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Mar 9, 2010 12:33 PM

How to proove yeast for no knead bread

Hi - I am going to make no knead bread again and the last (the first)time I made it I think my yeast was dead. I usually proove yeast my dumping the hwole packet into 100* water with the sweetener. The no knead bread uses only a small bit of yeast, no sweetener and 70* water. What do you do to proove the yeast?

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  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water called for. Add whatever sugar (if any) may be in the recipe. Add 1/4 cup of the flour called for. Do NOT use any salt that may be called for. Mix these things together and give a conventional amount of yeast (about 2 tsp) 20 minutes or so to become an airy sponge. Give the 1/4 tsp called for in no knead bread more time -- perhaps as much as an hour. Use this sponge as an ingredient with the rest of the ingredients including whatever salt.

    If you don't get a bubbly sponge you're going to have to go get fresher yeast and/or a starter. This time keep your yeast in a sealed jar in the freezer.

    And the reason you don't add the salt until you create your dough is that salt has an inhibiting effect on the yeast that begins when the salt and yeast become wet. No prob once you've got a dough going -- in fact, in addition to adding flavor it stabilizes the dough -- but would be too strong in your proofing sponge.

    1. The no knead recipe specifically says not to proof the yeast. You mix it with the dry ingredients and add the water. If you are worried about your yeast's viability, you could mix a teaspoon yeast with a quarter cup of 100F water and a pinch of sugar, cover loosely and let it set 10 minutes. If bubbles appear, your yeast is fine, but then you would either have to dream up a new use for that yeast or discard it.

      Regarding your last attempt, how long did you let it proof in the bowl?

      Wait, I remember you, you have a cold kitchen. Test the temperature on top of your refrigerator. It should be warmer there, put the bowl there. This recipe does not work in a cold kitchen.

      5 Replies
      1. re: runwestierun

        I twice tried the recipe as per instructions, and each time got no rise on the dough. Will it ruin the recipe if I proof it? It was in a cold kitchen but I don't know if fridge top is warm enough.

        1. re: lulou23

          No, it will not ruin your no knead bread. All you're doing is using the ingredients specified. You're not creating a reaction. You'e not changing a reaction. You're not speeding up the reaction. All you're doing is checking the reaction and using combined ingredients as an ingredient.

          BTW, here's a link to the original Bittman article. In the left hand margin is a link to the video that accompanied it. Under the video is a link to the original recipe. I don't see in any of them any warning not to use a proofing of the yeast.

          1. re: lulou23

            Test your yeast for viability in the manner mentioned above. If your yeast is viable, the yeast is not the problem. You don't need to proof it for the recipe. You don't need to proof it for most recipes, it's just an old fashioned way to test viability before adding it. The 1/4 tsp yeast called for in this recipe is too small to proof, and if you will test it in the above manner you will be able to see it's ok. What temperature is your kitchen? Do you have a pilot light in your oven?

            Edit: I don't think you will ruin the recipe by proofing, but you run the risk of losing a significant amount of yeast in the transfer. I would wash the yeast-proofing container out with the 70F water to ensure all yeast makes it into the bowl.

            I really think your problem is ambient room temp. Do you have a room that's warmer--a bathroom or bedroom? If my kitchen is below 62F I will have to take this dough almost 30 hours in the bowl.

            1. re: runwestierun

              Actually, the fact that it's such a tiny amount of yeast is compelling. I am altering my advice to let the sponge proof for 20 minutes to an hour. But I still see no reason you can't proof and create a sponge if it eases anyone's mind.

              OTOH, if you've got yeast and flour to waste I see no reason you can't make one sponge just for the test and then use a different 1/4 tsp in the recipe.

              1. re: rainey

                I do think it is noteworthy that both Fiona and Lulou are having trouble with this recipe and both have cold kitchens.

        2. what type of yeast are you using?

          1. Which recipe are you using? Bittman/Lahey, Cooks Illustrated, Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day?

            I don't think I would make a sponge. None of the recipes call for that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: karykat

              Once upon a time or two, I made bread and forgot to include the yeast. So when it didn't rise, I kneaded it in and got perfectly good bread. My suggestion is that you make the bread just like the recipe says and leave it in a comfortable room temperature (low seventies), If within about four hours, you don't see any bubbles, get some fresh yeast and stir it in. If your environment is really on the cool side, wait eight to ten hours, and allow about 24 for the total rising time.

            2. Yup - my kitchen is chilly. I bought a room thermometer just to measure the temp for this recipe and the kitchen was about 62* although it got warmer towards the end of the 18 hour rest period cause I turned on a space heater. I will check out the video. The recipe I am using is the one in Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Also, I replace about half the flour with whole whear flour which Bittman says is okay to do and added a little more water since ww flour absorbs more water. Perhaps I didn't add enough additional water. Next time I will just use white flour and watch the video first. I will also try to find the warmest spot to put the dough in. Has anyone had any luck putting the bowl on top of a heating pad?
              Thanks for the suggestions.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Fiona

                You could try using the oven w/ the light on. If that's still too cold, I'll put stoneware in the oven and turn it on to 200 degrees. When it comes to temperature, leave it for about 10 minutes so the stoneware gets warm, then turn off the oven and put the dough in, on a rack above the stoneware. But, dough rises in the refrigerator (I give it a half hour head start at room temp) so if your yeast is okay, you just need a longer rise in your cold room.

                I have replaced half the flour w/ white whole wheat, used the 1 5/8 c of water suggested and it turned out fine.

                1. re: Fiona

                  Half whole wheat flour is challenging if you're not an experienced bread baker. I bet you'd have better results if you made that 1/3 whole wheat and/or added some gluten.

                  Now if you whole wheat is what you want and you're happy with a dense loaf, feel free. But if you're not getting the rise you want you may be expecting too much from whole wheat flour with its lower gluten content.

                  1. re: Fiona

                    So Fiona I do think that is the problem, the 62F. Like I said, to get the dough bubbly in a 62F kitchen, I had to let it sit for almost 30 hours. Do you have a warmer room you could sit the dough in? Otherwise, just let it go longer and when it's bubbly, then form the dough ball. You can enclose the doughball on a board in the microwave with a hot cup of water to give it a slightly warmer environment to rise in, but again you will probably have to let it sit longer. Remember, soon it will be summer and then it will work fine for you. THis might just be a summer bread for you.