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Mr W was the main bread maker in our house until I signed up to cookery school. Now that I have to practice the job has fallen to me. He now gets exciting jobs… Like the washing up and manly DIY tasks.

When all goes according to plan I really enjoy making bread. I love the smooth, satiny feel as you knead it, the delicious smell as it bakes and the satisfaction of sitting down to eat something you made yourself that tastes sooo much better than anything you buy in the supermarket. When it goes wrong it is infuriating.

Until I started making white bread using the Leiths recipe I’d been pretty successful, but other than a lovely first loaf, my bread went from bad to worse. Bread became my nemesis. Stubborn refusal to rise … uneven crumb … cakey texture… You name it, it happened. My second to last attempt was the worst. A doughy brick that even birds wouldn’t touch. Was something wrong with the recipe?

Of course not.

As the brick was consigned to the compost heap I remembered what Paul Hollywood said in last weeks Great British Bake Off Masterclass – “Don’t use dried yeast, a load of rubbish” – an explanation as to why would have been helpful. Is it because you have to reconstitute it? Anyway, I realised that after making the first Leiths loaf I had switched from using fast-action dried yeast to dried yeast.

There are three sorts of yeast you can use in bread making; fresh yeast, dried yeast and fast-action dried yeast. Fresh yeast is mixed with water at 37 degrees to make a smooth cream. Dried yeast requires a slightly higher temperature (39 degrees) to reconstitute successfully. Fast action yeast is dried yeast that can be mixed directly with flour. It is easier to use and very reliable. If replacing fresh yeast with dried in a recipe, use half the amount in weight. If using fast-action use quarter of the amount.

So here we have a lovely little loaf made with fast-action dried yeast. Golden, chewy crust and a soft crumb.

Ok, so I need to make a few more loaves  to prove Mr Hollywood right, and I need to give dried yeast another go – My current theory is that I didn’t use water at a high enough temperature when reconstituting it – but for now I can say bread is no longer my nemesis.


What are your experiences of using fresh, dried or fast-action yeast? I’d be interested in your thoughts on what I might have been doing wrong. Do you agree with my current theory or have another suggestion?

Resources:
Leiths Techniques Bible: Susan Spaull & Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne

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