Friday, 31 October 2008

Lessons in Housewifery

My good friend Aileen got in touch yesterday live and direct from London asking about yeast. She was gathering ingredients to make Darina Allen's Barmbrack (from her book 'Ballymaloe Cookery Course') and asked if she could use instant dry yeast rather than the fresh yeast suggested in the recipe. Now, never mind the yeast for a second, I'm impressed at the lengths Aileen is going to be the perfect domestic goddess for her new husband! Note to Aileen...the secret is to teach Pete how to cook the barmbrack for you!

Anyhow, back to the boring bit, the yeast! Like gelatine leaves and powder, it can be a little mind boggling going between the two. Fresh yeast is now pretty hard to get hold of on the street (caterers can buy it from wholesalers). I remember I sometimes managed to get some from the bakers in Sainsbury's in London but you could try any good baker or perhaps a health food store. It needs to be kept in the fridge (or freezer) and has a short shelf life. You have to dissolve it in a little warm water with sugar, waiting for it to activate and froth before adding to flour.

fresh yeast

Then there's dried yeast. This is where it gets a little confusing as one product is granular ordinary dried yeast, otherwise known as active dried yeast. This still needs to be dissolved in warm water to activate it. Then there is a finer dried yeast that has many names - easy blend, quick, instant or fast action dried yeast. This is what I prefer to use. It is widely available in supermarkets, is easy to store, comes in handy sachets and has a long shelf life. It is also very easy to use as you skip the dissolving stage and add it straight into your flour.

Then the conversion bit. Basically, use half the amount of easy blend dried yeast to fresh (or double the amount of fresh yeast to dried). For example in Darina's recipe she says to use 20g fresh yeast so as dried yeast comes in 7g sachets, I would just use one of them (it's a little less than it should be as it's actually 7g dried to 15g fresh but I personally wouldn't open another packet for a few extra grams). At least, that's what I told Aileen to do so she can be the judge when she cooks her Barmbrack today! Also, if you do use ordinary dried yeast the equivalent is 1 tbsp.

to simplify my waffling:
1 tbsp ordinary granular yeast = 15g fresh yeast = 7g fast action (easy blend) dried yeast
(If making bread, this is enough yeast for about 750g flour)

family photo: ordinary or active dried yeast, fresh yeast & fast action yeast

That's the basics of yeast - there's a whole other world out there - I recently helped source inactive Brewer's yeast for Hugo Arnold as he thought of using it in a Caesar dressing (it has a cheesey flavour) for an event at the Guinness Factory. I had never used it before but apparently it went down a treat.

Anyhow, enough about yeast, fingers crossed Ail's Barmbrack goes down well with the hubby. But, Aileen, remember....

If you wanna know if he loves you so it's in his kiss


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