A friendly fungus, yeast is the microscopic magic that leavens bread and gives it its unique texture and flavor. At the grocery store, you'll see instant (or "rapid-rise") and active dry yeast. We recommend active dry—the activation (Step 2) means the yeast is alive and ready to go to work. Follow our steps and your bread will rise to the occasion.
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Step 1: Store
Use yeast packets before the expiration date. To store yeast after it has been opened, refrigerate the granules in an airtight container.
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Step 2: Activate
Stir active dry yeast into warm water (100° to 110°). Too cold and the granules will remain dormant; too hot and the yeast will die. Yeast loves sugar, so add a pinch to speed up activation (aka "proofing"). If bubbles appear, you're golden. That's the gas that makes bread rise.
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Step 3: Mix
Mix the bubbly brew with flour to make a shaggy dough. Most recipes call for a pinch of salt, not just for flavor but to slow the activation process, keeping the yeast in check so it doesn't activate too fast.
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Step 4: Knead
Knead the dough to create gluten, which behaves like bubble gum. It traps tiny gas bubbles produced by the yeast and stretches to give bread its springy texture.
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Step 5: Rise
Bubbles multiply and grow as the yeast starts fermenting, which gives bread its unique flavor and texture. After this first rise, shape the dough, let it rise briefly again, and bake it!