There’s few things better than biting into a fresh baked treat, however if your dough isn’t rising baking can be a major headache. Baking with yeast requires extra care (i.e. certain conditions) and a whole lot of patience.
The good news is that if you understand the reasons dough doesn’t rise it helps ensure that it won’t happen again. If you’ve had trouble in the past or are having trouble right now, know that yeast can be finicky – it’s not just you! But, by avoiding all the mishaps below you’ll be well on your way to a delicious, home baked good.
A few years ago every time I baked bread it was always up to chance on whether the dough would rise or not. But, after doing my research and understanding how yeast works I can confidently say I haven’t had any problems. Sooo, I feel confident you’ll be able to master baking with yeast after reading the below tips!
Keep reading to explore seven possible reasons why your dough isn’t rising. You’ll be ready to bake a beautiful loaf of bread (or cinnamon rolls or donuts) in no time.
WHY YOUR DOUGH ISN’T RISING
1. INACTIVE YEAST
Yeast plays a huuuuge role in the fermentation process – it converts sugars into carbon dioxide which causes the dough to rise. If your dough isn’t rising, it’s possible the problem is expired yeast. Always check the expiration date before using and make sure to store in a cool, dry place. Personally, I always store opened yeast (i.e. in a jar) in the fridge.
Any time I’m baking with yeast, I always always always test its viability before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Why? There’s nothing worse than putting a ton of effort into a recipe only for it not to rise! Simply dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and within 10 minutes it should become frothy. Not frothing? Time to get new yeast!
2. INCORRECT WATER TEMPERATURE
If you’ve followed a recipe with yeast before you’ve probably seen it say to use warm water – ideally between 100°F to 110°F (37°C to 43°C). Yeast is sensitive to temperature and so using water that is too hot or too cold can affect its activity. Basically, it’s a goldilocks situation. You need water that’s just right!
Water that is too hot can kill the yeast, while water that is too cold won’t activate it properly. To make sure the water temperature is correct, I highly recommend using a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature before adding the yeast.
3. LACK OF KNEADING
Ah, kneading. One of the trickiest parts of bread making! Proper kneading helps develop gluten, giving the dough structure and elasticity. This allows the dough to trap and hold the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. But, if you don’t knead properly, it can result in weak gluten formation, which can lead to a lackluster rise.
So what can you do to make sure your dough is kneaded properly? Make sure to follow the recipe instructions exactly (i.e. set a timer) or knead until you reach the desired consistency.
For beginner bakers, knowing what the right consistency is can be difficult, but with practice it will become easier to know by feel. You can also use the “windowpane test” to determine if the gluten has developed properly (I always do this!).
4. TOO MUCH SALT
If you’re anything like me, you love salt. However, as we know too much of a good thing can be a bad thing! While salt is a necessary ingredient in most recipes, using too much of it can slow down yeast activity.
It’s extremely easy to add too much salt if you don’t measure it out. Make sure to measure carefully before adding to your recipe, I highly recommend using a kitchen scale for precise measurements. If you do add too much salt, it can slow down the fermentation process which can result in a disappointing rise.
5. TOO COLD OF AN ENVIRONMENT
If you’ve baked with yeast you know it thrives in a warm environment. If your kitchen is on the colder side it can slow down fermentation – so make sure to factor in extra time for your dough to rise.
In a rush? You can also place your dough in a warm spot, such as a space that’s hit by the sun or in the oven (but turned off or on the proofing setting). Make sure to cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to help retain moisture and warmth.
6. HIGH ALTITUDE ENVIRONMENT
Did you know if you live in a high altitude environment the lower air pressure can affect the dough? In order to have the dough properly rise, you may need to adjust the yeast, water, or rising time. If you live in a high altitude environment I recommend following high altitude recipes (some recipe blogs are dedicated solely to these recipes).
7. TOO MUCH SUGAR
While sugar provides food for the yeast, too much can overpower the yeast and make it difficult for fermentation to begin.
Normally when yeast consumes sugar, carbon dioxide is produced and air bubbles are created – causing the dough to rise. But, too much sugar can draw liquid from the yeast and slow down its growth and fermentation. So, always measure out the exact amount of sugar to prevent adding too much.
While getting your dough to rise can feel a bit unpredictable, understanding the environment in which yeast thrives will help immensely.
Want to try out what you learned? Try one of these recipes!
Have any other tips for those struggling on why their dough isn’t rising? Make sure to share them below.