What Is Yeast?
Yeasts are a member of the fungus kingdom and are unicellular organisms. Yeasts are most commonly known for their uses in baking and making alcohol. Most yeasts are asexual by nature, meaning that they reproduce by mitosis, or by dividing into two completely separate sets of chromosomes that are completely independent with their own nucleus.
Yeasts, although part of the fungus family, do not need sunlight to grow or reproduce, but rather they use organic compounds (such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, or maltose) to grow.
What Does Yeast Do in Bread?
Yeast causes fermentation, which is a process that takes sugar and changes it to acids, gases, or alcohol. There are three main things that yeast does in bread: it has leavening properties that makes bread rise, it develops gluten and strengthens the dough, and it helps create the flavors in bread that so many people love.
Yeast Causes Bread to Rise
For bread dough to rise, it is entirely dependent upon yeast. When yeast is mixed with flour and water, the enzymes react, resulting in a breakdown of starch molecules into simple sugars.
The yeast reacts with these sugars and a liquid is released. The liquid then lets out carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol, which make their way into air bubbles in the dough and cause them to grow, giving way to rising bread.
Yeast Reinforces Dough
Gluten is a popular term in today’s world, and while many know that it is present in bread, very few know what it actually is. Gluten is essentially a group of molecules that is gummy and stretchy in consistency.
You want lots of gluten in your bread dough because it reinforces and strengthens the dough, and it helps the bread dough rise and expand as it should. As bread dough is kneaded, more gases are released into the air bubbles within the dough, and more gluten is formed, furthering reinforcing the dough.
Yeast Creates More Flavor
Bigger molecules don’t contain much flavor, but their broken down byproducts do. When it comes to bread, the larger starchy molecules are very basic in flavor, but yeast breaks them down into sugars by the process of fermentation, which causes much better flavor.
These broken down sugars, along with the sugars that were already in the bread dough, combine to create organic acids, amino acids, and more carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol, which produces even more fantastic flavors.
No-Yeast Bread Recipes
In order to make no-yeast bread, you need to rely on the bacteria within the dough to create leavening rather than yeast. This can be time consuming and may require some atypical ingredients, but if done properly, you will be able to enjoy some delicious bread.
If that sounds like too much work, you can choose to bake a flatter, denser bread that doesn’t take much time or energy to prepare. Since we’re all about survival and efficiency, we’re leaning towards embracing the quicker no-yeast bread recipes.
If you’re interested in preparing a starter and baking bread like a pioneer, check out this great article on NPR. For us more time-conscious folk, check out our favorite no-yeast bread recipes below. And check out our hardtack recipes also.
Basic No-Yeast Bread Recipe
- Mix 3 cups of flour and 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
- While stirring mixtures, add 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
- Continue stirring and add ¾ cup of warm water.
- Add more warm water, a little at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball and is only slightly sticky. If it’s too dry, add more water. If it’s too wet, add more flour.
- Grease a bread pan and press dough into it, then flip dough over.
- Bake covered at 375 F for 20 minutes, then check. It may need an additional 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your pan. The top should be slightly golden and the bread should be springy when touched.
No-Yeast Cheese, Garlic, and Herb Bread Recipe
- Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a bread tin.
- Mix 4 tablespoons of various fresh herbs (dill, rosemary, parsley, thyme, etc.) with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
- Mix 2 ¼ cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
- Mix 1 ¼ cups of buttermilk, 2 eggs, and 2 crushed garlic cloves.
- Pour wet ingredients from step 4 into dry ingredients from step 3. Mix until just combined.
- Pour 1/3 of the batter into the bread tin, and then plop half of the herbs randomly across the top of the batter, marbling and mixing them into the batter slightly.
- Use about 2.5 ounces of cheddar cheese, cut into small slices, and push them into the batter randomly.
- Pour the remainder of the batter in the bread tin. Again, plop herbs and another 2.5 ounces of cheese slices into and on the batter. Mix them in slightly and even out the top of the batter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cover with foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.
No-Yeast Focaccia Bread Recipe
- Preheat oven to 425 F and grease a 9×13 baking pan.
- Stir together 1 cup of water, 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour out on a counter and knead together until it forms a ball of dough.
- Put on greased baking pan and spread it out so it is relatively even with no holes.
- Rub the top of sides of dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of garlic salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons of dried crushed basil.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese.
- Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes, or until golden brown.