There’s nothing quite like the golden-brown aroma of baking bread wafting from the warm oven. Except when you open the oven door to find that the beautiful loaves you imagined fell flat on their doughy faces. Then life is not all that awesome.
At Crustique we’ve had our fair share of baking mishaps and we understand the crippling disappointment that sets in when your culinary vision does not live up to your expectations. We understand that baking bread is more than just throwing together water, flour and yeast – it’s an event for which you carve out time from your busy schedule. This is why we asked our panel of baking experts to tell us more about the reasons why bread fails to rise and how to avoid it in future.
So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons why your bread won’t rise and how you can fix it:
Your yeast is dead
Sometimes is just not your fault – yeast dies on the best of us. Of course, if you used yeast from a packet that has been hiding out in the back of your fridge for the last five years, you did have a hand in its demise. Dry, inactive yeast can survive for years if you store it at the correct temperature, but sometimes you happen to buy a packet of yeast that had been stored at fluctuating temperatures through no fault of your own. The good news is that you can test or ‘proof’ your yeast to see it is still alive and kicking. Here’s a handy step-by-step written tutorial and video that shows you how.
Your water is too hot
Yeast is super particular about the temperature at which it’s happy to start doing its thing – i.e. multiplying so your bread can rise. If your loaves are refusing to rise, the water you’re adding could very well be too hot. Recipes that are based on active dry yeast will tell you to dissolve the yeast in warm water (or sometimes to heat the liquid with fat and then add the yeast), but what exactly is warm in this instance? Too cold and the yeast won’t activate, too warm and you’ll kill off the precious yeast cells.
Not sure which water temperature is suitable for the yeast you’re working with? Here is a handy guide you can reference and a great resource on testing water temperature manually if you don’t happen to have a kitchen thermometer on hand.
Your kitchen is too cold
Dough rises best at between 23 to 32 ℃, which is great in summertime, but can be tough to regulate in winter when ambient temperatures are tougher to control. If you find that your dough refuses to rise despite the fact that you checked to see that it was alive AND regulated the temperature of the water you used in the mixture, the relative temperature of your kitchen could be the issue.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix. If you think your kitchen may be a tad too cold, you can simply leave your dough to rise on a warm surface (like to top of your fridge) or you can pre-heat your oven for about two minutes, put it off and leave your dough to rise in the residual heat. Pro tip – if you are a little forgetful, it could help to leave a Post-it on the oven, lest you forget your dough is on there and decide to put the oven back on for another purpose. Believe us, the results will not be pretty.
You were too impatient
Sometimes it’s as easy as that. Dough takes time to rise and may even take a little longer than a certain recipe suggests due to things like regional atmospheric pressure for instance. If your dough has not risen sufficiently, try to give it a little more time to do its thing.
You used the wrong pan
Often it’s not the dough that didn’t rise, it’s that the pan you used to bake it in was too big for the volume of the original mixture. Here’s a great resource on adapting a recipe to fit the pan size you have on hand.
BONUS TIP: Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. If your dough didn’t rise you don’t need to throw it out. Give it to the kids to wrap around sticks and bake over a campfire or roll it out and use it to bake some homemade crackers!
And there you have it – five potential reasons why your bread-baking endeavours have not been successful and how you can fix it the next time around. Keep your eye on the Crustique blog for more awesome baking hints and tips in coming weeks and months. We’d also like to hear from you if you know of any other reasons why yeast gives up the ghost – get in touch to share your hard-won wisdom so we can pass it on to our readers!