From brews to buns, yeast has been used for centuries to help give life to some of our favorite food and drink. Also known as saccharomycotina, yeast are tiny organisms that are part of the fungi kingdom, and through fermentation this tiny little entity grows and gives beer and wine its alcohol content, and allows bread to rise. Yeast can be found naturally occurring on the skins of grapes, apples, and melons, and exists within the digestive tract of humans and a number of other mammals and insects. Yeast can be found in fermented beverages like wine, beer, and kombucha, and baked goods like bread, pretzels, and cinnamon rolls. Nutritional yeast provides vitamins and protein, and is an excellent source of B-vitamins; this type of yeast can be purchased in bulk and is a great addition to any vegan or vegetarian diet.
The most common types of yeast are baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, and if you’re interested in learning one of the most common ways to use yeast in the kitchen, check out Dan McTiernan’s How to Bake Real Artisan Bread.
Used primarily in baking, baker’s yeast is perhaps the most widely utilized type of yeast. Known for its ability to help breads become airy and light, baker’s yeast is accelerated when combined with warm water or milk and sugar. When the mixture is then combined with flours and gluten and is kneaded, it expands further to create a spongy, pillow-like texture. Without baker’s yeast, breads would be hard and flat, and dinner rolls wouldn’t have the soft fluffy texture we look forward to each Thanksgiving.
Baker’s yeast is made by a number of different companies, and exists in a variety of forms that are readily available at most supermarkets. Small packets of granulated baker’s yeast are perhaps the most common however, bulk baker’s yeast can be found at specialty food stores. A few companies have also introduced easy bake or instant yeast, which works faster than traditional yeast, and yields a similar result. Baker’s yeast also comes in “cake” form, which needs refrigeration as it is fresh and spoils quickly. For those who love bread and yeasty dough but have Celiac or gluten sensitivities, check out Chef Marco Ropke’s Online Pastry School – Gluten Free Bread Baking Course, and learn everything about yeast, gluten, and how to enjoy the baked goods you love without gluten.
Brewer’s yeast has been used for centuries to create many of our favorite drinks like wine and beer. From home brewers to large corporate bottling companies, the types of brewer’s yeast vary when making ales and lagers. While baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast are different strains of the organism, the yeast use to make ale is the same strain of yeast used in baking bread. Brewer’s yeast reacts with sugar to create fermentation and bubbles, and of course alcohol. Yeast is also similarly used in winemaking although the process utilizes brewer’s yeast in addition to the yeast already present on the skins of grapes. Reacting with the sugars within the fruit, the yeast helps produce alcohol within the beverage. If you want to learn more about making beer at home, look into Brew Your Own Beer with the Mr. Beer Kit course taught by Philip Ebiner. Once you understand the equipment and materials needed, you’ll soon discover the complex and fascinating process of brewing your own beer.
Whether you’re hoping to create a tasty beverage for your neighbors to try at your next big summer barbeque, or you’re hoping to find that perfect croissant recipe, yeast exists to help make all your favorite foods delicious and tasty. Even those with gluten sensitivities can enjoy fluffy baked goods with the help of this centuries old organism. Try Dr. Ted Esler’s Brew Real Beer course, or sit down with your favorite cookbook to find a bread recipe to try. Using yeast doesn’t have to be scary or complicated, and in fact a loaf of bread can be easily made within a few hours. Kids love to watch too as the bubbles start to fizz when you add sugar and warm liquid to the mix. Across thousands of years, humans have harnessed the power of this tiny little being to create the foods we love. Why not see for yourself?