Yeast: Can it be decreased in the recipes?

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Short answer:  Yes!

Our method is super-fast because it’s based on stored dough, not because we use a full dose of granulated yeast in the recipes. In the 2007 edition of our first book, we used full-dose yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons for four pounds of dough) because we knew that many of our readers would want to use the dough within a few hours of mixing it. For our 2013 update of that book, we decreased our full dose of yeast to 1 tablespoon, because our testing showed that the extra half-tablespoon made little difference. We’d still consider that a full dose of yeast in a four-pound batch, and you can decrease to 1 tablespoon in any of our recipes, from any of our books. But if you have more time for the initial rise, you can decrease it further–by large margins.  Half-doses, quarter-doses, and even less will work.

Why use less yeast?  Experienced yeast bakers sometimes prefer the more delicate flavor and aroma of a dough risen with less packaged yeast. Traditionally, it’s felt that rising the dough very slowly, with very little added yeast, builds a better flavor.

We weren’t convinced of this when we wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Daymost of our readers value the quicker rise that you get when you use a full dose of yeast. And our flavor is pretty darn good, especially when the dough ages in the refrigerator.

I tried it two ways, first halving the yeast (about 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon), and then dropping it way down, to 1/2 teaspoon. Both worked, but they work slowly. For the 1/2 teaspoon version, you need to give the dough 6 to 12 hours to rise. And when I rested the 1/2 teaspoon loaves prior to baking, they needed more time there as well, about two hours. The 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon version needs something in between (about 4-5 hours, and 1 hour rest before baking). Active time is still five minutes a loaf, it’s just your passive resting and rising times that really escalate when you go to the low-yeast version. If you use cool or cold water with a low-yeast preparation, you’ll need 18 to 36 hours for the initial rise.

So if you’ve hesitated to try our method because you like your loaves risen long and slow, give this approach a try.

Low yeast/slow rise with egg-enriched breads: Readers have asked us about the food-safety issues in trying low yeast/slow rise at room temperature with egg-enriched doughs.  Raw egg shouldn’t be left out too long at room temp. How long is too long? US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is very conservative on this question; they say 2 hours is the max (click here and scroll down for their detailed recommendations). Understand that this would make it impossible to rise a cold-started egg-enriched dough fully at room temperature (though we’ve found that two hours on the counter is enough even for a 33% yeast reduction; the problems start when you make more significant reductions, which would require 8 to 24 hours on the counter). The risk is salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Even though eggs in baked breads are fully cooked, the USDA is clear on this– 2 hours max.  They’re a very conservative organization– for example, you basically can’t eat hamburger with any pink in it, according to USDA.

To stay in compliance with USDA guidelines for egg-based doughs, refrigerate at 2 hours regardless of whether the batch has fully risen.  Then, allow the rising to complete at refrigerator temperature (18 to 36 hours).

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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289 thoughts on “Yeast: Can it be decreased in the recipes?

  1. Hi, I have a question about the non airtight container. I have a tupperware container I’m thinking of using. Should I leave the lid ajar and not fasten it all the way? Or seal it and assume it is not airtight? Thanks so much. Tara

  2. Hi Tara: You’re the person we met at Common Good Books, and I’ve been on your blog, yes? Thanks for the question. When we said “airtight,” we just didn’t want people sealing it up in a glass jar (which, theoretically, could explode from trapped carbon dioxide pressure). If you’re using a plastic container, it’s not going to explode, but in the early phases of the rise, the top could pop off. So I just break the seal a little and it’s fine. After a day or so, I usually can close it completely without a problem.

    Thanks, Tara, and happy baking! Jeff

  3. Jeff, yes, and yes. Thanks so much for leaving me a note there! Also, many thanks for answering my question, I appreciate it. I wish you both continued success. Tara

  4. My copy is on its way…until then I’m using the basic recipe that was printed in our local paper. My question is can you use a smaller amount of instant yeast? its just what I happen to have on hand.
    Thanks, Michelle

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Yes! Instant yeast seems to work equally as well as regular granulated yeast.

    Thanks and enjoy the book when it comes!

    Zoe

  6. I just baked my first loaf from your book and am totally enamored with the technique. I used SAS instant yeast since I have a lot on hand right now.

    One thing I noticed is that this bread (I made the European Peasant Bread) has a somewhat dense crumb. I don’t mind, but the photo in this post shows nice big holes – is that a result of the lower amount of yeast?

  7. Sheri:
    There are a number of factors that can influence hole size; if you’re going for larger holes, here are some things you can try:

    1. “Age” the dough for longer, at least seven days. As natural acids build up from the yeast, they weaken the gluten strands, which will offer less resistance to carbon dioxide bubbles. So the holes will grow.

    2. Consider a lower-bran rye, or less rye and whole wheat in the Peasant Loaf recipe. Bran in both products makes for a “tighter” crumb as you’ve been experiencing. One-quarter cup each of rye and whole wheat makes a nice peasant effect, with a moister, more “custardy” crumb with larger holes.

    3. Mix your dough a little wetter (maybe an extra quarter-cup of water. The slacker the dough, the less resistance to expanding carbon dioxide bubbles. Be aware that your loaves may spread sideways more than you’d like.

    Hey, Sheri, did I just comment on your blog too? Thanks for checking in here. Jeff

  8. Thanks for the advice, Jeff. Yep, you commented on my blog. You’re EVERYWHERE! :)

    I baked my second loaf and it’s more custard-y already, only three days after I made the dough. We’re pigs, we’ve been eating a lot of bread.

    Could I use white whole wheat instead of traditional whole wheat?

  9. Hi Sheri,

    I love the King Arthur White Whole Wheat and would definitely recommend you try substitute it for traditional WW flour in our recipes. Let me know what you think. Check out our post on the subject in the November archive.
    Thanks, Zoe

  10. Just got your book for Christmas and have made the basic recipe several times now with great success. It’s a very handy technique, even though I love to bake and knead the traditional way. Since I am a sourdough enthusiast, I decided to try a little experiment. When my first batch of “ready to go dough” was almost depleted, I used it to start another batch. I followed the directions for dissolving the yeast and flour in warm water, then added the left over dough in small pieces. I let that soften in the warm water mixture for a bit, then added the flour a cup at a time, blending well. I like the slightly sour flavor, which I expect will grow over time, and also the fact that I am starting a new batch that tastes like it has had a chance to “age” a bit. I can also use less yeast that way. Thanks for your information and enthusiasm. Great bread deserves it!

  11. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for the feedback and tip! I’m so glad you are enjoying the book and the bread. The wonderful thing about making bread is the variety you can produce from different methods. I too add the last of my “old” batch to the new to enhance the flavor of the fresh batch. It gives it so much more character, right away.

    Thanks again! Zoe

  12. Hi Sheri,

    Thanks for sharing our bread with so many people, we are thrilled that you are having such a great experience with it. I’ll join you on Fine Cooking to see what people have to say. Your feedback is really helpful.

    Thanks, Zoe

  13. You’re welcome – I really just want to share the find with people who love to cook. Actually, I listen to The Splendid Table, which is how it ended up on my Christmas list. And thanks for posting to Fine Cooking. I know everyone there loves to hear from one of the authors. And now, I can’t wait to try the naan!

  14. Hi Sheri,

    Lynne Rosetto Kasper is a wonderful woman and a great cook, I love her show! So glad you heard the piece we did on the splendid table. Thanks again for spreading the word. I can’t wait to hear about the naan. My kids will be up soon and we will try the brioche version!
    To be continued…

    Zoe

  15. I’ve baked about ten loaves using your methods and recipes, but I’m finding that the dough just isn’t rising as much as I think it should, nor is there very much oven spring. This becomes even more evident the older the dough becomes. Any suggestions?

  16. Jeff and Zoe..I just viewed your amazing video showing you making your 5 minute bread and I have a question about adding salt with the yeast. I understand that doing that retards the yeast and with the low-yeast method, would that be a problem?

  17. Hi Lindy,

    Thanks for trying out the bread, now lets try to figure out how to get you some more oven spring. I’ll need to know a little more about your experience baking with our method. Are you using the full amount of yeast we call for in in the book or are you doing this lower yeast version. You should get a nice spring with both but you will have to treat the dough differently depending on the amount of yeast.

    I’ve come up against a couple of people who had their yeast fail. It is rare that a package of yeast will not work if it is within the expiration date, but I’ve had it happen recently. You may want to proof your yeast once, just to make sure.

    The last thought I have, without getting more info from you, is your oven temperature. Are you using an oven thermometer? If your oven is running cool it will impact the rise of your bread.

    OK one more idea, the size of the loaf. If you are making your loaves larger than 1# then they will require a longer rest.

    Let me know if any of this sounds like it might help. If not, we’ll keep at it until we figure something out.

    Thanks, Zoe

  18. Lindy: There’s one other thing I’ve heard from experienced bakers who try our method and find it isn’t rising as much as they like. It often turns out that they’re handling the dough too much and knocking all the gas out of it. You really must not knead in our method. And if you overdo the “cloaking” step, you will, in effect, be kneading. In the book, we say 30 to 60 seconds of shaping and “cloaking” but experienced people can probably do it in 10 seconds. Just a few turns, pulling the dough around to its bottom. The less handling, the more rise.

    Could that be what’s going on?

    Jeff

  19. Hi Karen,

    The yeast and the salt are in contact for such a short period of time that it will make no difference to your dough. If you are nervous about it you can add the yeast to the water and the salt with the flour.

    Enjoy and let us know how it comes out!

    Thanks, Zoe

  20. Karen: we’ve always ignored the prohibition about yeast and salt coming into contact, and the low-yeast method was no exception when I mixed that up. Right now I have a batch going with a half-dose of yeast (compared with the book) and it’s working beautifully. The version in my original post used a really miniscule dose, and took a long time to rise. I’m not seeing such a large difference in the half-dose version, so it might be a good compromise for people who want less yeast flavor.

    Jeff

  21. To Zoe and Jeff: My yeast is newly purchased; am using the amount in the “regular” recipe, not the low yeast version, and am baking with a brand new Whirlpool natural gas range with AccuBake oven (and use an oven thermometer as well). Now, I do use my KitchenAid to mix the ingredients; also, my house is heated by wood so the air is quite dry, but even using a proofing box with a bowl of hot water inside, I still don’t see much rise. Will try a shorter mixing time and a longer proof time. My digi scale came in so I’ll be able to be more precise in weighing out the dough. BTW, the bread is excellent regardless.

  22. Lindy: This is really interesting. You’ve said you’re not getting the “rise” you expect, but you find the bread to be excellent. So here’s what I think is happening. You’re getting expansion of fermentation bubbles, and the volume of your dough is probably increasing (otherwise you’d find it dense and unappealing). But, it’s probably expanding sideways more than traditional, dryer dough. So the result is nice, but the shape is unexpected. You have some options:

    1. Bake in a bread pan or a covered, enameled, cast-iron pan. That will prevent sideways expansion and force the bread upwards.

    2. Make your dough a touch dryer, just a little more flour. Try a quarter-cup more, keeping everything else the same (including flour brand).

    I’m glad to hear you’re liking it though! Thanks for hanging in there with it.

    Jeff

  23. Hello,
    I’m anxiously waiting for my copy of your book from Amazon but in the meantime I’m trying your basic recipe and have a question I couldn’t find an answer to in your question area.
    Does it matter what kind of yeast we use? The label on mine says “high activity instant dry yeast”.
    Regards,
    Shane

  24. Please don’t bother responding to my question about yeast. I just didn’t look far enough and I’ve now found that it doesn’t matter what kind of yeast I use.
    Thanks,
    Shane
    P.S.
    Can’t wait to receive your book and since I live in Australia I have to wait for the long publishing date and then the long shipping time to Oz.

  25. Hi Shane,

    We look forward to hearing back from you about the bread you bake. We are also curious about the flour that is available in Australia. Do you know if what is available in stores is comparable to U.S. unbleached all-purpose flour?

    Thanks and enjoy the book!

    Zoe

  26. Hi, I’m loving the book (letting the dough sit right now for my first sandwich loaf), but I have a question. Have you done any experimenting with making a wheat-free bread?

  27. It’s very dry where I live in th e desert, so when I leave the dough to rise, I cover it with one of the silicone covers (the ones that just lay on top, not the ones that stretch). They keep the moisture in during the rise, and also allow gas to escape in the fridge. I’ve had those Cambro dough buckets on order for ages (no doubt due to the popularity of the book), so I had to make do with a substitute.

    What I want to explore are more whole-grain bread recipes, not just whole-wheat, but other grains as well–especially ones that use little or no white flour.

  28. If you use very little white flour, you can end up with dense bread… the white part of wheat flour is where the gluten lives; that’s essential for a nice airy rise. Are you averse to gluten? You can jazz up the rise in a high-bran recipe with vital wheat gluten (VWG) but it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your recipe. If you use VWG you won’t be avoiding gluten, if that’s your goal. Jeff

  29. You two are gods, and have made me a star in my mini-verse. I know I’m not the first to say this, but your recipe/technique can change the course of history (given that the word gets out to enough people.)I’m just blown away, and so is everyone else I share this with. Thank you! for sharing your labor of love with the world. :-) ..Now, my question: I have a lactose-intolerant husband, and I’m pining over the almond creme bread recipes. Can I substitute soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk for the milk in the almond creme recipe? Similarly, what can I use as a tenderizer for the 100% whole wheat sandwhich bread? I don’t understand the chemistry of it. :-( Thanks for any tips/insights.

  30. Hi Celene,

    Thank you! It means a lot to us to hear your feedback and we love that the bread has made a star of you!!!

    Yes, you can replace any of those milk alternatives to the almond cream recipe.

    I’ve never tested the 100% whole wheat recipe with those milks but I sispect they too would work.

    There is good news for your husband. Jeff and I are working on a new book that will address baking bread for people with special diets. Lactose-free, gluten-free and many more. The bad news is that will take us a while, but keeps you eye out for it in the future!

    Thank you so much and let us know how your recipes come out!

    Zoe

  31. I’ve just discovered your method from yesterday’s article in the Boston Globe. My first batch of half-yeast dough is sitting on my kitchen counter even as I type. I’m an experienced bread baker and I’m looking forward to seeing how this no-knead method works. (Honestly, it seems *too* easy! LOL)

    Question–when you halve the yeast, do you also halve the salt to match?

  32. Thanks LJ! When you halve the yeast, keep the salt the same, or the flavor will be way off. I know what you’re thinking, salt is inhibitory against yeast, but there isn’t enough effect to prevent you from succeeding this way. I’m interested in what drew you to the low-yeast version.

    Jeff

  33. Hi LJ,

    One more thing to note about our method, it is best to handle the dough as little as possible. I stress this with you because you are an experienced baker and are used to kneading. Our dough performs best when handles the least, maybe 30 seconds to shape the boule.

    Thanks and keep us posted!

    Zoe

  34. Thanks for your quick responses. Just pulled the boule out of the oven. Didn’t wait for it to cool before cutting a piece. :)

    The crust is divine, the crumb with lovely texture. It does need the full amount of salt. Oh well, that’s what salted butter smeared on the bread is for.

    I was really amazed that you can form a loaf in just a few seconds of handling.

    And Jeff–the reason I wanted to try the lower yeast version is for taste. I don’t like the taste of yeast-heavy breads and am a big fan of sourdough, so leaving the dough to sit for 6+ hours was a worthwhile tradeoff.

    I also gave the loaf nearly 2 hours to rise before baking. I must not have used enough corn meal on the paddle because the loaf didn’t want to slide onto the pizza stone. The dough ‘smooshed’ a little in the process and I thought I’d end up with a pita bread.

    But it recovered and sprang up in the oven.

    I don’t think this will entirely replace my regular bread baking (there’s something emotionally satisfying about kneeding dough), but it does make having a fresh baguette or boule for dinner feesible on a work day.

    Many thanks.

  35. LJ: If you do a prolonged rise on a pizza peel, you need to use a lot of cornmeal or other “lubricant” on the board, or you’ll get sticking as you experienced. With the 40 minute rise, you have a little more leeway. But as you’ve seen, the low-yeast version may do a little better with a longer rise.

    Jeff

  36. Hi Jeff,
    I met you at Cooks of Crocus Hill before the holidays–I’m the lady from NYC; we are here in MN about 20 yrs. We saw your recipes first in the NYTimes and tried the basic recipe a few weeks ago. We LOVE it! We have been baking for all our friends! We now own your book. Thanks also for the errata sheet–some further questions on the babka–do you mean 2 tbsp yeast (I think that equals 3 packets). Is the dough always refrigerated before using (should I just ignore statement “only 40 minutes rest if using fresh, unrefrigerated dough.” hanks so much–rochelle

  37. Hi Rochelle,

    I’m Zoe, Jeff’s co-author and I just wanted to address your Babka questions. We seem to have really made a mess of the Tablespoons vs packets throughout the book. I’m sorry for the confusion. Yes, you are right 2 Tablespoons is closer to (2 1/2 packets).

    I’m sure you saw the note on the errata sheet about the flour being 7 1/2 cups and not 6.

    Lastly, this dough is so enriched with egg yolks and butter that it is really much too soft to use before being refrigerated.

    Once all those adjustments are made it is really a spectacular bread. I just recently made it to bring to a radio host and she was in love with it.

    I thank you for trying it and look forward to hearing your review!

    Thanks, Zoe

  38. Hi Rochelle: I love to hear from other NY transplants (I think we moved here the same week!). Glad that the bread is working for you; sounds like Zoe’s worked out your Babka questions. That is a tasty one. Jeff

  39. FYI–I posted my experience in baking this bread on my blog (www.ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com) along with links to this site and to amazon for the book.

    I hope it’s alright–I posted the modifications I made to your master recipe as printed in the Chicago Tribune article. (Using 3/4 Tablespoon yeast and using half whole wheat flour).

    Please let me know if I’ve run afoul of copyright et al and I’ll remove the recipe.

    Thanks!

  40. Lisa: Our basic recipe is all over the web, and the truth is that putting forth the basic recipe into the universe gives people a way to try something that violates their expectations without having to fork over a chunk of money. That’s the new reality for intellectual properties– music’s gone through the same trauma. So people try us for free, and if they like it they reward us by buying the book for all its variations. If they don’t, nothing lost. If it weren’t for the web, we might never have gotten so many people to try something so new.

    Works for us.

    So thank you!

    Jeff
    PS: from a technical copyright standpoint, recipes are only protected for their actual word for word text, not for the intellectual concepts contained in the recipe. Since you didn’t use our exact words, all is well.

  41. Thanks for the advice about using whole grain flour, Jeff. My last batch I used the basic recipe with half WW flour and half white, used milk for half the water, and 1/4 c. honey–I was pretty pleased with the result. I’ll try my next batch with the white whole wheat. I have no problem with gluten–it’s just that white flour is missing a lot of the nutrition lost in milling. I wanted to make my own bread to improve on what’s available store-bought (even from my co-op), both the taste and the nutrients. Even early on, I think I’m coming out ahead.

  42. Thanks Mike. The other thing I should have told you was that when you increase the whole wheat fraction beyond about 1 to 1 1/2 cups out of the 6 1/2 cups of flour that our basic recipe calls for, you need to start increasing the water content. Not quite so much with KAF’s “white” whole wheat product, but certainly w/traditional WW. Once you get to about 1/2 WW out of the total flour volume, you need to increase the water by about a quarter cup, or even a little more. The dough should look about as “loose” as usual or it won’t store well and may be dry from the first loaves you bake. Jeff

  43. For the most part I mill my own whole wheat, seven grain, and rye flours, and I’d like to use your technique with my home-milled flours. I just tried a 100% whole wheat recipe and the resulting dough was MUCH wetter than I expected, so I added more flour and let it rest for about 3 hours. It rose fine, but I haven’t baked a loaf from it yet.

    My question is how should I adapt the quantities in your recipes, using my home-milled flours, as they’re quite a bit more airy than store bought?

    Also, I have had a bit of a problem with larger loaves not holding their shape in the oven. Instead of expanding into the cut areas, I sometimes get bulges out of the sides of the loaf. How can I protect against that?

    Thanks VERY much for developing this technique. I LOVE it!!!! I’ve never had time to do anything but bread machine loaves in the past, and this technique gives us bread that seems in some ways to be a gift from the heavens. Thank you, thank you!!

    Rick

  44. Hi Rick,

    I love that you are grinding your own flours, it is something I’d like to do more of.

    I’m not exactly sure how to guide you on this without knowing the particular flour. I’m afraid you may have to enter into a phase of trial and error???

    As for the larger loaves expanding and having crazy oven spring where you don’t expect or want it. I think there are two things going on. When you are dealing with a really large loaf you have to let it rest on the peel for a considerably longer time. It needs to have time to get warmed up before going into the oven or these odd protrusions will spring off the loaf.

    The other factor is how you slash the dough before baking. Your cuts need to be 1/4″ deep so that the dough will open up and expand where you want it to and not elsewhere.

    I hope this helps. I wish I had more info on the milled flour. If I find something out I’ll get back to you!

    Thanks, Zoe

  45. Thanks, Zoe! Your comments about allowing additional resting time make sense. I’ll try that in the future.

    Regarding the flour I’m milling, I’ve been experimenting with various mixtures. All have as their predominant ingredient hard white spring wheat, supplemented by a small amount of hard red spring wheat, seven grain berries, rye berries, or whatever, depending on the bread I’m baking.

    The grinding process produces an airier, lighter mix of flour than what you find in store bought flours.

    I’m guessing that if I could measure by weight, instead of by cup, I could probably get pretty close to the proper result. When you specify a cup of flour, what do you expect it to weigh, in grams or ounces?

    Thanks again for your help and insight with this; I really appreciate it.

    Rick

  46. Rick:

    Best as we can tell, one cup of commercial all-purpose, around 10 to 11% protein, measured with the scoop and sweep method weighs 5 ounces or 142 grams. Jeff

  47. I coveted this book since hearing you on The Splendid Table, and my DH gave me one for Christmas. Haven’t bought a loaf of bread since then, and my kids say they are “ruined” for other bread forever! Thank you for putting bread-baking where it belongs, back into the hands of busy home bakers. Bread is made every day in homes all over the world with the humblest of resources and shouldn’t be made so complicated that people think they “can’t” do it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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