The Learning Curve: Proofing Yeast

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

So this week, I am skipping my normal CSA post, because we babysat for some friends while they went to adopt a baby (woot!), and I was trying to make teen-friendly food (tacos, meatballs, quiche, and pancakes).  My vegetables will have to wait for the random lunch at home and next week's more normal cooking schedule, when I am not using someone else's fridge.  

Instead, I am introducing yet another series (are you sick of them yet?).  I have been doing a fun series on basic cooking techniques over on Creative Green Living (I contribute twice a month), but I don't have any on bread planned out.  So I wanted to do a step-by-step on making a basic French bread, and post a few of my favorite bread recipes over the next few weeks to help you gain confidence in the bread-making department! 

One of the great things about bread is that once you know how the basic steps work, you can apply them to just about any bread you want.  A few successful ventures into the bread-making world and you will be hooked! 

The first step to successful bread-making is proofing your yeast.  Proofing your yeast is essential for properly rising bread.  The only exception to this step is if you are using instant yeast, which can be mixed directly into the other ingredients, without this proofing step.  Check to see if you have instant or active yeast before proofing.  

This is a general set of instructions that can be adapted to most recipes.  

active dry yeast
sprinkle of sugar (you can also do a drizzle of honey)
very warm water (some recipes might call for warm milk) - I use tap water that is almost too hot to touch.  

1.  Pour your hot water into a bowl (some people suggest using plastic, ceramic or glass, rather than metal, as metal can detrimentally affect your yeast; I have never had this happen, but I have heard this claim from multiple sources, so use metal at your own risk).

2. Pour your yeast into the bowl on top of the warm water.

4. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the yeast.

3.  With a fork, give your mixture a quick stir, to help the yeast dissolve (I left the metal fork in the bowl, and the yeast worked just fine.).  You should be able to smell the yeast working.  It has a warm smell.  A 'yeasty' smell, if you will...

4.  Leave the yeast in a warmish spot for 10 minutes.  Do not stir or disturb the yeast during this step.

5.  Check on yeast periodically.  Once the yeast is puffy, it is proofed and ready to be used for bread!

See how puffy and glorious that looks?  That yeast is ready to make a gorgeous loaf of bread!
If you have questions about your yeast, bread recipe, or baking questions, let me know!  I can't promise I can answer all of them, but I would be happy to try!  Happy Baking!


  1. Oh, if you ever come across a recipe for spelt bread (preferably one with as few ingredients as possible, and no sugar added), please let me know! My mom buys spelt bread and I've been trying to make it but no luck as of yet.

    1. Absolutely, Saskia! I found a cookbook that is all spelt recipes at my library a few days ago. Here is the link for it, if you want to check it out: I don't cook with spelt very often, but I may start branching out in my baking to include less common flours, like spelt and rye.


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