How to Save a Dough That Doesn't Grow: 12 Steps

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How to Save a Dough That Doesn't Grow: 12 Steps
How to Save a Dough That Doesn't Grow: 12 Steps

You've already planned everything: dinner, wine, fresh bread along with those wonderful ribs, straight from the butcher's. Everything is going well until you discover that the bread dough is not rising. This is a common problem for many home bakers: You try so hard to make a good-shaped bread, but the yeast seems to have gone on vacation. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to diagnose and resolve. Read on for instructions on how to get the yeast working again.


Method 1 of 2: Repairing the Dough

Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 1

Step 1. Raise the temperature

Yeast loves a warm, humid climate to live its fermented life to the fullest. In order for your dough to grow, you need to give the yeast what it wants.

  • Fill a baking sheet with boiling water and place it on the lowest shelf in the oven. Place the dough pan on the center shelf, close the oven door and let the dough rise.
  • Alternatively, you can boil a glass of water in the microwave and place the container with the dough next to this glass inside the appliance. Do not heat the dough in the microwave!
  • Some people turn on the oven and place the dough on top of the stove, covered with a damp towel. The oven keeps the stove surface warm, and the towel provides moisture.
Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 2

Step 2. Add more yeast

If heat and humidity aren't activating it (you'll know in less than an hour), you can try adding more yeast.

  • Open a new packet of yeast and mix 1 teaspoon of yeast with 1 cup (240 ml) of warm water at about 45°C and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow this mixture to activate for about 10 minutes, until it has 1, 5 to 2, 5 cm of foam. If it doesn't work, you'll need to try again with fresh yeast.
  • While the mixture is active, gently heat the dough to about 40 °C by placing the bowl in a warm place.
Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 3

Step 3. Mix the activator

Add more flour if necessary: ​​A ratio of 60% flour to 40% liquid is usually good for bread dough, so add as needed to balance. Knead the active yeast mixture into the dough and let it rise in a warm, moist place.

  • This can also be an indicator that the yeast is not active, as this method makes the yeast very active. When it is added to the dough, it should rise perfectly. If it still does not grow, the yeast is not to blame: there is another problem.
  • You can also make this addition at the beginning of the recipe, the next time you make a different dough.

Step 4. Knead more flour

See if the dough is tacky to the touch. In that case, she probably wasn't beaten enough. Add more flour until the dough is smooth and silky to the touch, without sticking to your hand. Let it sit and grow in a warm, moist place. Repeat if necessary. You may need to let the dough rest overnight before shaping and baking.

Step 5. Knead the dough well

Kneading is an art. With a little kneading, you may not be able to distribute the yeast through the dough, which will then become too weak to be able to grow. Kneading too much can make the dough so hard it cannot expand. The result should be soft and elastic, not hard like a rubber ball or soft like cookie dough.

Method 2 of 2: Solving Problems with Dough

Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 6

Step 1. Find the problem

See some of the following points to make a preliminary diagnosis. Perhaps simply correcting the environment will solve the problem without further effort.

  • Check the type of yeast and dough. Some cultures are very slow to grow and may take several hours.
  • See if the yeast has expired. Packets of baking powder last a long time, as do jars of dry yeast stored in the freezer. However, both fresh and dry yeast have a shelf life. After that, they get weak or don't work.
Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 7

Step 2. Check the environment

The ideal temperature is approximately 40 °C and with high humidity. If you stray too far from that band, the yeast will not be happy.

Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 8

Step 3. Look at the types of flour

Breads made with cake flour or universal bread are low in gluten and protein, so the dough can rise and then fall.

  • This problem can also occur if the dough has a very high proportion of water to flour.
  • Some flours contain antifungal components to prolong shelf life. As yeast is part of the Fungi kingdom, these components will inhibit growth.
  • Organic white bread flour is the best way to make good bread.
  • Heavier flours such as whole wheat, rye and other types will result in a heavy bread that does not grow as much as fine white flour.

Step 4. Let the dough rest

Do not disturb her while she is growing, especially if she is particularly wet.

Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 10

Step 5. Use the proper container

The pan, the fermentation basket ("banneton") or the baking pan used will make the difference. If they are too big, the dough has nothing to push as it grows, so it won't grow upwards. Instead, it will spread and perhaps fall.

Buns are good if placed together

Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 11

Step 6. Check your ingredients

Some spices, such as cinnamon, are naturally antifungal.

  • For sweet fruit buns or cinnamon rolls, it's usually a good idea to choose a yeast that grows fast, as the spice will end up killing the fungus.
  • Some dried fruits are also coated with antifungals as a preservative. Organic dried fruits are expensive, but much better for baking. What many bakers do is use standard dried fruit, but which they only add on the last activation.
Fix Dough That Won't Rise Step 12

Step 7. Beware of salt

This is a necessary ingredient to build the gluten proteins that make the dough soft and elastic, but too much kills the yeast. Use only as much as you need and add salt to the flour, not water, at first.


  • Check the proportion of flour and water. The best is 60:40 flour to water. A very wet dough can work, but it is more likely to spread or grow and then fall out.
  • Bread dough that doesn't work can be recycled into batter, pastry and other baked goods without being totally wasted. In these cases, you have an unfermented aeration product, such as baking soda, baking soda and citric acid, beer, lemonade, carbonated water, or layers of butter like in puff pastry.
  • Test the water and flour from time to time. The pH can be a problem: if it's too high or too low, it will kill the yeast. Test one sample of water alone, another sample of neutral water mixed with flour, and another sample of neutral water with flour. In it, mix baking soda (for acidity) or vinegar (for alkalinity). If the liquid foams a little, the pH is out of balance. If there is no foam, the pH is good. Note: You can also purchase a pH test kit from your pool supply store.
  • Preheat the oven for at least five minutes before using it. Using a pizza stone can also help transfer heat to the baking pan that the bread is in, or you can place the bread directly on the hot stone. Many breads fail in a cold oven.
  • The big problem with slow-activating bread yeasts is that the dough is kneaded to activate gluten and proteins, making it elastic and soft. Over time, she relaxes and becomes weak, and the bubbles inside her burst. Knowing whether the dough weakens before the yeast is ready is something you learn with time and observation. You can improve the dough by adding more gluten or bread improvers, but this problem is not easy to solve for gluten-free breads. Slow activation is ideal for thin doughs, such as sweet breads or pastries, so that the result does not have large bubbles. Sometimes activation is done in the refrigerator overnight.


  • If all repair attempts fail, you may need to change all ingredients and start over.
  • Fixing yeast dough can be very difficult in some cases, especially if you have buttered layers like puff pastries or croissants. If you were to knead these doughs again, you would create a brioche-style dough, which might even serve. But if you want that characteristic of scales, you'll have to start over.

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