5 Common Mistakes That Keep Bread Dough From Rising

Bread is a staple food in homes around the world.

Ever dreamed of baking the perfect loaf, only to end up with a stubborn disc? We’ve all been there. One of the most common obstacles on the road to perfect bread is dough that refuses to rise. Don’t worry, baking bread isn’t magic (even if it can feel like it sometimes!). You’ll be surprised to learn that even the most seasoned bakers end up with flat dough. Let’s uncover the common mistakes you might be making that can prevent your dough from reaching its full potential, and ensure your next bake produces a beautiful rise.

Read also: Make Healthy Brown Bread with Wheat Flour at Home

Here are 5 common mistakes that keep your bread dough from rising:

Mistake #1: Are you using the wrong yeast?

  • Dead or inactive yeast: This is the most likely culprit. Make sure your yeast is fresh by checking the expiration date and performing a simple activation test. Mix warm water (about 105 degrees F) with a pinch of sugar and the yeast. If it doesn’t foam up after a few minutes, your yeast is bad.
  • Liquid Temperature: Yeast is a living organism and, like us, it thrives in a warm, comfortable environment. Lukewarm water (about 105 degrees F) is ideal. Boiling water will kill the yeast, while cold water will make it sluggish.

Mistake #2 – Are you using ingredients incorrectly?

  • Incorrect measurements: Baking is a science and precision is important. Invest in a good kitchen scale for accurate measurements. Too much flour can make the dough tough and prevent it from rising, while too little will result in a sticky, structureless mixture.
  • Salt on Yeast: Salt can inhibit yeast activity. Always add salt after incorporating yeast into wet ingredients.

Read also: Roti or wholemeal bread. Which is healthier?

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It is important to knead the dough well to obtain perfect bread. Photo credit: iStock

Mistake #3: Are you kneading the dough carelessly?

  • Under-kneading: Kneading develops the gluten network in the flour, which is essential for trapping the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast, allowing the dough to rise. Under-kneading results in weak dough that does not hold its shape or rise properly.
  • Over-kneading: While kneading is important, it is also possible to overdo it. Over-kneaded dough becomes tough and elastic, with little rising potential. Aim for a smooth, elastic dough that springs back when gently poked.

Mistake #4: Are you neglecting proofreading?

  • Temperature: Dough needs a warm environment to rise effectively. Ideally, aim for a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool kitchen can slow down the process considerably. If your kitchen is cold, consider placing the dough in a warm oven with the light on (not on) to create a gentle warmth.
  • Not enough time: Patience is key! Rising time can vary depending on the recipe, the type of flour used, and the room temperature. Don’t be tempted to cut the process short. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, and resist the urge to constantly watch, as this can deflate it.
  • Dry environment: Dry air can form a crust on the surface of the dough, preventing it from rising evenly. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to create a humid environment.

Mistake #5 – Don’t know these oven tips?

  • Incorrect oven temperature: An underheated oven will not provide enough heat to activate the yeast and promote rising. Conversely, an overheated oven can kill the yeast and burn the outside of the bread before the inside has a chance to rise completely. Double-check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer for accuracy.
  • Let the steam out: Steam is essential in the initial phase of baking. It helps create a moist crust and allows the dough to continue to rise in the oven. Consider tossing a few ice cubes into a preheated pan on the bottom of the oven to create a burst of steam, or spray the sides of the oven with water just before placing the bread in.

Bonus tips:

1. Use bread flour:
Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which results in a stronger gluten network and better rise.
2. Autolysis:
Many bread recipes call for an autolyse step, where flour and water are mixed and allowed to sit for 20 to 30 minutes before adding other ingredients. This hydrates the flour and speeds up gluten development, leading to a better rise.
Remember that baking is a learning experience. Don’t let failures discourage you!

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