Instant, Active Dry, Rapid-Rise, Quick-Rise, Compressed — Aren’t they all just yeast?
Yes – and no. So let’s take a quick painless journey through these differences so you can bake up a storm this holiday season. Maybe try making your own holiday focaccia this year?
I do have a fun fact for you though! Despite all of these different names, there are actually only 3 different types of yeast — active, instant, and fresh! See? We’re making things simpler already.
For those who love food science like me — yeast for baking comes from Saccharomyces cerevisiae but these 3 different types are just different strains. Did you know that the yeast used in wine also comes from this strain?
THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE
Active Dry yeast must be dissolved in warm water, whereas instant yeast does not need to be.
Also, instant yeast can also say rapid rise or quick rise, both rapid and quick are the same but it means that enzymes have been added to make the dough rise faster. This means that with Instant Rapid Rise you can skip the 1st rise of the dough if there are multiple.
Finally, Cake yeast is fresh yeast that only has a shelf life of 1-2 weeks and cake yeast will give you more leavening power than active dry or instant.
So why use active dry if instant is faster? To be honest — it took me a bit to really think of an answer other than, that’s what I’ve always used.
Active dry yeast was invented in the 1920s where it was found that it could be dried into granules with a protective coating. The yeast cells are still alive but not active until they are introduced to warm water (105-110 F according to my man Harold McGee). This soaking has to be done before mixing with the other ingredients.
But here’s the thing with active dry yeast — it’s really good for use in cold rises or overnight rising. What’s up with that? Well – sometimes you want to go slow. Why? To develop flavor. For focaccia or sourdough, you want the yeast to develop over a long period of time. For my focaccia I let the starter develop overnight anywhere between 14-24 hours. Sourdough takes 3 days! So I would recommend staying away from instant in these instances.
Some time amidst the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Beatles breaking up, and bell-bottom jeans – instant yeast was invented. Instant yeast is dried more quickly than active dry, and it’s not in the granule shape. Instead, it has a porous surface so that it can absorb liquid more quickly. Consequently, it doesn’t need to be activated with water. It also produces more carbon dioxide than active dry.
So why use instant yeast? It’s great if you’re in a hurry, or making a simple recipe like baguettes, where there’s no long resting time. Recipes like this are also great for the quick/rapid rise yeasts as well.
CAKE OR COMPRESSED YEAST
Cake yeast is actually moist – so whereas the other two options have been dehydrated, this yeast remains hydrated, it’s said that cake yeast is 70% water by weight. The thing with cake yeast is that you have to use it within 1-2 weeks, so if you’re not baking a lot this may not be a good option *it’s also harder to find in stores anyway.
When you need to make do with what you have, here’s how to do it.
To substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast use 25% more than what the recipe calls for. So 1 tsp of instant yeast requires 1 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast. Or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast = 2.815 tsp = a little bit more than 2 3/4 tsp. When the substitutions are a bit more complicated – it’s best to use the grams of yeast needed rather than the tsp/tbsp.
To substitute instant yeast for active dry use 25% less. So if a recipe calls for 2 tsp of active dry yeast, use 1 3/4 of instant yeast. And remember not to prove the yeast! Simply add to the rest of the ingredients. If using rapid/quick rise, you can skip the 1st prove as well.
To substitute fresh yeast for active dry, use a bit more than a 2:1 ratio. One cake of fresh yeast is about .6 grams, and one packet of active dry yeast is .25. So if a recipe calls for 1 cake use 1 packet of active dry, or vice versa.