Best Substitute for Yeast in Bread Machines?

The one persistent shortage I'm seeing in my part of L.A. is of baking yeast, and the online stores seem out, too.

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I've seen various online recommendations for how to substitute other leavening agents for yeast in various bread recipes, but I'd love to hear any experience you folks have, especially when using bread machines—and other readers might find it useful, too.

I realize the result won't be identical to that with yeast, but I just wanted to get a sense of what's worth trying.

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  1. If you have a little yeast left, use it to make sourdough starter. It’ll be a challenge to get it to work in a bread machine, but better than nothing.

    Also see the famous NY Times no-knead bread recipe. Takes overnight but only uses 1/4tsp of yeast per loaf, tastes fabulous, and is easily adapted to sourdough.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html

  2. Could you make Soda Bread — that uses a mixture of baking soda and buttermilk (which is acidic) to produce CO2 (bubbles) instead of the yeast producing it as a byproduct.

    1. Thanks — do you have any experience with the best quantities of baking soda and buttermilk to use?

  3. I’ve made various quick breads (baking powder or baking soda) in my machine. Find and follow a recipe for the proper ratios. The outcome is very different. It’s not a bread suitable for sandwiches, etc. It’s got a texture like Irish soda bread, banana bread, etc. It’s better with cake flour (a finer grind) but perfectly edible with bread flour.

    It goes stale quickly.

    My Zojirushi has no problems with this. It has settings for quick breads. You shouldn’t use a machine without quick bread setting because the attempts to knead and let rise will probably ruin the quick bread.

    1. I don’t see any reason to use a bread machine to make soda bread unless you don’t have an oven at all.

      There is no need to let it rise, and you just plop the dough on a baking sheet like a big drop biscuit.

      You are supposed to cut a cross in the top as well, but I am not sure that is strictly necessary ….

  4. Good thing Passover isn’t far off.

  5. ask a neighbor. then, with a little yeast, you can grow your own yeast until you have as much as you need, some to return, and some to share.

  6. Just do this (18th century style) and ditch the machine (at least for the apocalypse)…

    And you’re welcome for the intro to Townsend’s if your were not previously aware

    https://youtu.be/8J1PNDnqsfA

  7. The first and easiest substitute is baking soda. making soda bread.

    The second would be to order brewer’s yeast. This can make bread but it will be a more savory less sweet bread.
    If you have trouble finding brewer’s yeast you can buy an bottle conditioned unpasteurized beer from your local craft beer shop. Pour the beer gently into a pint glass leaving 1/2″ to 1″, this dense sedimentary stuff will be yeast. It is also a good fit as it is there to add Co2 to the beer.

    Lastly you can use wild yeast. Depending on your location and weather conditions you can use yeast from your neighborhood to make a wild sourdough.

    1. Lindeman’s seems to have managed nicely with wild (or ambient) yeast. For a couple of centuries.

  8. Sorry, can’t help on this one Professor. I keep two jars of yeast in the freezer door for my bread machine. Plan ahead and for a few bucks, program your machine and you get that incredible fresh bread baking aroma through the whole house when you wake up in the morning.

  9. Why would there be a shortage of bread yeast? It wouldn’t seem to be in the same class as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

    I use sourdough starter, so it’s been a long time since I bought yeast.

  10. Try local home brewing stores, who usually have plenty of fresh yeast, in great variety, on hand.

  11. Beer, sugar and self rising flour make a nice bread. Sift the flour twice though otherwise it turns into hardtack.

    1. It would have to be non-pasturized beer. I’ve made bread myself from the dregs from my fermenter when I’m making beer.

      But you could also just order dry beer yeast from an online beer supply store like Morebeer.com, they don’t have any shortage of yeast. I’d recommend a dry ale yeast like Nottingham or Windsor to start with, although you might get some interesting flavors from a Belgian yeast like a saison or a trippel.

  12. Leavening other than yeast will taste vastly different. Soda bread is the simplest. Check brewing supply companies and health food shops — both may carry brewer’s yeast. I used brewer’s yeast for baking all through the masters degree, because it was cheap at the co-op and worked well. Might have been an almost-deadly error, no way of knowing. I second the idea of starting a starter. Though I’ve never done it, you don’t actually need yeast — just put some flour and water out, and let the constant daily cascade of millions of viruses and bacteria per square meter do their thing. Again, this might also be deadly — confirm the technique via the interwebs.

    At the turn of the 19th century, “aerated bread” was a thing — they’d actually bubble air up through the dough as it baked. Big health food of the time, the many cafes serving it were basically Starbucks for teetotaling and vegetarian lunchers.

    Mr. D.

  13. My mother was given a jar of starter dough from her sister in the 1950s. It lasted for several decades. Some months back, I discovered Challah bread. Challah bread tastes exactly like the bread my mother made.

  14. It won’t work in a bread machine, but if you separate your eggs you can use whipped whites to make your bread fluffy (not exactly leavening)

  15. You can use one third of the yeast called for in a standard recipe. It will just take more time to rise.

  16. You can get it by the pound on Amazon. Freeze what you don’t use and it lasts pretty much forever.

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