I'm having a LOT of yeast problems!
I've tried baking with active dry yeast AND instant yeast. I follow all of the directions and use the type of yeast the recipe tells me to use.
Most recipes tell me to put the dry-active yeast with flour, add lukewarm liquid, knead, and proof at room temp and that has been largely unsuccessful. I've tried mixing the yeast with a little bit of the liquid with a pinch of sugar to activate it before mixing it with flour but that also hasn't been working.
So my questions:
1. How can I ensure my yeast is fresh when I buy it? Should I buy it online vs in a grocery store?
2. When using dry-active yeast, should I mix it with a little bit of the lukewarm liquid BEFORE adding it to the flour regardless of what the recipe says?
3. Am I storing my yeast incorrectly?
Any advice would be helpful!!
1. I use only SAF yeast, and I keep it in a plastic freezer bag in the freezer. It keeps for years that way.
2. Don't worry too much about how warm your water is. I mean, it can't be very warm or it will kill the yeast. I've found that room temperature water works just fine! (I know... I was surprised when I discovered that, too.)
3. I don't care at all for instant yeast and never use it. The regular rises just as fast, I've found, and I've had inconsistent results with instant yeast -- except for SAF!
I have found that all too often the carton of yeast at the supermarket has inadvertently(I hope!) been allowed to sit on a heating unit somewhere along the way, and never lives up to its potential.
Yeast is a living thing & there is hope, but no guarantee, it is fresh.
That's why (older) recipes usually asked you to proof (test) it by leaving in warm water, sometimes with sugar, for about 10 min. If bubbles, yeast is good. If no, dead.
Maybe your store(s) have old stock. Look for one with more turnover where you can find fresher yeast.
If you can find it (getting rarer), buy fresh yeast (cube form, refrigerator case).
No matter what the "best before date," store opened bottle of yeast no more than six months in fridge or freezer.
Make a sourdough starter, as Stephanie B suggests.
Ask a good bakery to sell you some of their yeast (sometimes they do this).
Good luck...once you find a good source, you'll have much less frustration & better results.
1. I don't know of a way to know if your yeast is bad before you buy it! Maybe others have suggestions on brands?
2. Most recipes can be easily adapted to activate your yeast before you add it to your final dough mix, lots of people proof their yeast regardless of the recipe. I don't do it personally (so far I've been lucky!), but I can see why you'd want to be sure about your yeast before you embark on the whole bread making process.
3. I don't know how you store your yeast, but the important thing is that it's kept dry and sealed. Dry yeast should last a long time in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
You could always try doing a sourdough starter! It's really easy to see if that's still alive.