I home bake a lot of bread, about 2-3 loaves per week (kneaded in my bread machine). I don’t use an excessive amount of yeast (only about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp), as I like my dough to rise slowly, sometimes overnight in the fridge, depending on how quickly it’s needed (or kneaded, ha, no pun intended.)

I have been buying jars of Fleischmann’s Bread Machine (instant) yeast. It’s quite expensive; Last time I paid $5 for a 4 oz jar, but it lasted me over 4 months.

I had been hearing a lot of recommendations for 1 lb SAF Instant Yeast – it’s packaged as an air-tight, vacuum-sealed “brick” and it will last close-to forever stored in your freezer or even fridge.

I was tempted to purchase from Amazon’s Subcribe & Save – under $12 for a bulk pack of four 1lb packages…..but what would I do with all that yeast!? So, I phoned Whole Foods and asked if they carried it. Yes, and their price was $5.49, so I added it to my shopping list for my next visit.

Made In Mexico

So, here’s where I learned my first lesson.

After reading reviews online, I learned that SAF Instant Yeast is “Made in Mexico“. Nothing personal against Mexico or Mexicans, but I make it a point to stay clear of food imported from Mexico and China. I double-checked the label on my Fleischmann’s yeast and it’s “Made in Canada.”

But I use such a small amount of yeast, will it really make a difference either way, where it’s made? It’s not like eating an apple, or is it?

I decided to take a chance and go for budget-friendly, so I purchased a 1 lb brick of SAF Instant Yeast at Whole Foods.

Instant Yeast Contains Genetically Modified (GMO) Ascorbic Acid (Vit C)

Here’s where I learned my second lesson. There’s GMO in the yeast!

Ascorbic Acid (synthetic Vitamin C) is a man-made product derived from genetically modified corn. Ugh. Who knew!

And it’s also an ingredient in “instant” yeast. And would you also believe, ascorbic acid is the reason why so many bakers love “instant” yeast vs “active-dry” yeast? Ascorbic acid helps doughs “rise” better and faster, and also also acts as a preservative.

I’m thinking it might be worth the extra effort to start using “active-dry” yeast and perhaps just add a smidge of real lemon juice or vinegar to make up for the lack of synthetic ascorbic acid.

Well, I need to make a decision PRONTO, because I just used up the last bit of instant yeast in my bread dough this afternoon.

Do I just forget it, go with the cheap Mexican-made instant yeast, with a small amount of a GMO ingredient? Or perhaps the Canadian-made instant yeast with with a small amount of a GMO ingredient?

Or probably the best way: vote with my fork and go for the active-dry yeast with no GM ingredients (that I know of).

I think I’ll invest in a couple of little packets of active yeast, just to see how easy or difficult it is to work with. Online sources say you must “activate” in warm water first, and others say you can use just like instant yeast, and toss it in dry, unless you don’t know if it’s still viable, and it’s best to test in warm water with sugar added.

So, we’ll see!

UPDATE July 15, 2012: Well I tried the active yeast and it did work but I’ve decided to go back to the instant yeast even with the ascorbic acid.

I preciously only used 1/2 tsp of instant yeast but with the active yeast, I was using at least 1 tsp and it rose alright but not as easily as with instant, and the texture of the dough isn’t as smooth.

So, my reasoning is I’d rather use as little yeast as possible (for a longer rise) and since I’m using such a small amount, I’m hoping that any GMO ingredients are incidental. Plus I’ve decided to stick with Fleischmann’s brand that is made in Canada.

UPDATE December, 2012: I’ve gone back to active dry yeast! In october I purchased a 1 lb bag of the “Frontier Naturals” brand active dry yeast from iHerb.com. It works fine whether I “bloom” it ahead of time or just whisk it together with my flour.