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Nothing ever rises...

I have been wanting to attempt homemade bread for awhile now. I tried today and I seem to be having problems with the breading "proofing" or rising. I've made cinnamon rolls in the past and they did not rise, either. But they still tasted great so I did not worry about it. Today I tried to make Kelsey Nixon's rapid rolls from cookingchanneltv.com and they were supposed to proof for 20 minutes and double in size. They barely got any bigger. Not sure what the deal is. I bought cheap store brand yeast, and used warm tap water. It is cool in here (about 75 degrees), but I had stew on the stove simmering so I set the pan on the counter right next to the stove to proof. So it should've been at least a little bit warmer in that area.

Any ideas where I went wrong? Do I need fancy yeast, distilled water, something else?

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  1. Have you been using the same yeast every time? Check the expiration date, as well. Do you start your yeast in warm water, and there are bubbles, then use it? Or are you just putting the yeast into the mixture without that first step? Are you using a thermometer for you water/liquid? It could be too hot.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      I use the same brand of yeast, but always check the expiration. Today's packets don't expire until 2014. I've never heard there should be bubbles! The recipes always say to just put it in warm water, give it a stir and let it sit for 5 minutes. I let this batch sit and there were a few really smally bubbles on the top (think soda bubbles, not bubble bath bubbles).

      I did not use a thermometer, what temperature is it supposed to be? I used warm tap water that was not uncomfortable to the touch or anything.

      1. re: yddeyma

        It should be quite bubbly. I'd try another yeast. If this is from the same batch/package, you could try some envelopes of the same, or just go with the ones next to it on the shelf. Here is a google image search for proofing yeast
        https://www.google.com/search?q=proof...

        1. re: yddeyma

          Be sure to add some sugar to your yeast /water solution, the yeast needs to feed it self. Make sure the water is luke warm not hot.

          1. re: cstr

            Actually, sugar is not essential.

      2. What is the date on your yeast package?

        1 Reply
        1. re: pedalfaster

          Can't recall exactly, but I know the year was 2014.

        2. Assuming your yeast is fresh enough to be ok, first I try to get the water about as hot as I am comfortable putting in a finger. I add a little sugar and stir tall with a fork, wait until there is a little foam, and add the other ingredients (flour and salt for basic bread). I use more yeast for heavier breads like whole wheat. After first kneading I just cover it and let it rise in a room that is probably about 68...78 in summer. Different yeasts rise more slowly. My natural yeast starter takes upwards of half a day to rise.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tim irvine

            So I had a friend who worked for a sugar company and he told me that the sugar that goes into brand name is the same sugar that goes into the store brand. So I buy most base things (like flour, sugar, yeast, etc.) store brand. Is there a particular brand I should try? What do you use?

            1. re: yddeyma

              It depends. Some is cane sugar, some is beet sugar. While I would like to support the sugar beet farmers, I buy cane sugar. I read the labels, and I spring for a little more for that label.

              1. re: yddeyma

                I have used everything from store brand white to organic, honey, different kinds of syrup, etc. with more or less the same proofing and rising results. Of the store bought yeasts my favorite is Red Star. I get the big bag at Costco, and it lives in the fridge. My home made starter is just the wild yeast from the air living in a paste of flour (mainly white bread flour and sometimes a little whole wheat and/or rye), bottled (no chlorine) water, and a little sugar every week or two. It is my favorite, but it takes time to rise.

            2. Yeast issues, for sure, but you might also want to re-think both your rising time and place. Draft-free is the way to go...a nice warm closet or the inside of your microwave. If you have two ovens (a concept I only dream about) turn the oven light on in one and let your bread/rolls rise in there and heat the other for the baking.

              I truly live in a cool house-66-68 degrees in the day and find that does slow down a rise on the counter for sure...but even in that nice warm draft-free environment I create, a good rise (like doubled in size) can take 40 minutes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LJS

                These are my thought, too. That doesn't seem like enough rise time, unless the recipe calls for a large amount of yeast and it's not long enough of a rise for good taste/texture. If I'm doing sandwich bread and want a quicker rise, I use the Best Recipe method where you turn on the oven to 200 degrees, to preheat, turn it off and put the dough in there to proof. Rather than going by time, go by description. Temperature makes all the difference. The longer the rise the better and I've never had any yeast bread product that is finished rising in 20 minutes.

                Okay, I just looked up the recipe and it calls for 3 packets of yeast. If you (general you, not specific) do want to use the recipe, let it sit in the warm water until it becomes bubbly. If it doesn't react, it's probably not viable. Looking at the recipe, though, I'd probably pass on it.

              2. 20 minutes? You need closer to an hour for most yeast doughs to double in size. As for room temp, warmer is better. I usually turn on my oven fo 2 or 3 mins, then put the dough in an oven safe bowl and into the turned off oven. Again, remember to turn off the oven!! This seems to work very well for me.

                1. Back when I used commercial yeast, I'd had dead yeast packets that were packaged only a month or two before and set to expire in a couple of years. If you have problems with bread dough not rising, I would prove the yeast, regardless of expiry date, to see if the yeast is dead or alive.

                  1. Maybe ya put yeast in water that was too hot?? Think something like 110 is the max or ya kill it. My sister makes pizza almost EVRY Friday for dinner and buys yeast in bulk at Costco. A POUND of yeast is a LOT... and she shares it with me. Have a pint jar that lives in freezer... totally alive after a year or so.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kseiverd

                      this is my guess as well. If you are putting the yeast in water by itself first, it wouldn't be too hard to kill a lot of it with water that is too hot. Body temp is 98, so 100 degree water is hardly "warm", it is more neutral than anything to the touch.

                    2. I'd suggest trying something different, like yeast pancakes.

                      http://www.redstaryeast.com/our-best-...

                      I've made versions where the flour, water, yeast mixture sits overnight, developing lots of bubbles and some sourness. Then in the morning it is stirred down, and some eggs and baking powder are added. Most of the rise comes from the baking powder, while the yeast contributes flavor.

                      If this sort of spong develops lots of bubbles overnight, then your yeast is ok. I suspect room temperature and time are your real issues.

                      1. I had noticed that even new batches of Fleischmann's yeast didn't work all that well for me anymore. Perhaps they were stored poorly at the store or in transit, I don't know the reason. I switched over to Dr Oetker's brand and had no more problem.
                        Around here, besides at my German Butcher I can buy the Dr Oetker's brand at Chef Central. If I see fresh yeast in the store, I do prefer that, but it is hard to come by.

                        1. Double in size is the key term here.
                          The 20 minutes is arbitrary, the temperature of the room, ingredients and what kind of yeast will effect the time drastically.

                          1. The usual suspects are: water too hot (kills the yeast), room too cold (retards the yeast), too much salt (kills the yeast), yeast too old (dead). I'd experiment with each of these variables, one at a time, until I found the culprit.

                            If you're following the recipe(s) and still "nothing ever rises" then it must be some external factor. First and foremost check the temp of the water. Use a thermometer. Then check the ambient temperature to be sure it's not too cold for a faster rise. If in doubt, put the dough into an oven with the oven light on. Sometimes the light can generate enough heat, but not too much, to speed up the rise.

                            If the yeast is still lively it will still rise in a cold room, the rise will just take longer. Sometimes the only way to resolve a problem like this is to experiment with your ingredients and methods. Once you know what should happen and when, then you can put your experiences to the test.

                            1. The temperature of the room makes a huge difference. I was making some "No Knead" bread last year in winter/January and it was not rising...I was distressed because anyone who has used that recipe knows the dough springs up very nicely and this had never happened to me with tons of loaves being produced by me.My daughter who was staying with me explained that my kitchen was way too cold@around 62 degrees and taught me to either throw it in the oven with the light on or preheat the oven to 200 turn it off and proof the dough in there. 75 degrees is warm...so maybe you are inaccurate about the actual room temp. Experiment with the yeast and ways to proof the dough.

                              1. 1 Are you using rapid rise instant yeast? If not that will effect your rising times.

                                2 You can kill the yeast from water being too warm.

                                3 Storage: are you storing your yeast in the fridge? I buy in bulk and store in the freezer.

                                4 active dry yeast does not require proofing. I never proof my yeast, I just mix it straight into the flour.

                                5 room temperature; Don't bother going by the time, go by how much the dough has risen. Using measured dough proofing containers makes it easy to see how much it's actually risen.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rasputina

                                  But, proofing the yeast will show the OP whether or not the batch of yeast they are using is dead. So, using a bad batch of yeast, without proofing can be a waste of time and ingredients.
                                  I would check this particular batch of yeast by proofing it first. if it proofs O.K., then it's not a yeast issue and one can look at the other factors. And yes, mix it straight into the flour for the next time.

                                2. Use a meat thermometer to test the temp of your water until you get the feel of it.

                                  1. I agree with many of the posts here. It is likely one of these things:

                                    1. Your proofing water is too hot and is killing the yeast.
                                    2. Your yeast is dead before you even begin.
                                    3. You are not giving it enough time to rise.

                                    The following things are amazing but true:

                                    1. Bread dough will rise in the refrigerator - warmth is not necessary.
                                    2. Sugar is not necesssary.
                                    3. You do not need to proof yeast; you can just stir it into some/most of your flour and then add liquid.
                                    4. Slower/colder rises result in better results.
                                    5. You are not in charge here, your dough will direct you on the timing.
                                    6. Wow, 75 degrees is NOT a cool room! Where do you live? Right now my outside thermometer reads 9 F, and my thermostat is set on 67 F. If you live in the tropics, however, I am currently jealous. At any rate, if your room is 75, you do NOT need to let your bread rise close to the oven. Just give it time!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      Good synopsis. Numbers 1 and 4 go hand in hand--slow the rise in the refrigerator for the best bread. I stopped proofing my yeast, too, and it's so much easier. I do think the OP should try it because it could be the yeast and she/he wouldn't waste the flour then.

                                      As I said above, get rid of the timer and just go by description.

                                    2. When I proof yeast for pizza and bread doughs, I put a tablespoon of yeast, a cup of warm water, a pinch of sugar and a bit of olive oil (optional) in a bowl and let it sit in a warm spot for about 20 minutes: if the mixture is bubbly and foamy then it's good to go with the rest of the ingredients. That's what I think the word proof means: if the yeast is good, it will still take upwards of an hour for the first rise.

                                      How warm was the rising place? I sometimes have to resort to heating my oven up to the lowest temperature setting, turning it off, then letting the dough rise in there, or setting it near the stovetop while something else is cooking, or putting it in a sunny window.

                                      1. Others have pointed out problems with the yeast, how it is handled, and the ambient temperature. Direct contact with salt can also kill yeast, but I am not attentive to this and still have never had a problem. Similarly, though I have had my breads not turn out as intended on occasion, I have never, ever in decades of regular baking had a bad batch of yeast. Not once. That doesn't mean it can't occur--just that I would not think that that is the most probable explanation here, especially given that the yeast bubbled as expected when proofed.

                                        There is one other very important factor to consider, and one which is, in my experience, a much more likely one at play than yeast problems based on the information provided: The dough! Doughs that are too dry or too heavy can struggle to rise--this is especially a problem for novices who hand-knead, as you can easily work too much flour in AND give up too early when your arms start to cramp. Poor gluten development due to the wrong flour or insufficient kneading are also very common problems, and these impede rising. Whole grain flour and additives such as seeds, nuts, etc. all weaken the gluten and weigh down the dough. The triple-whammy (dry, heavy dough that has not been kneaded enough) yields especially disappointing results.

                                        Poor shaping can also be a factor--if you don't form your loaves/rolls in such a way that they are under tension, they don't rise nice and high.

                                        Using a really hot oven (I start at 475) gives you maximum oven spring by forming steam to expand the loaf before the crust hardens enough to prevent further expansion. Misting the loaf also helps because it slows down crust formation just a little longer. Slashing the bread well also helps get maximum oven spring.

                                        As for the rapid roll recipe mentioned by the original poster...that just looks like a bad recipe: It uses three packages (!) of yeast for 24 rolls--so it might just rise in 20 minutes in a very, very environment. But that is likely to result in an overly yeasty taste. In addition, the recipe calls for "4 to 6 cups of flour, plus more if needed." Factoring in the water in the honey, eggs, and butter, that weighs in 110% to 73% hydration, which is an enormous range. Add in "plus more if needed," and you could end up with a pretty dry, heavy dough.

                                        Sweeter doughs will, strangely enough, also rise more slowly. With a really sweet bread it is advised to use a special osmotolerant yeast While the sugar concentration of the roll recipe (and likely the failed cinnamon rolls as well) is enough that it will slow things down, it is not enough to make it fail.

                                        A few recommendations:

                                        1) Don't give up! Making good home-made bread is one of the kitchen's magical experiences. Anyone is capable of turning out an excellent bread with a little practice and guidance. Anyone!

                                        2) Don't aim for perfection. Even a suboptimal loaf (and I have made more than a few myself) can still be delicious and nutritious.

                                        3) Get a decent cookbook rather than relying on dodgy internet recipes or advice from self-proclaimed know-it-alls like myself. I would get one that focuses on technique, such as Rose Levy Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible." Without more guidance to get started your chances of success are lower and when you do succeed, you may have trouble replicating it. Above all else, you learn very quickly how to figure out which factor of the many possible ones likely resulted in a disappointing result.

                                        4) Invite an experienced friend who is a bread maker to make something together. There is no substitute for that, given that as you are learning, there are many, many things that can go wrong.

                                        5) Consider taking a course--many of them out there at community colleges, community education, bakeries, etc.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: zamorski

                                          I agree with all the discussion regarding checking whether the yeast is alive, however regarding room temperature - here is a deep dark secret....if you have live yeast, and mixed the dough properly your kitchen can be very cold and the dough will be fine, it will just take longer to rise.....in fact last week it was warmer up here in Edmonton Alberta, around 25 F give or take, so I shoved my buckwheat/spelt/whole wheat/regular flour baguettes outside for a long ferment, the dough spent a couple of hours out there and when I brought it in was almost frozen, shoved into the oven on low (was going out so had to speed the last bit of fermentation up a bit) warmed it until it had loosened up, shaped it, and did final raise and voila a wonderful batch of bread. ( this loaf has a couple of sours which I add to my poolish - so does a cold, because our kitchen in winter hovers about 65, ferment overnight)

                                          For doughs requiring lamination such as croissants one of the best ways for home cooks to have proper layers is to actually freeze the dough in between turns. It takes a little time to get use to the sweet spot where the dough is still cold enough that the butter doesn't crack but not so warm it oozes out and without a sheeter much harder to do.

                                          As for water temperature, distilled water, and all that I never bother and have never had a problem - I buy pound a yeast which will last a couple of years without any ill effects!

                                          I also second taking courses, I have always made bread but after taking professional level bread-baking courses. I completely revamped my bread-making - little or no fat or sugars, very reduced amounts of yeast, much longer fermentation and much hotter ovens (except for richer breads like Challah) there has been a vast improvement in my breads! PS. another great trick wetter doughs!!!!