Yeast may be intimidating if you ever find yourself baking bread and are new to baking. Overworking it can leave you with a stone hard loaf and a ruined dinner. Here’s everything you should know about getting started with dry yeast.
Activating vs. Proofing Yeast
An active dry yeast is a form of yeast that has been dehydrated to give it a longer shelf life. This yeast requires adding some liquid and sometimes sugar to ensure it’s alive enough for baking. A recipe may call for “proving” the yeast which can be confused with proofing the bread.
To activate yeast you’ll sprinkle the dry yeast into a bit of water and let it sit until it’s slightly foamy. This water does not need to be hot–room temperature or slightly warm water works best. After the foam is visible, stir it with a spoon or fork until the yeast is completely dissolved. The yeast should be smooth and silky.
Yeast proofs when the gluten has been developed through kneading the dough. The yeast will feed off of sugars in the starch and expel gas into the gluten. You’ll most likely want the dough to rise double its size before shaping. This ensures the yeast and gluten will have enough time to proof and develop. Baking the yeast will cause the gas inside to rapidly expand and any water to turn into steam. Properly activating the yeast, kneading the dough and letting it rise in a warm area will allow for the yeast to proof itself.
Source: The Kitchn