Yeast and BakingLessons



Sugar comes in many different forms and has important functions in bread making.

  • Sugar provides “food” for yeast, which converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol.
  • Sugar enhances bread flavor. Sugar gives the crust a golden color.
  • Sugar improves the crumb texture.
  • Sugar helps retain moisture in bread

Types of Sweeteners

  • Most bread recipes will include some kind of sweetening agent.
  • White sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and molasses can be interchanged equally in bread dough.
  • Fruit juices can also be a source of fermentable sugars in your dough.
  • Different sweetening ingredients create different flavors. Brown sugar, honey and molasses are often used in specialty flour breads to bring out the grain flavor.
  • Breads made with honey or molasses brown more quickly. A 25°F lower oven temperature is used – or watch carefully and cover with foil the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking.
  • Artificial sweeteners do not provide food for the yeast so they cannot be used in breads to perform the same function as sugar does.

Usage Tips for Sweeteners

  • Yeast activity may decrease when it comes into direct contact with sugar (and also salt). Be mindful of this when measuring ingredients and adding them to your dough.
  • Sugar – too little or too much – can have a great impact on how yeast performs in your dough. Always double check your recipe and measurements for accuracy.
  • Visit our Baking Tips for information on How to measure correctly.

Too little sugar in dough can slow down yeast activity:

  • Yeast is a lot like us – it loves to eat sugar. Yeast needs sugar to produce carbon dioxide – the leavening gas that causes the dough to rise. If there is not enough sugar available, the dough will rise slowly or not at all.
  • Certain doughs, like pizza, contain no added sugar. This is what gives pizza crust its characteristic chewy texture. Since yeast can ferment only the limited amount of natural sugars found in the flour, the rising process is dramatically slowed.

Too much sugar in dough can slow down or even inhibit (stop) yeast activity:

  • Sugar is competing with yeast for the available water in the dough. As your sugar levels increase, yeast becomes stressed as less water is available for it to function.
  • In sweet doughs, like Danish pastry or Hawaiian sweet bread, the amount of yeast is increased to compensate for the higher sugar levels.
  • A dough is considered to be sweet, or high in sugar, when it contains more than 1/2 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of flour.
  • If the ratio of sugar to flour is more than 1/2 cup sugar to 4 cups flour, an additional packet of yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) per recipe is needed.