Bakers give yeast a big assignment: Leaven our goods. While mixing creates air cells within bread doughs, it’s the gases released by bakers yeast as it ferments that expand those cells to produce the desired light, airy texture in the finished product. Leave the leavening out, and the results will be tough, hard and barely edible.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a.k.a. bakers yeast, packs a lot of power into a microscopic single-celled plant, a fungus actually. In nature, yeast exists as millions of different strains, each with varying properties. Every yeast manufacturer maintains a library of well-characterized proprietary strains, propagating commercial batches from the purified cultures. Each batch from a given culture will be identical in properties. This production method ensures that the bakers yeast you select will work the same every time you use it.
Unlike flour, yeast optimized for bakery performance is a relatively new development. In 1868, the first standardized commercial yeast, Fleischmann’s Yeast (now part of AB Mauri North America’s portfolio), was introduced to the US by an Austrian brewer, Charles Fleischmann, and his brother Maximilian.
The diversity of yeast allowed individual processors to move beyond fresh yeast into compressed and bulk formats and to later add the cream yeast style. It helped them find the right strains to stand up to the rigors of drying while still remaining active.
“The majority of commercial bakers prefer conventional fresh yeast,” said Ralf Tschenscher, baking business development manager, Red Star, Lesaffre Yeast Corp. But that hasn’t limited creativity.
Recently, suppliers have tapped the organism’s gene pool to provide properties that fit specific bakery needs. These include tolerating high sugar levels, standing up to freezing or fighting formation of acrylamides. Some offer vitamin fortification, while others were developed to fit the stringent code of organic certification.
In the end, it’s all S. cerevisiae. The different forms lend flexibility to bakery production, and the different strains add functionality to formulating choices.
Read more on this story at Baking Business.