Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Thoughts on Yeast

Yup, yeast.  The stuff one buys in little foil packets and uses to bake bread.  At least, I used to buy yeast in little foil packets until I figured out how much it was costing me.

Three of those packets (they're sold together in threes) cost $1.99 at the super market.  Each packet holds 1/4 ounce, so one is paying $2.65 an ounce, and that's before taxes!

Alternatively, one can buy two pounds of yeast for about $10 and get free shipping if one is an Amazon Prime member.  That's 34 cents an ounce.  To look at it another way, when you've avoided buying the sixth one of those foil packet threesomes, you're money ahead.

Well, almost.  Active dry yeast will keep almost indefinitely when frozen, so you'll need something to keep it in.  Get one of those air-tight acrylic canisters with the lever-locking lid for another $12.  Now you need to have bought 12 of those three-packs to break even.  I use enough yeast to account for 30 3-packs a year, so I saved enough money in the first year to buy a pretty nice bottle of wine.

Keep the canister of yeast on the freezer door.  When you need yeast, get it out, measure what you need, and put it back.  Never let the contents warm up.

According to Harold McGee (author of On Food and Cooking), yeast should be dissolved in 110° water.  That feels pretty hot to the touch.  Use a thermometer until you have {ahem} the feel of it.

Yeast "works" best at about 95°.  I put yeast breads in the oven with the light on to rise.

So, you've saved a bunch of money and you're baking better bread.  Glad we had this little chat!