How to Proof Yeast

A guide to when you need to test yeast and how to do it.

January 12, 2023
fresh and dry yeast on cutting board

603250996

fresh and dry yeast on cutting board

Photo by: jirkaejc/Getty Images

jirkaejc/Getty Images

By Amanda Neal for Food Network Kitchen

Amanda is a recipe developer at Food Network.

Baking a loaf of bread or delicate yeasted cake is truly a science. This includes the all-important ingredient, the active yeast. And making sure the yeast is alive and ready to leaven your baked goods is important to the success of your recipe. But how do you know if it’s ready to use and even active enough to give your baked goods the ideal rise? We have all the information you need to proof your yeast, including which yeasts need to be proofed, so you’re always ready for baking.

What Is Proofing Yeast?

Proofing yeast in the most basic sense is a test to see if yeast is viable. Yeast is a single-celled living organism, and it needs to be “alive” for it to effectively leaven breads and baked goods. To proof yeast, place yeast in a warm liquid (100 to 110 degrees F – it should be warm but not hot) with a little sugar and let it sit for a few minutes. Once it’s foamy and creamy looking, you know the yeast is active and viable for baking.

1141996785

Photo by: mikroman6/Getty Images

mikroman6/Getty Images

Which Kinds of Yeast Do You Need to Proof?

Active dry, instant, bread machine, rapid rise and fresh cake yeast technically do not need to be tested to work.

The only instance where you need to proof these is when you suspect the yeast is old. For example, fresh cake yeast expires very quickly and has a short shelf life, so it’s a good idea to proof this yeast in particular so you don’t run into flat baked goods.

Also, if you’re making a recipe that has low moisture content (70% or less), it helps to pre-dissolve yeast so it thoroughly works into the dough. So this would be another example of when you should proof your yeast.

For more info on all of the different types of yeast and their uses, head over to our guide A Primer on Every Single Type of Yeast for Baking.

Bowl with rising pizza dough

1329269625

Bowl with rising pizza dough

Photo by: Photo by Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Photo by Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Proofing Yeast vs. Proofing Dough

Whether you’re making your 100th loaf of bread or you’re making a bread recipe for the first time, you’ll almost always come across the need to “proof dough”. This is another step of making yeasted baked goods, where once the ingredients are combined and kneaded, the dough will need to rest and rise until doubled in size. This should be done in a warm environment (sometimes, close to a warm oven is suggested), and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than 1 hour. For more info on proofing dough, check out our story How to Tell When Bread Is Proofed. Proofing dough is completely different from proofing yeast, though the two processes are sometimes confused because they both contain the word “proof.”

How to Proof Yeast, Step-By-Step

Step 1: Warm the Liquid

Measure the liquid in your recipe (such as water or milk). Next, warm the liquid to 100 to 110 degrees F in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stovetop. It should be warm but not hot.

Step 2: Add Sugar

Add a good pinch of granulated sugar to the liquid and give the mixture a stir. The yeast will actually feed off of the sugar and initiate the activation.

Step 3: Add the Yeast and Rest

Add the yeast and give the mixture another quick stir, then let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Within the first few minutes, you should see lots of bubbles, and the mixture should look creamy and foamy. If it doesn’t, this means the yeast is past its prime and should be discarded. Additionally, don’t let proofed yeast hang around for too long. It will eventually lose its vitality.

Favorite Recipes with Yeast to Get You Started

Now that you know how to make sure your yeast is working as it should, here are some recipes to inspire your next baking project.

Shokupan

Shokupan

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

It’s hard to find Japanese milk bread at grocery stores, but you can make it at home. And it’s the ultimate white sandwich-style bread: super-soft and fluffy with just a hint of sweetness.

Right this way to doughnuts and doughnut holes so tasty that you might never be able to go back to store-bought. The just crackly enough exterior is drenched in an irresistible glaze that imparts the right amount of addictive sweetness.

Description: Food Network Kitchen's Grilled Pita Bread. Keywords: Flour, Instant Yeast, Salt, Sugar, Olive Oil

Description: Food Network Kitchen's Grilled Pita Bread. Keywords: Flour, Instant Yeast, Salt, Sugar, Olive Oil

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Homemade pita is one of those dishes that’s easy to make and the results pay off exponentially. The soft, tender and beyond fluffy results will make you a homemade pita convert.

Classic 100 Foccia process

Classic 100 Foccia process

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

This version is the very best because it’s airy and a tad bit chewy with a delicate golden crust: all the qualities one might want in a focaccia. A drizzle of salt water over the dough during the final rise gives the bread a deeper flavor. Break out your best olive oil for dipping.

Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels

Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels

Tart Granny Smith apples are kneaded into sweet yeasted dough, then formed into pretzel shapes and baked to golden-brown perfection. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with a homemade caramel glaze for the ideal contrast of salty and sweet.

Related Links:

Next Up

How to Make Sourdough Starter

Our step-by-step guide makes tackling this days-long process way less intimidating.

A Comprehensive Guide to Baking at High Altitudes

Did you know you should you use less baking soda at higher altitudes?

What's the Difference Between Glass and Metal Baking Pans?

You’ll want to read this before making your next batch of brownies.

10 Baking Questions We Hear All the Time (That You Won't Like the Answers To)

Do you really need to abide by all these finicky baking rules? Let us give it to you straight.

What Is Cream of Tartar?

The byproduct of winemaking has a myriad of uses in your kitchen, from baking to cleaning coffee stains.

Why Did My Cake Sink In the Middle? (And How to Fix It)

You might be making one of these seven common mistakes.

This Shapeshifting Cake Batter Is the Ultimate Party Trick

With this genius base recipe, if you can make one cake flavor, you can make six — and just by adding, never subtracting or swapping.

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Making a Bundt Cake

Including how to make sure it releases in one beautiful piece.

What's New