Monday, 12 May 2008

Baking with fresh yeast

Yeast is yeast, is yeast, some might argue but this miraculous microbe that brings us delicious bread, refreshing beer and wholesome Vegemite comes in 3 forms: fresh, granular and powdered. Using fresh bakers' yeast yields results unsurpassable to its dried variant in my opinion and to make a generalisation, I find the action of fresh yeast more robust, the flavour of its finished product mildly yeasty and the aroma, "sweeter". Fresh yeast however has its drawbacks mainly that it is not as stable as dry yeast, that is to say, its potency diminishes with age and storage. And of course, it can be quite difficult to obtain unless you are pretty chummy with your local baker.

I usually use dried yeast when I bake bread because it is readily available and easily stored in the cupboard but I chanced upon the compressed fresh stuff in the frozen section while shopping with my parents at Carrefour the other day and needless to say, it took little persuasion for me to purchase the 500g brick of yeast. That's right, an entire 500g brick of yeast.

Fast forward a few hours (about 8) and 15g crumbled off the aforementioned "brick" later, I present you walnut bread* with a chewy dark sourdough-like crumb, suspiciously nutty with nuggets of walnuts and sweet with plump pieces of raisins, a bread very similar to the one I like to get from Lawley's. Perfect with creamy ripe brie and a drizzle of wildflower honey, this bread goes down a treat!

Yum! Now, would someone kindly suggest what I ought to do with the rest of the yeast**?

* adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for cranberry walnut bread. I replaced the dried yeast with 15g of the fresh stuff and raisins for the cranberries.

** I have since made many loaves of honey wholemeal bread which has been well-received by the family, the recipe to be posted soon.

Note I find it is adequate to double or triple the amount of fresh yeast by weight in a recipe that states dried yeast. For example, if a recipe calls for 7g dried yeast (a sachet), I use 15-20g depending on the proofing and rising times, that is to say, if the method calls for a pre-ferment or an extended rising time, I am more inclined to use the lesser amount of 15g. If the recipe is for a "quick" bread with a short rising time, or a rich dough then I am more inclined to use 20g of fresh yeast.

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