Rapid Rise Yeast

As the name implies this is the fastest-rising of all the various packaged yeasts. A version of instant yeast, it’s made via similar methods but the granules are even narrower and thinner…almost rod-like if you can see them. That means they absorb moisture and dissolve even faster, so they start working, reproducing and making CO2 almost immediately.

What is this yeast for? Extremely light and fluffy breads. In fact this sort of yeast is commonly used for bread machines to produce ultra-light, sandwich bread-type loaves. The trouble is that it doesn’t produce a very flavorful product.

Why? Because slower rises provide time for other, flavor-giving, non-yeast related processes to work. Slower rises give enzymes that are present in the flour time to turn on and start cutting starch molecules down into sugars we can taste. They allow lactic acid bacteria present in the flour, the water and the yeast culture itself to start making lactic acid and other flavor-enhancing compounds. If the yeast takes off at a run and finishes its job before any of the rest of these processes can occur, you lose a lot of what makes bread interesting to taste.

Of course the natural bread crowd would say you lose most of what’s interesting in bread by using packaged yeast in the first place. That’s true to some extent, but properly used, packaged yeast can deliver a surprising amount of flavor given time to work. But when the rise is as explosive as it is with rapid-rise yeast, I guess you have to wonder what you’re really getting out of it.

13 thoughts on “Rapid Rise Yeast”

  1. Hi!

    Great info! I’ve started making simple yeast breads because I like the taste, but have trouble getting them to rise here in NW Wyoming except in the summer. Even then, the dough has to hang out on the deck in the sun or a hot car.

    What I’m trying to say is that it’s cold and drafty here. Would using the rapid rise help in the colder months of the year?

    1. This isn’t a problem I’ve had, but I’ve heard about people rising their bread in a gas oven with a pilot light, or an electric oven with the oven light on. Putting it in a well-insulated cooler or even wrapping it in a blanket would also help to keep it warm.

      Then again, a slow rise will give you more flavor!

      1. Those sorts of improvised proofing boxes do help when the weather’s cold. You can also use a microwave. You put in a couple of coffee cups with an inch or so water each and zap them until the water boils. Open the door, put in the dough and close the door. It makes a handy, humid proofing chamber!

        Thanks, Sandra!

        – Joe

        1. I set mine on top of my freezer. Touch it, it’s always warm, and since it’s already warm, it saves energy over using the bread-proofing setting on my oven. I make sure to wipe it well before placing the bowl of dough up there though since I have been distracted a few times, forgot all about it and when I finally went back I found dough-zilla escaping from the bowl. 😉

  2. Reading your posts about yeast (and starch) makes me feel like I should know more about these topics since I’m a biochemist and microbiologist by trade. The different kinds of yeast made me wonder to what extent the yeast grows and divides under bread dough conditions. There must be some growth – otherwise sourdough starters wouldn’t be kept for years with feeding and dividing. In theory, a single live yeast cell should be able to multiply enough to give the same amount of yeast as any of the types you’ve described – given enough time and the power of exponential growth. And yet, these different preparations give different results.

    1. That’s true, Jim. And that’s one reason you really don’t need to be as precise with yeast…since it will eventually grow to the size population you need if you use too little. if you use too much you’ll have a little less flavor, but that’s abut the extent of the consequences. However there are many more effects you can get with yeast, and believe me there are for more serious bread bakers out there that are much better than I am manipulating cultures. I’ll try to address some of these issues in my next dew posts. Thanks for a great comment!

      – Joe

    2. To add to what Joe has confirmed, one of my first cookbooks was Beard on Bread by the inimitable James Beard who was investigating the possibilities of bread back in 1973 when most of us thought Wonderbread was the way bread was supposed to taste.

      I still use several of the recipes from that book as basic go-t0’s. We wouldn’t have Thanksgiving leftovers without his Buttermilk White Bread and my husband thinks breakfast is not breakfast without his English Muffin Bread. However, all his recipes call for full packets of commercial yeast and over the years I have learned that I get much more flavor with 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in a sponge made the night before and a much longer rise. If Beard were here now I’m sure he’d be saying the same thing about his own treasured recipes.

      Preferments of all sorts — sourdough starters, old dough, sponges, bigas, poolishes — have changed the way Americans understand bread. And HALLELUJAH because we’re all eating better bread for it!

      1. Amen Rainey! And for the curious there’s more on starters and preferments in the Ingredient Basics section under Baking Basics!

        – Joe

  3. So…if instant yeast, rapid rise yeast and active dry yeast are all the same organism packed up differently due to processing, then they should be interchangeable in any recipe. If the only essential different thing between these types of yeast is how fast they start growing in the doughy environment, then they should each work in any recipe if the baker understands how much to start with and can control the environment the yeast is growing in.

    So you could use rapidrise yeast in your overnight-in-the-fridge dough if you started with a small enough amount.


    1. Exactly right, Ted! If you’re careful you can use any of them for any packaged yeast application.

      – Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *