Novice baker seeks cake yeast in Asheville
Fresh yeast (also known as compressed or cake yeast) is pretty hard to find. If you can't find it at the store, one of the local bakeries may be willing to sell you some (generally a 1 or 2 lb block) but if you befriend the baker he or she may just give you a small amount. Or you can substitute instant yeast (2 teaspoons instant yeast plus 2 1/2 teaspoons water equals one 0.6 ounce cake of fresh yeast), Mix the yeast in with the flour, add the water to the rest of the water in the recipe. Make sure you use instant yeast not active dry yeast. Fleischman's sells it variously as Rapid Rise in pouches or as Bread Machine Yeast in a jar, or as Instant Yeast in 1-lb vacuum-packed bags available at Sam's Club -- it's all the same. There are lots of myths and legends about the differences between the variuous forms of yeast. They are all the same yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) differing in the fineness of the particles and the amount of water they contain. Active dry is the least convenient because its particles are course and it has to be rehydrated before it can be mixed into the dough. Fresh yeast is perishable (2 weeks shelf life, inclusive of however long it's been sitting in the refrigerator case at the store) and, as you've discovered, it's hard to find. Instant yeast has much finer particles than active dry, it absorbs water easily so it doesn't have to be rehydrated and can be mixed right in with the flour. I used to use fresh yeast, now I use instant exclusively. There is some controversy (and misunderstanding) about Rapid Rise, which is a brand name Fleischman's uses for its instant yeast. Some folks think Rapid Rise is bad for bread because it rises too quickly and doesn't give the bread enough time to develop flavor. Rapid Rise is actually the same instant yeast. Fleischman's just puts a little bit more of it in the envelope, which does indeed make the bread rise faster, but it's purely a marketing ploy -- the yeast is the same. If you measure or weigh it rather than using the whole packet, you'll get the same results as with other instant yeasts. Red Star, Fleischman's, and SAF are all brands of yeast. Each has their own version of instant, active dry, or fresh yeast.
Oh, and good luck with the bagels!
I don't use yeast a lot, but do prefer cake yeast to dry. I think it produces a more yeast-y flavor, which I like. Surprised to hear it's difficult to find. I find it easily at my local grocery stores. It's not at the same place as the regular yeast, though. It's in the refrigerated section (usually on the top shelf) close to where where I normally find bacon,
I have found cake yeast before at, surprisingly enough, Super Walmart. But it was a good while back and I don't go there that often so I don't know if they still have it or not. Cake yeast will always be found in the refrigerated section, usually near the dairy items.
The brand I found there was Fleischmans.
Active Dry Yeast (This is the Red Star stuff, I'm pretty sure)
is the most commonly available form for home bakers. It is available in ¼-oz packets or jars. The yeast is dormant, and is best used after proofing and rehydrating. Sprinkle the yeast over warm water (105-115 degrees F) and a pinch of sugar, and let it stand for 10 minutes until creamy and bubbly. It can be stored in a cool dry place and in unopened packages for up to 15 months, but do not use it after the expiration date. Store open containers in the refrigerator.
I think what you want is this:
Fresh Yeast, also known as compressed or cake yeast, is active yeast. It has good rising qualities and produces excellent-tasting bread, croissants and Danish pastries. It is sold in tiny cakes in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets. Fresh yeast does not keep well; it will last about two weeks if refrigerated. The yeast should be pale gray-brown, fragrant, soft and crumbly, not hard, dark brown and crusty. Any mold growing on the surface is an indication that the yeast should be discarded. Fresh yeast should be proofed in tepid water (80-90 degrees F) without contact with salt or sugar. This yeast type is a good choice for breads requiring a long cool rise, or for breads made using the sponge method.
You can find fresh yeast in the small cooler next to the dairy cooler in Earth Fare in West Asheville. It is sold in plastic bulk containers.