How does yeast work? Wait! Don’t tell me. I’m confident you understand the chemical, biological or mystical elements prompting a tiny smidgen of an organism to boost flour and water (and more) into a loaf of bread. I doubt I’ll comprehend your brilliance, though I’m practiced at thoughtfully nodding my head and appearing to be enlightened.
Suffice to say, yeast works. While limited in leavening expertise, I’ve successfully made hundreds of loaves of bread. Complete strangers have complimented my prowess, especially when the warm loaf of prowess is slathered with butter.
The presence of yeast is a central part of one of Jesus’ shortest parables, symbolizing God’s powerful actions. Its absence is an essential part of the Jewish Passover celebration, helping to recall the Exodus, when the escaping Israelites didn’t have time for the bread to rise.
When baking bread I pay attention to yeast’s needs. Bread won’t rise if the water for the yeast is too hot or cold. Yeast requires gentle yet firm kneading. And don’t forget to allow sufficient time to rise, and then rise again. I suppose you could say yeast is high maintenance. And yet not. I think of yeast like a welcome companion, where it plays best with others with support, kindness and enough time to work things out on its own.