Why Molly Yeh Always Adds Sugar When Proofing Yeast

Have you ever looked at bread dough as it sits in its bowl and wondered how it rises? Or cut into the crumb of a loaf of brioche and marvel at its texture? Sure, we may think that flour is the most crucial ingredient in bread making, and without it, what would we do? But the real star of the show, when it comes to leavened bread at least, is yeast.

You might already know, but for those yet to join the bread-making party, yeast is a living organism that eats up sugar and starch and ferments them into carbon dioxide and alcohol (via Food Network). It is this fermentation process that gives us wine and beer because yeast converts the sugar in grapes and barley into light alcohol for us to enjoy. Yeast is also the key to giving our bread a delicious and fluffy crumb, but as we said before, yeast is a living thing, and sometimes it needs a little help in order to thrive.

A pinch of sugar goes a long way

Molly Yeh is many things: a restaurant owner, an award-winning cookbook author, Food Network host, a Juilliard graduate, and much more. On her website, Yeh gives readers a little tip about the best way to proof yeast. She suggests that, when proofing, you should always add a little sugar into the mix, whether your original recipe calls for it or not. 

Though deviating from a tried and true recipe seems scandalous, a pinch of sugar doesn't hurt your bake in this case, it actually helps. This is because your bread relies on yeast to give it that little extra rise before hitting the oven and that rise comes from good old carbon dioxide that yeast creates — and if you were paying attention before you'll know what we're about to say — by eating sugar! Taste of Home agrees that if you add a bit of sugar, the yeast will have more to feast on and will easily create carbon dioxide. You'll be able to see the yeast hard at work in your bread as it bubbles up, lifting your dough to even greater heights.