I’ve had several baking-related questions lately, so I thought I’d answer them in one post.
First, one from Clare:
My question is about yeast. You’ve mentioned before that you’re grateful for your source of cheap yeast. Where do you buy it? Do you use one specific kind? Yeast in packets? jars? cake? What are the differences between them? Recommendations for storage?
I tend to buy mine in little packets because I go through periods where I bake hardly at all (for months at a time) and I’ve found the yeast in jars seems to lose its “oomph” over time, even when kept in the frig. I just bought some packets at Safeway but they were almost 50 cents apiece (on sale!). That didn’t seem like a real bargain to me. I’ve been baking bread much more regularly lately (a few times a month) and would love to find a cheaper source. Thanks for any tips!
You’re right…the yeast that comes in those little foil packets is ridiculously expensive. If that’s the only way you can obtain yeast, you’d probably save more money by buying bread at the store instead of making it yourself. The packets are only a good deal if you’re going to be baking once or twice a year…if you want to do any sort of regular baking, you’ll want to look into buying it in bulk.
I use active dry yeast(I think it’s actually called instant yeast). I buy it from Costco, where a two pound package costs a mere $3.99. Four dollars for that much yeast is a fabulous price, and I’m here to tell you that two pounds of yeast is a LOT of yeast. It takes even me quite a while to go through it all. Yeast is available for similar prices at most warehouse clubs, so check Sam’s or BJ’s or whatever club you’re a member of.
If you don’t have a warehouse club membership, you could look for another source of bulk yeast. Farmer’s markets sometimes carry it, and you can find it online for a decent price as well. For instance, this site sells the same 2 pound bag I get for $6.58. It’s twice the price that Costco charges, but it’s still a screaming deal compared to the packets.
Another option is to buy a jar of yeast from the grocery store(I know Fleischmann’s packages it in small jars). This isn’t nearly as cheap as the two pound bags, but it’s less expensive than the packets.
I store my yeast in the freezer. Since I go through it so quickly, I could probably keep in the cabinet, but it’s just as easy to freeze it. I pour it into a plastic container with a screw top. The screw top makes it very easy to access the yeast(pop top containers work very poorly when they’re frozen!).
Yeast should stay fresh in the freezer for a year. I haven’t personally stored it longer than that, only because I always use up my two pounds in less than a year. If you doubt you’ll use two pounds in a year, I’d still highly recommend buying it in bulk. Suppose you only used half of the yeast by the time a year was up….you’d still be money ahead(by far) by buying bulk instead of buying packets.
(Update! Several readers have written me to say that they’ve kept yeast frozen for up to 8 years with great success. So, it would appear that there’s very little reason to avoid buying yeast in bulk…go get yourself some!)
Cate left a comment on the Whole Wheat Bread post regarding bread storage.
I haven’t quite made the leap to making our own bread yet…I’m worried that with only two people, we won’t eat it quickly enough, even storing it in the fridge.
While this isn’t even faintly a concern now(the kids and I easily eat half a loaf at lunchtime), we did have a number of years where it was just the two of us, and even when we had kids, they didn’t eat a whole lot of bread at first. I found that storing it in the freezer was the easiest way to keep it fresh.
To make the defrosting process easier, I recommend slicing the bread before freezing it. That way you won’t have to defrost the entire loaf every time you want a piece.
Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to store bread in the refrigerator. The climate in the fridge causes something called starch retrogradation, which dries out the bread. Sometimes you have to store breadstuffs in the fridge(things like pizza and stromboli can’t be left out), but you want to avoid that whenever possible.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A, send an email to:
TheFrugalGirl [at] gmail [dot] com with “Q&A” in the subject line, and I’ll do my best to answer it!