Yeast is that essential ingredient found in many of the food items we devour every day, but do we really know much about it? Chances are, we might have come across this term during those school science experiments or when our moms are busy baking bread in the kitchen. So what is yeast? Let us explore.
What is Yeast?
In simple terms, yeast is a type of fungus that plays a crucial role in making many of our favorite foods and drinks. You can find it in bread, pastries, wine, beer, and more. When yeast cells consume sugars, they produce carbon dioxide as a by-product. This carbon dioxide causes dough to rise, giving baked goods their fluffy texture and delicious flavor. It’s like a natural leavening agent!
The same carbon dioxide produced during fermentation also creates bubbles in beer and wine, making them fizzy and refreshing. Yeast isn’t just limited to the culinary world, though. It has other important applications too. For instance, it’s used in the production of biofuels and pharmaceutical drugs.
Among the numerous yeast variants out there, the one we commonly use in food and beverages is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This particular yeast thrives when provided with food, warmth, and moisture. As it consumes sugars, it releases carbon dioxide, which is why it’s so useful for baking and preparing various foods and beverages.
So, the next time you enjoy a fresh loaf of bread or sip on a glass of bubbly, remember to thank the yeast that sacrificed itself for its remarkable contribution to our culinary experiences!
Types of Yeast
There are mainly two types of yeast used in cooking; active dry yeast and instant yeast. Both of these variants can be used interchangeably for baking and preparation of other food items. That being said, each one of them has slightly different properties and may add varying flavours to the food, depending on the users preferences.
Active Dry Yeast
This is the most common type of yeast used mainly in baking. Active dry yeast typically appears as small pellets. It is made by removing the moisture from fresh yeast and then granulating and drying it. This process kills some yeast which acts as a shell preserving the live yeast inside.
Active dry yeast needs to be rehydrated in warm water before it is added to the mixture. It usually has a longer shelf than other commercial variants and can be stored for months in a row. It leaves behind a complex taste in baked goods.
To manufacture instant yeast, it is powdered to a fine form and is subject to gentle heat. As a result, most of the yeast are alive, hence improving its ability to act quickly.
Its advantage of rapid rising once activated, is particularly beneficial for large-scale baking. It can be directly added to the mixture without the need for prior dissolution in water. In terms of taste, it tends to have a more straightforward flavor compared to active dry yeast.
One of the key highlights of active dry yeast is that it involves little or no processing. As a result, its ingredients are more complex and take time to activate and deliver the desired results to the food item. It is most suited for home cooking and various fermentation applications. In the case of instant yeast, it is the perfect ingredient where time is a factor such as pizza dough and bakery items. Most restaurants, cafes, and bakeries use this variant for all baking needs.
You may also like our article on Best Almonds In India
How Are Yeast Manufactured?
The process of producing active dry yeast starts with the production of yeast cultures which are grown in large fermenters using a mixture of water, nutrient, and sugar. The liquid yeast culture is centrifuged to separate yeast from the liquid. Once it is separated, the resulting yeast is washed and suspended in the water again. The resulting mixture is sprayed into a drum where the moisture is removed through evaporation, leaving behind the dry yeast granules. The dried yeast is then cooled, sieved, and packed in air-tight packaging. Some manufacturers may add some additives to yeast to improve its performance while baking. The resulting product is a dry and stable form of yeast that can be stored for months without the need for refrigeration.
The overall production process of instant yeast is the same as active dry yeast. One main difference is how they instant yeast is heated gently to preserve more yeast alive. Another key difference lies in its final stages of production where the yeast is mixed with an assortment of additives and preservatives which activates the yeast much faster than its counterpart. This is most suited for commercial establishments such as restaurants, cafés, and bakeries where everything needs to be prepared in limited amount of time. It is also suitable for people who are trying their hand at the bakery for the first time since it requires less work compared to active dry yeast.
Edible yeast usually come in the form of powders or granules. There are new variants of yeasts also available in the market which come in the form of liquid, which is easier to use especially for those who are unaccustomed to baking.
Let’s just focus on the dry variants; like any products that come in the form of powder, they need to be stored in airtight containers once the package is opened. While yeast does not require refrigeration and is kept in store for many months in a stretch, make sure to keep them in shade, away from direct sunlight. Keeping the yeast exposed to open air for long will weaken its properties and cause oxidation, which in turn will turn into a dust-like-form. In fact, if you find your yeast has turned like dust, chuck them out as they won’t ferment anymore.
When handling yeast, make sure to use a spoon to scoop the item and close it tight after use. The same rule also applies to the liquid variant. However, this variant may need to be used soon since it’s already “activated” and will not take long before it becomes spoilt once the packaging is opened.
To summarize, yeast has numerous applications in our daily lives that are not limited only to the food we eat. Yet, we know little about these nifty little things. It is a highly versatile food ingredient essential for making our bread, baked goods, and other delicacies we can’t do without. Whether you are a professional cook or a home cook, yeast plays an important part in all of it and is a must-have in our kitchen pantry.