YEAST: A hungry monster
Did you know that there is a monster that can help you bake? Keeping a monster in your fridge can be the start of some very tasty treats. Monster Dough is a type of yeast leavening agent, and is fun to grow and bake with.
Many of us enjoy chewy bread, fluffy cakes and crunchy cookies but don’t think about
what gives these treats just the right texture. It comes down to using the right leavening agent – a substance that helps bakers lighten and soften dough and batters by adding gas bubbles to them.
How do leavening agents work?
Leavening agents are substances that cause expansion of doughs and batters by the release of gases. They make baked goods rise and give them their porous structure. Common leavening agents are yeast, baking powder, and baking soda. These might be found in your kitchen right now.
In order to have a source of these bubbles, people would keep a special mixture in their refrigerators. They called it Monster Dough because it could grow and spill out of its container if you weren’t careful.
Eventually, yeast was domesticated (or “tamed”). Today, you can buy yeast in packages to mix with some warm water and sugar when you want to use it. It’s much easier than keeping a monster in your fridge, however some people still do that, especially if they bake a lot. The species of yeast used in baking is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Monster Dough is the name of a mixture started with domesticated yeast. A mixture started with wild yeast is called a sourdough starter. Bakers discovered that if you kept some of either mixture and kept feeding it flour and water, you could get the yeast to keep growing. Then, some of the mixture could be used to bake bread or other treats. If you kept a little of the mixture and fed it, it would grow and you would always have yeast to bake with. This was important when people – like pioneers – did not have easy access to other sources of yeast.
Make your own Monster Dough!
- Active dry yeast
- Warm water (about 38 degrees Celsius)
- Dissolve 1 tablespoon of yeast into 2 cups of warm water.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon
of sugar over the mixture.
- Observe the mixture for 10 minutes.
Why it works
Dry yeast is dormant until dissolved in warm water. Sugar provides the energy for it to grow and reproduce. After about ten minutes, the mixture has “proven” itself if it doubles in volume, and can be used in baking, or to start your own Monster Dough by adding 2 cups of flour. If there is no bubbling and doubling, the yeast is not active and cannot be used in the recipe.
Not all yeast is helpful
Another species of yeast called Candida albicans can cause infections in humans. They
are in everyone and are usually balanced by friendly bacteria. Things like health issues can cause yeast to grow uncontrollably. That’s when the yeast start to outnumber the friendly bacteria and you can end up with a yeast infection – a different kind of monster.