Active dry yeast: do you really need to dissolve it first?

Is it really necessary to dissolve active dry yeast before using it in bread? Inquiring bread bakers want to know!

You may have heard over the past year or so that active dry yeast (ADY) has been reformulated into a smaller particle size, and can now be used without dissolving it first – as had always been the requirement.

Note: Dissolving yeast and proofing yeast are two distinct processes. First we’ll cover dissolving; see the end of this post for information on when to proof yeast.

Really – you don’t need to dissolve ADY in lukewarm water before using it?

Let’s put it to the test.

DDissolving Yeast-2

On the left, dough made with undissolved ADY – yeast simply added along with the other dry ingredients. On the right, dough made with dissolved yeast.

Dissolving active dry yeast via @kingarthurflour

An hour later, the dough has risen. I don’t see any difference – do you?

Let’s shape some dinner rolls.

Dissolving active dry yeast via @kingarthurflour

I decided to bake the rolls all in one pan, to make sure neither pan nor placement in the oven would affect their rise. Top row are the rolls using dissolved yeast; bottom row, undissolved. (If you’re really tracking this, the roll at the left in the middle row uses dissolved yeast; middle roll at right, undissolved.)

The rolls rise for an hour. I still don’t see any difference.

Dissolving active dry yeast via @kingarthurflour

Nor is there any difference once they’re baked.

So, inquiring bakers – inquire no more! You don’t need to dissolve active dry yeast in lukewarm water before using it. (Even though it still says you should dissolve it on the back of the yeast packet, if you buy your yeast in packets.)

Now, what about that “proofing” stuff?

Proofing yeast – or as it used to be called, “proving” yeast – serves as proof that your yeast is alive and active. And how, exactly, do you do this?

Well, if you’re using a typical 1/4-ounce packet of yeast, just follow the directions on the back: dissolve the contents of the packet in 1/4 cup warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. After 10 minutes, the mixture should be bubbly. Once you’ve proved the yeast is alive, go ahead and add it to your recipe – reducing the water in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

I actually never proof yeast. I use SAF instant, purchased from our Web site; I know it’s always fresh and vigorous.

But I did put a packet of Fleischmann’s to the test.

Dissolving active dry yeast via @kingarthurflour

Yeast dissolved in warm water with sugar on the left; same yeast, 20 minutes later. It only had a few small bubbles after 10 minutes, but 20 minutes did the trick.

Were you expecting foamy? Nah. But it’s definitely puffy.

And that’s proof enough the yeast is alive.

So, bottom line: dissolve yeast in warm water with a bit of sugar to prove that it’s alive. This shouldn’t really be necessary if the yeast isn’t close to its expiration date; and if you purchased it from a store with decent turnover. However, if you have any doubts about your yeast being good, go ahead and proof it.

But dissolve active dry yeast before using it – just because? No need. Add ADY to the bowl right along with the rest of the dry ingredients; your bread will rise just fine.

P.S. My fellow blogger, MaryJane, said I should let you know that if you want to dissolve your active dry yeast before using it, go right ahead. She’s right: no problem with dissolving it, if that’s the way you’ve always done it and want to continue.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Elizabeth Toth

    I recently baked yeast dough Hungarian nut rolls. Using cake yeast, it rose to the top of the cup. Next time, using dry yeast it rose halfway up the cup, but I could see some milk on the bottom. Cake yeast is not as easy to find as in the past. Can you explain why the difference, if there is a reason?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Elizabeth! Cake yeast works great, and it’s what bakeries use. The issue is it’s only good for about a week, so it’s really hard for stores to carry or companies to sell since the shelf-life is so limited. In general, a recipe that calls for “one cake of yeast” will work using 2 1/4 teaspoons of either active dry or instant yeast. We’ve found we get the best results using instant yeast, and would recommend that if you’re having trouble with the active dry. Annabelle@KAF

  2. Nora

    I bake bread a lot so I bought a 2# package of Fleischmanns yeast. In the past I’ve used instant yeast, I guess, but this is granulated. Does this yeast take longer to rise? I use a bread machine to mix the dough but I bake the bread in the oven. The first batch didn’t rise very fast and after baking it smelled very yeasty and seemed a bit doughy. Any comments? I checked the inner temperature and it should have been done.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Nora. Is the yeast labeled as active dry yeast or rapid-rise yeast? If it’s rapid-rise, you’ll want to use that only in recipes that call for a rapid-rise yeast because it behaves differently than regular yeast. You might also consider checking out Fleischmann’s website to see if they have any suggestions on the types of recipes to use, or if they have any specific instructions for using that particular yeast. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Anita

    Hello, I tried to make a cinnamon roll dough using a new and different Instant dry yeast, reason for which I proofed it first, came out OK, but later when I made the dough, it never rised again, is the instant dry yeast only capable of one time rising or something like that, thank you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Anita, that sounds frustrating! While you shouldn’t need to proof your instant dry yeast at all, it should be fine to do so. If your water was too hot, it might have killed your yeast, leaving it unable to rise. Too much flour can also stop your dough from rising correctly, which is a common issue for folks who measure their ingredients by volume rather than weight. Finally, it’s unlikely since you just bought a new batch of yeast, but the yeast itself might have been past its prime and unable to offer any more rising power beyond the first proof. If you take care of the first two and your cinnamon rolls still aren’t rising, then you’ll know the problem is with your yeast. But do try the easier fixes first, so you’re not left buying more yeast for no reason. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

  4. Judy

    My yeast never foamed and my cinnamon rolls are not expanding. Can I still bake them and will they be any good.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re sorry to hear your yeast didn’t work for you Judy, that means it’s died and needs to be replaced with some fresh yeast. While we’re sure the flavor of your cinnamon rolls was incredible, we can imagine that they were on the dense side without the rising power of your yeast. If you chop them into smaller pieces, they’ll be like little cinnamon bun cookies! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Annette Erdtsieck

    I’ve bought two brands of dried yeast, well within the use by date

    Put a dose in lukewarm water, sometimes (if it’s in the recipe) with a little sugar and it never ever foams up. Oddly enough, i get good results with the dough rising.. it’s just that the yeast mixture never foams up at all. Any reasons why?
    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Annette. The technology around making dried yeasts has changed so that the particles are smaller and have fewer dead cells around them than they used to; there may not be enough structure there to hold any carbon dioxide bubbles that are produced. You could always put a couple of tablespoons of the flour in the recipe into your proofing mixture, which would give you a better display if your yeast is working well (which it seems to be doing from your description). Susan

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Laura. If a recipe is asking for your milk to be lukewarm, feel free to still bring it up to that 90°F to 100°F threshold, but if it simply asks for milk you can use it right from the fridge. The colder it is, the longer your dough will take to rise, but it won’t be too significant of a difference. Annabelle@KAF

  6. Alra Reo

    Yes, I have been using active dry yeast when preparing for bread related items, like French bread, sandwich etc, for more yummy!! and tasty. I keep the rest yeast into the refrigerator for future use.

    Reply
  7. Trina

    I didn’t activate my yeast tonight when I made pizza dough. My dough still had the granules of yeast visible after 12 minutes with a dough hook in the KA. Is that normal when not activating or did I goof? It’s a dough that sits in the fridge overnight so I’ll see how it looks tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Trina, we’re surprised to hear that your yeast didn’t dissolve readily. It’s usually a fine practice to add either instant or active dry yeast directly to the dry ingredients without dissolving or “proofing” it first. (Check out this article on our blog that compares dissolved vs. non dissolved yeast in dough side-by-side.) We think your dough should look fine by the time you check on it tomorrow, but in the future you could try proofing your yeast until you finish the batch you currently have. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Trina

      It still had yeast granules in it today but it seemed to cook up ok. I used a Peter Reinhart recipe that called for instant yeast but I used traditional.

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