If you’ve been around for the coronavirus pandemic, then you may have been a part of the worldwide community of bakers, all of whom were struggling to get their hands on enough yeast to make the recipes that they wanted to.
To bake bread without yeast, it is recommended that you replaced it with baking powder. Baking soda does not have as much ‘rising power’ as yeast does, this type of bread is usually denser than your everyday sandwich bread.
Luckily, there are some recipes to make bread without yeast! While it’s unconventional, you can easily create loaves of bread without yeast in the kitchen, and we’re going to talk about that in our article!
What Type Of Bread Is Made Without Yeast?
When you remove yeast from bread dough, you must replace it with something else that will allow for the same amount of rising in the oven. Without leavening, the bread simply won’t rise at all.
Typically, baking soda is added to a bread dough instead of yeast, leading to the name ‘Irish soda bread’ being common. Baking soda doesn’t offer as much ‘rising power’ as yeast does, so soda bread is typically denser than everyday sandwich bread.
These rustic, hearty loaves are often served alongside soup or stew as they’re exceptionally good at soaking up any leftover juices or broth from the meal.
When you don’t add yeast to bread, you’re essentially left with a paste of flour, water, and salt. This isn’t too bad and can be used for things other than bread.
If you did decide to bake a loaf of bread that didn’t have yeast, it simply wouldn’t rise. It would be exceptionally dense, and take a long time to bake all the way through. When finally baked, however, it may be somewhat like shortcrust pastry – dense and crumbly, though nowhere near as buttery or rich.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t necessarily have to bake it. The dry pasta that you might buy from the supermarket is made up of mostly flour and water, just like the paste we’ve made here.
This means that you could trim off a portion of the dough, flatten it, cut and shape it, and then boil it before serving it like pasta. While this pasta may not be as authentic as traditional Italian flour-and-egg pasta, it is a great vegan alternative!
Simply put, no you can’t.
The reason that bread ferments during the proofing and baking process are that yeast is alive. It is dormant when you get it out of the packet, but you somewhat ‘revive’ it when you add water and a food source.
From that point, the yeast will metabolize the sugars in the flour, and produce carbon dioxide as a waste product. The carbon dioxide is used in our bread to make it rise – any of the gas itself is dispelled by the time you come to eat it.
The process of metabolizing a sugar source and producing a waste product is what we call fermentation. Fermenting alcohol works in the same way – yeast metabolizes sugar and produces alcohol, which we then refine and flavor.
Baking soda simply doesn’t work in that way at all. It isn’t alive, it is an inert chemical. Baking soda is an alkaline chemical that, when mixed with an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or buttermilk, releases carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide works in the same way as the gas produced by yeast – it is trapped and causes the bread to rise.
If a baking soda recipe does not contain some form of acid in the ingredients, it will not work.
On the other hand, baking powder is also available and could be used in a bread recipe. Baking powder contains both acid and alkali in powder form. This means that when it is exposed to moisture, the acid and alkali react to form carbon dioxide bubbles, which will raise whatever they’re in.
You can also purchase double action baking powder. This powder will react when interacting with water, as we just described in single-action baking powder, and it will also go through thermal decomposition while baking to produce more carbon dioxide. These extra bubbles will contribute to a further rise.
Simply put, no, it won’t.
The only way to make bread rise is for gas to be introduced to the dough at some stage of the production process. If this doesn’t occur, then the bread will not rise.
Dough with single- or double-action baking powder in it rises when the baking powder releases gas. Both single-action and double-action baking powder release gas when they are first exposed to liquid. When this happens, both the acidic and alkaline components of the powder can react to release carbon dioxide.
Double-action baking powder goes through a second stage in the oven – the powder goes through a thermal decomposition reaction, by which process carbon dioxide is released into the bread, and the baking powder itself is broken down.
How Does Yeast Work In Bread?
Yeasted bread rises by the same method: releasing carbon dioxide. The mechanism by which it makes carbon dioxide, however, is fundamentally different. Yeast ferments as part of the dough by metabolizing any of the sugar that’s available within the flour of the bread. Two waste products are produced: alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Alcohol is typically produced in exceptionally small quantities by domestic yeast, such that there is little to no actual alcohol in loaves of bread that you make in your home. Even if it is produced, the bread gets to exceptionally high temperatures in the oven, which would burn off any alcohol produced.
The carbon dioxide produced during this process gets trapped in the internal structure of the bread, forming the bubbles which lead to a good rise in a loaf. That’s the reason that the bubbles on the inside of a loaf of bread can be bigger or smaller: the yeast may have been more or less active during the proofing phase of baking.
A yeasted dough also undergoes a secondary phase of fermentation while in the oven, though it’s more powerful and typically doesn’t last as long. Yeast has an optimum temperature that it works at, most domestic yeasts work best at room temperature, or slightly above.
When you increase the heat on yeast, it will begin to work faster and faster as more energy is supplied to the dough. When the heat gets too high, though, the yeast will die very quickly. This means that your bread will go through a rapid rise in the oven, then set due to the heat when the bubbles are at their largest.
Naturally fermenting bread is perfectly possible, though it’s often considered more frustrating or difficult.
Yeast is still used, but instead of using a teaspoon or two of dried yeast in your bread, you’ll create and take care of a wild yeast colony. Essentially, everything in the world has a little yeast on it, unless it has recently been sterilized. By creating an environment of flour and water which you top up regularly, you can create an ideal environment for those wild yeast particles to thrive. As they thrive, the flour and water will begin to ferment.
This is the idea behind the process of making sourdough bread – the yeast colony is also known as a sourdough starter.
Over time, you will be able to see that a given mixture of flour and water is getting bigger. It may also be getting bubbles which will be the carbon dioxide being produced naturally due to fermentation. If you leave a sourdough start it could, in theory, produce alcohol. In fact, it is theorized that the first beer was made by ancient Egyptians who were making bread and forgot about the mixture.
Because of the alcohol, you must regularly pour out some of the starter, and feed it with more flour and water. Maintaining a schedule is key, and will allow you to bake on a schedule as well. You want to use the start when it is at its most active in its daily routine.
This process of using yeast to make bread has been exceptionally common for thousands of years and is still the norm for a number of bakeries. If you ask, it’s likely that a bakery will show you their sourdough starter. The reason that it’s done in commercial environments is that while sourdough can be slower to achieve a good rise, it often achieves a higher, more reliable one than commercial yeast, which may be contaminated.
If you wish to get started in making a sourdough starter, there are plenty of tutorials online! Alternatively, you could buy a small amount of your bakeries starter from them – they’ll likely be happy to sell it to you.
To make bread without yeast, you can follow this simple recipe.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup water (room temperature)
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F, or 220˚C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the water, and mix together with a fork or a spatula.
- Sprinkle a flat surface with a little flour, and then place the bread on top and knead for a minute or two until completely smooth.
- Gently flatten the dough into a small rectangle with your hands, and then fold it like an envelope. This process is called lamination and will help to develop gluten and help the bread to rise in the correct direction.
- Form the dough into your preferred loaf shape, score the top, and place it onto the baking sheet. Bake for fifteen minutes, and then lower the temperature to 350˚F, or 180˚C, to bake for the final ten minutes.
- Let the bread cool completely to room temperature before serving.
As a final note: there are plenty of ways to make bread fairly easily and reliably without using yeast.
Despite that, we’d always recommend that you do use yeast. When stored properly it can have a very long shelf life and can be used to boost a sourdough starter if you need it. Also, yeasted dough has a fundamentally different taste to bread made with an artificial leavening agent.
Due to the way that baking powder and baking soda work, a small amount of metal salt will be left in the dough. This will result in a slightly different taste, and while it may not matter too much to you, it is worth bearing in mind.
We hope that this article has helped you if you’re in a jam without any yeast. Happy baking!