Fearless Bread


Yeast is a tiny living microorganism that jump starts the process of fermentation in bread dough. Upon activation, yeast cells feed on the sugars in flour and release carbon dioxide in the process. The trapped carbon dioxide gases gradually fill the dough and cause it to expand into a risen loaf.

Main Types Available In Stores:   

0.6 oz. cubes
gives the best taste, but high moisture content yields very short shelf life
refrigerate for 2 weeks

Active Dry
1/4 oz. pak  or 1-2 pound blocks
granulated and usually needs to be hydrated before adding to dough
4 month shelf life if refrigerated or 6 months if frozen

1/4 oz. paks or 1-2 pound blocks
smaller granules than active dry and usually ok to mix in with dry ingredients
6 month shelf life refrigerated - up to a year if frozen
best choice for slow rise doughs, most potent and dependable of all 3 types

Conversion Chart:
100% Fresh Yeast  =  40% Active Dry  =  33% Instant
1 ounce           =             0.4 ounces            =  .33 ounces
1 TBSP             =              1.25 teaspoons    =  1 teaspoon

* check expiration date on package at time of purchase
* store unused portions in refrigerator or freezer to extend shelf life
* salt, sugar, fats, & cinnamon slow yeast production, add during latter stages
* tannic acid in crushed raisins slow yeast production, add during latter stages
* mix yeast in 1/2 cup 105-110 degree liquid before adding other ingredients to "proof" it's potency, should foam or bubble within 5-10 minutes


So what is the big deal with salt in bread making? Surprisingly, salt provides several important purposes in producing a fine quality loaf of good bread.

The most obvious, of course, is taste. Without the addition of salt, the taste of bread would be flat, insipid, and very bland. In addition to taste, non yeast breads generally use salt along with baking powder and or baking soda to form a chemical reaction that will leaven or "raise" dough. 

Next, salt contributes to the chemical bonds in the gluten structure of yeast bread by leaving it slightly more relaxed. With the gluten structure relaxed, the texture and overall "feel" of the dough is altered. It absorbs just enough moisture in the dough to keep it more along the way of being elastic instead of sticky as the gluten properly develops during kneading or mixing. Most yeast bread recipes typically use a ratio of approximately 2% salt to the total weight of the dough. 

Lastly, salt slightly inhibits the rapid production action of the yeast if given in the proper amounts and in the proper stages. This process is known as "retarding" and literally slows down the rate of speed at which the yeast cells reproduce. This is very crucial when it comes to "slow rise" techniques for dough development. The longer the dough is allowed to rise, the more complex the flavors are that can be extracted from the flours.  Care must be taken with mixing yeast dough so that the yeast is not "shocked" when salt is added to the dough. Typically, it is a good idea to at least have the salt buffered with a portion of the flour your recipe calls for, rather than adding it full strength to the dough. 

Types Of Salt

Sea Salt
Natural sea salt is by far my preferred salt of choice for bread making. It is considered an unrefined salt and is obtained by the evaporation of water from the brine of the sea. Mainly, I prefer it because it does not contain iodide which can excessively inhibit yeast production. Secondly, It's mineral composition provides a cleaner less chemical taste than table salt, thereby holding a preferred status in the arena of gourmet cooking. Some advocates for sea salt claim that unrefined salts are also healthier for you than refined salts. However, avoid completely raw sea salt because it's magnesium and calcium compounds make it too bitter for consumption. Experiment at your local grocery, health food store, or online for hundreds of exotic flavors to choose from.

Refined Salt
It is the most widely used and the majority of this type of salt is primarily sold for industrial use, with a much smaller remnant used for food grade applications. After this salt is harvested, chemicals are added for purification. Traces of sodium ferrocyanide as well as other chemicals and additives are introduced to this type of salt as an anti caking agent to reduce the formation of irregular crystals. Some advocates for the refined salt industry claim that unrefined salts do not contain enough iodine to prevent iodine deficiency diseases. ( I won't get in the middle of that fight! ) As a rule, the only time I absolutely refuse to use refined salts are for yeast bread production.

Table Salt
It is considered a refined salt and is composed of 97% - 99% sodium chloride. As such, it normally will contain chemicals and other anti-caking additives to keep it free flowing by preventing it from absorbing moisture from the air. It will typically contain potassium iodide used as a nutrient to aid in prevention of diseases associated with iodine deficiency.

*** as a general rule, I add salt to yeast dough during the latter stages of mixing after at least half the flour has been added ***

*** non yeast doughs and batters simply need the salt blended with total of dry ingredients before combined with wet ingredients ***


Let's talk about what's in that bag of flour you purchased. Many flours on the grocery shelves are labeled "bleached" and or "bromated" These are chemical additives you may consider avoiding after reading about them.

Chlorine is commonly used to whiten flour solely for the purpose of obtaining a color we have been lulled into accepting as the standard for commercial white bread. Although using chlorine to whiten flour has been approved by the FDA, we prefer to avoid it and use unbleached brands. Unbleached flour contains beta carotene which yields a better aroma and flavor in comparison. As far as appearance, the finished baked goods will have an ivory color instead of the traditional starch white hue.

Bromates are used by the commercial industry to speed up the process of oxidizing flour used for bread. Bread flours need to age or oxidize  for peak performance, but the industry aborts this process in favor of mass production. Bromates are considered legal and safe by the FDA, but here are a couple of facts that can't be ignored: California outlawed bromates in 1991 as a possible link to cancer, and the majority of European countries will not allow them!  No small wonder that we use unbromated flours.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is made up from 2 protein molecules, glutanin and gliadin found in many flours. When water and flour are mixed and kneaded, gluten strands are formed and this is what gives traditional bread it's structure and texture. A lower content of these proteins is needed for flour to give cakes a soft and tender texture, while a higher content is needed to give bread a chewy texture.

Common Types Of Flour

Bread Flour:
A white flour that in comparison to other flours, has a high protien content (11-14%). Unlike all purpose flour, it gives an open crumb (irregular holes) and a chewy texture  to  artisan breads like focaccia and ciabatta.

All Purpose Flour:
A white flour that sits midway in protein content (9.5-11.5%) between bread and pastry flour. It is often used in sandwich and dessert breads to achieve a tighter crumb and softer texture. It derives it's name because it is commonly used to make yeast breads as well as cakes, biscuits, cookies, and pastries. 

Whole Wheat Flour:
Unlike white flour, the bran and the germ of the wheat kernel are not discarded during the milling process. This produces a heavier and darker bread loaf with a not so mild taste and texture in comparison. Special care for cooler storage must be considered because it has a higher fat content, thereby leaving it more vulnerable to spoiling.  It is commonly mixed with white flour to lighten texture and taste, as well as improve the rising stage of the dough.

Rye Flour:
This flour is very low in protien and while it is high in fiber, it produces a very dense loaf if used alone. Typically, you will find that many recipes using rye flour contain 2-3 times as much white flour. This is done to raise the protein content high enough to form a better gluten structure.  It is used to make delicious pumpernickel, deli rye, russian black bread and many other favorites. The usual varieties available for purchase are light, medium, dark, and white.
00 Flour:
The "00" is used to describe how finely ground the flour is. It is produced from fine European winter wheat and is first choice for traditional artisan bakers in Naples,  Italy. The protein content ranges from 6% - 12.5% and is used for making breads, cookies, pastries and pizzas. If you are making pizza, make sure to use a brand such as Molino Caputo which has a high gluten content and is milled to make traditional Pizza Napoletana.  
Potato Flour:
This flour is produced from cooked, dried, and ground potatoes. Unlike potato starch, potato flour is produced from the entire dehydrated potato. It is very low in protein needed to form gluten so it must be mixed with other flours to make traditional yeast bread. When added to bread recipes, it provides a natural preservative by retaining moisture. Typically, you can replace 1/4 cup of flour in a 5-6 cup recipe with potato flour to make your loaves less dense, as well as improve their shelf life.