Since wheat is such a common staple of most people’s food storage, it is critical to learn how to use it. The easiest thing to make (without storing a lot of ingredients) is bread. Our FAVORITE bread recipe only calls for a few simple ingredients and it turns out great every time.
Two of the items common in bread recipes (and included in our favorite recipe) are yeast and vital wheat gluten. We get asked a lot of questions about these items so we wanted to give you a quick overview and address some of the concerns people tend to have when using these for the first time.
All About Yeast
What is yeast?
Yeast is a microscopic fungus that is used in baking for leavening purposes. The kind most people use for baking is Active Dry Yeast.
What Type of Yeast Should I Buy?
There are three types of active dry yeast, use whatever kind your recipe calls for or you will have differing results. Regular Active Dry Yeast: Requires “proofing” which means you add it to hot water and wait until it activates before combining with other ingredients. This type requires a double-rise typically.
Instant Active Dry Yeast: Can be added in with the other dry ingredients in a recipe and then add liquid later because it has been milled into finer particles. This type can be used interchangeably with regular yeast in a recipe, you just skip the proofing step. Usually a double-rise is still required.
Quick-Rising Instant Active Dry Yeast: Is similar to Instant Active Dry Yeast except enzymes and other additives are added to make it rise faster. This enables you to do a single rise for most recipes. This yeast acts and tastes different so we wouldn’t recommend using it for a staple bread recipe or substituting for it in place of other yeasts.
What is the Shelf Life of Yeast
Yeast can store for 6 months to 1 year on the shelf, or longer than a year if you store it in the freezer. This can make it difficult to plan for long term food storage situations. We recommend testing the yeast to make sure it’s still active and discard and replace if necessary to keep your “year supply” fully stocked.
How Do I Know if My Yeast is Still Active?
To test yeast, add 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°F). Stir in 1 envelope yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons); let stand 10 minutes. If the yeast foams to the 1/2 cup mark, it is active and you may use it in your recipe. Quick Rising yeast loses its fast rising capabilities if dissolved in liquid, and will require two complete rises. (Info found at http://www.breadworld.com/faq.aspx)
All About Vital Wheat Gluten
What is Vital Wheat Gluten?
Vital Wheat Gluten functions as a “dough enhancer” in bread recipes. Gluten is the protein part of wheat flour and gives bread dough it’s elasticity and the bread a nice shape. It also helps bind it together so that it is less crumbly. Vital Wheat Gluten is a powdered form for gluten which basically takes the positive properties of the gluten and enhances them when added to a bread recipe.
What is the Shelf Life of Vital Wheat Gluten?
Most Vital Wheat Gluten has a shelf life of 7-10 years if unopened and stored in ideal storage conditions. Once opened it should be used within 6 months to a year unless stored in the freezer to extend the shelf life.
Can I Use a Substitute for Vital Wheat Gluten?
Wheat Protein Isolate (from Honeyville Grain) is a suitable replacement for Vital Wheat Gluten – it’s more concentrated and more expensive. You can use less of it to get the same results. Other bread recipes may use other dough enhancers to achieve similar results such as white vinegar, potato flakes, Vitamin C tablets, etc. We don’t recommend substituting any of those items unless you have a recipe you are using that gives you the correct amounts.
-Jodi Weiss Schroeder