Proofing Yeast Article -
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How to Proof Yeast

A step-by-step tutorial for making sure your yeast is still "alive" and ready to bake with.

If you are a seasoned bread maker, you know all yeast needs to multiply and grow in a sympathetic environment. The correct environment includes moisture, food (in the form of sugar or starch), and a warm, nurturing temperature.

Whenever you intend to bake with active dry yeast, it is a good idea to test to make sure the yeast is alive. The act of testing to see if yeast is alive is called proofing. (Proofing rapid rise or instant yeast is not recommended.)

If the yeast you have in your cupboard is dead, no amount of environment will help it become a productive leavening agent.

1. We used 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and one package of yeast for this test. This test is effective for either compressed fresh cake yeast or with dry active yeast. Cake yeast, being more perishable, should definitely be given this test if it has not been used in a while.

    2. Heat the water to approximately 100 degrees F (40 degrees C). We recommend testing the water temperature using a thermometer.

      3. In a nutshell, yeast eats various sugars and excretes alcohol and carbon dioxide. Alcohol and carbon dioxide are what the pockets in bread are filled with as bread bakes. Whisk the sugar into the water to help it to dissolve quickly.

        4. Once the sugar has been evenly distributed throughout the water, add the yeast.

          5. Stir the yeast into the warm sugar water.

            6. After 5 or 10 minutes, the yeast should begin to form a creamy foam on the surface of the water. You can now proceed to combine the yeast mixture with the flour and other dry ingredients. If there is no foam in the bowl, the yeast is dead and you should start over with a new packet of yeast.

            Jul. 4, 2009 9:57 am
            Thank you for the best explanation of proofing. Of everything I've read to try to formulate a rule of thumb for myself, no one has come out and said proofing is OPTIONAL but recommended. Is this what you are saying in this article? I tried to proof yeast twice last night, one package after the other from the same run that expires 2011. Used thermometer, but didn't get that bubbly, creamy result I've seen and read about, so I gave up. I have a recipe that came with my pizza stone years ago. The recipe simply says (abbreviated here: Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt and flour to make batter. Add olive oil..gradually add remaining flour.. WHAT ABOUT THE SUGA TO FEED THE YEAST? Then a few pages later in the pamphlet they explain PROOFING: (abbrev. here)sprinkle yeast into warm water..add sugar and flour and all liquid..stir and let stand....So, in the end, isn't it risky to bake with yeast without proofing the dough? Is proofing ever harmful to a recipe? Sure would appreciate s
            Jul. 6, 2009 11:18 pm
            The starch in the flour is actually made up of polysaccharides (many chained molecule) which is broken down into polymers (simple sugars) and that is what the yeast interacts with.
            Jul. 6, 2009 11:20 pm
            I think... trying to remember basic biology/chemistry
            Jul. 12, 2009 1:19 pm
            Chickpea: Yes, proofing yeast is Optional. If you never get a 'foamy' mixture (increasing in volume), and you did everything correctly, then for some reason, it's Dead. It could have been handled incorrectly before you got it or some accident shocked it enough that it died. The main reason for proofing yeast in the first place is to see if it's still alive, and if it is, proofing helps it get going.
            Jul. 12, 2009 1:23 pm
            Oh, also the yeast is able to use the flour, but it works much faster with sugar. My pizza dough recipe does call for sugar, just less than regular bread. I see no reason why you couldn't add a little sugar. I play with recipes a lot and adding just say, 1 tsp sugar is not going to change the taste of the finished dough much.
            Jul. 19, 2009 5:07 am
            can someone tell me how to make my bread taste more yeasty. Katherine
            Jul. 23, 2009 5:39 am
            Have you tried making a starter for sourdough bread,thats pretty yeasty.
            Aug. 9, 2009 6:28 am
            Oops, I proofed my RapidRise yeast before proceeding with my cinnamon roll recipe! Why exactly is it bad to proof the quick rising yeast? On the one hand, I'm glad I did because the first packet I used was dead and it would have been such a waste of time, effort and ingredients if I'd made cinnamon rolls with it. Then on the other hand, I'm concerned that the cinnamon rolls I made with the second yeast packet after proofing it won't rise properly! They're in the fridge right now so I guess I'll find out in the morning after they've risen and been baked.
            Aug. 23, 2009 6:40 am
            I've always proofed, waste of time and ingredients if you don't know for sure the yeast is active. Something else that hasn't been mentioned: if the water is too hot it will KILL the yeast. That's part of learning how to bake. I consider it "paying dues!" Then, you have to start over. I know this sound funny but I don't use a thermometer, I just swish my finger around in the water before I put the yeast in. If it feels as hot as a Jacuzzi, it's perfect. If it's too hot for your finger, cool the water a few seconds. Water cools quickly, so think Jacuzzi. Have fun!
            Aug. 26, 2009 9:41 am
            I always place a little of the warm water on my wrist as I did when checking the warmth of the baby milk in bottles years ago and that seems to work as the right temperature
            Sep. 25, 2009 8:56 pm
            Can the yeast be too cold? I keep my yeast in the refrigerator because of ants in the cabinets. Do I need to have it at room temp? or can I zap in microwave?
            Baking Biologist 
            Oct. 6, 2009 6:35 pm
            The refrigerator is a great place for your yeast. Microwaving it, however, is probably not a good idea. Yeast is alive -- that's why it works. Exposing it to microwaves is a pretty good way to kill it. If you proof it in warm water it will wake up fast enough.
            Oct. 24, 2009 3:00 pm
            Well, I didn't proof rapid rise yeast and making (so I thought) a double batch of cinnamon rolls appears to be a waste. Hasn't risen at all in 1 1/2 hours. So this means my yeast was dead?
            Nov. 27, 2009 2:05 pm
            Is it a general rule of thumb to reduce your liquid in a recipe by the amount of water you use to proof yeast? I made rolls and reduced the milk by 1/4c. because that's how much water I used to proof the yeast and the rolls came out great but I'm wondering if it is always necessary to reduce the liquid? Another question I have is if I do not proof yeast first, does it change the way I make the recipe?
            Nov. 29, 2009 12:18 pm
            my bread only rose just a little.. not even enough to notice... what did i do wrong?
            Dec. 2, 2009 4:54 pm
            how can you proof the yeast with milk?i did it with the right temperature and what happen was the all clump together. what should i do?
            Dec. 24, 2009 12:34 pm
            I've always proofed my yeast (any kind, except the cake ones which I've never used) with a bit of sugar. As others mentioned above, I use warm water & decrease the amt for the total amt in recipe. If you use the total amt of liquid called for, the proofing process will take longer & may be hard for you to tell if it's active;ie, foaming will barely be noticable. Milk will clump the yeast more. I test the temp by finger as well. As stated 'hot' water will kill the yeast. I refrig pkg yeast until ready to use & set it out abt 10mins bef proofing. You can micro water & let it cool down; but never yeast, it will explode. I make sure every is at room temp or warmed before it's added to the flour. Though some recipes say you can refrig the prepared dough overnite, I don't do that. It increases the 2nd rising process & in 1 case mine never did rise to the usual degree. I also tend to add 1 more pkg of the yeast than called for. It tends to give a more yeast taste & smell, which my family rea
            Dec. 31, 2009 5:04 pm
            i would like to know, my home is an icy tomb. will the yeast do its thing between kneads if its only 7 degrees in here? ive rigged up a incubator with a towel and a heating pad to help but is this needed? i always have the worst luck with yeast!
            Jan. 2, 2010 2:26 pm
            The cooler your room the slower the dough will rise. I often make my dough in the evening, pack my bowl up in a blanket and set it in the middle of the table overnight, punch it down in the am and let it rise for a second time before the final shaping.
            Jan. 4, 2010 4:29 pm
            I always proof my yeast, any variety.I add about 1/2 tsp sugar to the mix. Since yeast is alive and feeds on sugars this speeds up the chemical reaction!When using starter I immediately feed it. I generally feed my starter 2 times a week if I am not actively using it. I, too, live in a cool house and find that if I pre-heat my oven to 140 and set my pottery bread bowl in for a few minutes while proofing my yeast.I remove it from the oven just as I start the kneading process and it is nice and warm for the bread to do its first rising. I wrap the warm bowl with an old wool blanket to keep the heat in. I hope this helps others who live in cool houses.
            Jan. 5, 2010 8:16 pm
            I am just reading about proofing the yeast. I made bread or rolls once and did not rise, But I added more yeast and flour and liquid. but still did not rise well the third time I added yeast It worked. all I am saying I was to cheep to throw it out I guess or stubren
            Jan. 5, 2010 8:20 pm
            How do you make bread that is real fluffy, and not so dense and thick? Do you add more yeast to get it like that?
            Jan. 10, 2010 9:47 am
            (1)To make the dough rise faster in winter,i hv tried this method of warming the dough in a microwave at the lowest power after covering the dough with a damp cloth...have to check in between..time depends on the quanty of the dough. (2)In most cases the yeast fermentation fails due to the high temperature of the liquid that is used. (3)If you have the habit of refrigerating yeast,keep it outside the fridge for some time till it reaches room temperature before using it any recipe
            Jan. 10, 2010 11:15 am
            To the person who asked about fluffy bread try rising it twice. I let the dough rise then punch it down and let it rise a second time. That seems to help. The second rise goes much faster than the first also make sure you sift your dsry ingredients.
            Jan. 10, 2010 11:26 am
            It's interesting that the picture above shows a metal bowl and whisk. I have always been told never to use metal implements with yeast as it inhibits the yeast's growth. So those having trouble with your yeast you might want to try using glass or ceramic and a wooden spoon. Also rising somethingn in a cold room takes much longer. You want your dough in a warm place to rise. I have had great luck rising things in the microwave. I put the covered bowl in the microwave and put in a cup of hot water and then let sit and hour or so. Down't turn the micro on of course. If you have a gas oven you can put your covered bowl in there with just the pilot light on and crack the door a little.
            Jan. 23, 2010 10:34 am
            Also in regards to the puffy bread. Do you mean a lighter texture? If so, what I do is after the first rise, I punch down and knead a few minutes more right in the bowl...about 2-3 minutes, and then rise for the 2nd time. Punch down again when doubled and then shape and form loaves for pan and rise for the final time to almost doubled. My bread always come out with commercial-bread like texture.
            Feb. 1, 2010 10:40 am
            A good warm place for letting bread dough rise is the top of your refrigerator.
            Mar. 10, 2010 6:48 pm
            Can you proof yeast and then still use the delay timer on a bread machine, or does the yeast need to be mixed in with the dough right away after proofing?
            Kate Meyer 
            Apr. 16, 2010 9:48 am
            "Proofing" yeast is my first step, always. I have a bread machine and I teach vocatonal skills. We cannot aford the special or expensive yeast. I buy bulk yeast, keep it in the freezer for months. I have never had a failure of yeast. 1/2 cup water for 35 seconds in microwave, add 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbs of yeast out of the freezer container and wait for it to bubble up out of the mug. (Subtract the liquid volume from the recipe.)
            May 28, 2010 1:21 pm
            Read somewhere that yeast will die at 140 degrees - I keep my water at/between 100 - 110 degrees and it proofs well -- also you can add a pinch of sugar to speed it up but it'll proof w/o the sugar -- let the rise go overnight (18-24 hours first rise) for a great yeasty taste (2-3 hours for second rise). Add spices for flavoring crusts and doughs before adding liquids -- enjoy!
            Sep. 25, 2010 1:56 pm
            This is great! I never knew how to do this! Thanks for the tip!
            Oct. 8, 2010 7:03 am
            Its true that if the water is too hot, it'll kill the yeast. I've always found a thermometer essential for this. The other thing to keep in mind is that if the water isn't warm enough, the yeast won't rise at all
            Oct. 11, 2010 11:38 pm
            Yeast newbie, I've discovered a few easy tips that are fool-proof (no pun intended.) 1. use INSTANT yeast.....often in lg pkg (share if you want, still saves $ over pkg of yeast)....NO need to use certain temp H2O. Add whatever amt flour, mix and let proof/rise, step 2. 2. OVEN OFF: place empty pan, I use 9x9 but any size works, on lowest shelf. Move 2nd shelf to the next position still in lower third of oven. Boil water and pour into empty pan. 3. Cover dough/starter bowl (I have reg oven and can fit lg Kitchen Aid bowl) and place in oven. Close door and rise as your recipe directs, often 1-2 hr. 4. Remove bowl from oven, add remaining dough ingredients, knead by hand or with mixer. Lightly spray or oil another bowl and scoop dough, place in bowl, turning to coat all sides of dough ball which may be sticky if much sugar added. 5. Repeat above process with reboiling the water, adding to pan in oven, place oiled and covered bowl with dough on above shelf and rise again. Cinnam
            Jan. 1, 2011 7:15 pm
            does too much sugar inhibit the yeast? I have made bread for years and was helping a friend with a cinnamon bun recipe the called for 1/3 cup sugar for 1 loaf size recipe and the yeast failed twice. Tempurate was fine, could it be the large amount of sugar?
            Feb. 6, 2011 7:48 pm
            The type of material of the bowl makes a huge difference. I tried to proof my first batch in a metal bowl and it didn't work at all. When I used a glass bowl, it worked perfectly. Now I know.
            Feb. 10, 2011 1:40 pm
            I'm not sure if this is the reason why everyone is saying that their cinnamon bun recipes aren't rising, but cinnamon inhibits the yeasts ability to rise, as does garlic and salt. Maybe that's it?
            Apr. 12, 2011 6:11 pm
            I have tried for years to get rolls, breads and different things to come out right and when it does work right, the problem I have is everything tastes like that strong yeasty favor to the point it makes me sick to taste or smell. what am I doing wrong?
            Apr. 23, 2011 9:49 am
            Thanks to all for the tips on proofing, but my question now is whether or not to use salt in the mixture. I am proofing yeast right now and it is looking good, but I am concerned that when I add salt in my yeast will be "killed". Any tips???
            Jul. 10, 2011 6:03 am
            KyCopsWife, try using less yeast, but make sure to put the dough to rise in a warm place (25-30 degrees C), away from draughts and direct sources of heat. Wrap it up in a towel, if necessary. Do not move or shake the dough. The best way to deal with them whimsy yeast dought is to shut all the windows and doors in your kitchen and not let everyone in ^^ (no kidding, loud noise and too much air movement can ruin your bread!) Alternatively, use as much yeast as works for you, but increase the proportion of spice and flavourings: cardamom, raisins, cloves for sweet rolls; onion, sesame, herbs for breads. It won't spoil anything, just be careful with heavy ingredients like raisins, they sort of weigh the dough down, and it doesn't rise well. Lynthea, I would add salt towards the end of kneading, or sift it in with the flour after proofing the yeast.
            Jul. 10, 2011 6:47 am
            ...And another thing I remember: dry active yeast in my experience tends to be smellier; try different types.
            Oct. 5, 2011 7:06 am
            What great advice. I could have used it 20 years ago, no wonder my bread is sometimes good sometimes not.
            Oct. 21, 2011 2:21 pm
            i live in michigan and i also like my house cooler. i rise dough in the oven or the microwave. in oven, turn it on briefly then off. then set dough inside. for micro, boil a tall glass of water, leave it in, put dough inside. and i do proof yeast, i always use honey. i store yeast in the freezer and haven't killed it so far :) use a thermometer at 110F for proofing yeast.
            Oct. 21, 2011 2:24 pm
            i live in michigan and i also like my house cooler. i rise dough in the oven or the microwave. in oven, turn it on briefly then off. then set dough inside. for micro, boil a tall glass of water, leave it in, put dough inside. and i do proof yeast, i always use honey. i store yeast in the freezer and haven't killed it so far :) use a thermometer at 110F for proofing yeast. don't add salt til the second kneading.
            Oct. 27, 2011 3:55 pm
            I don't use a thermometer. Instead I sprinkle a few drops on the inside of my wrist. It should feel lukewarm. I add a pinch of sugar to the yeast & water mixture. If it isn't bubbly by the time I need to use it, i throw it out and start over!!
            Dec. 9, 2011 11:01 pm
            If you have leftover warm oatmeal or other cooked cereals make them into breads. Yeast loves warm cereal. I also add milk powder to the cooked cereal after I have added the dry cereal to the boiling water. Use the Cracked Wheat recipe from the Joy of Cooking for a great chewy loaf. When working out in the bush in Northern BC, it was so cold that I used to warm up my bread flour in the oven on low for 20 minutes so I wouldn't chill the yeast after mixing the bread. After I finished kneading the bread I used to put it in a large greased dutch oven with a lid on it to rise in a high place over the top of the fridge or the top cupboard or on really cold days in the gas oven with just the pilot light on. Keep the bread dough out of drafts. It doesn't like cold air. Kneading the bread for 5 - 10 minutes is a good thing too. Adding a bit of sugar to each batch of bread and a small amount of salt for flavour is important too. The yeast feeds on the sugar and releases carbon dioxide g
            Dec. 13, 2011 7:13 pm
            Thanks so much for this article. It really helps explain everything because I never knew the adding the sugar thing until I found a recipe on here for cinnamon buns. I've never had a problem proofing my yeast until tonight, and I like to just so I know it's going to work. I did everything, sugar, temperature and still it didn't work even after 4 packs :( I'm going to hope that it wasn't me after all and that something happened to the yeast before it got to me because it was new and didn't expire until 2013. Someone had suggested putting it in the oven with the light on though, not with the heat on, just in the oven with the light on...would that make a difference?
            Jul. 2, 2012 11:43 am
            I never use instant yeast, but I buy the 1 pound foil bags of yeast and then I keep it closed in the freezer (you can put it into a plastic food container to store it)---it lasts for years!--well past the expiration date. Freezing does not kill it--as evidenced from the frozen 'bake at home' bread you can buy at the grocery store. When I proof it (and I always do!) I just make the water bath-tub warm--from the tap. (No thermometer needed) A bit of sugar, OR honey, Or just a bit of flour works to feed it. No need to prewarm the yeast--the water does it fine. When I begin mixing all my bread ingredients, I turn my oven on the lowest possible setting (170 on my oven) for about 5 minutes or so and then turn it off, leaving the door closed while I'm kneading the dough etc. I put my covered bowl of bread dough in there with the door closed to keep in the warmth(arranging the shelves so the bowl will fit) and leave it in there until it rises--usually pretty quickly in the warm environment.
            Jan. 20, 2013 8:59 am
            When baking bread, I mix the proofed yeast with the flour, etc but omit the salt at first. I let it sit for 20 minutes to give the yeast and flour a chance to start working. Then I add the salt and knead (on my stand mixer). The salt doesn't help the yeast get started, in fact just the opposite and the 20 minute rest reduces the kneading time. Hope this helps someone.
            Mar. 1, 2014 11:44 am
            Hi, After many years of baking, I decided to concentrate on bread. French being my first. I have switched to using a sponge and have had awesome results. The night before I place 1/3 cup cool water in a bowl with about 1/4 tsp yeast and 1/2 cup flour (plus 1 tbls. gluten for high altitude) Mix well cover with plastic and use 6 to 12 hours later (overnight). Then use this sponge in my french bread. The other day I day a batch of dough, made the same way, all of a sudden not rise. I couldn't believe it. I knew I had added yeast, but my yeast was dead. I was going to throw out the dough, but decided to "proof" some new yeast with a smidge of sugar and warmish water. It worked. So I threw all of the "bad" dough and the new yeast mixture back in the mixer with a little flour. It worked! Threw out rest of dead yeast and still had a wonderful batch of french dough.
            Mar. 1, 2014 11:47 am
            Sorry for confusion above. "The other day I made a batch of dough the same way, and it did not rise."
            Apr. 27, 2014 12:51 pm
            Proofing yeast is completely optional. If you've had your yeast for a long time, over 6 months or so, it's probably a good idea to make sure it's still alive. Other than that, no reason to proof the yeast whatsoever.
            Oct. 13, 2014 5:54 am
            There is no sugar in my bread recipe. Can you proof yeast with honey as opposed to sugar? Or would flour be my better option? Thank you
            Nov. 19, 2014 3:18 am
            I bought several pounds of wheat germ 3 years ago. I'm sure its no good. It didn't smell too bad so I decided to test it with some yeast.
            Jan. 3, 2015 9:16 am
            Yeast should be pitched in luke warm water with a small amnt. of sugar,hot water will kill it as well as cold water,no do not pitch with milk, honey,and wheat germ is a substitute for yeast not an add in.try to keep yeast in somewhat warm area while pitching and never forget to remove the same amont of liquid from a recipe as you used to pitch,not doing so will result in a too wet batter.instant yeast does taste more yeasty than traditional,and yes you also pitch instant yeast....BBQDAVE
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