Cake vs. Granulated Yeast

Our new friends were over this weekend, and we got to talking about bread making. Yvonne was struggling because she is used to cake yeast and was having difficulty finding a good local source. It made me wonder what the difference is between cake and granulated yeast, as I always reach for Bob’s Red Mill Active Dry Yeast, which I buy in a large package and store in a container in the fridge.

Cake Yeast

Also called fresh yeast, or wet yeast, is perishable and needs to be used within 10 days of purchase. Red Star manufactures this yeast and it is mostly available in the midwest and northeastern United States. Looking online at King Arthur Flour and Amazon, I was not able to find any cake yeast, which I found surprising. Sounds like it is a popular item in Europe, and some local bakeries and pizzarias might be willing to part with some if you have difficulty finding cake yeast in your grocery store. And if you really run up against a wall, you can substitute 1/2 of the amount in dry yeast. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 ounce of fresh yeast, you would use 1/2 an ounce of dry yeast. Thanks Chowhounders for this conversion!

Dry Yeast

I use Active Dry Yeast, and you can also find Instant Yeast on the shelves. According to Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, it is best to buy active dry yeast in bulk, as the small packages will end up costing quite a bit if you do a lot of baking. And modern yeast does not need to be proofed to work (you used to have to add sugar and warm water until the bubbles started going), but keep an eye on the temperature of the water, ensuring that the water stays around 115F.

Wild Yeast

This is also called starter, and it is created naturally with the yeasts available in the air. I have a pot of sourdough starter that has been in my fridge for a while (it might not be viable anymore), and many professional bakers keep their starter going for years for daily baking. You can create the initial starter with a package mix, a simple mixture of water and flour, or crushed grape skins. I have never tried the last method, but sounds intriguing. In the Bay Area, there is a rumor going around that our San Francisco Sourdough relies on so many of the airborne yeasts for its tang that it cannot be reproduced out of the area. I guess that is why Boudin’s has a to-go counter at the airport.

What is your go-to yeast for baking? 

2 comments

  1. Great post!

    I’ve never tried cake yeast; it’s not available in my area. My go-to yeast is ADY (active dry). It does need water to activate (hence the name), but as you said, it does not need to be stirred in with the water and sugar. Instead, I activate it by mixing it with half my flour + all my wet ingredients and letting it sit for 10 minutes or so. I get little, tiny bubbles on top of my dough, which tells me it is alive and well.

    Yes, buy your yeast in bulk ~ even if you do not bake that often. Keep it in the freezer. I found some ADY from 2009 in the back of the freezer and it worked great! No need to bring the yeast to room temperature.

    Instant yeast is more potent than ADY ~ you need to use 25% less than the recipe calls for, unless it specifically calls for instant yeast.

    Rapid Rise yeast is only good for ONE rise ~ again, use it only if the recipe calls for it.
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  2. Hello, I’m going to San Francisco, CA in december and would like to know where I could buy Active Dry Yeast to take home (reading Brazil). Thanks Adriana

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