How to activate yeast for baking

Updated February 21, 2017

Yeast is a must-have for raising dough used in bread and pizza recipes. It is crucial to proof and activate yeast for a successful bake. Proofing the yeast will help you determine if it's still alive and ready to be activated for your baking or frying needs. Dry powder and compressed cakes or fresh yeast must be activated properly or you can kill it. Sugar helps to feed and activate yeast along with liquid that is at the proper temperature.

Read the recipe which requires the use of yeast. The recipe may list milk or water as an ingredient. If milk is to be used as the liquid in the recipe, heat it to scalding on the hob or in the microwave. Put it aside to cool.

Run tap water or heat water to a temperature of no less than 40 degrees C (105F) or no more than 46 degrees C (115F). Test the water with an instant read thermometer. If the recipe calls for milk, test the temperature of the heated or scalded liquid after it has cooled down slightly.

Add the yeast to the warm liquid and stir it with a wooden spoon to help dissolve it quickly. Add 5 ml (1 tsp) of sugar from the listed recipe measurement to the liquid to proof the yeast. Add flour to a recipe that has no sugar content in it. Continue stirring to dissolve the yeast completely. A yeast fragrance will permeate the air and a white foamy coat will appear on the surface of the liquid as signs of a living yeast product.

Mix the flour and the remaining ingredients into the yeast according to the recipe directions.

Knead the dough on a floured surface to aerate and activate the yeast. Check the recipe to see if a different type of ingredient is recommended for a kneading surface cover.

Place the dough in a greased bowl in a warm area of the room. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel, damp paper towels or cling film. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed as the yeast activates. Keep it away from any source of cold air which will slow down the yeast activation process. Punch the dough down when it has doubled in size. Cover the dough as it continues to rise or form it into shapes to rise according to recipe directions.


Hot or cold liquid can kill the yeast activation process and ruin the recipe ingredients.

Things You'll Need

  • Instant read thermometer
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowl
  • Dish cloth
  • Paper towel
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Suzie Faloon is a freelance writer who has written online content for various websites. As a professional crafter and floral designer, Faloon owned a florist business for nearly 25 years. She completed the Institute of Children's Literature course in 1988.