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Using Active Yeast Instantly

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2016

We wondered if there might be enough moisture in a bread dough to allow us to swap active for instant yeast.

We prefer instant (or “rapid-rise”) yeast to active dry yeast in bread recipes because it’s easy to use. Active dry yeast package directions call for blooming the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes before adding it to other ingredients to remove the dead cells that surround the live yeast. Instant yeast granules aren’t surrounded by dead cells and can be mixed right into the dry ingredients.

We wondered if there might be enough moisture in a bread dough to allow us to swap active for instant yeast. To find out, we made fast-rising doughs (our Easy Sandwich Bread), slow-rising doughs (No-Knead Brioche), relatively dry doughs (New York Bagels), and wet pizza doughs (Thin-Crust Pizza) with both instant and active dry yeasts. We used 25 percent more active dry yeast than each recipe called for in instant yeast to make up for the volume of the dead yeast cells. In both batches, we mixed the yeasts right into the dry ingredients. In all cases, there was no discernible difference in the rise of the breads. However, the breads made with active yeast had a yeastier (though not offensive) flavor.

The takeaway? We still prefer instant yeast, but you can substitute active dry yeast in all recipes by using 25 percent more of it.