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Fresh yeast is produced biologically by feeding yeast cells with sugar, water and oxygen so that they start growing and dividing. It should smell fresh, and have an ivory-colour with a yellowish hue, without any dark or dried spots. It must be soft and moist and should easily crumble.
Fresh yeast is mainly used by professionals as it is highly perishable and must be used within a short time after opening. It is sold in compressed or cake form, in 17 gram (0.6 ounce) foil packages, and must be kept refrigerated.
Fresh yeast for bread-making can be fresh, dried or 'easy-blend', but in all cases it is a living organism that needs moisture, warmth and food (such as sugar or flour) to grow. As fresh yeast grows, it reduces carbon dioxide, which makes the dough expand and rise. In general, slowly-risen dough results in bread with superior flavour and texture. Extreme heat kills the fresh yeast, which is why the dough stops rising when it's baked in a hot oven. You should never use very hot water to mix the dough because it will kill the fresh yeast and stop the dough from rising. Be sure not to use too much yeast, or the final loaf will have a predominantly yeasty flavour.
How to Select
Crumbled fresh yeast
Crumble the fresh yeast with your hands to break them down. It can also be mashed with the use of a fork. Crumbled fresh yeast can be further stored or used as desired.
• Small, beige-coloured cakes of fresh yeast can be purchased from bakers, health food stores, supermarkets, specialty stores, etc.
• It usually is packaged in 17 grams (0.6 ounce) cubes wrapped in silver foil.
• When you buy compressed/cake fresh yeast, take it home and refrigerate it right away, and use it before the ‘Use By’ date on the pack. Culinary Uses
• When fresh yeast is used in baked goods (breads, Danish pastries, brioche, croissants, etc.) it not only increases the volume but also improves the texture, grain and flavour of the bread
• When added to dough, the fresh yeast starts a fermentation process by metabolizing sugar to produce ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, which leavens the dough.
• The gas bubbles are trapped in a porous, elastic web produced by the flour's protein (gluten) combined with liquid, giving the dough volume. How to Store
• If kept on a shelf, packaged and jarred yeast is not usable past the expiration date.
• If stored well-wrapped in the refrigerator or freezer, it can last for several months.
• Always bring the fresh yeast to room temperature before using. If you freeze it, defrost it for a day in the refrigerator before using.
• It is important to keep the yeast from drying. So, allow the yeast to defrost gradually in the refrigerator the night before you are planning to use it.
• The longer the yeast is frozen, the more it will lose potency.
• When in doubt about freshness of potency, discard.