Save Your Yeast!

baking bread with a yeast starterIf you bake your own bread, you need yeast. Once you have yeast you can save it from batch to batch. This is not just true for sourdough yeast but for all bread yeast.

Baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) causes bread dough to rise as it converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Like most of us you probably bought a 3 pack of active dry yeast at the food co-op or grocery store. Tucked in the back of your refrigerator it will last longer than almost anything else in there. If you have even one of the three packets you can keep growing your own yeast starter from there.

The key is to reserve part of the dough before all of the flour is added. At this point you’ve made a sponge whether you know it or not. Fill a glass jar half full of the sponge and store it in the refrigerator for future use. It’s still alive and as such it needs to be fed. If you don’t use it often mix a little flour into the starter as food. This is similar to how to keep a sourdough starter alive. Done with care your starter can be kept alive for years.

  1. Warm 3 cups of water to 110-115°F, stir in 1/4 cup of molasses or brown sugar
  2. Add one or two envelopes of yeast
  3. Beat 100 times with a spoon
  4. Let it sit in a warm place for 30 minutes
  5. Pour 1/2 cup into a glass jar halfway full and refrigerate it for future use
  6. Continue making your bread...

sponge yeast bread doughI’m a Baby Boomer who began baking bread in the early '70’s relying on The Tassajra Bread Book (what else). By now I don’t have to open the book and I can recreate their classic bread making recipe from scratch.

Sourdough yeast is different than baker’s yeast in two respects: it contains wild yeast(s) and lactobacillus. This is whata gives sourdough bread its unique taste and texture. I’m not a big fan of sourdough any more than I am of sour beer. Besides, it takes longer for sourdough to rise and making bread is slow enough as it is.

homemade bread recipeFor the homebrewers and fellow beer nerds in the room you can bake bread with brewer’s yeast but it takes longer to rise just like sourdough yeast. Rising times are much longer than baker’s yeast so plan accordingly. Ask your local microbrewery to share some of their yeast or find a bottle with trub at the bottom. You know, trub, the sludge full of yeast you don’t necessarily want to drink. Or buy a packet or two of brewer&rsqu;s yeast.


Trivia: Baker’s yeast was the first eukaryote to have its entire genome sequenced. It has over 12 million base pairs and approximately 6000 genes.

#bakersyeast #breadyeast #homemadebread