The funky science of yeast, the gassy microbe behind your pandemic bread
Baker’s yeast has transformed into a prized stay-at-home commodity. Here’s how it works—and how you can grow your own.
Here is a story, for quarantined times, about extremely tiny organisms that do some of their best work by burping into uncooked dough. In the end, if things go well, there is good bread. If things go poorly, there is bad bread, or a mass of gluck you heave out so you can try again. This is the nature of yeast, which in its most familiar packaged version started vanishing from markets sometime in March, right after toilet paper and hand sanitizer. “Blowing out of here,” says Kyle Oney, who owns a grocery in Bishop, California. “Gone within 20 minutes of being put on the shelf.”
The run on home bakers’ yeast—not the hefty bulk packages commercial bakeries need, but those