Why Won’t My Yeast Bread Rise?

Baking bread can be frustrating when the dough won’t rise properly…. The bread turns out smaller, less fluffy, and much denser. To get light, flaky bread that puffs up beautifully, troubleshoot the problem and then try one of these solutions.

1. Your Water Is Too Hot/Cold

When you put the yeast in a bit of water, does it foam within five minutes? If not, the water might be the wrong temperature. If it’s too cold, the yeast won’t start multiplying; if it’s too hot, the heat will kill the yeast.

Solution: The water should feel warm, but not uncomfortably hot. If you have a candy or food thermometer, aim for 105 to 115 degrees.

2. Your Yeast Is Old or Dead

If the yeast still won’t foam, even with the water at the perfect temperature, your yeast may be dead or dying.

Solutions:

  • Add more sugar to the water, giving the yeast more to feed on and stimulating more growth.

  • Buy new yeast. Store it in the freezer to keep it fresh & alive.

3. The Room Is Too Cold

Most recipes specify, “Let the dough rise in a warm place.” If the dough doesn’t double in size within an hour or too, then the room is probably too cold. Yeast needs warmth to grow properly. During the dough-rising stage, the room should be about 80 to 90 degrees. In winter, this is a pretty tall order!

Solutions:

  • Turn the oven on pretty high, and put the dough on top of it—not in it. Flip it over every ten minutes or so, so that the bottom side doesn’t start baking.

  • Or, turn the oven on as low as possible—my oven’s lowest setting is 170 degrees—and put the dough in it (on or in an oven-proof dish), on the middle rack. Keep the door wide open.  

Check it frequently, or else it will slowly start to bake. Keep it in for 10 or 20 minutes at a time, then let it rest on the counter.

  • Or, turn the oven on as low as it gets, open the door completely, and put the dough on the opened door, not in the oven. Every 10 or 15 minutes, rotate the dough so that another side is facing the oven.

  • Or, microwave some water in a cup until it boils. 

Keep the cup in the microwave, and put the dough in the microwave with it. Shut the door. Don’t turn it on (that would kill the yeast), just let it sit in the warmed-up microwave.

  • Or, fill a large ceramic bowl with water, then microwave it until the water boils or at least gets very hot.

Dump out the water, dry the bowl, and put the dough in it.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it for an hour or so.
See? Nice and fluffy!

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