Baking Questions: Bread And Yeast

Browse our collection of frequently asked cooking questions for advice on working with yeast and baking bread.

Plain and Simple Sourdough Bread

Photo by Dianne

Is there a way to convert bread machine recipes so that I can make them the old-fashioned way?
In general, any bread machine recipe can be converted to traditional methods. A recipe for a 1.5-pound loaf should make one 9 x 5-inch loaf.

What is baking mix? What can I substitute for it?
Baking mix or biscuit baking mix is a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and other ingredients. It is sold under a variety of brand names, such as Bisquick® and Krusteaz®. We have a recipe for a homemade version: Easy Biscuit Mixture.

How many teaspoons are in a small package of active dry yeast?
There are 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in a .25 ounce packet.

Can I substitute active dry yeast for compressed yeast?
You may certainly substitute active dry yeast for compressed yeast in a recipe. The only difference is that you should dissolve the active dry yeast in the liquid ingredients before combining it with the flour. One (.25 ounce) package of active dry yeast is equal to one (.6 ounce) cake of compressed fresh yeast. For more information, see our Yeast: The Basics article.

How should I store my starter?
How you store your starter depends on how long it will be before you use it again. If you will not use your starter for a month or two, you may freeze it in 1- or 2-cup portions and thaw it as necessary for your recipes. If you think that you will be using your starter on a regular basis in the near future, you should refrigerate the starter. This will slow the fermentation. To refrigerate your starter, feed it 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water and place it in a loosely covered non-metallic container. Stir and feed it every week or so, discarding starter periodically if you accumulate too much. If you plan on using it to make a batch of bread, take the starter out of the refrigerator, feed it 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and let sit for 6 hours or so to make it strong and active. See Sourdough Starters for more tips.

Can I freeze dough and then bake it later?
Yes. We recommend increasing the yeast by 1/3 in any dough that you will be freezing. For loaves, we suggest that you let your dough rise once, form it into loaves, lightly flour the inside of a freezer bag and place the bagged dough into a loaf pan. Once the loaf has frozen, remove the loaf pan, and then place another sealed bag around the loaf and freeze for up to 1 month. The night before you want to bake, remove the loaf from the freezer, remove the bags, and place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan. Place the pan inside a plastic bag and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If the loaf hasn’t begun to rise by then, move it out of the refrigerator and let it rise (covered) until nearly doubled in volume.

For rolls, form them as you normally would. If you are baking them the next morning, simply cover them with plastic wrap and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight. If you are planning to bake them two or more days later, freeze them. Place the shaped rolls in a greased pan (disposable aluminum pans are fine), wrap them inside two plastic bags and then place them in the freezer. Let them thaw in the refrigerator for 12 hours before moving them to a warm place to rise. The second rise should take about 2 hours.

Can I freeze bread loaves and rolls? How should I reheat them?
Many people find it convenient to freeze bread loaves or rolls after they have been baked. Wait until they have cooled completely and make sure to double wrap them in plastic bags. When you want to reheat them, wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and reheat them in a moderate (350 degrees F/175 degrees C) oven.

I live above 5000 feet in elevation, so what adjustments do I need to make in order to bake bread successfully?
Baking at high altitude is problematic for two reasons. One, because the air pressure is lower, baked goods rise faster. If they rise too fast without the proper structure to support them, they collapse. To correct this problem, reduce the amount of leavening in your breads. We suggest that you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe by 1/3 to 1/2.

The second problem is that there is also less moisture in the air at high altitude, and drier air means that your flour is drier. This is corrected by increasing the liquid in your recipes by 10 to 15 percent. You may also want to reduce the amount of sweetener in your dough as sugar will weaken the gluten and increase the risk of it collapsing in the oven. Also, keep a close eye on your dough. Once it has doubled, punch it down (deflate it) and then let it rise a second time.