Plus, learn how to properly store yeast.

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Yeast is a living, breathing organism so get to know it and give it some love. Yeast has the power to turn a bowl of flour, water, and salt into a flavorful, gorgeous loaf of homemade bread or the Glazed Yeast Donuts, pictured here (pretty magical, right?). It's important to understand how yeast works, how to tell if it's gone bad, and most importantly, what is the difference is between active dry yeast and instant yeast.

Yeasted Doughnuts
Credit: Will Anderson

Active Dry Versus Instant Yeast

Yeast is the ingredient that makes dough rise and strengthen the glutens. There are two main types of yeast that you'll find in the grocery store—active dry or instant rise (sometimes called quick rise or rapid-rise). Active-dry yeast is the variety that the majority of recipes call for. To use active-dry yeast, dissolve one packet of yeast in ¼ cup of warm water (approximately 110°F) and one teaspoon of sugar for 10 minutes. Once the yeast blooms (when it has fully dissolved and starts to bubble), the mixture can be added to the other ingredients. (If the mixture doesn't bloom, this is a sign that the yeast dead). By comparison, instant dry yeast does not need to be proofed in warm water and can be directly added to dry ingredients such as flour and salt. Instant yeast particles are smaller, which allows them to dissolve more quickly.

The benefit of baking with active-dry yeast is that by blooming it in water, you can guarantee that it's still alive. If you add instant yeast to a mixture of flour and salt, there's no way to know for sure if it's still alive.

How to Store Yeast

According to Fleischmann's, yeast should be stored unopened in its original packaging in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or refrigerator. Once a packet is opened, store any remaining yeast in an airtight container in the back of the refrigerator. Active-dry or instant yeast should generally be used within three to four months from when it's opened, but you may also consult the expiration date printed on the package to see if it's still usable.

How to Revive Slow-Moving Yeast

When yeast sprigs into action, bread dough doubles in height in a couple of hours. If yours hasn't risen noticeably in 30 to 45 minutes, try this fix from Assistant Food Editor Riley Wofford. Fill a pan with boiling water, place it on the lowest rack of your oven, and put your loaf on the rack above it. "Shut the door, but don't turn the oven on," she says. "The yeast will do its thing in a warmer environment."

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