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 (which was 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. So this is an option to try when you have more time:

I tried it two ways, first halving the yeast (1/2 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. The 1/2 tablespoon version needs something in between (about 4-5 hours). You don’t need to increase the resting time after the loaf is shaped. 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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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

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

  1. Now that you have me making bread everyday and since it really does take less than five minutes each day, I find myself playing with the recipes. I used a lump of “old dough” from the end of a batch, and was thrilled to see that I needed no added yeast at all! It did add to the flavor, as Zoe said. Because yeast is so expensive these days, that’s good to know. Do you take it a step further and use a natural leaven?

  2. You’re welcome Becky! (I assume it’s the same Becky in both posts).

    We worked on a naturally-risen version of our recipe, but ultimately found that it took a little more attention than we thought was right for this kind of book. Keep in mind that what you’ve done is a little different than using wild yeast. You’re using a commercial yeast culture that, over time, will be at least partially replaced by wild yeast. My experiments with natural levain were with wild yeast, but I’m intrigued to try it your way. I have to admit that my experiments were a touch unreliable for stored dough. Jeff

  3. Jessie: We haven’t tested our recipes with beer and vinegar additions. There’s been a lot of interest lately in using those two ingredients to add flavor notes that sourdough bakers expect. But you can’t replace all the water with beer and vinegar. Try swapping out equal parts water for 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, and about 1/8 cup of beer. Let us know how it turns out!

    Jeff

  4. Hi,

    This may not be the correct thread for my question, but I was wondering if anyone could tell me if there is a difference between semolina and semolina flour, and if there is a preferred product for breadmaking. The products I’ve tried all seem a little bit grainy, and they lack a real flour consistency. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

    Thanks for any help,
    Barbara

  5. Barbara:

    “Semolina” and “semolina flour” are alternative names… but the best semolina for bread is labeled “durum.” The stuff labeled “semolina” or “semolina flour” from Asian and Indian markets is pretty coarse. If that’s all you can get, keep the percentage semolina fairly low. I got nice durum from King Arthur http://www.kingarthurflour.com. Confusing, I know.

    Jeff

  6. Thanks, Jeff, you’ve really helped. I was thinking of ordering from KA but wanted to be sure I had the right product.

    Barbara

  7. Hi Jeff!
    You know your master recipe is getting famous in the German blogcommunity, don´t you? Hope your book is selling as well.
    I am a German guy. With a little handicap. No, no, it´s not my little boy with Down Syndrom. ;-) It´s about cooking and baking in Mexico. That´s where I live. And things are quite different here. Some of the hints I found over German blogs are not useful in this country. But I tried.
    And it worked.
    Not perfect yet, but I´m happy about the result of my first shot.
    I just wanted to thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Hi Jeff,

    I wanted to provide a follow-up on the excellent information you gave me. I was all set to do a mail order, but because I now knew what I was looking for and what questions to ask, I decided to first pay a visit to our local Italian foods specialty store. After I described what I needed, they were able to show me the difference between semolina flour and durum. You were right — durum is the preferred product for bread baking. It is almost powdery and more closely resembles wheat flour, compared to the slight grittiness of even the finest semolina. I was able to buy in bulk and save shipping, too. So thanks again for steering me in the right direction.

    Barbara

  9. Cabronsito: Thanks for your comments. I wish my German was better, because I can’t really read all the comments on those German blogs. I’m really happy that it’s catching on a bit over there. Bread in Germany is great, even ordinary supermarkt stuff, so I’m really flattered. Now Mexico on the other hand, is not exactly a big bread country. So it’s a perfect place to try to make your own! Thanks,
    Jeff

    Barbara: When you baked off the semolina labeled as durum, how was it? Don’t keep me in suspense here? Jeff

  10. Hello Zoe and Jeff,
    You may recognize my email moniker from Cooks Talk. Couldn’t figure out how to post to Zoe over there, so came to your web page. Yesterday I made half the recipe posted by Deanna, i.e.:
    5oz KA white whole wheat flour
    9-1/2 oz KA bread flour
    11-1/2 oz 100F water
    1 packet Active Dry yeast
    1/4 oz Morton’s kosher salt.
    The result was tasty, but not spectacular and not what I call artisan, i.e. not holey.
    I let it rise in the fridge for 7 hours per Zoe’s suggestion,then baked on parchment on pizza stone in oven for 30 minutes at 450F.
    The dough was quite dry, (I wouldn’t call it loose),easy to shape, but didn’t have the rise I expected. Th finished boule was about 6-1/2″ wide and 2-1/2″ high. It did most of its rising in the fridge and that within the first couple of hours. Some but not much in the oven. Any comments or suggestions?
    Next time I plan to halve your recipe from the NY Times “Simple Crusty Bread”. Is that your Master Recipe? I don’t yet have your book. I plan to use 3-1/4 cups KA AP flour, 1 pkt active dry yeast, 1/2 tbsp kosher salt & 1-1/2 cups water. Do you think that will be ok? I am going out to get a s/s bowl to cover the boule in the oven rather than using a pizza stone and water in the broiler pan. I did like the crust that I got when I used Jim Lahey’s recipe(full quantity)and used a cast iron dutch oven, but like your flavor far better so I hope a bowl will produce the same result.
    Again, any recommendations?
    And thanks so much for your help.

  11. Hi Colleen,

    The dough you describe is much drier than what we have in the book. It will produce a much tighter crumb than our bread and will not store as well.

    If you are using KA all-purpose, KA white whole wheat or bread flour you will need to increase the amount of water. All of those flours absorb much more water than the average all-purpose flour that we call for in our recipes.

    Having said that you will get a wonderful bread using any of the above mentioned, but only if you increase the hydration.

    So when you go to try your next batch this is a good place to start:

    3 1/4 cups KA AP
    1 pkt yeast
    1/2 Tbls salt
    1 2/3 cups water (more water because you are using the KA flour)

    The bowl works really well if you bake it on a pizza stone and then you don’t need the broiler tray.

    Thank you for checking in with us. I hope this dough is more to your liking. Please stay in touch!

    Zoë

  12. “…but I have a question. Have you done any experimenting with making a wheat-free bread?

    01/15/08 1:04 pm jeff said…
    Cameron: Stay tuned, we’ll be working on that in the upcoming year (you’re not the first to ask)!”

    ———
    Jeff, I saw this post was very excited to read it! My son-in-law has celiac disease and is always on the look-out for a good and easy recipe for bread. My daughter is making herself half recipes of your bread and her hubby is jealous — ha!

    I’ve made several different types of gluten-free breads for him and have experimented quite a bit. One disadvantage to being on a gluten-free diet is that most bread recipes have absolutely no fiber and are very high carb. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with! Is this going to be in a new book?

    Patti

  13. Patti:

    The challenge with gluten-free breads is that there’s little structure to support the rise. So heavy, high-fiber ingredients tend to make for a heavy loaf. Most of the gluten-free experiments we’ve done have been like you said– high carb and low fiber.

    Well, we’re still working on it! Stay tuned, but it will be quite a while. Our next book will mainly focus on whole grain breads (including wheat) but assuming we’re happy with the results, we’ll probably include a few gluten-free recipes.

    Jeff

  14. “The challenge with gluten-free breads is that there’s little structure to support the rise. ”

    Don’t I know it! Almost all the recipes use eggs, xanthan gum and starchy flours to make up for the absense of gluten.

    What is interesting, the consistency of a gluten-free dough is much like the dough in your master bread recipe (only thinner). Usually you have to spoon the dough into a loaf pan and shape it as best you can in the pan. The real downside is with the eggs and rice flours, you can’t keep the dough in the fridge for an extended period.

    I have a Gluten-free Brown Rice bread recipe that I use most of the time. I occasionally add ground flax for extra fiber and nutrition. I continute to experiment with the brown rice recipe as my gauge.

    Patti

  15. Patti: If there are eggs, I’d agree that 5 days is the max. But aren’t some of the rice-based recipes out there egg-free? In which case you can go over a week. Jeff

  16. You’re welcome! Don’t think of yourself as “lazy,” just that you want to have great flavors but you need to prioritize other things at the moment.

    Thanks for writing, and thanks for trying our method, it means a lot to us. Jeff

  17. Oh Zoe and Jeff

    You have changed our lives! Been making bread since the book arrived a few months ago. Never fails.
    Since it’s been a hot summer, bought a Cuisinart Brick Oven to make my bread and don’t have to use any water. Still as delicious as it was when I baked in my regular oven with the water in pan method.
    Must be the clay. My husband and I exercise every night so we can enjoy the good bread without guilt. La Dolce Vita!

  18. Hi Diane,

    Thank you so much for the great note. I am very intrigued by the Brick oven and really want to get my hands on one to try it out.

    Thanks, Zoë

  19. I’m sorry if this has already been answered somewhere.
    Can you tell me the difference between what you refer to as granulated yeast and instant yeast. The recipes in the book say granulated yeast. I have a new large bag of instant and would like to use that instead. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  20. Hi Nancy,

    Your yeast will work perfectly. We have tested all kinds of yeast and found that it just doesn’t seem to matter.

    Happy baking!

    Zoë

  21. Sorry, I should have been more specific. :) What I was asking, and not very clearly, is about the difference in the amounts used.
    In other words, do you know what 1 1/2 T. of your “granulated” yeast is equivalent to in my SAF instant yeast, or is the measurement exactly the same?
    Thanks again.

  22. I have a question about King Arthur Flour. I tried the basic recipe with their unbleached all purpose and it wasn’t dry-rather it was blobby and much more gooey (good words?) than regular unbleached flour. It tasted good buy was not as “pretty” as the regular flour. Any thoughts?

  23. Sue: KAF all-purpose has more protein than ordinary AP, something on the order of over 11% (compared to 10%). That’s significant. We’ve gotten great results with it. It definitely takes more elbow-grease to get it mixed though, and it almost sounds like it didn’t get quite mixed enough. I bet it evened out as it aged? Or did it last long enough? I mean on the order of 7 days. Jeff

  24. I try whenever I can to buy my yeast in bulk. Preferably in 1 pound packages, which I can still readily find here in the Midwest. I then store my yeast in the freezer and just use just what I need. It takes me about a year to use up all the yeast stored in the freezer.

    I have found over the years that yeast can be very touchy even if you do everything right. So I always try to let the yeast dissolve in water first to make sure that it is still active. I also read somewhere that a tiny bit of vitamin C or ascorbic acid makes the yeast very, very happy. I have played with this by adding pill scrapings or a small amount of orange juice in a sweet roll recipe. The yeast does get very, very happy.

    I thought that I would share this recipe because I know that other “experimenters” excuse me I meant bakers out there would like try it. This could be interesting added to sour dough’s to add another layer of flavor.

    This was given to me about twenty years ago by Reni’ who lived on a boat that dock near Huntington Beach, CA. She also told me that her Aunt first gave her the recipe, which she found quite useful as money had to stretch a long way for her and her family to keep living and enjoying life on the boat, which she just loved.

    Yeast cakes

    2 cups water (warm)
    1 cup of sugar
    2-3 packages of yeast
    2 cups of all-purpose flour (may substitute cooked and cooled mashed potatoes in part or whole for the flour)

    Use more all-purpose flour for rolling out the dough.

    Dissolve sugar then the yeast in warm water and let set till bubbly. Add the flour and let set until it sours. Add more flour until you can roll it out and cut it into cakes. Set out to let dry 3 to 10 days. Turn the cakes over to even out drying. Do not use heat.
    Store in a container for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
    May be used as starter to make more yeast cakes.

  25. The first couple of batches of bread came out very well. But now my bread tends to have a dense crumb with a some very large holes. Also the crumb is a bit wet after baking (although I have increased the flour by a quarter of a cup as recommended), and the crust is very dark. What am I doing wrong?

  26. Kathrin: I can’t figure out what could be different. Are you using different flour or other ingredients? Have you checked your oven temperature? I’m assuming you’ve been working with a single recipe this whole time? Jeff

  27. Hi,

    I just got my “Mother Earth” magazine with your article on bread making. I have been experimenting with whole wheat sourdough (no added yeast) in the bread machine and have found that I can get a good rise without giving the bread much attention. I put in the starter and ingredients, knead the bread in the machine, then reset to bake only. I let it stay in the machine overnight, then bake one hour. It is the easiest sourdough and rises better than I have seen. The only thing it lacks is the chewy crusty outer layer, which brings me to my question: can this minimal-step technique be modified to use with the artisan crusty bread technique? I wonder if you can keep the mixed bread in the fridge, shape and rise overnight, then bake?

    Thanks!
    Wendy

  28. Hi Wendy, welcome to the site. I’ve done what you’re describing, and yes, it works. It’s a bit too temperamental for our books, but if you’re experienced with natural yeast (from the air), you should be able to pull it off. I agree that you can’t get such a great crust in a bread machine, which is what put Zoe and I on this quest in the first place.

    I successfully stored wild-yeast dough in the fridge and it lasted about 7 days (not 14 as in some of the recipes in our book). You need to keep the final consistency of the dough at about the level of our Master Recipe.

    You’ll have to play with the resting time; that will depend on ambient temperature and exactly what your mix of wild yeast and bacteria is.

    Let us know how you make out! Jeff

    PS: I wasn’t using all that much whole wheat… you might need vital wheat gluten as well, see our post on that at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=142

  29. Hi!

    I had the most WONDERFUL bread at a holiday party last week and was thrilled to discover your techniques and recipes! I’ve now got your book and made my first loaf this morning. Even with my first-timer mistakes it tastes GREAT. I’m sure it will only improve as I correct my mistakes. I’ve already started bragging to my friends and can’t wait to bake bread for everyone I know!

    I’ve also purchased a book for one of my dear bread-loving friends and wanted to ask a question on her behalf. She bakes a LOT of bread but will often substitute rice or spelt flours for all/part of the AP flour in a recipe as she’s mildly sensitive to wheat and likes to limit her exposure if possible. Have you done any experiments with spelt or rice flours? Any changes to your techniques that you might have discovered?

    Thanks for bringing bread back into my life!

    Di

  30. Di: Thanks for the kind words. The breads are tastier as the dough stores longer, so you’ll see that soon.

    Rice or spelt are fine so long as you keep them to the limits we have in the book (about 20% spelt or rice per recipe). If you go much beyond that, you need to adjust, usually with more water. Beyond 50% and you’ll need vital wheat gluten http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=142. We get into this in detail in our second book, dealing with whole grains and non-wheat flours, but the book won’t be out till 12/09. Jeff

  31. Jeff,

    Thanks for the response, and the page-reference! I’ll be sure to pass the word along to my friend. She’s going to LOVE your book, as do I! Will be looking forward to the next book, but no worries on the wait. Between all the options in the current book and all the tips on the website I’ll have PLENTY to keep me busy for the next year!

    Brought my first small test loaf to work for breakfast and lunch and several coworkers are asking when I’ll be bringing in enough for everyone. Answer: soon!

    di

  32. I just received Carls sourdough starter in the mail. Can you tell me how the starter should be prepared to be used. I have no clue what to do with it since this is my first time to try making the bread. Thank You.

  33. Paul: I’m not familiar with this starter you mention. I bet it can be used in addition to the yeast we call for in our recipes. Usually these products have you making a slurry and adding it into the breads liquid ingredients. Usually they don’t have much rising power, so you need commercial yeast too, as in our recipes. And per this post, you can decrease the amt of yeast– rising times increase.

  34. I was introduced to your technique and wonderful book at a two day Artisan Bread Workshop at my local Sur la Table (well, given two days we did lots of other things too!) But your concept really resonated with all students. Congratulations on a wonderful piece of work. I have successfully used the basic recipe but am looking for much more of a sourdough flavor (even more than aging of the basic recipe provides). I am a big fan of the Lalvain du Jour Starters one can buy from the King Arthur website. I’m wondering if your concept can be adapted to incorporating a Starter such as this? I am planning to spend 3 months in the Sierras this summer in a fairly remote cabin with a large extended family that are sourdough NUTS and I’m doing most of the cooking! So, any help will be much appreciated by many people (esp me :-).

  35. Hi Kim,

    I’m very interested to know more about the class you took at Sur la Table, sounds interesting!

    You can add a sourdough starter to our dough to either replace the yeast or just augment it and jump start the flavor. If you replace the yeast with your starter you need to allow the dough to rest for a great deal longer than we recommend in the book. It can take several hours.

    Have a wonderful trip and let us know how the bread comes out!

    Thanks, Zoë

  36. Zoe:
    Thanks so much for getting back with me so quickly! The instructions that come with the Lalvain du Jour Starters call for a ratio of 1 part starter (in the sponge) to 2 parts yeast (in the dough). Would you recommend that I apply the same ratio working with your recipe? Do you think leaving it out overnight would do the trick on the rising or do you think the dough might spoil if given that long? (The sponge in the original recipe rises at room temp for 18 – 20 hours)

    The class at Sur la Table was great, it’s a new offering for their cooking school. I found it at the Los Gatos, CA location and it was taught by local chef Mimi Pass. Don’t know if other locations are offering as well. The class was completely full (as you might imagine) and Mimi brought a copy of your book in. My guess is that every student rushed out and bought it, I know I did!

  37. Kim: That ratio sounds fine, go for it! Our dough doesn’t spoil if left overnight, but you can decrease our yeast if you’re planning to do that. Maybe cut it by half.

    We’ve got a Sur la Table in our area but they aren’t teaching at it yet…

  38. I am anxiously waiting the initial 2 hours before I am in heaven, lol. I do have a question. After the initial 2 to 5 hour time frame can I immediately use the dough? Or will I have to shape it and wait the 40 minutes for it to rise? My son is checking the clock!!!! Lol, thanks

  39. Hi Kimberly,

    If you use the dough right away, without refrigerating it you still have to let it rest once shaped, but as long. The handling of the dough and shaping it will knock some of the air bubbles out of the dough adn you need to allow then to be restored. In warm dough this happens much faster than cold refrigerated dough.

    If you used a low yeast version then this can take much longer than the master recipe as written in the book.

    Thanks, enjoy the bread!!!

    Zoë

  40. First time with your recipe and found the dough a bit “runny” I used the exact amts. listed. What do you think the problem was? Can I add more flour to remaining dough?

  41. Hi Marge,

    What kind of flour are you using?

    Did you use a scoop and sweep method of measuring the flour? If you spoon the flour into the measuring cup you will end up with much less flour, which will make the dough “runny” and hard to work with.

    Let me know and we can take it from there.

    Thanks! Zoë

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