In this article, we are going to cover the 13 reasons why bread doesn’t rise so you can make fantastic bread at home every time. I’ve been there…You put all your passion and time into making (what you think is) the perfect loaf to discover it doesn’t rise. Disaster!
Sometimes you can proof dough for what seems like forever, but it simply will not rise or not rise much. Well, have no fear. We’ve all had a few stinkers!
After reading this article, you will know the most common reasons why bread doesn’t rise and discover ways to improve your rise.
It doesn’t matter about cheese stuffings, einkorn flour or stretch and folds. If the bread simply won’t rise, there’s nothing to celebrate! So let’s go through the most common reasons why your bread is not rising to the top of the tin.
The reason bread might not rise can be down to many things and often a combination of the errors shown below. The way I eradicate issues in my bread is by starting with the dough. So let’s discuss what to look for so that your bread rises in future.
Let’s start with the basics. Back as a bakery manager, I had many bakers insist that they had put the yeast in the mixing bowl to find it next to the scales on the table behind. It’s a silly mistake, but it happens more than you might think.
If the yeast is in the dough, you should feel some gassiness. If not, give it a smell. The aroma of the yeast will be noticeable.
If you are still not sure, tear a piece of dough and put it in a jug of water and place it in the microwave. As it warms, the dough should rise to the surface. If it doesn’t rise, the yeast has been forgotten or is out of date.
You will need to restart the recipe, but you can reuse a portion of the dough in the fresh mix. It’ll aid the dough’s maturity and enhance the gluten structure. But, if the dough has a long bulk fermentation time ahead of it (over 8 hours), you should be able to add the yeast, mix it in and continue leaving it to ferment.
Yeast does have an expiry date. If you follow the guidelines on the packet, most brands of dried yeast should be used within seven days of opening. I know, it’s silly, right?
Dried yeast will keep for months if kept in the fridge, and fresh yeast can last up to a month, depending on how fresh the yeast was when you got it
A large block of fresh yeast keeps fresh for longer than a handful of crumbs.
Fresh yeast will start to dry out, and you will see it turning a dark, nearly charcoal colour in places. You can still use it at this stage, but it’s not as effective.
It’s worth adding a little extra or allowing more time for the dough to rise. If it gets to the stage where it is dry and hard throughout, the yeast should not be used.
If you are unsure if your dried yeast is still usable, take a small bowl of warm water and add a teaspoon of yeast and another of sugar to it. If it froths after 5-10 minutes, it’s good. If not, then it’s best to get another packet.
Many recipes request warm water to be used for activating the yeast. The temperature of this warm water should be 100-110F. If the water temperature exceeds 60C (140F), yeast will be permanently deactivated.
A sourdough starter should have nice strong bubbles running through it and smell fragrant and aromatic. It should at least double in size within 6 hours.
You can get around twice-a-day feedings by leaving your starter in the fridge – see sourdough starter feeding methods.
If this is not the case, it will take a long time for the bread to rise. This can cause high amounts of lactic acid to develop during fermentation.
Excessive lactic acid destroys the dough’s ability to hold its shape. This is the main factor for “Frisbee” bread.
Oven spring gives the bread a lift of around 10-20% of its pre-oven size. Oven spring is not solely responsible for raising the bread.
Bread should be almost, if not at full size when it goes into the oven. In fact, the bread shrinks as it cools, meaning the volume gains from the oven spring are largely lost.
Placing the bread in the oven when under-proofed will make it shoot up more than 20%. This often creates unwanted holes, ripped crusts and tunnelling in the crumb.
Yeast doesn’t need oxygen for the bread fermentation process, but it does require warmth.
Cold kitchens and cold ingredients slow the rate of dough fermentation. This is a significant reason for bread not rising or rising very slowly.
To remedy this, use a proofer such as this one from Brod & Taylor.
Tip: You should also control your Desired Dough Temperature by using a formula and a thermometer.
Sometimes the dough just needs longer than the recipe states to rise. With any bread recipe, it is best to watch the dough more than the time.
Different ingredients and environments create different results. It’s the magic of bread making, whilst also the challenge!
Learning how the dough should look and feel at the end of each stage of the bread making process is the most powerful skill in baking bread.
Salt inhibits the yeast, which slows dough the production of gas. This is great for supporting the gluten structure though too much salt can stop the dough from rising.
Most recipes call for the amount of salt to be around 2% of the weight of the flour. The 2% also includes other salted additions, such as butter and olives.
Sometimes by accident, the salt gets added twice.
The only way to tell if there is too much salt is first to check the recipe has a maximum of 2.2% salt (although pizza recipes can go up to 3%).
Taste a piece of the raw dough. The flavour of salt should be available to the palette but not overpowering.
Similar to salt, sugar defers water passing through cells in the dough through osmosis. Some sugar will make bread dough rise faster. However, too much sugar in the recipe will slow down the rise significantly.
Sweet bread recipes containing more than 5% sugar to the total weight of the flour will affect the yeast. To avoid the effects of osmotic stress, a specialist osmotollerant yeast should be used.
Fats lubricate the gluten found in the flour and prevent the development of strong, flexible strands of gluten. The addition of large amounts of fat at the start of mixing creates a tighter and more ridged gluten structure which fails to expand during proofing.
Adding fat during mixing often leads to dense bread. It is best to delay the addition of fats to near the end of mixing -after much of the gluten has developed.
It is challenging to do this as fats contain water or are a liquid at room temperature, meaning the dough can become wet and sticky when lots of fat is added.
To get around this, you could add half at the start of mixing and the remainder near the end. This utilises the bassinage method, often used to split the water addition.
Sometimes chlorine or other agents used to clean the water are at such high levels that it destroys yeast or sourdough activity.
Make a batch of bread with bottled water to see if it improves the rise of the bread.
You can check with your local water board to see if they can give you any information on the quality of your water. They are expected to provide these details if requested.
For a good rise, the flour must be matured. This is created by the action of the levain conditioning the flour. Organic acids mature the dough while the hydrated flour breaks down to present sugars to the yeast.
Bread needs long, strong and elastic gluten to be able to retain gas effectively as it rises. Without a good gluten stricture, the bread will not rise to its full potential.
Bread made at a warm fermentation temperature may rise so fast that the gluten structure remains too weak to capture the gas. A long bulk ferment or an autolyse will support this.
See my bulk fermentation article to learn more.
Instead of autolyse or long bulk fermentation, the use of prefermented flour in the form of biga, poolish, pâte fermentée or sourdough levain can be used.
Preferments introduce previously mature flour to the mix, reducing the development time of the dough.
These additions create different properties to long bulk fermentation in the bread. Preferments must be ripe when added for the maximum benefit of their inclusion.
If a dough comes into contact with too much airflow, it dries up, which can build a strong, dry layer of dough on the outside. This barrier is often called a skin. It can become so strong that the dough cannot rise anymore.
To prevent dough from “skinning up”, cover it during bulk fermentation and final proofing with a bag or sealed container.
Not covering the dough as it rises can also make the bread expand at the bottom during baking.
Commercial bakeries have proofers that add humidity and heat when proofing bread.
For most home bakers, a bag, box, or overturned mixing bowl is used, but if you want to level up, get a home proofer or make a DIY proofing box!
Improving the oven set-up for baking bread will turbocharge your bread baking! It will not cure flat bread issues on its own, but it will give your bread a more professional appearance.
Using a preheated baking stone is pretty much a must if you are baking bread. It will help your bread to spring up in the oven, which is called oven spring. If you don’t already have one, maybe check this one out:
For crusty bread and a higher rise in the oven, adding water is required. The how to add steam to an oven for bread article explains how to do this correctly.
The addition of steam delays the setting of the crust to allow the bread to rise further in the oven.
When I first started baking, I went straight into a commercial bakery. The recipes were laid out for me, the equipment was amazing, the water tank forced me to probe the flour before it would release the water, and the proofer was set at a constant temperature… It was pretty easy, really.
The reason was there were very few variables. The ingredients were the same, the recipes were measured out, the environment was controlled, and the equipment was always constant. But when we bake at home, it’s not that easy! We don’t have the same equipment or environment. Yet by expanding your knowledge, you can learn how to eradicate the issues in your bread so that you can start hitting those grand slams!
You are very welcome!
I’ve been making the same bread recipe for years, yeast is in date as are all the other ingredients but it’s not rising as it should. I’m baffled. The only thing I can think of is, do I have a bad batch of bread flour ?
It’s possible. Have you tried checking your yeast is bubbling in water to check it’s active? Is your kitchen colder than usual? If not then try another flour and see if you get success. Email me some pictures at: gareth @ busbysbakery.com if you wish.
I did not check, I assumed new packets of yeast should be fine but after another failure yesterday, I will do that next. Thanks Gareth.
It’s less common these days but can happen occasionally. If that doesn’t work, send over (on here or to the email address I sent you) your processes and ingredients (as much info as possible) and I’ll troubleshoot it with you.
Very helpful information. Now let’s try again! Thanks so much.
Thanks, you are welcome!
My dough doubles beautifully in my oven (in proofing setting), but then I punch it down and put it in the bread pan, and then it won’t rise much again. I’ve left it for 1-2 hours, and still it won’t rise enough. It also sinks slightly when baked. This last time I bought a $25 specialty bread pan (Pullman, 8 x 4 x 4) so make sure my pan wasn’t too wide for a good rise. Still, a big fail! I’ve made the same recipe 10 times, and each change gives me the exact same thing — great rise first time, lousy rise second time. Help!
What I’m doing or have tried:
-using thermometer to make sure water/milk is between 110-115 degrees before adding yeast
-mixing the dough on low/med low with my Kitchenaid mixer using dough hook
– always use Gold Medal white flour (all-purpose) and King Arthur wheat
– tried weighing the flour or measuring it
– bought new yeast
– ingredients are at room temp when I start
– tried adding 1 Tbsp gluten (tried 2 Tbsp another time) … no change
I’m at a loss! 🙁
The yeast is consuming all the available sugars during the first rise and cannot produce enough gas after it has been deflated.
The first thing I would do is to end the first rise once as dough reaches a 30-50% rise.
Consider doing the first rise on the counter as cooler temperatures will slow dough yeast activity whilst allowing the gluten structure to naturally develop. Once risen, shape and rise in the tin on the proof setting.
Another point is to aim for a dough temperature between 77-83 at the end of mixing (any higher and the first rise will be too quick). If the temperature of the dough is outside of this, the ingredients were too warm so change the temperature of the water/milk.
I notice that you are warming your water/milk too high. I should be 93F. Any higher than 100 and you’ll kill the yeast. You don’t state what type of yeast you are using, so I’m assuming it’s active dried?
If so, I recommend separating a portion of the water to bloom the yeast (you’ll need 3 times the weight of the yeast used). This way you can bloom the yeast at the correct temperature and adjust the temperature of the main liquid so the final dough temperature is in the 77-83 range.
-Or use instant yeast instead of active dried and skip the blooming of the yeast entirely.
For more see: https://www.busbysbakery.com/desired-dough-temperature/
If this fails, skip the first rise completely. For tin bread, it’s often not used. You may wish to get some ascorbic acid and add a tiny pinch to the dough to improve its structure.
Let me know how you get on.
I’ve made the same recipe for years with success. Now, I’m having problems with the bread rising. I know the yeast is good because I add it to the wet ingredients, at a temp of 95° and wait to make sure it is active by seeing it foam. I’m using the same flour from the same bag I’ve had success with (it’s not expired) and it kneads in the mixer for 12 minutes, as I’ve always done with success. However, it now refuses to rise. I’ve tried different brands of instant yeast without success. This is a recipe from King Arthur and made with King Arthur flour. The room temp is the same and I always put it in the microwave to rise. I’m stumped.
No wonder! A few questions so I can help you further: Does it rise at all? Is it gassy when you take it out of the mixer? Is all the water at 95, or do you separate some to bloom the yeast? Are you using instant yeast or active dried yeast?
It rises a little, after about 3-4 hours (it used to take 45 minutes to rise). I do not separate the yeast, I put the entire amount (2 tsp) into the liquid. I also weigh my ingredients as opposed to measuring. I’m not sure what you mean by “gassy” but it feels tougher/denser/not as stretchy now when I remove it from the mixer, maybe less moist, definitely more difficult to knead.
Thanks for that, let me just eliminate a few other things:
What type of yeast are you using? And what is the temperature of your room (roughly)?
I’m using fast rising instant yeast and the room is 76°.
This is unusual Janice, I’m thinking the yeast cannot ferment as the dough is either too dense, or the water is causing issues. If you can try these steps we can eliminate these issues:
– Change mixing time to 8 minutes
– Use bottled water
– Add more water so the dough is softer -30 grams extra should do it
This should work, it might not be the perfect loaf but it can be tweaked if it rises which is the most important thing! Take some photos of the dough at each stage and if you can, email them to me.
Actually, it’s milk I’m using, not water. The recipe calls for 227g milk, 361g flour, 1.25 tsp salt, 28g butter, 2 tsp yeast and 25g sugar. Is it possible to over knead the dough? I’ll make the changes you suggested and report the results. I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me on this issue.
Potentially possible yes, some home mixers aren’t great at kneading the dough and can damage the gluten a little. This might not be the case here, but 8 minutes should be plenty to make a decent dough.
25 grams of sugar is almost 7%. Inclusions of over 5% will slow down yeast activity by reducing the water available for the yeast in osmosis. Instead of 25, if you can try 15-18 grams, it should help quite a lot. I believe this, combined with a dry dough is the reason why the yeast is working slowly.
I added more moisture and the dough became much softer and manageable. However, after 17 hours, it did not rise, although i tested the yeast again on this next attempt and it became foamy. The dough developed a hard skin on top. I covered it while waiting for it to rise so it’s not the air that caused the skin to form. I took a picture for you but there is no way to attach it here. I will purchase new flour and yeast today and see what happens.
I got the pictures, thank you. It looks like it rose a little, and then collapsed?
The skin on top forms when the air dries it. 17 hours is a long time and could cause it to dry up. Be sure that the cover is securely airtight. Use plastic wrap or a bag and not the lid of the pan. If you see a skin appear in the future you can give the surface a brush water with some water. The skin will prevent the dough from rising so it’s best to check on it every hour.
Other than the points we’ve mentioned, keep an eye on dough temperature if you have a probe. You’ll want the dough to be 25-28C when it comes out of the mixer.
A new day, new flour and new yeast. It rose and baked up beautifully. I have to assume it was either the flour, the yeast or a combination of both. During this process I learned to cut the kneading time down to 8 minutes, add more liquid if it’s difficult to knead, to test the temperature of the dough when it comes out of the mixer and make sure the cover is airtight. Thank you for all your time spent with me. ~ Janice
Wow, that’s great! You’re very welcome, thank you!!
I am a beginner/intermediate bread baker, and I find that my bread doesn’t rise as much as I’d like. I use the Broad & Taylor proofer box, and although my dough rises, I’m not sure it’s enough. At what temp should I be setting the box? I use 91 degrees. Also, the last couple of loaves have come out more dense than normal, although I haven’t done anything different. Not sure what is happening. Could it be the kneading?
Hi Suzanne. 32 degrees is good, you can push the proofing temp up to 100 if you want. This will raise most types of bread in 90 minutes or so. If your bread is dense though it could be kneading. Is your dough reaching the windowpane stage before shaping? It could be down to many things, here’s a post that may help: Why is my bread so dense?
So this morning I “attempted” to make bread again and had terrible results – worse than before. I used bread flour instead of all-purpose, up’d my kneading to 9 minutes and then up’d the temp in my proofing box to 98 and had the little dish with water under the bowl as recommended by Broad & Taylor. Bread minimally rose – less than before. Ugh! It was really elastic and I thought – Yes, but nope! So, after I put it in the tins, I covered it and let it sit a bit more – 45 minutes – recipe calls for another rise. Didn’t rise at all. I ended up cooking it, only because I wanted to see if it would rise in the oven as it had in the past. Nothing. I threw it away. It pretty much was a brick. What to do, what to do…. My breadmaking is going downhill, but I’m not giving up and will try again next week. Any other suggestions you might have to offer would be appreciated.
Hi Suzanne, I’d say you are closer than you think to a decent loaf. Getting a nice elastic dough is something many bakers struggle with. First, how long was your first rise? 45 minutes is very short for a second rise, I’d be expecting 1-2 hours at 98 degrees.
But if you’re not getting much of a rise at all, there are a few things that could have happened either in isolation or combined:
– Bread flour absorbs more water than all-purpose. If you’ve used the same amount of water as before the dough will be firmer and slower to rise. You have two options, increase the yeast or the proofing time.
– Was the yeast active? and if using active dried yeast, did you bloom it correctly with a little sugar at 100-110F for 10 minutes?
– Did the dough “skin-up”? This is where the top of the dough hardens when proofing which prevents it from rising. It’s unlikely as you have put a dish of water in the proofer, but worth checking. You can brush or lightly rub some water on the surface if this does happen.
– A teaspoon of sugar will help to provide food for the yeast
Try and make a couple of changes and see if that improves things next time. Let me know how you get on.
My first rise in the box was for 1 hour and 1/2. I checked it after 1/2 hour and it looked like it was rising, but then at the 1-hour mark, it had minimally risen, so I thought I would let it keep going, but after another 1/2 hour at the 98, I took it out.
I am using active dried yeast, used the sugar and I let it sit for 10 minutes – it was frothy, like always; the dough did not have a “skin” on top. I normally brush it with a little oil on the top and sides.
I kept thinking that I should add a bit more water to the dough, but it didn’t feel too dry or tough – the kneading went well, or at least I thought it did. I will try to add a bit more water next time. Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted.
Great, take some photos so I can help if you run into any difficulties.
My bread dough does not rise after 1 hour. Supposed to use warm milk and warm water plus melted butter. What temperature should the warm milk and water be?
I melted the butter in the micro-wave, is it too hot. Thank you
Milk should ideally be heated to 171F for one second and then cooled to break down the proteins in it. The liquid temperature depends on the room temperature and the temperature of the flour. As long as the yeast doesn’t come into contact with ingredients above 140 it will be good.
I use water that’s around 65 degrees in warm weather, and 95 degrees in winter. To get a more accurate liquid temperature take a look at the desired dough temperature page.
Very informative post thank you
Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baking coach, head baker and bread-baking fanatic! My aim is to use science, techniques and 15 years of baking experience to help you become a better baker.
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