No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

FRESH YEAST - where to get it, and how to look after it!

A block - 800g - of fresh, baker's yeast

Where can I get fresh yeast?
Here in Taunton, Somerset, I get my fresh yeast from Sainsbury's supermarket - £2.30 for 800g, or 60p for 200g (3p for 10g), or 21p for 50g (4p/10g).

Tesco used to give it away, but has now stopped (however, I was in Tesco in Stevenage over Christmas and the baker gave me over 200g!);
Asda give it away; and,
Morrison's will tell you it's in the chiller cabinets, but it rarely is.

Small bakers where bread is baked on the premises are good places to try - and health food shops often stock it.

Other types of yeast:
Dried active yeast. 100% pure yeast. In the UK, Allinson's dried yeast (125g, in a yellow tin) can be found next to the flour shelves in most supermarkets at, currently, 64p. This will last for literally years in the fridge. Use half as much as fresh yeast. The instructions say to combine with warm water and a little sugar for 10 minutes or longer - but, once dissolved in lukewarm water it can be used immediately. I used this successfully for over 15 years  before I found a source of fresh yeast.

Fast action yeast. Typically 93% yeast - the other 7% being composed of additives and enzymes, this is much more expensive than other yeasts - up to £20/kilo for Hovis and Allinson brands. Not approved by the Real Bread Campaign.

Wild yeasts - and sourdough. Completely free and natural. Leave some water and flour, covered, on your kitchen worktop, and within 48 hours or so, it'll begin to ferment. And there's your wild yeast. There's some evidence that sourdough breads are easier to digest. 

Jan 13th 2014 Disaster! Well, that's a bit strong, but, strewth!
I'd joined a conversation about fresh yeast on The Fresh Loaf forum and thought I'd check the yeast in the fridge.

I'd completely forgotten that the fridge-freezer had been inadvertently switched off for 5 (that's five) days whilst we were away over Christmas! And in the flurry of activity trying to salvage what we could from the freezer, I also forgot about the yeast - which has been in the fridge since Sept 19th. The freezer was registering +3C and the fridge +12C.

As soon as I touched the package I knew it was going to be bad news! The yeast now has the appearance of a slow moving lava flow. 

Almost a liquid - but still OK!

It doesn't smell bad, and I think it would still work, so I've put most of it in a tub, covered it with water and placed it back in the fridge. I'll see if it can be rescued tomorrow if I can spare the time.

So, three months is still as long as I've kept it in the fridge. Up to that time it remains in good condition. I'll now have to start again with another block of yeast - and this time I'll try and keep it until sometime in May.

(I know no-one in their right mind would keep yeast for four months - but I'm curious to see just how long it remains viable!)

Yesterday I placed some of this yeast in a bowl with some water and a little flour. By the time I went to bed it was bubbling away nicely, so I added a handful of sultanas - and this morning I had fruit pikelets for breakfast.

The rest of the yeast - about 200g - is still under water in the fridge. This looks like another way to keep it fresh. The bottom line is to exclude oxygen from getting to the yeast - so keeping it in water is a more efficient way of doing this.

Tuesday 24th September 2013
I've now kept fresh yeast as described above for getting on to three months - and when used it is absolutely fine. But unfortunately, I didn't make a note of the actual date the yeast was bought. The yeast looks as fresh as if it was bought yesterday - it hadn't gone soft, and it smells perfect.

So now, I bought a block of yeast - still £2.30 for 800g - on the 19th September, 

and I've wrapped it in three parcels, 2 x 200g and 1 x 400g. 

I shall store these at the back of the fridge - kept at 4C - on the bottom shelf in a plastic bag. 

I intend to use up the two smaller parcels as and when I need them, but I'll hang on to the larger one for at least 4 months. My expectation is that the yeast will be just as effective at the end of that time. We'll see!

Wednesday 10th April 2013
I use a lot of fresh yeast - not as much as I did when I was teaching 25 hours a week - but I still teach enough hours to justify buying a block of 800g (£2.30 from Sainsbury's) at a time.

I generally recommend keeping yeast in the fridge in a plastic bag for about two or three weeks. However there's no way I can use 800g of yeast in that time, given that I'm presently averaging about 6-8 hours teaching a week.

Most of the advice about keeping yeast over this length of time recommends storing it in the freezer. This is perfectly effective, and if you want to do this, fine. if you do go down this route, the best way I've found to do this is to press it into an ice cube tray. Once the yeast has frozen, it can be popped out in cubes and stored in an airtight bag. However, to use the yeast, it has to be brought back to room temperature, and it becomes very gooey and unpleasant to handle.

There is another alternative - and that's to keep it in the fridge. I've done some experimenting, and I've found that wrapping the yeast, very tightly, in foil, then wrapped in a plastic bag, is the best way to keep it. It'll remain fresh for at least 8 weeks, stored on the bottom shelf at the back of the fridge.

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