Bake with little or no yeast

In some days of the Corona crisis, yeast became a scarce commodity in retail. But that's why nobody has to do without baking at home - you can also make yeast yourself

Yeast is a popular leavening agent when baking bread, cakes, pizza and other pastries

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No toilet paper, no kitchen rolls: In some days of the Corona crisis, some shelves in the supermarkets were swept empty. This also applied to the racks on which parcels with yeast are stored - regularly in abundance, in the pandemic: often sold out quickly.

That called businessmen on the scene. They offered yeast on online marketplaces at excessive prices: seven grams for ten euros, plus shipping costs. Consumer advocates advise to stay away from such offers. However, because of the lack of yeast, nobody has to go without baking cakes, breads and pizzas. Because there are alternatives.

Yeast makes the dough rise and make it fluffy. The baking ingredient consists of yeast mushrooms. They sprout, they split up and so multiply. In addition to fresh yeast, there is also dry yeast. “The main difference between the two is the water content,” says Maximiliane Overhage from the German Yeast Industry Association in Bonn.

Dry yeast has a longer shelf life

While fresh yeast has a water content of around 70 percent, this water is withdrawn from dry yeast. Dry yeast therefore has a longer shelf life.But because it is currently sold out quickly in stores, fresh yeast has to be used - and you can make it yourself.

Wild yeasts occur everywhere in nature. "They can be harvested from raisins, for example," says Bernd Kütscher, head of the Academy of German Bakers' Crafts in Weinheim. His tip: To cultivate wild yeast, you put 200 grams of warm water with 45 grams of raisins and 20 grams of sugar in a clean glass bottle, keep it at 24 to 26 degrees and shake it twice a day.

"The bottle should never be closed with a lid, but rather with an upturned balloon, otherwise there is a risk of explosion," warns Kütscher. According to him, the natural process of reproduction usually takes three to four days.

Waiting for the normal yeast smell

As soon as a lot of gases have formed, sieve the fruit and add another 200 grams of warm water and 20 grams of sugar. "That too is left to ferment intensively, it takes another one to three days," explains Kütscher. As soon as the water has a normal yeast odor, it can be sieved and made into a pre-dough with flour, which is later added to the actual dough. "If there is no normal yeast odor, there has been incorrect fermentation and unfortunately you have to start over."

Can you freeze leftover yeast? “This is possible with fresh yeast,” says Overhage. However, quality losses must be expected after a while, as frozen yeast loses its buoyancy.

If you still have yeast at home, you can easily increase its output. “You can do this by mixing the yeast with flour and water into a dough,” explains Kütscher. Once the dough has doubled, multiply it by adding more flour and water. This can continue.

Get wholegrain sourdough from the bakery to bake bread

This dough - it is called a piece of yeast - can now be added to the dough in portions or chilled for later. "When baking bread, I recommend getting a little wholemeal sourdough from the bakery instead and adding flour and water to it," says Kütscher. According to him, sourdoughs contain natural yeasts. So sourdough can be an alternative to fresh yeast. In the case of sweet pastries, yeast can be replaced with baking powder if necessary.

Bread blogger and author Lutz Geißler has a tip for everyone who has yeast and doesn't want to do without it when baking: take little of it, i.e. reduce the amount of yeast when baking. “In return, you let the dough rest longer, for example overnight,” explains the author. According to him, ten grams of yeast is enough for one kilogram of flour, and the dough should then rest for three to four hours. "Even with a pea-sized amount of yeast, the dough will rise and be nice and loose, it may then have to mature for 24 hours."

Wait until the dough smells fruity and sour

What also speaks in favor of using less yeast: “The time factor brings more aroma and digestibility,” explains Kütscher. And you can use sourdough without any fresh yeast.

Geißler has a recipe for this: Mix 50 grams of wholemeal rye flour with 50 to 60 grams of warm water and let it rest for 24 hours at 28 to 30 degrees if possible. Then add another 50 grams of flour and water and let stand until the volume has doubled. Now remove 10 grams of the sourdough that will become and mix with 50 grams of wholemeal rye flour and water. Let it double again. Mix in a ratio of 10-50-50 and allow to mature until the dough smells fruity and sour.

This sourdough can be placed in the refrigerator at five to seven degrees and used within a week as a so-called starter for a recipe for baking bread. The sourdough has to be “freshened up” after a week at the latest in a ratio of 10-50-50, let it ripen to almost twice its volume in the warm and then again: put it in the refrigerator! “This gives you the basis for a variety of crispy, delicious breads,” says Geissler.