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Jun 16, 2004 03:48 PM

Bread Bakers, yeast brand recommendations

  • s

Aside from Red Star and Fleischman's, anyone have rec's for other brands of bread yeast? Also, anyone use additives (ascorbic acid, diastatic malt) or are they at all necessary? I prefer active dry but want to experiment with other yeast.

I have success with baguettes and am looking to pump up the flavor a bit. I use good quality bread flour with a long, slow proofing. Any suggestions?


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  1. SAF delivers good flavor and consistent results.

    1. I also like SAF yeast. I buy it by the "brick".


      1. Don't know if you have King ARthur products in your area- but they have a great catalog- everything you need to bake great breads and pastries. You can order on line, or request a catalog on line at :

        I have used ascorbic when baking baquettes,and have also used the Vital wheat gluten and Brody dough relaxer. They seem to improve the texture. I visited the store in vermont- fabulous- they have a store, a bakery and a school- totally dedicated to baking. lots of fun.

        1 Reply
        1. re: macca

          I am such a fan of King Arthur, I must second that post! Their catalog has a dizzying array of products - including several brands of yeasts and addatives. You'll find their customer service reps to be incredibly helpful. So don't be afraid to experiment!

          SAF is my favorite yeast and they carry it. For good flavor, a long, slow rise is essential. This is true, I think, of any brand of yeast.

        2. If you are serious about pumping up the flavor, you have to bake with a sourdough starter. The gases from the wild yeast give the bread a flavor like no cultured yeast can deliver. Even the simplest starter will jump start the flavor of your breads.

          23 Replies
          1. re: Just Larry

            Yeah, I've got one in the fridge that's about 5 years old. Haven't used it for awhile but I checked it recently and it was unbelievably fine. It was tucked in the back corner all this time. I'll try it out. I'm real fond of sourdough flavor; even a bit of starter would be a great improvement to my bread, IMHO.

            1. re: Just Larry

              This is a question of individual taste. Not everyone likes sourdough.

              Pat G.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                For what it's worth, a wild-yeast starter does *not* automatically mean sour bread. The sourness varies a great deal depending on the length of time from most recent feeding of the starter, hydration of the dough, temperature, and the number of "builds". This is apparently due to the difference in the relative strength of the yeast cultures and the bacterial cultures present in the dough, which respond differently, and at different growth rates, to these factors.

                I'm not personally an expert on manipulating these elements, as I make wild-yeast breads only sporadically and my results are wildly variable; but a more experienced baker can control these things. However, I am sure that a wild-yeast bread, even with very little sour flavor, has the POTENTIAL to bring out a lot more flavor than one made with commercial yeast (not that there's anything wrong with commercial yeast, I actually use that most of the time, but I don't have any recommendations for a particular brand).

                1. re: ADL

                  Great answer. Most people think of sourdough as that super sour San Francisco bread. The starter I use is much milder but imparts a taste to the bread that can not be duplicated with commercial yeast. I guess the wide variety of gasses given off by the wild yeast give the bread a complexity that can not be achieved any other way. You can also use half sourdough and half commercial yeast.

                  1. re: Just Larry

                    Not so great an answer, in my view. In our family, and hint of sourness is not tolerated. This clearly is an issue of individual taste.

                    Pat G.

                    1. re: Pat Goldberg

                      Jesus Christ. If you don't like wild-yeast breads, fine. No need to be an asshole about it. The post you responded to had somewhat conflated wild-yeast and sourdough breads -- I was just pointing out the distinctions between them.

                      You said that you don't like sourdough bread. I was merely pointing out that wild-yeast starter does not *necessarily* mean the same thing as classic sourdough bread. Wild-yeast starters contribute a lot more flavors than just sourness. The gasses contibute numerous "fruity" flavors; the longer proofing times allow more sugars to be broken out of complex carbohydrate chains; etc. The balance of these different flavors components depends on the technique used by the baker. Of course, lots of bakers use wild-yeast to maximize sourness; not all do. If you've tried non-sour wild-yeast breads and you know you don't like them, more power to you. But if you're just dismissing all wild-yeast breads out of hand because you've only had sour versions, you might be missing out on some of these other elements.

                      1. re: ADL

                        Is there a particular book you would recommend which I could use to try to develop a wild yeast starter and not wind up with sour dough?


                        1. re: mirage

                          As I said before, I am not very good at controlling it. I have, on occasion, managed to bake wild-yeast whole wheat bread that was packed with flavor and had no hint of sourness. But I'm not always able to reproduce that.

                          Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice has a short chapter on wild-yeast breads which gives a few hints on this, but it doesn't really go into much detail. In fact, I'd also like to get a rec for a book that describes wild yeast baking in more detail. Anyone?

                          1. re: ADL

                            A few years ago I purchased "Nancy Silverton's Breads from the LA Brea Bakery," but (and I hate to admit this) I found the recipes and proceedures too intimidating and never made anything in the cookbook.

                            The LA Brea Bakery is one of the first commercial bakeries on the West Coast to produce bread from wildly grown yeast instead of commercial yeast. Consequently, Silverton describes in detail the process and philosophy of growing and using wildly grown yeast. In the book, she descibes a two week process to produce the starter as well as accompanying recipes that use the starter.

                            A decade ago when I lived in Southern California, La Brea Bakery provided some of the baked goods to the local Starbucks coffee shops. The bread was excellent, especially considering it was produces by a high volume bakery. Even though they did not use commercial yeast, not all of their bread had a "sour" taste to it.

                            Within the last few years, the LA Brea bakery has been distributing partially baked loaves outside of California. Here in Dallas, Texas, I have seen their products on sale at Super Target and Sam's Club. The bread is pricey, but pretty darn good.

                            As I mentioned before, I have never made anything from the book, but judging from what I read and consering the quality of LA Brea's bread, this may be the book for you.


                            1. re: Benjamin

                              Thank you - I'll check it out.

                              1. re: mirage

                                I can't pan her book, I have it and it's great, but her instructions on starting a sourdough starter are too intimidating, too involved, and generally too unnecessary. It is far easier to buy one, start one with organic wheat you can buy at a co-op, ask for some from a local bakery (if you have one that uses starter near by) or contact a local bread club that bakes from starters.

                                1. re: muD

                                  I haven't seen this book yet (after all, I'm one who was asking for recs), but I have used the method from Reinhart's book, and it's not intimidating at all. It's basically what Just Larry describes above -- very simple. And it works. Of course, I have no idea of its relative merits compared to the Silverton method, but if you want to try making a starter from scratch and Silverton is too intimidating, then the Reinhart method might be worth looking into (be forewarned that his book concentrates primarily on baking with commercial yeast, not wild yeast. His chapter on wild yeast is an easy-to-follow primer, but if you later want to move on to advanced techniques, you'll have to look elsewhere).

                                  1. re: ADL

                                    I like the method presented in The Bread Builders by Scott and Wing, and have used it successfully (though even they don't see the point in starting one from scratch). All it takes is a trip to the co-op and they present a method of freshening it on a scale for home use (Nancy Silverton's method seems to be for more intensive, bakery sized use.)

                                    I just wouldn't recommend the book to someone who wants to bake bread. Their book is the science behind bread, proportions and baking it on a hearth in a masonry oven. It is not a beginners book - not a single recipe and it really focuses only on sourdough and baking in a masonry oven.

                          2. re: mirage

                            Joe Ortiz' book, "The Village Baker", is one of the best books on baking bread I have ever read. you might also look at Nick Malgieri's (sp?) book, "How to Bake."


                            1. re: mirage

                              King Arthur sells sour dough starters for $6.95 I think. As I recall their is only one they say has the bacterium that gave rise to the association of a sour taste to all bread using a starter. I'd think the others would be okay - no strong sourness. They sell them like regular dried yeast, but you could keep one going by treating it like any old starter. If you start your own from scratch it is pure chance how it will taste. I haven't used the King Arthur starters, I started my own and the breads have no hint of sour, except the rye starter which is divine, especially when paired with beef or lamb.

                              There are other forums dedicated to sour dough starters and baking where you would get better advice.

                              1. re: muD

                                Thank you - this is the only message board that I look at - 'though I check it *regularly* ;)
                                Any particular baking forum you recommend?

                                1. re: mirage

                                  Can't say as I use any of the baking forums, but if you search Chowhound people have posted the addresses of the sites before in their threads on bread baking. I've also seen them listed in bread books.

                                  Or type OVENCRAFTERS into google and they should have links to get you going in the right direction. Just don't blame me if you find yourself digging a 11x11 foot hole in your yard like I did yesterday to start on a brick oven.

                              2. re: mirage

                                To make a starter, all you need to do is add equal parts flour and water into a covered container with some sugar (crushed grapes also work very well). Let it sit for a few days stirring each day. When it is all foamy, you are there. Commercial yeast are very hearty and should not be added to your starter. You can add some to your bread recipe if you want. Rise times are slower and flavor is unbeatable.

                              3. re: ADL

                                There is an unfortunate tendency from posters on this site to think they know a lot about people they have never met and to give them gratuitous advice. This exchange has been, in my estimation, one of these. That you like wild yeasts is fine, but it is not reasonable to presume that I will do so.

                                Pat G.

                                1. re: Pat Goldberg


                                  YOU didn't ask for advice. Sixozpatty did. Just Larry responded with a recommendation (wild yeast!). To which you responded with a caution (too sour!). To which I responded with a different view (not too sour!). Which should have been the end of the conversation, except that you responded, very snippily,
                                  that how dare I try to convince you that you should like wild-yeast bread. I don't give a @#$% if you like wild-yeast bread or not. I hope the exchange was useful to sixozpatty, or whoever else was reading along.

                                  1. re: ADL

                                    might add that the term "sourdough" gets thrown around promiscuously in a lot of different contexts. for example, Royal Crown Bakery's paneantico is made with a starter, levain, whatever (dont know whether wild yeast is involved or not)- they CALL it sourdough in the store - even though it bears NO resemblance to SF sourdough or the sour-ish french breads also made with a starter - though not all french breads made in this manner are sour-tasting, either (and i dont like sour bread, generaly)..if you get your own starter going with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, it will develop considerable character as well as picking up wild strains as it goes - in the end it probably wont matter much what commercial yeast you start with in the process.

                                2. re: ADL

                                  There seems to some confusion here in defining wild yeasts (or natural leavens) and sourdoughs – hope this explanation clears it up a bit. Sourdough breads are the result of the activity of two separate microorganisms: wild yeasts (microfungi) and beneficial bacteria (mostly lactobacilli). The wild yeasts are responsible for the rising action, flourishing in acidic doughs, which fosters a symbiotic relationship with the lactobacilli. Natural leavens tend to work at nature's pace, which is much slower than the industrial pace demanded by mass production. As a result, commercial baker’s yeast, which is a single species (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), was isolated and carefully cultivated in a laboratory for fast action and uniformity. Commercial yeast rises loaves very quickly and consistently, without cooperating with lactobacilli, so no sourdough tang or any significant flavor is the result, perfect for offering maximum profit to the factory baker.

                                  The distinctive sourdough flavor is due in large part to lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli during fermentation. Fermentation takes time, which is why “sourdoughs” can run the gamut of flavor profiles. Generally speaking, the longer the fermentation the more pronounced the resulting flavor. Milder loaves can be produced by shortening the amount of time the lactobacilli have to work, while true sourdoughs often take all day to rise, slowly developing flavor. Older, well-established starters will often be more aggressively sour than younger fresher ones.

                                  The “high church” approach of bread purists dictates that the only ingredients used are flour and water, making natural leavens the truest of breads. Much has also been written from a health standpoint on the improved digestibility of sourdough breads due to various factors, including lactobacilli activity and the complete breakdown of the phytic acid naturally present in wheat. Anyone interested can easily google for lots more info. Enjoy!

                      2. One more thing -- different flour. French, or French-style flour, tastes truly different. I will leave it to those more knowledgeable than myself to explain why, but baguettes I've made with French-style flour from King Arthur have a more complex, nuttier flavor to them.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ADL

                          Could be that French flour like Italian is a softer wheat than King Arthur or most American flours.