To Yeast or Not to Yeast, That is the Question!

Ok, so we all know that we need yeast to help us make our bakes rise right? But do we really need yeast in baking if we are using self-raising flour or baking powder? Well that’s what I wanted to find out! I wanted cinnamon rolls, I didn’t have time, I didn’t have patience and let’s put it bluntly, I didn’t have the yeast lol! So I frankly didn’t have a choice! It was time to get experimenting!  So you have no yeast and you still want to bake, the answer to your question, “yes you can bake without yeast!” and “yes there are alternatives to yeast” out there but what you need to do is understand what the yeast is doing for your bakes and whether you’re prepared to do the trade-off! So.… there are quite a few types of yeast where baking is concerned so let me just quickly get you up to speed.  the main difference is the moisture content. Yeast is actually a fungus (I know gross right?) let’s just not think about it! Cheese is too! Ok, so it’s used to give texture to breads, pastries, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and cakes. So when you bake with yeast you get a lighter and fluffier texture.   The cells have been dehydrated for long storage. When the yeast is added to a dough or batter, it rehydrates, then grows and multiplies and produces carbon dioxide. This gas is trapped by protein and carbohydrate networks in doughs and batters and forces the mixture to rise to give the finished product its characteristic texture. Ok that sounds soooooo complicated and boring! In short, yeast gives moisture to your bake and helps it to rise better!! These are the main types you can find:  
  • Compressed yeast: This is highly perishable and is sold in blocks.  Less commonly found in supermarkets because of this, and replaced by active dry and instant yeast.
  • Active dry yeast is the form of yeast most commonly available in your stores.  It’s made of oblong granules of yeast, with live yeast cells covered in a jacket of dry, dead cells with some growth medium. It lasts for ages but basically, in order to make it work it must be rehydrated, hence having to leave it a bit of time to reactivate
  • Instant yeast: This looks similar in appearance to active dry yeast, but it has smaller granules with way higher percentages of live cells per comparable unit volumes. It is also more perishable than active dry yeast.  The great thing about this yeast though is that it doesn’t require rehydration, and so can usually be added directly to all but the driest doughs.
  • Rapid-rise yeast is a variety of dried yeast (usually a form of instant yeast) that is of a smaller granular size which means it dissolves faster in the dough, and rises faster. Rapid-rise yeast is often marketed specifically for use in bread machines.
  • Deactivated yeast is dead yeast which has no leavening value and is not interchangeable with other yeast types.  So basically not one you want to use in your bakes! Typically used for pizza and pan bread doughs.
      So you might be asking, if all yeast does is help it to rise can’t I just use baking powder or self-raising flour? Well you can’t replace yeast when making bread as the structure of gluten protein in those products is very strong and baking powder or soda isn’t strong enough to stretch the gluten and make the nice fluffy texture of bread. Breads and cakes made with baking soda will have a different texture than one made with yeast, with larger air holes in the crumb and they don’t brown as well unless you brush them with sugar or milk before they go in the oven. We did this with our cinnamon rolls, check out my recipe here, and watch the demonstration of me and my son making them here! If you really really want to know what ways you can replace yeast and how this will affect your recipes that’s a whole other blog post! If you wanna know, let me know in the comments and I’ll sort you out! But for now, Try our No Yeast Cinnamon Rolls recipe. I know that I said you can’t really replace yeast in a kneaded dough recipe but guyssss….these rolls lasted 2 seconds in my house! So I guess they’re not too fussed about the crumb lo! They tasted amazeballs! If you make some send me the pictures!!

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About the Author

Natasha Orumbie isn’t your ordinary baker! Yes she is well known in her industry for creating awesome works of edible art, but she has recently gained notoriety in the online world.
She has catapulted her business from near obscurity with an Instagram following of just 400 to over 7000 in just 8 months and growing every day!
Originally a teacher of teenagers by trade, she is naturally able to share knowledge in an engaging and humorous fashion, making her Instagram, blog posts and e-books a pleasure to read! She now takes great pleasure in teaching others how to bake, decorate and sell cakes of their own.