Putting time into making dough and seeing that it doesn’t rise when proving or even when baking is a huge disappointment.
The last thing someone wants is a dense, heavy, and unrisen dough, and once you experience the annoyance of a wasted dough just one time, you don’t want it to happen again.
If your dough isn’t rising properly after multiple hours, it could be because of the type of dough you’ve made, inactive yeast, or the temperature of the room. Some doughs just take longer to rise, so try leaving it for longer and put it in a warmer area of your home.
Baking is a science and there are plenty of things that affect how your dough rises, the rate that it rises at, and if it even rises at all.
There are plenty of things that you can do wrong during the bread-making process. Mistakes can be made from the way you mix everything together to the ways you bake it, so it’s nothing to worry about.
Mistakes That Prevent/Stop Your Dough From Rising
As a new baker, mistakes are made around every corner, but that’s okay. It’s important that you understand what mistakes you make and strive to do better the next time.
The good thing about making bread is that it’s cheap. You really don’t have to spend much to make a good loaf of bread, you just need to put in the time to make it.
If your yeast has been sat in your pantry for a few years, it’s likely not going to be active. When yeast gets old enough, it becomes inactive and it won’t be able to create those lovely gas bubbles in your dough.
I recommend always checking that your dried yeast is alive before you mixing it in with your flour. You don’t want to have to waste your flour with something that won’t rise your dough.
To check that your yeast is active, simply take some lukewarm water (95 – 105°F / 35 – 40°C) and mix in your yeast. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and you should notice that it is bubbling up and expanding on the surface. If there isn’t any activity, your yeast is likely dead.
You can also try mixing in a pinch or two of sugar to get the yeast a little more excited.
It’s Too Cold
If the dough is too cold, it’s either not going to rise or it’s going to rise very slowly. You might have put your dough into a cold area or used cold ingredients. Either way, it’s going to slow the rate of its rise.
Personally, I like some of my dough to get a long and cold rise in the fridge, but if your dough is taking ages to rise, it might become annoying.
If you want to speed up the rise of your dough, you need to put it into a warm area of your home. An oven with the light on can do a great job of keeping your dough warm enough to rise properly.
The Liquid Is Too Hot
Yeast dies when exposed to temperatures above a certain point, so if you’re combining very hot liquid with your yeast, you’re going to be killing it before it gets the opportunity to rise your bread.
Active dry yeast begins to die at around 120°F (48°C) and instant yeast at 130°F (54°C), so avoid getting the temperature of your water this high.
It’s extremely important that you use water that’s at a comfortable temperature for your yeast. Lukewarm water or a temperature that’s comfortable for you to dip your finger in is fine for your yeast.
You’re Not Using The Right Holding Vessel
There might be enough yeast activity in your dough, but it isn’t always obvious if you’re not using the right container. If you’re using a very wide container with a small amount of dough, your dough isn’t going to rise to double in size, it’s just going to spread and rise slightly.
I personally either like to use a bowl or squared container to hold my dough so I can visually see how much it has risen.
If you’re using a container that’s too big, make sure that you start using something more appropriate so you can clearly see when your dough has risen enough.
You’re In A Dry Climate
One thing that dough needs is a good amount of humidity. If you’re living in a dry climate, it can be more difficult to give your dough the humidity it requires, so it can affect how well it rises.
When making your dough in a dry climate, you want to maintain as much water as possible. You can do this by making your dough with slightly more water than the recipe calls for and keeping it in an airtight container or an oven.
Make sure that it’s wrapped up well and there’s no opportunity for air to escape. Adding in more moisture and keeping it properly wrapped up helps it to rise better and prevents it from drying out.
Using Too Much Salt Or Adding It Too Early
Salt can interfere with the rising process, especially when you add far too much or add it directly to the yeast, so it’s important to be careful with it.
Salt has the potential to kill yeast, but you’d need a lot to kill it off. Here’s an article I’ve written on how salt impacts yeast growth. Adding too much salt can seriously slow down the yeast activity so it won’t rise as fast as you’d like.
It’s recommeneded to keep your salt content at between 1.8% and 2.2% to keep it from being bland or overly salty.
You’re Not Giving It Enough Time
Different kinds of doughs can rise at drastically different rates. For example, an instant yeast dough will rise considerably faster than a sourdough would, so it’s all about patience.
An hour might not be long enough for your dough to rise. It will depend on the amount and type of yeast that you use.
If it’s been an hour and your dough hasn’t risen much, leave it for another hour or two. If you see some sort of rise in it, just leave it for longer and it should get there.
Your Dough Contains Too Much Sugar
Doughs that contain a lot of sugar tend to take longer to rise than your standard dough. This is because the sugar also absorbs some moisture in the dough, so your yeast doesn’t get as much.
Adding too much sugar can absorb too much liquid and leave your yeast dry. When your yeast doesn’t have enough moisture to travel around the dough, it won’t be able to get enough food and it won’t rise very well.
Add the correct amount of sugar in the recipe or use osmotolerant yeast. This yeast performs better in doughs with higher sugar content.
You’re Using Flour With A Low Protein Content
If your flour has a low protein content, it’s not going to be able to produce as much gluten as standard bread flour. This can mean that the dough may not rise very well.
If you’re using a certain flour with low protein content, like wholemeal flour, try mixing it with some bread flour. Doing this will add some more gluten to it and help it rise more when proving and in the oven.
You’re Not Covering Your Dough Properly
By not covering your dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap, you’re allowing the surface of the dough to become dry. Have you ever noticed a dry and cracked surface of your dough?
If it gets dry enough throughout the breadmaking process, it can affect the rise and the texture of the dough’s crust.
Make sure you cover your dough in an airtight container, with clingfilm, a damp towel, or a coating of oil so you can prevent this from happening.
You’re Using Too Much Flour
A dry dough is a bad dough. Having too much flour in your dough prevents the yeast from moving about freely and therefore stops the rise of the dough.
A lot of people make the mistake of adding too much flour if they’re following a bread recipe that uses cups or if they’re kneading their dough on a floured surface.
Follow the recipe to the best you can and only add flour if it’s still extremely sticky after kneading it for 10 minutes.
If it’s meant to be a sticky dough, don’t add much more flour.
You Didn’t Knead It Enough
A dough that’s not kneaded enough doesn’t have a good gluten structure, so it won’t be able to hold onto the gas very well. Without this gluten structure, the dough is more likely to spread out rather than upwards and the gas will escape easily.
Make sure that you’re kneading your dough to the point that it passes the poke test and the windowpane test.
Why Has My Dough Collapsed?
There are two main reasons why your dough has collapsed.
The first reason is that you have proved your dough until the bubbles have become so large that the gluten structure can no longer support them and it completely deflates. This often happens when a bread with a weak gluten structure is left to prove for too long.
The second reason is likely that the yeast has virtually run out of energy as they cannot feed anymore. They will release so much up until the point where they can’t release anymore. This can lead to your dough collapsing when it’s in the oven.