Good morning. Well, here we are at Saturday once again. I hope that you have some good plans for the weekend. I will spend the morning at a meeting and then teaching painting to my painting group.
I was sitting here this morning as the sun came up thinking about what today's topic should be. I thought about how each day my grandmother would make bread. She would make a couple of loaves of bread each day and when they were finished, they would sit on the top of the space heater with a chunk of butter and a small bowl of her homemade jelly. I started to think back on how she made her bread and recalled the yeast that she used to use. Now Grandma was an unbelievable bread maker. In fact, when ever they were having a bake sale at the school or church she was always ASKED if she could specifically make bread because that was what sold first and for a good price. On those days I can remember Grandma's entire kitchen table filled with loaves of bread and we would get them all wrapped up with saran wrap to take over to the church hall. I would have to use her push cart to transport them all.
I have made bread for years and years, but recently. when I received a copy of her original bread recipe, it called for a cake of fresh yeast. I remembered that she used the fresh yeast and decided that I would make the bread with that yeast to see whether there was any difference. Well I never imagined that I would not be able to just go to the grocery store and find it! I began the hunt. I went from store after store. I could find dry yeast and quick rise yeast. I could find them in the three pack bags and even in bottles, but no fresh yeast. I began to wonder whether they even sold it anymore.
I finally gave up the search and began to research yeast. What exactly is the difference? I found out that there are 4 catergories of yeast.
1. Fresh yeast
2. Dry yeast
3. Baking soda
4. Baking powder.
I never thought of baking soda or baking powder as a yeast, but it is used as a rising agent. I used them in making cakes, cookies, banana and zuchinni breads. Funny how you just will add something with out thinking about why they are being added in the first place.
Dry yeast I have used for almost 40 years when making bread and pizza doughs. Until recently, I had completely forgotten about Grandma using FRESH yeast. I know that when I use yeast, I put sugar in it to proof it with the warm water or milk. I know that the salt retards the growth and I put it in once I know that the yeast has proofed and is definitely active.
So then, what is the difference with the dry and the fresh...well for one, there is the shelf life.
Fresh yeast is ivory colored with a yellowish hue and is soft and moist and should easily crumble. It should be fresh smelling and there are no dark or dried places on the yeast. It is mainly used by professionals as it is highly perishable and must be used within a short time of opening. It is sold is .06 ounce foil packages and must be refrigerated....well..there is the trick. The professionals can get it...but years ago, it evidently was available to all. For longer term storage it can be frozen, and that is good to know once you find some. Compressed yeast contains about 70% moisture. It needs to be proofed before using and should have a pleasant yeasty smell and be foamy. Dry yeast is fresh compressed yeast that has been pressed and dried until the moisture content is only about 8% which makes the yeast dormant. The granules only become active again when mixed with a warm liquid. The advantage of dry yeast is it has a much longer shelf life than fresh yeast and does not need to be refrigerated.
And speaking of shelf life...it also applies to the products made as well. How long the baked good stays fresh is dependent on the sugar content. French breads that do not contain sugar have a very short shelf life. Imagine how much SUGAR is in your average store bought loaf of bread that can stay good for a week and sometime two? On the other hand, a sweet dough that contains sugar can stay fresh for several days
Well, I guess it all sound like it is the same...but is it? I know that I have gotten dehydrated items like onions, herbs, spices...but even when hydrated, they are never as good as the fresh. It is great to have then around and good to use when needed, but I have always found that the best has been the original.
Have you ever gone to a bakery and purchased their bread? It is totally different. Well, if they are able to get and use the fresh yeast, this must be the difference. At least in my mind.
So time went on and I continued to peek in the so called dairy and eggs aisles at the grocery stores...and one day...I was at the fruit market...of all places and there it stood in it's little silver foiled wrapper...FRESH yeast. I was taken back at the price of that little cake of yeast...It was $3.69. I wondered then how many loaves of bread it would make...with the cost of things these days...it is no wonder that the public had changed to the dry yeast. You can get a three pack for relatively the same price! So there must be something different with this.
I wouldn't wait to come home and try that little brick of yeast. I pulled out the recipe and began. I must tell you..there definitely is a big difference in my opinion. I made Grandma's bread and felt like I was a kid all over again. The only regret I had was that there are no longer peddlers riding up and down the alley for me to but some fresh fruit to make some jam that day to go with the bread like Grandma always did.
The lesson that I learned through this was how we often don't notice the changes that happen in our lifetimes. It is good sometimes to go back and look at the differences to decide if some of the older things should be kept and continued. I am in no way negating how wonderful some of the new things are for us...but we need to take a good look and compare. I know that one day last week, my internet was down and I had to wait for the tech to come out and replace the modem...and I must say...not having the computer at my beckon call made me a bit crazed. We don't know how important something is in our daily life until we don't have it. So stop and step back in time from time to time and look at some of the changes...and share them. I would love to hear some of your comments on what you miss and wish we could go back to.