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

  1. I was able to get fresh cake yeast from an Italian grocery store,
    How do I add this yeast inAb5 or Hb in 5?
    How long will this yeast keep in the frig.?
    Ca I freeze and for how long ?

    • not sure there’s any advantage to it, but it does work, and some people swear by it. It’s in the books, we called it “cake yeast” in the books; see page 10 in AB5, or page 16 in HB5. When we say “… the quantity,” we mean the volume in tablespoons/teaspoons etc. You can use low-yeast versions of our doughs as well, see FAQ tab and click on “Yeast: can it be decreased in the recipes?”

      • Hi Karen,

        It is a yeast that has dough enhancers in it, which will make the dough stronger. We use Platinum by RedStar, which is the same concept.

        Thanks, Zoë

  2. I don’t object to the full yeast bread, but wonder if I can lower the salt–the bread seems overly salty to our low-salt household.

  3. Hi!

    I bought granulated yeast in bulk at the a health food store. But this was about 2 years ago. I kept it in the fridge for a few months and then put it in the freezer. It has been about a year since I made any bread so I wonder if the yeast is any good. Same with the vital wheat gluten, but that is in the fridge not the freezer. Should I toss everything and get new ones?

    I am hoping to make some rolls for TG!

    Thanks!

    • The yeast should be fine; if you’re worried, just proof it 1st, mix with a little water and sugar and make sure it bubbles. The VWG should be OK too, but smell it– if it’s absorbed fridge odors it may be bad. Might not be an issue if it was in a sealed glass container.

  4. I just purchased your New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes.
    Can I use Bread Machine yeast in your recipes?

      • I just purchased your Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day. When using your recipe for 100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread page 86 is there any way to successfully alter the recipe and add in some honey and olive oil? I have a similar recipe I use in my bread machine that has the same ingredients with the addition of l/4 cup of honey and 2 Tbsp. olive oil and would love to make it using your methods. Thank you!

      • Hi Colleen,

        You can try replacing those ingredients for some of the water called for in the recipe. If you try it you may want to start with a half batch to make sure you like the results. Let me know how it turns out!

        Thanks, Zoë

    • Hi Tom,

      This will work very well and some folks even prefer it with less yeast. If you have a Costco near you they sell red star yeast in a 1-pound block that is much cheaper than the jars or strips.

      Thanks, Zoë

  5. I am confused about the 14 days in the refrigerator. Can the dough be used after 14 days? If so, is there any problem doing that? How long can it sit in the refrigerator after 14 days and still be good?

    • Most of our testers weren’t crazy about dough older than 14 days. You can use it anytime up to that point, including the day it’s mixed.

      I’ve used dough as old as 30 days, but most people weren’t crazy about it. Discard anything that has mold on it (rarely happens, but see the FAQ titled “Gray color and liquid on my dough: Is there something wrong?”

  6. Hi. I tried to adapt your ww master recipe to create a softer, chewier sandwich loaf. I made one batch of dough (for 3 loaves). The first loaf turned out well baked in a bread machine, but 2nd one, which had to rest in the fridge overnight and doubled in volume (3rd rise) ended up gummy on the bottom. Since the dough for the 3rd loaf has doubled in volume in fridge (4th rise) and is a very sticky, slack dough, is there anything I can do at this point so that it’s not gummy? I’ve read that gummy-ness could be due to too much amylase. Should I fold and add flour/water until i get the dough to “window-pane” stage? Please advise. thanks.

    • Hi. Since I don’t know what adjustments you made when adapting the recipe, I’m not really sure how to advise you. You can try folding more flour into the dough, but it should still be wetter than traditional dough or it will not store well beyond the first day.

      Thanks, Zoë

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