Let Us Now Praise Instant Yeast

SAF Instant Yeast one pound packageIf you’ve made or read through any of my recipes, maybe you’ve noticed that when they call for commercial yeast, it’s the unfortunately-named “instant” kind. Unfortunately-named because doesn’t “instant,” when it comes to food, connote inferior and inauthentic? Can instant hot chocolate, instant onion soup, or instant rice ever measure up to the real stuff?

But instant yeast isn’t like that. It’s the very same organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as fresh compressed (cake) and active dry, the other two forms of commercial yeast commonly available to home bakers. And plenty of professional artisan bakers use instant yeast too.

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Baker Interviews at Stir the Pots

Chef Jeremy Shapiro of Stir the Pots has talked with some of the most prominent bread bakers/authors/teachers you can think of. I’ve found it so interesting to listen to their different personal stories, what draws them to baking, and their perspectives on the current state of baking in the US and around the world. Check out Jeremy’s podcasts of interviews with:

World Bread Day, World Food Day, and a Recipe

World Bread Day World Food Day

Today is World Bread Day. The International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners designated this day to celebrate and honor the food that is, in many phraseologies, synonymous with “food.” So it is no accident that World Bread Day was chosen to coincide with Word Food Day, October 16, the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

The theme for World Food Day 2007 is “The Right to Food.” The FAO’s message is that regular access to sufficient, nutritious, culturally appropriate food is a basic human right that is currently denied to 850 million people worldwide.

The recipe is coming, I promise. But first:

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Please Help Fight Hunger

I have no bread to share with you today. Instead I am asking you to share, because many people in this world don’t have enough bread.

According to the World Health Organization, 800,000,000 people worldwide suffer from hunger, and more than 6,000,000 children under the age of five die each year from malnutrition.

If you are as overwhelmed and appalled by those numbers as I am, please consider helping in one of the following ways:

  1. Donate directly to one of these charities (or one of your own choosing):
  2. Make a purchase from my store, or buy a product from Amazon.com by clicking on one of the links contained in many of my posts. I pledge to you that 100% of my commissions from these purchases will be donated to hunger-fighting charities.
  3. Visit The Hunger Site and click on the “Click Here to Give” button. This costs you nothing, and you can do it once a day. Donations are made by the sponsors whose ads you see when you click.

Thank you for helping fight hunger.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

The Week’s Breads

It’s been a quiet week here at Wild Yeast, but not a quiet one for me at all. I just finished a 5-day advanced artisan bread workshop at the San Francisco Baking Institute – my fourth at the school. The courses are geared towards professional bakers, but (lucky for me) home bakers are also welcome. Check out SFBI’s program if you’re interested in learning, in a very hands-on fashion, how to bake bread from the most passionate, knowledgeable, and friendly people in the baking industry. (And no, they really didn’t pay me to say that!)

Here are some of the breads we made this week. See more photos here. You can be sure I’ll be making many of these at home in the coming weeks… stay tuned!
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The News from Tokyo: Japanese Bread

I have been in Japan for the past week! Of course I was interested to find out what the baking scene is like here, and I was a bit surprised to find that bakeries are perhaps more numerous than I found even in Paris. The Japanese do bake and eat a lot of bread and pastries! Much of it is Western artisan style, and although I did not sample any of those breads, I must say that, if appearance is any indication, these bakers really give the Europeans and Americans a run for their money. In fact, the Japanese team won the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, a triennial international artisan baking competition, in 2002 (they came in third, behind the USA and France, in 2005).


But I wanted to know if there was a bread that is distinctly Japanese, and a Japanese friend directed me to Kimuraya in the Ginza district. Established in 1869, this is one of the oldest and most well-known bakeries in Tokyo, and its founder is responsible for introducing their signature anpan, a uniquely Japanese bread. These small buns bear a resemblance to miniature hamburger buns or bagels but are soft, a little sweet, and filled with sweet red, white, or green bean paste. The filling may also include a little pickle, sesame paste, or other ingredients. The dough is made with the same yeast used to ferment sake.

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