Origins & Information - (A-Z) Yeast

Yeast yeast yeast - a curious element used in several food-related items but also prevalent in the air around us. For the sake of this blog, I will be speaking mostly on baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) which is what we use in baking and brewing. Now yeast itself is a single-celled fungus that thrives on sugar and starch. The by-products are carbon dioxide and ethanol which are quite useful for the culinary purposes aforementioned. In baking, the carbon dioxide is used to make the doughs fluffier and the ethanol is burned off in the baking process. Interestingly enough, yeast does not "die" very easily; if you were to remove its sugar supply, it would go into suspended animation rather than die, and it also can live with and without oxygen. If one were to eat raw active yeast, the fungi would continue to grow in the person's intestine and live off of the body's nutrients. Talk about an unassuming parasite that it could become!

There are several different kinds of yeast and forms. This post is on baker's yeast because the list is too long of all the different yeasts there are (you can find it in detail here). The two forms in which you'll find yeast is fresh and active dry. Fresh yeast does not last very long and must be used immediately after being opened. Active dry yeast is the most commonly seen of yeast and is formed into little granules after being dried and vacuum-sealed. To become activated after purchase, yeast must go through proofing and kneading in dough. Then it can begin the leavening process and lead to delicious breads and baked goods.

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!