Yeast and Baking Powder on Pessach

The question I have every year is the following: Chametz is everything that is from the five grains and comes into contact with water. It then ferments. From what I remember from my chemistry classes, fermentation means yeast. So now the question – is yeast (that you can buy in the supermarket for baking) also chametz?

The answer to the question is NO, yeast itself is not chametz. Confirmed by my rabbi and Chabad (in reply to a question if wine, fermented grapes, is chametz): "Of the hundreds of species of yeast, the Passover prohibition only applies to yeast which is a product of one of the following five grains: wheat, barley, oat, spelt, or rye. Yeast which is the product of grapes, or its sugars, is not considered chametz (leavened food)."

Chametz also doesn’t include baking powder and baking soda. These are pure chemistry (sodium bicarbonate + acid in case of baking powder) and have nothing in common with yeast except the effect. The Coffee shop rabbi probably has the shortest possible explanation why they are not chametz: "chometz is basically wet grain" ;)

So, I will keep my baking powder and see what it does to matza flour! I’ll keep you posted.

2 responses to “Yeast and Baking Powder on Pessach

  1. Thanks for the link back, tuxeliana! “Wet grain” pretty much covers it. I learned a lot more about fermentation this summer when I began making pickles by fermentation. It turns out that many agricultural products have tiny yeasts on them, and if you get them wet and keep them wet in the right environment, fermentation will simply happen. So the trick, in avoiding chametz, is simply to avoid the five grains. I’m curious to see what happens with your baking powder.

    When you say you are doing this with matzah flour, do you mean a grain flour or matzah meal? If you are using a grain flour, then you will have 18 minutes to get it into the oven, if you want your matzah to be kosher.

    I’m glad to find your blog and look forward to following it!

  2. You are welcome for the link and thank you for the feedback.

    English is not my native language. What I am referring to is "flour" made out of ground matza. I buy it as "matzemehl" literally meaning matza flour. Wikipedia tells me that indeed this is called matza meal in English – possibly an adaptation from the German "matzemehl"? I am using matza meal as a substitute for flour, e.g., to make pancakes. I won’t try to bake my own matzah – too difficult.

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