Fresh yeast, also called baker’s yeast, cake yeast or compressed yeast is my preferred type of yeast when making bread. It should be kept in the fridge and lasts up to 4 weeks. Fresh yeast has no artificial additives. Although not widely available in Australian shops, it is possible to find it in some delis and bakeries.
To buy fresh yeast look for a nice creamy colour without any dark or dried out spots. It should smell pleasantly and crumble easily. Greyish yeast that is stretchy and gummy is past the required freshness and might produce an unsatisfactory loaf. If in doubt, mix a small amount of yeast in some warm water with a tablespoon of flour. If it rises, it means it’s still active.
Dry yeast on the other hand can be kept for up to 2 years. This is especially handy if you don’t bake with yeast very often. However, dry yeast usually contains additive sorbitan monostearate (E491).
Common Yeast packaging
In recipes requiring yeast, different yeast types and amounts can be stated. That can be very confusing. Also, depending on the origin of the recipe the amount can be stated as a cube or a cake of yeast. Here are the most common yeast packaging sizes:
- Dry yeast in small packs has most universal weight. One packet, one sachet or one envelope weighs 7 grams (0.25 oz or 2 teaspoons). 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of dry yeast equals 3.5 grams
- Fresh yeast packaging differs significantly. In Australia it’s commonly produced in 1 kg blocks and then cut up into prepackaged small chunks or sold at the counter according to the customer’s requirements. US cake of fresh yeast is packed in 0.6 oz or 17 grams. If a recipe of European origin asks for a cube of fresh yeast, the required weight is 42 grams or 1.5 oz or 2.5 US cake portions.
Fresh yeast to dry yeast conversion and vice versa
The packaging types, sizes and measuring systems aren’t the only thing needing conversions. If you only have dry yeast and the recipe calls for fresh yeast, what do you do? Fresh yeast to dry yeast conversion and other way round is an easier one. Very often I read in different recipes suggestions to half or double the amount to change the type of yeast. That would result in too much of dry yeast of too little of fresh and longer proving time.
The rule of thumb is dividing or multiplying by 3:
- from fresh yeast to dry – divide amount by 3, eg. instead of 30 grams of fresh yeast use 10 grams of dry
- from dry yeast to fresh – multiply by 3, meaning 7 grams or dry yeast becomes 21 grams of fresh.
Another easy way to remember yeast conversion is:
10g of fresh yeast = 1 teaspoon of dry yeast
10 : 3 = 3.33 g
As you can see above, this is close to 3.5 g – the average weight of one level teaspoon of dry yeast. Teaspoon volume varies depending on the manufacturer and the shape. However, a few grams more or less of yeast won’t make a huge difference in your recipe.
The amount of dry yeast in recipes and on the packaging instruction is often exaggerated. As a result the dough rises too quickly and has a yeasty taste. Reduce the amount of yeast and allow the dough a bit of extra time if necessary.