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Jackie Hope: Yeast workers, arise!

You ever kill that "quick rise" yeast stuff? Nah, me neither. But every package of yeast we buy seems to be sleepy. Really sleepy. Um, it's not supposed to take five days for yeast to rise, is it? Oh well, it's only been snoozing in the corner of...

You ever kill that “quick rise” yeast stuff? Nah, me neither. But every package of yeast we buy seems to be sleepy. Really sleepy. Um, it’s not supposed to take five days for yeast to rise, is it? Oh well, it’s only been snoozing in the corner of the kitchen since last Thursday. Best to give it a few more days.
For years, our yeast has gone comatose whenever we’ve kneaded it to rise to the occasion. But over those years, we’ve learned the wily ways of yeast. Here are a few things to remember, so you don’t end up with deceased yeast. And, for the record, none of these things have happened to us personally. We just heard about them from a friend of a friend.
All the recipe books, even “Yeast Made Simple, and We Mean This Sincerely,” say, “Soften the yeast in warm water.” Okaaaaay. Warming water cannot be all that difficult, right? You turn on the faucet marked “H,” and wait. Or point the arrow to the left of center if you have a water-for-dummies faucet. You know, that swaggy kind with a single handle you can crank to hot or cold, like in a hotel shower. Only better, because the hotel showers are always stuck at about 10 degrees below your body temperature, no matter how you adjust the handle. They could rename some of those franchises Hypothermia Hotel. No frills, all chills.
What the recipe books don’t tell you is, if the water is too cold, your sleeping beauty yeast won’t wake up. It will lie there, floating on the surface like pond scum. Don’t gag. Yeast is a fungus.
Really. It needs to be woken up to do its fungus thing to your bread. That’s why, when you put it in water to wake up, you feed it some sugar. So it doesn’t go hungry. Didn’t your mama teach you that?
And if your water is too hot, you’ll cook your yeast before it has a chance to grow. Then it floats on top of the water, in a gooey glob, refusing to eat its sugar. Cooking tip: no matter how hard you try, you cannot force-feed sugar to overheated yeast. Overheated yeast may be the only thing in the universe that won’t eat sugar. Glad I am not yeast. Glad about that for more reasons than just the sugar thing.
Wiki Answers says the perfect yeast summoning temperature is 110 degrees. Wiki Answers is the lite version of Wiki. You get inaccurate advice without having to read through all those bogus citations they got on Wiki regular. Wiki Answers assumes we have a thermometer that goes over 98.6 degrees. Our meat thermometer has been stuck at 176 ever since we washed it in the dishwasher. But, hey, we now know that water from the dishwasher is too hot to soften yeast in.
Another tip to maintain healthy yeast is never, never put lazy yeast in the oven to jumpstart it. Just. Don’t. Well, OK, you can put it in the oven if you don’t turn the oven on. Otherwise, no. Because your oven’s idea of warm is, for yeast, more like, “Holy cats, this place is hotter than … than … hotter than the place where bad little yeasts go in their yeasty afterlives.”
And don’t try the microwave, either. Here is what happens. No, wait. Here is what we heard happens, because we never tried this ourselves. Not more than once, anyway. Microwaves seem to make yeast really active, really fast. Like, you set the microwave for 2 minutes at 50 percent power and put in your watered-down yeast. Two minutes later, the yeast that is not stuck to the roof of the microwave comes rolling out the door when you open it. And it does not stop rolling until it gets under your toaster, where it continues to pop up for about three weeks.
If you try to double-yeast your project, for double-quick rising, you’ll end up with something that looks more like beer than bread batter. Well, that’s a win-win situation. You can either make that gourmet beer bread stuff they serve in artisanal restaurants, or you can bottle the yeast concoction and save it for Thursday’s NFL game.
Ever try frozen bread dough? You are supposed to put a frozen loaf - which looks like it’s made out of plaster of Paris - into a baking dish and wait a couple of hours for nature to take its course. Yeah, right. And feeding sugar to those loaves does not work, either. They just lay there in the pan, like chubby little thighs, minus the cellulite.
Anyway, yeast breads are overrated. There is a lot of deliciousness in cornbread and biscuits and banana bread.
So, while we are waiting for the yeast to wake up, anybody got a good recipe for unleavened bread?

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