Dough not rising? Find out WHY…

Preparing yeast dough can be quite tricky at first. But once mastered, it becomes one of the easiest kitchen tasks! I have compiled this note for those who’ve had trouble in the past when dealing with all kinds of yeast doughs. Hopefully this will answer most of yeast-dough related questions and will be useful for those who want to learn how to make sure that their dough turns out perfect every time. I will add to this note if I recall any other tips. 🙂

TIP ON YEAST CONVERSIONS: If the recipe calls for Instant Yeast and you have Active Dry, then adjust by increasing the amount of yeast by about a quarter tsp extra for every 1 tsp of Instant Yeast required. For example, if the recipes requires 1 tsp Instant yeast, use 1 and a quarter tsp Active Dry instead.

Whilst Instant Yeast can be added directly to the flour, Active Dry needs to be activated first. So put the yeast to a small bowl, and add a couple pinches of sugar. Then add some warm water, enough to cover the yeast by about an inch or so. Make sure the water is WARM not HOT otherwise the yeast will get killed and won’t work as it should. Cover this bowl and set it aside for about 10-15 minutes until it is frothy. Then use in the recipe as directed. Here are the causes and solutions for dough not rising.

1) YEAST

The most important ingredient for yeast-dough to work properly is YEAST. If the yeast is not or cannot be activated properly, the dough will not rise. My favourite brand of yeast is SAF Instant yeast. I believe it is available pretty much everywhere. (They are not paying me to advertise their brand lol. It really IS the best yeast out there. :P)

Here’s how to test your yeast and make sure that it is working properly. This is also known as ‘proofing’.

Put 1 tsp of yeast in a small cup/bowl. Add 2 small pinches of sugar. Add some WARM water, just enough to cover the yeast by about an inch. Make sure the water is not HOT. It should be warm enough for you to dip a finger into it without getting burnt. Yeast needs the warmth to get properly activated but if the water is too hot you will end up killing the yeast, therefore it will not work. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 10-15 minutes. When you check on it again, the yeast will be frothy and will have expanded in volume. This means the yeast is GOOD. If nothing happens, give it a few more minutes and check again. Still nothing? Yeast is not good, throw it out and get a new pack. 🙂

If you’re using Instant Yeast, unless specified otherwise in a recipe, you can just add it directly to the ingredients and use. However if you’re using Active Dry Yeast, you will need to activate/proof the yeast before adding it to the ingredients. So be sure to check what type of yeast you are using before proceeding with a recipe.

Sometimes dough will take a little longer than the time approximated in a recipe, depending on the brand of yeast being used. Some yeast brands are really good and work very fast, others take longer.

Now, other than the yeast being bad, there are several other causes for yeast-dough not to rise. These include:

2) WEATHER

In colder climates, yeast takes longer to work. In this case, you can increase the amount of yeast that you use in the dough from about half a tsp to double the amount required, depending on how cold it is and how urgently you need to use it. Also, make sure you place the bowl with the dough in the warmest area of your home, next to the heater or stove.

If the dough STILL does not rise (and you’re sure that the yeast was good) then preheat your oven to a very low temperature, like around 90 C. Once heated, turn the oven OFF and then stick your bowl of dough (covered) in the oven. The warmth in there will help the dough rise faster.

Another way to speed dough along especially in cold weather is to put the bowl holding the dough in a BIGGER bowl which contains some hot water. Like a water bath. The warmth of the water will help the dough to rise evenly.

3) HOT WATER/LIQUID USED DURING KNEADING

During preparation of dough, most recipes require you to use some water/milk to bring the dough together. In most cases, recipes require WARM water/milk. As mentioned above, warm liquid helps activate the yeast. But if you end up warming the water/milk too much such that it is HOT instead of WARM, you will end up killing the yeast as you pour it into the ingredients. Therefore the dough will not rise. Make sure that the water/milk is warmed just enough to be ‘bearable’ when you stick a finger into it and count to 10. If it burns, too hot! Let it cool a little bit and then use.

4) STORAGE

Yeast needs to be stored in an airtight container and then refrigerated to ensure that it lasts a long time without spoiling. I normally buy a big pack of yeast, and gradually add some into a small very airtight container which I keep in the door of my fridge. The remaining pack of yeast I normally seal in a plastic bag and also store it on the door of the fridge, away from moisture. The yeast lasts up to a year without expiring.

TIP ON HOW TO MAKE USE OF DOUGH THAT DID NOT RISE

If you’re sure you’re yeast was tested and is fine, and you’ve done everything right but STILL the dough won’t rise, you can still re-use it for something else. Break the dough into small balls, roll them out thin like chapatis and cook them on a tava/flat pan to make wraps. Add a filling of your choice, some salad and sauces, roll them up and serve! 🙂

69 thoughts on “Dough not rising? Find out WHY…
69 Replies
  • Aoa Fauzia,
    Aoa Fauzia,
    When you say ‘in colder climates’, would summer time in UK means cold climate?i live in the UK,, and its obviously not warm even in summers,should I increase quantity of yeast?

    • I would recommend that you
      I would recommend that you first try with the amount specified in the recipe. If the dough refuses to rise and you’ve ruled out all other reasons as to why that may have happened (yeast is good and you are using the right type of yeast) then you can add more yeast on the next lot of dough.

  • Hi, lets say i wana freze the
    Hi, lets say i wana freze the dough that has khameer in it n it has rised up. What do i do to freeze it
    and use it the next day??? Urgent reply please…..:-)

    • Hi, sorry for the late reply.
      Hi, sorry for the late reply. Punch it down and then wrap it up well with cling film and refirgerate until you are ready to use it the following day.

  • Aslama Alaikum. Hajj and Eid
    Aslama Alaikum. Hajj and Eid Mubarik. Wish u a blessed one. Dear fauzia please i need ur help with yeast receipies..i am stuck on each and every one of them. MY DOUGH JUST NOT RISE! nomatter wat i do!! As per your recommendation i used SAF Instant yeast, did the yeast test and the yeast was good as it was frothy.. But when i put it in to the dough nothing happens whyyyyy am soo lost! The water or milk i used was of the rite temperature i.e. I checked by putting my finger in it and counted till ten… Yes i read each and every comment of urz so i could knw the ans without disturbing u but nothing helping me. I tried ur Pita bread receipie thrice then gol gappa receipie and then Yeast raised Doughnut receipie… Nothing working for me whyyyyy.. Plzz help n pray for me i desperately want to master the yeast dough.. 🙁

    • That is so strange, because
      That is so strange, because if the yeast is good am surprised as to why it does not make the dough rise. One thing I have learned is that yeast is killed by salt. So do you add the salt directly on top of the yeast? Try mixing the salt with the flour so it does not land directly on to the yeast. Maybe that will help. Otherwise increase the amount of yeast that you use by up to half the amount extra. Let me know if that helps.Also make sure to keep the dough in a warm place, and keep it covered at all times.

  • Salams Fauzia, I’ve tried
    Salams Fauzia, I’ve tried making doughnuts and the yeast didn’t rise this time. Can it possibly be because of excess oil ? And how do I get crunchy doughnuts as the kids love crunchy..

    • W/Salaam, as far as I know
      W/Salaam, as far as I know oil will not cause yeast to not work. It could be something else, like either the milk/water used was too hot or the yeast is off etc. For crunchy doughnuts, use the quick-fix one that I have in the folder. Yeast raised ones will tend to be soft. Baking powder ones are normally more cookie-like in texture.

  • Salaams Fauzia, thanks so
    Salaams Fauzia, thanks so much for your recipes. everyone I know cannot stop raving about them 😉 I had a question – my dough almost never rises. Ive tested everything else, I have a feeling its to do with the actual kneading, or not using enough liquid or too much liquid. I made the chicken bread dough last week and it turned out brilliant (surprise for me!), this morning it isn’t rising. I put it in a warmed oven and its risen a little, but not very soft and airy. Am I using too little water? I used just over half a cup of warm water for 4 cups flour

    • W/Salaam, It’s generally
      W/Salaam, It’s generally difficult to estimate how much water/milk is needed exactly as different flours absorb differently and different altitudes affect absorption rates. Mix half a cup of milk with half a cup of water. Warm it up, then gradually add and knead the dough. Use as much as it will take to get the dough to a soft and smooth consistency. You may need more water/milk or you may not need to use all. Once you’ve got the hang of it with your particular brand of flour, you will know for sure for next time. Also make sure your yeast is being stored correctly in an airtight container.

  • Salam Fauzia,
    Salam Fauzia,

    I tried the doughnuts recipe and like they say practice makes perfect. mine turns out perfect these days. thanks for the recipe

    • My oven works differently (I
      My oven works differently (I don’t have to switch on various rods at any time) but I believe for ovens like what you are using, start with the bottom one and then midway turn on the top. Accordingly see how the results are and adjust. 🙂

  • Salaams sister fauziya I am
    Salaams sister fauziya I am new to ur site its really great.I need to know I have instant yeast should I add it to warm water to make ur doughnuts.because instant yeast could be added directly but ur recipe says prove it in warm water please reply.I am waiting.thanks.

  • Salam Fauzia,
    Salam Fauzia,
    I was making rose rolls with half ingredients and I made the mistake of adding active yeast directly…now the dough is not rising…can I still add some more yeast after activating it?
    If not, then how can I use this dough?

    • W/Salaam, unfortunately the
      W/Salaam, unfortunately the dough cannot be salvaged by adding activated yeast. You can use it for wraps or any flat bread as mentioned at the bottom of this note.

  • Hi, I’ve been trying to make
    Hi, I’ve been trying to make doughnuts for a over long time , I used instant yeast mixed in warm water instead of dry active yeast, and it doesn’t rise, is the problem because I mixed instant yeast with water?

    • Hi, the problem could be with
      Hi, the problem could be with the yeast itself, it may be old or no longer working. Yeast of any sort will bubble up when soaked in warm water for some minutes. It doesn’t matter whether it is dry yeast or instant yeast, that is how you know the yeast is still good.

  • hi,
    hi,
    im reffering to a question by Tasima in 2012, she asked how much active dry should she use if recipe calls for 21/4 tsp instant and you replied 1 tblsp active dry but in the above yeast conversion you said to add an extra 1/4 tsp…… im now confused. Also, my yeast is by Allison and is Easy Bake yeast, “use when a recipe calls for ‘fast action’ ‘instant’ or ‘easy blend’ yeast.
    so know would i use the same amount as the instant or add an extra tsp because its actually dry.

    thank you

    • Hi. You would need to add
      Hi. You would need to add about a quarter tsp over each 1 tsp of instant yeast. So if the recipe uses more than 1 tsp of yeast you will need a bit more. Hope that helps. And yes, that yeast can be used in place of instant yeast, no need to add any extra.

  • Assalamualaikum . If u can
    Assalamualaikum . If u can provide me the recipe for bun dough, because the buns I made was not soft , I don’t know as what is wrong ….

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