Slow or No Rise

Here are some helpful solutions for the common causes:

  • Liquid temperature too hot or too cold

    If liquid temperature is too hot (above 135°F) it can kill the yeast. If it is too cold (below 105°F), the yeast will not become activated. The liquid should feel as warm as bath water, not hot, on your hand. To insure the temperature is not too hot or too cold, use an instant-read or candy thermometer to check the temperature.

  • Inactive yeast
    • Check the expiration date on the yeast package. Outdated yeast should not be used. Storing yeast improperly can also shorten its shelf life.
    • To test yeast, “proof” it: Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water along with 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Allow the mixture to stand 5 minutes. If the liquid “swells” – gets foamy and expands – the yeast is alive.
    • If dough does not rise because of inactive yeast, dissolve another good package or cake of yeast in 1/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Add this mixture slowly to the dough, kneading it in well. Return dough to greased bowl; cover, set it in a warm place and the dough should rise.
  • Poor gluten development
    • It is possible the dough was not kneaded long enough. It takes time for gluten to develop fully. Bread dough should be kneaded 4 to 10 minutes. When you have kneaded the dough enough, it will be smooth and elastic, and tacky rather than sticky. A good test is to press the heel of your hand firmly and deeply into the dough; hold it there 10 seconds. If your hand comes away clean, you have kneaded the dough enough.
    • In the South, all-purpose flour is milled from soft winter wheat which is lower in gluten; it therefore will not produce the best yeast breads. For best results, use bread flour or a national brand of all-purpose flour.
    • Whole wheat, cake, self-rising and non-wheat flours such as rye, oat, barley, rice and soy have too little gluten. Yeast breads need flour with higher levels of gluten to produce a good bread structure and to rise properly. For best results, combine these flours with bread flour or a national brand of all-purpose flour. A good rule of thumb is to use two parts bread or all-purpose flour to one part other flour. You can also increase the amount of yeast used in the recipe, but this may give the baked bread a slightly sour, "yeasty" flavor. Learn more about flour.
  • Dough was too cold for yeast to grow

    The best temperature for bread dough to rise is 80°F to 85°F. If your kitchen is cool, place the bowl containing the dough on the top rack of an unheated oven and place a pan filled with hot water on the rack beneath it.

  • Excess sugar inhibits gluten development; very sweet yeast dough rises slowly

    While sugar and other sweeteners provide "food" for yeast, too much sugar can damage yeast, drawing liquid from the yeast and hampering its growth. Too much sugar also slows down gluten development. Add extra yeast to the recipe or find a similar recipe with less sugar. Sweet yeast doughs will take longer to rise.

  • Ratio of dry ingredients to liquid was too high
    • Too much flour makes dough too stiff to rise properly.
    • Be careful measuring flour. When flour is "scooped" into the measuring cup directly from the container, it compresses or becomes packed. This means you will be adding more flour than called for in the recipe. Spoon flour from the container into the measuring cup and use a metal spatula or the flat side of a knife to level the flour even with the top of the cup.
    • Add as little flour as possible when kneading the dough. Learn more about flour.
  • Fat added at the wrong time slows rising time

    While fat added to yeast dough helps produce a loaf that has a moister crumb and keeps fresher longer, fat added to flour before the liquid called for in the recipe will coat the protein in the flour and prevent the gluten from forming. However, if small amounts of fat (a little vegetable oil or melted butter) are added after mixing the dough and just before kneading, fats increase the gas-holding ability of yeast dough and the volume of the bread will increase. Learn more about Fats in Baking.