Osmotolerant Yeast

Osmotolerant (or Gold Label) yeast is a strain of instant yeast that grows well in a lower moisture environment. Yeast feeds on sugar and flour. However, too much sugar becomes a disadvantage because it pulls the moisture away from the yeast; this forces the yeast to grow in a drier environment, consequently slowing the rise. When making a sweet dough (one in which the ratio of sugar to flour is greater than 10%), osmotolerant yeast is recommended but not necessary; however, remember to adjust time allocations accordingly.

Parchment Paper

Rolls of parchment paper (available in most grocery stores) are difficult to manipulate because they always seem to return to their rolled shape. That is why I recommend flat sheets of parchment paper, which are available online in both half and full sheet pan sizes.  Parchment sheets are great for both cooking (lining pans), and storage (wrapping a sandwich).  Personally, I don't think aluminum foil should ever touch food, so I also like to line my foil with parchment.

Getting a Faster Rise

Occasionally—either when I'm short on time or when the dough is especially rich and heavy—I need to speed up the dough rising process.  A boost is needed.  I've found that warmth combined with steam provides a wonderful environment for a faster rise.  To create such an environment, I heat a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave until steaming, then slide my plastic wrap covered bowl of dough into the microwave as well. I close the door and (don't turn the microwave back on!) let the measuring cup and the bowl snuggle together for ~1 hour.  This should give the dough the extra boost it needs.

Instant and Active Dry Yeast

I always use instant yeast when making dough.  It's easy to use because 1) it can be added directly to the flour, 2) it doesn't need to be proofed first, and 3) cool water can be used when a slow rise is desired.  In Active Dry Yeast, the granules are coated with tiny layers of dead yeast cells, so in order to activate the living yeast with sugar or flour, the coating must be dissolved in warm water.  This dead coating makes up 25% of the yeast's weight, so if using Active Dry Yeast, increase the yeast used in the recipe by about ¼.  It doesn't need to be exact, so eyeballing the amount is fine.  Begin by dissolving the Active Dry Yeast with a little sugar or flour (this feeds the yeast) in a small amount of the liquid from the recipe (which should be between 100°F and 110°F).  Let the mixture stand for 5 - 10 minutes until foamy, then add it to the remaining ingredients.

Measuring Flour

I always measure flour by lightly scooping it up, fluffing it, sprinkling it into the measuring cup, and finally leveling it with the back of a knife.  All of my recipes are based on this method.  If you instead scoop your measuring cup into the flour, it will be more packed down. This results in too much flour and therefore a drier end result.