Myth: Yeast is tricky to work with. Reality: It’s virtually foolproof. Here’s what you need to know to rock some rolls (or bread, or pizza dough).
stack of bread slices
Photography by Claire Benoist/The Licensing Project
| Credit: Photography by Claire Benoist/The Licensing Project

There Are Two Main Types of Yeast

OK, there are way more than two kinds of yeast. But the ones you're most likely to find in the baking section of the supermarket are instant yeast and active dry yeast. Both types are made for home cooks and are super easy to use. Any packet that's marked as fast-rising (RapidRise, Quick-Rise, and Saf-Instant are the main brands) contains instant yeast, which works quickly and can be mixed directly into dry ingredients. Active dry yeast, which should be dissolved in warm water before using, is slightly slower-acting, provides more flavor, and creates baked goods with a softer texture. Some recipes will specify the type of yeast, but they're basically interchangeable.

Yeast Doesn't Like to Be Hot

Yeast thrives in a warm, but not too warm, environment. If you're adding yeast to warm water or milk, the liquid should be around 110° to 115°. Any hotter than 140° can kill the yeast, which means loaves with no loft.

Yeast Gets Old 

Unopened packets of yeast will keep for a year or more. But if you don't bake with it very often, the expiration date may have passed. To check if your yeast is still alive, dissolve 1 tsp. sugar in 1/2 cup warm water, then stir in a 1/4-oz. packet of yeast. If the yeast foams up, you're good. (Then subtract 1/2 cup of the liquid in your recipe when you use that dissolved yeast.) No foam? It's time to head to the store.

Just Dough It!

One-Hour Dough

Now that you know how to treat your yeast, it's time to treat yourself: Make this quick, one-hour pizza dough and revel in your newfound power. (Please, save us a slice!)