Looking for a replacement for active yeast. Shortages at the store are making it quite tricky. Any help is greatly appreciated!

Hey all! I am dying for some babka and I thought I would try and bake a loaf myself. However I found the dry yeast I had at home is dead and couldn't find any at the store. I have started researching how to do a bread starter, in the hope of replacing the active yeast with it, but all the recipes called for unbleached flour and there is no unbleached flour at the store either (I only have bleached white flour). Any thoughts on how I can replace the active yeast the babka recipe requires? Sending love to all of you cooking your way through this quarantine!

Camila Crespo


Brinda A. March 22, 2020
Hi Camila, subbing yeast is tricky because not only does yeast leaven dough, it also helps to develop and strengthen the gluten in your baked good (resulting in a chewier, crustier bread). Baking powder or baking soda (plus an acid) won't quite get the same results.

If you don't mind waiting a few days to make the babka, I'd check online to see if you can buy any there. Or, you could make natural leavener (aka, a sourdough starter), as you mention. Though unbleached all-purpose flour (or rye flour, or whole-wheat flour) is preferable because it allows for the growth of more wild yeasts in the starter, I think bleached white flour will actually work fine—I've used it before to a totally workable effect. It will take five to seven days, though, depending on where you live, to fully cultivate the starter so that you can use it for baking (you can learn more about this process here: https://food52.com/blog/5327-how-to-maintain-a-sourdough-starter). Then, you'll have to follow a different kind of babka recipe because sourdough starter is wet by nature while yeast is obviously dry, and the proportion of flour will be different than traditional babka recipes. This one on the internet looks interesting to me: https://www.artisanbryan.com/post/how-to-make-sourdough-chocolate-babka-with-streusel-de-coco-recipe

If you have baking powder on hand and want a sweet treat sooner than that—not quite babka, but something with a similar puffiness to a yeasted dough—I'd try this cinnamon roll recipe from Violet Bakery (it's soooo very good): https://food52.com/recipes/76172-violet-bakery-s-cinnamon-buns

I hope this helps!
Camila C. March 22, 2020
Thank you Brinda! You are a life saver! i'll go ahead and give the bread starter a try.
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