yeast breads can seem scary at first, but once you learn the basics, you open up a great world of baking!  And, yeast-risen breads are so much yummier, in my opinion, than most quick breads.  So, here goes, my basic yeast tips:

Activate your yeast:

Do not skip this step.  Pour warm water into your bowl, sprinkle yeast on top, and then sprinkle your sugar on top of that.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes until it’s foamy.  The picture above is what it should look like after that 5-10 minutes.  **If your yeast doesn’t proof, here are some of the most common causes:  (1) Your yeast is too old, and is dead/inactive. (2) Your water is not warm enough, (3) Your water is too hot.  The water should be approximately the temperature of baby bath water.

Temperature:

When letting your dough rise, be sure it’s in a warm area and in a place free from drafts.  My house is never warm enough to accomplish this, so I usually have my oven on and place the dough on the back of the stove top (not on a burner) where it’s nice and toasty warm.  I’ve seen tips to turn the oven on 200 for 5 minutes, then turn it off and put your dough in.  That didn’t work for me, because it actually made it too hot.  Just as the temperature has to be warm enough, if the temp is too hot or if you let your dough rise too long, this too can mess up the final product.

Knead

There are some no-knead recipes, but most call for kneading.  The amount of time you knead the dough affects the texture, and is especially important if you’re making tough or chewy bread, like French or Italian breads.  Some recipes specify a certain amount of time, but a good rule of thumb is to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Rise

Some recipes just say “let rise until doubled.”  I have found that my magic time is 1 hour for the first rise and half an hour for the second rise.  If your dough hasn’t sufficiently risen by then, more than likely your yeast is too old, or the temperature isn’t warm enough.  Always keep the dough covered with a towel.  Cover it while rising, and when shaping your dough, work with it in portions, keeping  the rest covered.  It dries out really quickly and will result in yucky dried out crusts on your bread.

Other Tips:

  1. If you plan to cook with yeast a lot, get it at a bulk discount store, like Sam’s club.  Seriously.  You can get 2 lbs of yeast (go in with a friend for a pound each), for under $5!  That much yeast in packets would cost you around $50.  That is a HUGE savings!  If you do buy yeast in bulk, 2 ¼ teaspoons is equal to one package.  Bulk packages are also nice because some recipes call for different quantities of yeast (such as 1 tablespoon).  If you purchase yeast in bulk, store it in the fridge/freezer so that it will stay fresh.  If you don’t have a membership, you can also purchase online for a bit more.
  2. Most yeast breads can be frozen, either after the first rise, as a dough, or after baking.
  3. Don’t add more yeast if your bread isn’t rising properly.  Too much yeast will cause the yeast to become overcrowded and will also cause your dough not to rise properly.  If it isn’t rising, see one of the other common problems (old yeast, or temperature).

If you have any questions that I haven’t addressed with this post, or troubleshooting, leave them in my comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Homemade Croutons

I love croutons, but I hate the fact that most of the ones you buy are hard as a rock.  So, one day I decided to wing it and try my own.  Huge success–very easy and yummy.  My favorite kind of recipe!

What you need:

3 pieces of bread (you can use white or wheat)

1 tsp. Mrs. Dash garlic and herb

½ tsp salt

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Black Pepper, optional

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Using a bread knife (or other serrated knife), cut bread into 1 inch squares.
  3. Spread bread pieces into baking pan, in a single layer.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on Mrs. Dash, Salt, and pepper if desired.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, stir around with spatula.  Bake an additional 3-5 minutes.  Watch them closely, as they burn easily.

Note:  If you happen to like the hard-as-a-rock croutons, decrease baking temperature to about 350 and increase baking time to about 15-20 minutes.

Now, add them to a yummy breaded chicken salad:

(Also check out:   Tasty Tuesday, Delicious Dish, and For the Momma’s)

Yummy Italian Bread

As far as yeast breads go, this is one of the quickest and easiest that I have made.  There are so few ingredients and the rise time is only 30 minutes.  If you are new to making yeast breads, this would be a perfect start.
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2-3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp italian seasoning
Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in a bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Add oil, salt and 1 cup of flour, beat with wire whisk. Gradually add additional flour until a stiff dough is formed.  Turn onto floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.  Place dough back into bowl, cover with towel and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  Shape into a 12 inch loaf and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Cut 3-4 slits across the top of the loaf.  Combine olive oil and italian seasoning.  Drizzle evenly over bread.
Bake at 400 degrees for 16 minutes.

Yummy Italian Breadsticks…

One of the things I want to share more of on this blog is recipes.  I love to cook and I love to try out new recipes, although I almost always alter them to our tastes (similar to the way I “scraplift”…couldn’t let a post go by w/out mentioning scrapbooking now could I???).

Anyway, I’ve been looking for a recipe for some soft breadsticks and with some alterations this one was a winner for our family.  As I share a picture I want to say that I was kinda lazy in shaping this dough into sticks, so they aren’t that “pretty”.

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water
1 package (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast (quick rise)
3 tbsp soft butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon Italian Herb
3 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:
4 tbsp butter, melted.
2/3 tsp garlic salt
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1. Add yeast to warm water.  Allow this mixture to set for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in butter, salt, sugar, and italian herb seasoning.
3. Work in 3 cups flour.  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for approximately 3-4 minutes or until it starts getting smooth.
4. Cover and let rise for approximately 20 minutes, or until doubled
5. Punch down dough and divide into 2 portions.  Cut each portion into 12 pieces, and shape each of these pieces into 4″-6″ ropes (for a total of 24 breadsticks).
6.  Cover and let rise for approximately 20 minutes.
7.  Bake at 350 Degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Halfway through baking, brush with topping (butter mixed with garlic salt), and sprinkle on parmesan cheese.

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