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james 04-07-2007 03:35 AM

Hydrating yeast
Hey Jim,
I have a question on yeast preparation.

What is the signifiance of hydrating your yeast before you add it to the flour in terms of bread/pizza dough quality. I often get lazy and add the yeast and salt directly to the flour before I add the water. I still get my dough to rise, so I am wondering why all bread and dough recipes call for separate hydration.


Also, I know that salt can impede yeast development, but I don't understand how salt and yeast work together in dough. Our local bread (Pane Toscana) is made without salt, and it pretty much tastes like cardboard, and I have heard that it is difficult to make bread without salt -- but I don't really get it.

Inquiring minds...

As always, thanks for sharing your expertise.

maver 04-07-2007 05:09 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast
I'll have a crack at the first part, but am very much interested in Jim's answer to the salt question (I 'm guessing it's just flavor, as my natural starter performs very well in my flour/water only mix - maybe salt retard the dough?). As far as hydrating, it's also called 'proofing' your yeast. You get a chance to check to see if it works - look for bubbles on the surface of the water after 15 minutes to signify it is capable of fermenting the sugars in the matrix the yeast comes in. Not a necessary step, unless you don't bake often and don't know whether your old yeast is any good. Awaiting Jim's additions to this...

CanuckJim 04-07-2007 05:14 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast

Depends on what you're using. ADY or cake yeast should be hydrated separately. The reason is that you want to wake it up and give it a feed before adding it to the dough mix. That way you get every available bit of rise out of it, and you avoid the potential of "yeasty" tasting dough. The rise will be slower and incomplete if you just dump it in, because the yeast is not dispersed evenly in the dough. It will have to work pretty hard to get moving. IDY, on the other hand, has much, much finer grains, and there are more active yeast cells per tsp than the other two. Some, like SAF Gold from France, have a very high cell count indeed, hence the premium price. IDY is usually stirred into the dry flour, though some call for dispersing it in the water just prior to adding the flour.

Salt, in direct contact with yeast, kills the cells:eek: . However, once the yeast begins to feed on the flour, salt and yeast work together quite nicely to add flavor. In fact, as rising nears its peak, salt retards the process somewhat, so that over-rising does not become such an issue. Left on its own, the yeast would continue to ferment, leading, once again, to yeasty tasting bread. I'm not surprised that saltless bread tastes like cardboard. I have found that mineral rich sea salt is best for bread and dough. Iodized table salt is just too refined, and the fact that the iodine has been reintroduced makes me squirm a bit. I'd rather have it out of the sea than from a lab. On the other hand, I just picked up some "Mountain Gold, 100% Natural Himalayan Crystal Salt." It's more like pink than gold. Haven't tried it yet.

I think I've said this before, but dough is a pretty simple concoction: flour, salt, water, yeast of some sort. The making of the dough ain't that simple though. I try to use the best flour, best water, best salt, finest yeast I can find to get every last bit of flavor.

Speaking of which, I made six Ciabatta with half Caputo, half bread flour yesterday. Sorry, no pics, all sold hot from the oven. Next time. Caputo is truly a wonder to work with for breads like this. The stretch and fold maneuvers with it bear no resemblance to a dough made with 100% North American hard red wheat bread flour. It's so easy :D , because the dough is elastic and silky. Really fine stuff.

I also managed to find an organic miller finally. Bought 25 kgs of whole grain hard red wheat flour. It's amazing what a change it has made in the color and flavor of my breads. Both wild yeast and commercial yeast breads seem to rise better and give greater volume. I'm experimenting with proportions at the moment, mixing it with "white" bread flour. Not sure yet whether it will work at 100%. Maybe.

Hope that helps.


james 04-07-2007 07:07 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast

Originally Posted by CanuckJim (Post 9416)
The rise will be slower and incomplete if you just dump it in, because the yeast is not dispersed evenly in the dough.

I don't dump it, I gently crumble it. :D Dump sounds so un-caring. LOL.

Your point makes a lot of sense -- and I will never dump again. Maver, proofing was the word I was looking for; thanks. On the other hand, with fine IDY I can still be lazy, which is a good thing.

I can defintely see how salt is good for flavor, and works with the yeast for a complete, but not overdone, fermentation. Thanks. Does salt also do something that helps develop the crumb texture? Pane Toscana is sort of dry and crumbly in the crumb, without the nice springy crumb you find in a Pugliese or a good french bread. Is the lack of salt responsible for that?

maver 04-07-2007 10:47 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast
Pane Toscana crumb: I wonder if the lack of salt to retard the yeast leads to a faster, more even throughout the dough rise, therefore a tighter crumb. The crumbly part in Toscana bread though really is different, have to wonder if the gluten structure/development is affected by the salt.

CanuckJim 04-09-2007 07:58 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast
James, Maver,

Been away all holiday weekend after a killer marathon of bread baking during the week. We're really getting into the technical side of flours here, so it's a bit difficult for me to formulate a complete answer. How much and how good the gluten contained in the flour is certainly has an effect on crumb development. In North America, commercially milled bread flours commonly have powdered barley malt and sometimes vital wheat gluten added to them to increase crumb formation. Organic flours, though, commonly have no additives at all, so it's wise to experiment with barley malt and gluten until you get the right mix (these are both quite natural additives). Wheats vary, farm to farm, so it can become a sort of blending operation, like wine. I'm sure this is what Captuto does.

The lack of salt would certainly affect the speed of the rise and I think, but am not sure, that the large pockets of gluten that characterize hearth breads are solidified by salt to a degree, giving them strength. They have a certain shine to them which is not apparent in other breads. Without salt, the crumb will be tighter and the hole structure smaller. Still, this is the sort of question that a miller or chemist could answer better.

Especially with retarded doughs, the salt addition controls the speed of yeast development, but I don't think it has much of an effect on lactobacilli or enzymes. Sure, the yeast produces the necessary carbon dioxide to form the pockets, but the bacilli and the enzymes work away to release natural sugars and flavours in the grain. That's exactly why retarded doughs have better flavor than one-day doughs.

There are many, many variables in flours, region to region, country to country, so it's difficult to be hard and fast with rules. I'm looking out for Red Fife Wheat, which was grown in Canada during the 19th century, and is now having a resurgence. The organic flour I bought has some Red Fife in it, and overall I've found, at least initially, that the characteristics of it are much different than, say, commercially milled hard bread flour, as good and fresh as my source for that is.

Let's not forget Professor Clavel's autolyse method either. For certain wheat breads and sourdoughs, the flour and water (sometimes the preferment, too) are mixed together very lightly (read shaggy) and allowed to sit, covered, for twenty minutes to an hour before the other ingredients (salt in particular) are added and final mixing takes place. This gives you better extensibility with hard flours, better dough volume, possible enhancements in flavor and aroma. Once the salt is added, the dough firms up almost immediately.


kellytoronto 08-04-2010 04:28 PM

Re: Hydrating yeast
I hate to drag up an old thread, but, Jim, do you have a good sourdough WFO recipe for red fife bread?

brickie in oz 08-05-2010 01:55 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast

Originally Posted by kellytoronto (Post 96116)
I hate to drag up an old thread,

Glad you did as it answers some of my questions.....:cool:

CanuckJim 08-07-2010 07:21 AM

Re: Hydrating yeast

There's really nothing mysterious about Red Fife; very similar to real whole wheat. Just use Hamelmann's Vermont Sourdough recipe and, at first, prepare your flour mix using half bread flour and half Red Fife flour. After that, you can experiment with proportions. If you go with 100 per cent, I would soak the grain overnight before using it. Subtract the soaker water amount from the total hydration in the formula.

Red Fife, like any other wheat, depends on the individual mill for workability. How much bran does it have, how large and sharp are the bran pieces? Etc., etc. Grain Process Enterprises, 105 Commander (Commander and McCowan) sells Red Fife that has been milled for bread use. Give it a try.


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