Reader Philip writes:
In the first picture [of the Making Kringle post] you seem to have put the sugar and salt on one side of the flour and the yeast on the other. Our British telly cooks tell us we must do it this way, as letting the salt come into contact with the yeast will kill the yeast. And yet once we switch the machine on the salt and the yeast are mixed together. Is this another kitchen myth?
Terrific question, Philip. Way to pick up on the details! It depends on the type of yeast. It’s true that concentrated sugar or salt will sap the moisture from live yeast and effectively kill it. Whether it has the same effect on dry, dormant yeast is open to question. Makers of instant yeast (the yeast I use almost exclusively) claim that you can pour their product on a heap of salt or sugar with no ill effects. That strikes me as probably true, though out of habit (or caution) I generally separate them.
Once they’re in the mix it’s inevitable that some live yeast will come into contact with some salt or sugar. It’s inevitable attrition that often has a purpose. Namely, of preventing the yeast from growing too quickly and puffing up the dough before the real flavor creators — the bacteria and enzymes — have a chance to do their work. Thanks again, Philip!