If there is one thing Scandinavians treasure more than anything at the lunch table it would have to be sliced rye bread. Without it, it’s simply impossible to have the true taste of a traditional open-faced sandwich.

But if you live in the US (or anywhere outside of Scandinavia for that matter) and you want to enjoy a piece of rye bread or any other type of Scandinavian baking, you are more likely than not going to have to bake it yourself. And no, German pumpernickel is not a perfectly fine substitute to a piece of true Scandinavian ‘rugbrød’!

Whether you are cooking for a special holiday occasion or, like us, you just like to wake up to the sweet smell and unrivaled taste of home-baked bread, you have probably been wondering where to get your hands on some fresh yeast.

While in some recipes you can get away with substituting fresh yeast (also called compressed or cake yeast) with dry or instant yeast, most often this exchange will simply not deliver the same level of control over the fermentation and proofing of a dark bread to achieve the characteristic deep and sour taste of rye.

So, where do you go to buy fresh yeast?

Unless you happen to live next to a real bakery – you know, one that actually employs skilled bakers and bakes its own bread on the premises – one who uses fresh yeast, and who is willing to sell you some of that yeast (yep, we know the odds are low)… chances are you will be hard pressed. It is unlikely you will find it in your neighborhood stores (although we have heard that the Pacific North West is endowed with a decent amount of natural food stores that carry fresh yeast).

For online shopping, we usually turn to The New York Bakers. They sell a 1lb block of fresh compressed yeast for $9.95. Add to that the cost of overnight shipping at roughly 10 dollars, and this is clearly not your ordinary little cube of yeast as we find it in Scandinavian supermarkets. Nope, this is a bulk volume pack meant for commercial customers. But the great thing is they also sell to private customers – in fact, when you check out their selection, you’ll find that they offer a lot of interesting tools and ingredients for the serious home baker of Scandinavian goodies.

Scandinavian baking

Buy in bulk and share with friends

You’re probably thinking: “1lb of yeast! That would last me a lifetime… except it won’t stay good that long.” Our solution is to divide it between friends; that makes it more economical and you’re likely to use most of it before it spoils. Yeast keeps for 2-3 months in the fridge.

Another online source is MyDeli.us, which sells a Dr. Oetker cube of 42 grams of fresh yeast for $1.49. However, you still have to count the price for overnight shipping to ensure freshness of the yeast – making this little cube unreasonably expensive. Update: As of March 2016, Dr. Oetker is no longer selling fresh yeast online.

Or perhaps it’s time we get serious about Scandinavian baking and take it to the next level by making our own levain? That would certainly circumvent the whole yeast dilemma. There’s a time – and a bread – for everything, and sometimes we still need a cube of good old fresh yeast.

Tell us, what do you do in your home-baking projects: substitute fresh yeast for dry or instant yeast; source fresh yeast with a local bakery, natural foods store or online; or bake with a levain instead?

Scandinavian baking

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