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Compressed yeast is a yeast compound used for baking and creating yeast-based, or rising, foods. Most commonly used to create bread and bakery products, yeast creates the rise in dough that allows a flat ball of ingredients to become a puffy finished loaf. Yeast is sold in many different varieties; compressed yeast, while valued by some for its active performance, can be difficult to store and care for, and has a very short shelf life.
Yeast is a fungus originally collected by brewers as a by-product of beer making and sold to bakers to make bread. This one-celled fungi is an active little beast; when combined with carbohydrates such as gluten, it creates bubbles of carbon dioxide that get trapped in the dough's elastic structure, causing a loaf to rise. Since it is necessary to nearly every leavened bread product, the creation, packaging and storage of yeast is extremely important.
Compressed yeast is sold in blocks or bricks, featuring a high moisture content that must be carefully monitored. Typically found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores or bakery supply outlets, compressed yeast, also known as cake yeast, must be kept cool in order to remain viable. Some bakers swear by the excellent rise and flavor given by compressed yeast, but others bemoan the finicky conditions and short two to three week shelf life.
Fresh compressed yeast is cream-colored or beige, and has both moist and crumbly properties. If the yeast has turned brown or shows any signs of mold, it is generally too old and should be discarded. To check if compressed yeast is still active, try crumbling a small piece into a glass of slightly warm water; if bubbles begin to rise after a few minutes, the yeast is still fairly active.
If purchased in fresh, refrigerated cakes, yeast does not usually need to be proofed before use. Some dried compressed varieties do require proofing in warm water before adding to dough. Proofing essentially wakes up the yeast and activates it, beginning the process of creating carbon dioxide. In order to proof dried compressed cakes, crumble yeast in slightly warm water and allow to sit for several minutes.
To store compressed yeast correctly, try wrapping the cake in several layers of plastic wrap then cover them in tinfoil. Yeast should be kept in a cool part of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Compressed yeast can also be frozen for about a year, but should be used immediately upon defrosting for best results.
I have never used cake yeast before and didn't realize it has such a short shelf life. I usually make homemade bread in my bread machine and the yeast I use is the rapid rise kind.
If you try to use yeast that has expired, there really is a difference in how your bread turns out. Sometimes even if the yeast is too close to the expiration date, I don't get very good results.
I try to use it when there is still a lot time left before it expires. I have also found that using a dough enhancer really helps if I am having trouble getting my bread to rise.
If you get better flavor and texture using compressed yeast, I think I will give it a try. Would it work just as well in bread machines as mixing up the dough by hand?
@golf07 - If you prefer the results you get when you use compressed yeast, you can buy it and keep it in the freezer for several months until you are ready to use it.
This is what I usually do, so I always know I have some on hand. One thing I have learned with this is to let it defrost for a day in the refrigerator before using it.
Once it has completely defrosted, I let it sit out on the counter at room temperature until I am ready to use it.
I also like the fact that I don't have to proof compressed yeast. There have been too many times when I have used water that
was too hot or too cool, and then I never get the fluffy, light texture of bread that I was hoping for.
There is a strong connection between your yeast and dough texture that many people don't realize when they begin baking with yeast.
When I first began baking with yeast, I kept a record of what I did and how I did it. This way when something didn't turn out right, I knew what to avoid the next time.
@LisaLou - It sounds like you have some of the bread making secrets down. This is something I still struggle with, and I have been making bread for a long time.
It is amazing what a difference the type of yeast you use can make. Even though I have better results using compressed yeast, I usually rely on the individual packets of dried yeast.
I am not very organized and usually end up making bread at the last minute. When I buy yeast, I try to buy ones that have a long expiration date. Sometimes it might be months before I use it, and I want to know I have yeast on hand that has not expired.
I think any kind of yeast is finicky and I have had my share of bread making disasters. There are so many factors that go into a successful loaf of bread.
You have to be mindful of the amount of salt or sugar you use, the temperature of the water when you proof the yeast, and even the humidity in your house all play a role in how your bread will rise.
Because of this, I have found that using compressed yeast gives me the best and most consistent results.
I only buy this when I know I am going to be using it within a week. Because it has such a short shelf life, I don't
want to take any chances.
Before using compressed yeast, I had always used dried instant yeast, but many times was disappointed in the end result. The first time I used compressed yeast, my bread rose beautifully and even seemed to have a better flavor to it.