Owl Creek Farm » Cooking » Lessons in Yeast and Substitutions in a Recipe

Lessons in Yeast and Substitutions in a Recipe

by Amy

We recently ran frighteningly low on honey, and my brain being, well, it’s usual scatter-brained brain, forgot to buy more on the last two trips to Grande Prairie.

It was on the list; I did go down that aisle. Maybe something shiny distracted me.


We use honey in our homemade bread, so we use a fair amount of the stuff. So the last few batches I made, I used plain old cane sugar*. Because I’m difficult, I also subbed out olive oil for the butter, thinking lower cost = good (we use kirkland olive oil (not evoo) for almost everything). Making more than one change at a time is dumb, because if there’s issues, you aren’t sure which changed caused the problem. And I had problems! The dough didn’t rise well and it was drier and tougher than the breads made with honey/butter. Being stubborn, there was no way I was just giving in and going back to honey/butter, I needed to make sugar/olive oil work.

The best bread isn’t dry, and is nicely chewy, with a nice weight – not too heavy and not airy. We’re picky. It makes for a challenge, I like those. The first thing I did was use new yeast, the current bag I keep in the freezer was going on 2 years old, and nearly empty anyway. No change, still not rising right. I changed up the flour and used more white than wheat. No change. The bread is edible, but it’s not really yummy like before.

Being someone who’s had the internet for the past 20 years, I decided to talk to Professor Google before I broke into the Vital Wheat Gluten. I googled sugar vs honey in bread and that rabbit hole drove home that too much sugar (and as an aside, salt) is detrimental for the rise. Clearly in all my years of teaching myself to bake, something critical was overlooked here. It was a facepalm moment.

So my next batch’s changes (made yesterday) ended up being a cup of rye flour, 2 cups of whole wheat, the rest white, with 1/4 cup sugar (instead of 1/3 honey), 2 tsp salt (instead of 1T), and the olive oil instead of butter. The batch ended up being lighter than normal (500g vs 520g each), even with using a little extra flour so it wasn’t too sticky, but the results were fantastic.

You can’t really tell in a photo how soft and moist and chewy and perfect bread is, but this is fabulous. It holds up really, really well to peanut butter being spread on it. You can tell in this photo that my adult and teenager children have not earned the right to cut bread on their own yet….

*In Canada, Rogers sugar is from sugar beets (GMO/GEO; sugar beet sugar also doesn’t dissolve as nice), Redpath is cane sugar. There are other brands of both. In a weird twist of fate, I can’t get the good stuff at Costco, but it is at Walmart.

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