The difference between fresh and dried yeast
Q: What’s the difference between fresh and dried yeast, and which is best to use in your baking?
A: Let’s start with the difference between the two. Instant dried yeast is a dehydrated and freeze-dried version of fresh yeast. It comes conveniently packaged in small sealed sachets which you can keep in your pantry. It also comes in larger amounts and if you aren’t using all of it at once it is best kept in an airtight jar in your fridge. Instant dried yeast can be added to your dry ingredients before adding the wet ones and doesn’t need to be activated before it is used.
Fresh yeast can be found at selected delicatessens and specialty food stores and needs to be kept in the fridge where it will last for about up to two weeks. When super fresh, it will have a pleasant yeasty aroma, be pale in colour and have the consistency of putty if you press it between your fingers. As it ages, it strengthens in aroma and becomes more pungent, darkens in colour and becomes crumblier in consistency. It can also be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months and I like to weigh it out before sealing it in snap-lock bags and popping it in the freezer. If freezing it, you will need to thaw it before you use it.
When you go to use it you will need to activate it by combining it with a little warm water, flour and sugar (using part of the ingredients from the recipe) and then setting it aside in a warm place for 5-10 minutes before it becomes nice and spongy – when it does this it is telling you it is alive and active and will be easier to incorporate with the wet ingredients before adding to the dry ones.
When it comes to choosing which one to use, they are completely interchangeable and the results will be similar. However, you just need to remember to use double the amount of fresh yeast to dried yeast. So, if a recipe asks for 7g instant dried yeast you will need to use 14g fresh yeast – and remember to activate it first.
Dried yeast is undoubtably more convenient to shop for, store and use but I find the fresh yeast brings something special to enriched European-style breads such as cinnamon scrolls.