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This question arose today at lunch, and we tried to explain it in various ways:

  • It gives the soft (spongy) consistency;

  • It improves the nutritional content;

  • It makes bread more digestible;

  • It improves the taste.

We were unable to say which ones are true, and if more than one, which is the main reason. It should be something simple I guess, because yeast has been used since ancient times.

Wiki talks about consistency, but I would like some more expert advice.

EDIT: I know there are yeast-free breads, like Italian's piadina or Indian's chapati and roti, and even Mexican's tortilla. And that's where the question originates from, because the asker is from Pakistan.

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You say you know there are yeast-free breads - I assume you've had both leavened and unleavened breads? It's impossible to make anything like a leavened bread without leavening. Imagine a loaf of bread, entirely the texture of a tortilla. –  Jefromi May 4 '12 at 19:25
    
@Jefromi What I was referring to is the difference between leavened and unleavened bread; I didn't know about different agents than yeasts. And my question (not mine, actually) was about what is the advantage in having leavened bread –  clabacchio May 4 '12 at 22:42

2 Answers 2

There are various types of bread without yeast. Unleavened Jewish Passover bread, for one, and soda bread for another. Unleavened bread doesn't have the spongy texture.

Basically, yeast has two uses in baking. 1. The spongelike structure and 2. Taste.

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Yes, I know about bread without yeast (see edit). About (2), isn't the taste of yeast a disadvantage? –  clabacchio May 4 '12 at 13:43
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If it tastes like yeast, the bread isn't correctly baked. –  BaffledCook May 4 '12 at 13:47
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@clabacchio- the flavor of yeast is definitely not a disadvantage. The action of the yeast creates flavors that are far more complex than those found in the raw flour. Much of the fascination with bread making centers around maximizing the flavors from fermentation. –  Sobachatina May 4 '12 at 13:58
    
So it's all about taste? Nothing related to nutritional properties? –  clabacchio May 4 '12 at 22:43

A better answer in wiki would be under this link Leavening Agents

It explains the different leavening agents and their desired outcome. If it’s not the info you are looking for then maybe you need to compare yeast bread to unleavened and non-yeast breads.

Unleavened and Non-yeast Breads; Dense, drier, cracker like either bland in flavor (which a lot of people like) and needs added flavoring or topping, butter, egg, fruit, seeds, nuts and others.

Yeast Breads; Can just be made with flour, water, yeast a little salt or a little sugar to activate/feed the yeast further. Yeast gives you the flexibility to knead or not to knead (completely different subject) and supports the structure which lends to the texture. Let’s not forget that aroma and flavor. Heaven! There are various Dry Yeasts, they take time to develop flavors and can last a longer time in the fridge. Cake yeasts, (looks like wrapped butter) already has developed flavor and has a much shorter shelf life.

Although this is just basic info, it maybe enough to answer your question.

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