You have made your dough, left it to rise and nothing has happened. Why is your dough not rising?
There are a number of things which might be happening.
Check your yeast is still in date
Your yeast might be past its best. Fresh yeast lasts about three weeks from manufacture if it is kept in the fridge. If it’s fresh it will feel malleable and soft, a bit like squishy play dough. You should be able to easily roll it into a ball. It will smell sweet. If it is crumbly and dry and smells sour then it’s past its best and needs to be thrown away. If your fresh yeast has been frozen and thawed before using then you might need to add a bit more than you usually would as it loses some of its potential to rise your bread when it’s been frozen.
In the case of using dried yeast ( dried active or easy bake/ fast action/ instant) then check the use by date on the container. Dried yeast degrades over time so don’t use it past its use by date. If it has been open for a few months and exposed to air then it will also have degraded. You can check whether your yeast is good to use by dissolving it in a small amount of warm water, with half a teaspoon of sugar added. If it froths up within ten minutes it is good to use. If it doesn’t froth up and only shows a few bubbles then it needs throwing away.
Yeast prefers warmth
Yeast prefers warm water. It will work faster if the water is warm (about 40, 104f) when you pour it in and mix your dough. If your dough is cold then the yeast’s activity will be slowed down. Sometimes this is exactly what you want to happen (take a look at my article ‘Will my bread dough rise in the fridge?“). However, if you are patiently (or impatiently) waiting for your dough to rise and it is cold then you might be waiting for longer than you expect. If you want to hurry things along, you could try putting the dough near to a warm radiator or your oven. Don’t put it too close to a heat source though as too much heat will kill the yeast. If you have plenty of time, then just give your dough a bit more time, it will catch up.
If you used hot water to mix your dough then that might have killed the yeast before it got a chance to get started. Yeast dies at 55C, 130f. So if your dough is too warm the yeast will have died.
The salt and yeast came into contact
Salt kills yeast. So if your salt came into direct contact with the yeast when you were measuring out the ingredients this will affect the rising power of the yeast. This is especially true if it was in contact for some time, for example in a bread machine. If you are using a bread machine then make sure you put in either the salt or yeast first, then the flour, then the other ingredient. This will ensure that they don’t come into contact before the machine starts mixing the dough.
The dough has dried out
If the dough has formed a dry skin on top then it won’t be able to continue to rise as it can’t push against the dry skin. You can prevent this by using plastic wrap or a shower cap on the top of your bowl or spraying a little oil over the dough before leaving to to ferment. If you use a proving cloth then wetting it to make it slightly damp can help the dough not form a skin. If you are putting the dough in the fridge for several hours then you will need to use a plastic covering or a larger bowl to sit over the top of the bowl or a dinner plate on top to create a tight seal.
Too much salt
If you have added too much salt then this will slow the yeast down and may even kill it. Be careful when adding salty ingredients such as Marmite and bacon and adjust your salt content a little. You can read more about the role of salt in bread at https://vegpatchkitchen.co.uk/the-role-of-salt-in-bread/
Too much sugar
A dough with lots of sugar will rise more slowly as the yeast draws water away from the yeast causing it to work more slowly. If your recipe has more than 10% sugar to the flour weight (e.g. more than 10g of sugar for every 100g of flour) then you will need to add a little more yeast to compensate or be prepared to wait longer for the dough to rise. If you make lots of sweet dough then you can buy osmotolerant yeast that has been made specially to cope with the additional sugar.
The dough has a high percentage of fats
If the dough has egg, milk or butter added to it then you will need to add a little more yeast or be prepared to wait for a slower rise. The fat coats the yeast and slows down its activity. You can read more about this at https://vegpatchkitchen.co.uk/adding-fat-and-sugar-to-dough/
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