I've been baking and making sweets of all sorts for years now, but have shied away from working with yeast. Turns out, I have good survival instincts.
A few weeks ago, my nephew was waxing poetic about polish donuts called Paczki. They seemed like a pretty easy sweet to make and my niece-in-law (married to a different nephew) wanted in on the baking and it grew into an event at my mom's the Friday before Easter.
While my sister, Maureen, made "Grandma doughnuts," a recipe for cake doughnuts handed down from our Grandma Magandy, Grace and I went to work on the Paczki.
I followed the step-by-step instructions (there are 26 steps) to the letter. So when it came to Step 2 "soften yeast in warm water" I did so. Only when I got to Step 13 "Set in a warm place to rise," it didn't.
My mom, a veteran in the kitchen and a whiz with yeast recipes, asked if I had "proofed" the yeast.
Turns out, you're supposed to add a little sugar to the yeast and warm water to get the yeast to activate, hence "proofing." If it doesn't bubble or foam up, then the yeast isn't good and you won't get it to rise.
So we "proofed" some more yeast, added it and some more flour to the mixture and Viola! we had raised dough.
The Paczki turned out pretty good for a first try and my Bavarian cream I made for filling (the first time to try that, too!) was a bigger success than the dough.
"Proof's in the putting" must mean "don't forget the sugar if you want the yeast to proof."
Anyway, here's the recipe for Paczki I used from Food.com. Don't forget the sugar in Step 2.