I used to be afraid of making yeast breads. They seemed complicated and hard and there was the matter of kneading dough in my Brooklyn apartment that has approximately 0.2 square feet of counter space. But sometime in 2015, when I was working at home a lot and therefore had time to do time-consuming culinary experiments, I decided to gather my courage and try. Turns out, with the help of a silicone mat spread over my dining room table and the hook attachment on my KitchenAid mixer, making yeast bread was really not as complicated as I feared. In fact, the thing that annoyed me most was constantly having to go to the grocery store to pick up those tiny packets of yeast to use. Tearing one off the strip of three would often lead to accidentally tearing into another packet, wasting those precious little yeasties, and I would always misplace the lone left packet in my cupboard, leading to another grocery store mission. Plus, they were so stupidly expensive for something that small. Three packets of yeast cost as much or more as the flour I was using.
But one day it occurred to me that industrial bakers definitely never bother with those dumb packets. They need a lot of yeast. Vats of it! All the time! So I looked around at restaurant supply stores and behold: An entire pound of yeast could be had for less than the cost of two packet strips. An entire pound! When most recipes call for something like two teaspoons of the stuff! Enough yeast to keep the occasional baker in business for months, if not years. Because I am a fool, I bought both active dry yeast—the kind you have to proof with hot-but-not-too-hot water—and instant yeast, which, yeah, you can pretty much just swap in for the regular yeast, at least for the kind of slapdash baking I do. And then I found out that you can also just buy them shipped to you on Amazon, because of course you can. Three pounds of yeast was definitely overkill but hey, at least I won't run out?
I store yeast in the freezer in Mason jars, though I've also heard the fridge works. Online wisdom indicates that the yeast expires after six months, but I've had success far longer than the expiration date. My current bag of yeast is about a year old, and still worked just as well for making a king cake earlier this month. The best part is that if you're nervous about it, you can just sprinkle the yeast into some warm water with a tiny bit of sugar. If it bubbles after a few minutes, that yeast is active, baby, and you're good to go. Free yourself from the tyranny of dumb little packets, and buy yeast in bulk.