Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yeast Basics: How to Make Yeast Dough?

When I started off baking with yeast just a couple of months back, I had a whole lot of questions in my head about the right ingredients, the proper method, the correct technique and I did reach out to a lot of people to get more insight on this. Several experiments, some disasters later... began a few success stories. That's when my love story with yeast began :)

Though I have not mastered baking with yeast, I am a lot more confident handling recipes which use yeast. Hence, I felt I should document my learning and tips in here, for the benefit of fellow amateur bakers out there, battling it out with yeast :D (ah I know, it can be very frustrating when things don't go well in the kitchen!)

Oh, and be warned... once you get these simple basics right, there is going to be absolutely no stopping you from going on a baking spree and getting bitten by the baking bug! :) and when I come across new tips/tricks, I will update it in here.

Some lessons I learnt: 

Type of yeast to be used: 

There are 3 types of yeast: Instant Yeast, Active Dry Yeast and Fresh Yeast. Instant Dry Yeast or Rapid Rise Yeast gives best results. Active Dry Yeast (which is more easily available in India) also gives good results, but you will have to proof it first. Also, make sure to check the expiry date of the packet, as Active Dry Yeast needs to be of fresh stock. Using a bad quality yeast can give you poor results and could be quite a dampener on your enthusiasm to bake with yeast. Fresh yeast gives great results but it has a very short shelf life. I personally have not used this variety of yeast and am not too familiar with it.

Instant Dry Yeast & Active Dry Yeast

  • Instant Yeast is finer in texture than Active Dry Yeast. You will need more quantity of Active Dry yeast in comparison to Instant Yeast. It is suggested that you use 25% less (of yeast measurement) if you are using instant when the recipe calls for active.
    • 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast = 3/4 tsp Instant Yeast
  •  Store yeast in an air tight container and keep inside the refrigerator, and it will last for months.
  • If you are unable to find Instant Dry Yeast in the market, here are some online stores where you can find them: 

Proofing the yeast

This is the first step, while working with yeast. Proofing of yeast is basically essential to make sure that the quality of yeast is good. For Active Dry yeast, this step is crucial as only by proofing the yeast, the yeast gets activated and is going to work on your dough to make is fluffy. If the Active Dry yeast does not froth up as expected during proofing, thrash the sample and start over again and re-proof with a fresh batch.

If using Instant Yeast, proofing is not needed and the yeast can be directly added into the flour. However, I personally prefer doing this little extra step in order to ensure my yeast is fresh and the baked goodie is going to come out well. To be on the safer side and to avoid disappointment it is always better to proof it as it only takes a few minutes. 

Ah, the sight of this magic ingredient frothing up and bubbling away to glory delights me every single time I work with it :)

Proofing the dough: 

Once you have proofed the yeast, another major step is to proof the dough. Mixing the proofed yeast mixture with the flour being worked with, making it into a dough and then allowing this dough to rise due to the 'magic' of the yeast is the process of proofing the dough. It is important to allow the dough to rise and to grease the bowl in which you keep the dough while you allow it to rise. As the dough could be sticky and end up sticking to the bowl making it difficult for you to take it out of the bowl.

The dough can be left to proof just for an hour or hour and a half. It’s not that, the longer you allow the dough to rise, the fluffier it would get... no. The yeast works up its best within an hour-hour and a half and then the dough is good to be used.

Punching out the air bubbles

It is important to punch down the air from this proofed dough before you start working it into desired shapes, as there would be air bubbles in this proofed dough which you would have to get rid off. Hence, you will have to literally punch down the proofed dough and knead it for a couple of minutes before you move to the next step.

Keeping it healthy

The whole idea of baking at home for me, is to make it healthier than the bakes we get in the stores. I do not want my experiments ending up as extra kilos on my family! :D Hence, I make it a point to make most of my bakes whole-wheat instead of pure all-purpose flour based, as most recipes demand. The texture is only slightly denser than when the dough comprises of 100% all-purpose flour, but the taste is not much compromised!

My family loves the whole-wheat stuffed buns and garlic rolls I treat them to often :)

Whole-Wheat Buns & Whole-Wheat Garlic Bun Rolls

Preparing yeast dough:

Here is what you would need to make a good sized ball of dough (it can make around 9 medium sized buns or a small loaf) This is my favourite recipe and I use this proportion to make most of my yeast bakes.


Whole Wheat Flour - 2 cups
All Purpose Flour - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Instant Yeast - 2.5 tsp OR Active Dry Yeast - 1/2 tbsp
Sugar - 1/2 tbsp
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Water/Milk - 3/4-1.5 cups [Adding milk instead of water, gives the bread a softer texture)


Proofing of the yeast, if using Active Dry Yeast:

  • In warm water (or milk), add sugar, yeast and oil. Mix well till yeast dissolves completely. The solution should begin to froth up and bubbles should appear on top. If this does not happen, start from scratch as this step is crucial in the baking of these buns.

Proofing of the yeast, if using Instant Yeast: 

  • In mildly warm water (or milk), add sugar and yeast. Allow to sit for 4-5 minutes. The solution should begin to froth up and bubbles should appear on top.

Wheat Flour, All Purpose Flour and Salt

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the wheat flour, all purpose flour and salt.

Sieve the dry ingredients while the yeast proofs

  • Sieve together the flours and salt while you wait for the yeast to proof.

Blend together all the ingredients

  • Add the proofed yeast mixture into the flour mixture, add the olive oil and combine together into a dough. Add extra water (or milk) or flour to make a firm yet sticky dough. You can do this using your hands or a hand blender using the bread hooks.

Yeast dough ball ready to set for rising

  • Knead for a good 5 minutes and make a firm dough.

Place the dough ball in a warm place for an hr

  • Grease the bowl with olive oil and sit the dough in a warm place where it can rise. Keep the bowl covered with a kitchen towel or a cling wrap. I keep the dough inside the microwave oven, with the power switched off. It makes for a perfect warm place to let the yeast do its work.

Yeast dough, proofed - double in size after an hr

  • After an hour, remove the bowl from the oven and behold in delight as the dough would have doubled in size :)

Punch down the dough to remove air bubbles

  • Punch down the dough and knead for a minute more to remove any air bubbles.

Preparing the dough for making stuffed buns
  • Go ahead and shape the dough as desired or as required in the recipe you are following or simply cling wrap it and refrigerate for later use.

Baking the bread (general tips irrespective of the recipe being used)

  • Allow the shaped dough to prove for another few minutes (based on the recipe being followed).
  • Smear some olive oil or melted butter on the shaped dough before shoving it into the oven.
  • Bake at the temperature for the time duration as indicated in the recipe being followed.
  • Once done, take out the bread and tap on the base to check if its fully baked. If you hear a hollow sound, it indicates that it has been baked completely. The texture will be hard the instant you take it out of the oven. It eventually softens upon cooling.
  • Smear some milk on top of the baked goodie to enhance the softness as it cools.

Notes on baking bread:
  • Baking temperature: The exact temperature to bake an item depends on the oven (brand, size... etc) you are using. Most of my bakes have been in a 23ltr Electrolux microwave oven with a convection mode. The temperature of 170 degrees suits my oven perfectly.
  • Baking time: The exact time taken to bake an item depends on the oven (brand, size... etc) you are using. The baking in my oven gets done very quickly.
  • Crust browning too soon: In case you find that your crust is browning up too soon you can temporarily stop the baking, take out the bread and cover it with aluminum foil. Make sure you make vents in the aluminum foil to allow the heat to go in and cook the bread. This will avoid further browning of the crust but will ensure the bread is cooked through.
  • Crust not browning enough:
    • In a Microwave Oven with convection mode: Smear oil generously on top of the dough before shoving it into the oven for baking. Also, you can try baking the bread at a higher temperature for a few minutes and then once the crust has browned, lower the temprature and continue baking until the middle is cooked through.
    • In an OTG: I have noticed that in an OTG the crust does not brown as much as it does in a microwave oven with convection mode. You can use the grill mode for a minute or two after the baking is completed can enhance the colour of the crust.

To start with here are some recipes ideas that use yeast:


  1. Hey this is very informative and helpful for all beginners. Lovely post and thanks for sharing!

  2. love your step by step presentation. happy to follow you , visit my space in your free time.

  3. hi nandita
    thanks for stopping by and this was the first recipe my eyes fell on.
    see i m also zero in this and yeast is yet to be friendly with me

    i like ur explanation and it seems i m also using active dry yeast. now i know what caused prb when i tried to make buns. the yeast was the culprit here as my dough was neither sticky nor did it rise. am following u now and sure u can send me guest post as and when you get time

    beetroot halwa--- a guest post

  4. Hi Nandita! glad to follow you,this a very useful post.very well explained

  5. Thanks Nandita for visiting my space too.I loved your detailed explanation on working with yeast and your tips on using Instant yeast instead of Active dry yeast. I would like to try using it next time.

  6. Wow Nandita! I love food but not making it... but the manner in which you have explained everything, makes me wanna try it! Many food blogs usually put up their recipes and snaps, but you have taken efforts to share a lot more than just that! Kudos to you! :)

  7. Nanz... u've mentioned water/milk - 3/4-1.5 cups. Does that mean 3/4 cup water or 1.5 cup milk? Me the finally planning to bake :-)


    1. Hey Jo, great to know you are going to try it finally :) So, the milk/water here means you can either use water of quantity 3/4 - 1.5 cups as required or milk of the same quantity as required. The choice of water or milk is upto you. If you use milk the bread would turn softer. The quantity depends on the dough, add in little by little to the dough and use as required.

  8. Excellent post Nandita. Thanx a lot :) Its just what i needed :D

  9. Hie, even i wanted to try the bun recipe. Just wanted to know shud i add the 2 tsp of instant yeast to 3/4th cup of water for proofing? How wud i know wether i will need 3/4th cup water or more?? I mean if i add yeast to 3/4th cup of water and water becomes less can i add plain water for kneading. AM CONFUSED.


    1. Hi Sushmitha, yes the process of proofing is for the yeast and so you have to add the yeast to the cup of lukewarm water and sugar for proofing. Only then will you get a frothy mixture. Once it is proofed, mix this mixture to your flour. If the mixture is sufficient for you to knead the flour into a dough, you do not need more water. However, if you do need more water apart from the yeast mixture, you can use regular water little by little to make your dough until it is firm yet not too dry.
      Hope this helps.

    2. Thanks Nandita for the detailed explanation. Will surely give it a try. Thsnks again dear.

  10. I tried the buns...they r in the oven now. But i found it has cracked n opened on the top. Not a smooth top like the regular shop brot bums. What wud b the reason? Also is there no need of second proofing?

    1. Sushmitha, the cracks must be due to the temp being very high. Like I have mentioned the setting in every oven differs and you will get used to the correct setting after a few trials. It is best to keep the temperature at around 160 to begin with. The cracks can also be due to the fact that the dough was dry and did not have enough moisture in it when you kneaded it.

      Also, before you put the dough into the oven to bake, it has to be brushed with butter or olive oil to make it brown evenly. And after you pull it out, it is going to be rock solid initially. Infact that is how you know it has been baked well. You will have to hear a hollow sound when you tap it. Smear milk over the baked goodie and allow it to cool. It will soften up in a few minutes. Do not worry, you have not gone wrong. Please let me know if this helps!

  11. Also i baked it for 15 minutes....its become hard as long i shud hav had baked??

    1. I have answered your queries in your comment above and have also added it to the post. The timing seems fine, however I am not sure at what temperature you baked it at. Sorry for the delayed response. If you need urgent responses, do mail me at

  12. I baked it at 180 degrees for 15 minutes. The top was n is still rock hard but inside its soft n yummy. Taste wise it scores 10/10. Will try again by lowering the temp. Also i didnt smear any milk after taking it out. So will try again n will keep you posted. But all in all a recipe for keeps. Thamks for sharing n being so helpful.

    Thanks again.

  13. The buns turned a lil hard on the crust but the inside was nice soft, fluffy n tasty. Will surely try once again baking at lil lower temptoday i baked at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.

  14. In the beginning of the post you mentioned that quantity of instant dry yeast should be 25% less than active dry yeast but in the ing of recipe it is given 2 tsp of instant or 1.2 tsp of active.. is it 1.2 tbsp?

    1. Thanks for pointing that out Aditi. I have made the edit. Yes, it is 1/2 tbsp not 1.2 tsp.

  15. Thanks a lot Nandita, no luck with yeast but I'm now inspired by you :-)