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
  • thanks fauzia 4 such a nice tips,sometimes im having problem wid da yeast,when i uses only yeast da bread come out lil harder so i always add baking powder with yeast. i didnt know abt da storage of yeast ,thanks

  • Now i understand why my dough was not raising while making donuts from your recipe .. i have dry instant yeast and i put it in warm water according to your instruction .. grrr finally i got the answer INSHALLAH i will try next time and they will turn out GOOD 🙂

      • I tried again and they turned out EXCELLENT … thanks alotttt u r my best sister !

        I really want to keep all ur recipes in my kitchen after marriage every time when i try ur recipe i used my TABLET/Laptop which is difficult .. please if you ever find the time to write a book, i would love to buy for my self and for my family and frnds 🙂

        May Allah bless u with good health ameen

  • Assalamualikum dear..
    This is 1 of d Very helpful note i guess :P..
    I just wanted to know,i bought a packet of Instant Yeast few days back,but i didnt use..(bcz i never made anything with that)on d packet it is written..NO NEED TO ADD WARM WATER.ADD D YEAST DIRECTLY TO THE FLOUR…
    what should i do now?btw it is not SAF,it is DCL instant yeast..

    • W/Salaam, make sure you store the yeast somewhere cool and dry, like in the fridge. And yes, if it is instant yeast there is no need to mix in warm water, just add it directly to the flour and knead. Almost all my dough recipes are with Instant Yeast. Looking forward to hearing what recipe you decide to attempt! 🙂

  • foziiii..slms..there r doughs which need to be lft for an hr n i hav to go bak to work.so m wondern if i make the dough like durin lunch hw do i keep it till wen i come back in the evnin to make the bread?eg for the rose garden.needs 1 hr to rise n cum bak like from work like 3 hrs later

    • Salmiii!! W/Salaam dear. What I do in that case is, after kneading the dough, don’t give it time to rise. Just wrap it loosely in cling film or put it in a plastic bag and close it off, then place this in the fridge (even in a sealed container is fine). The dough will continue to rise in the fridge, but because of the coolness, it will rise SLOWER than it would outside. When you’re back home, get it out of the fridge about half an hour before you need to use it. This helps reduce the coldness in the dough and loosens it up a bit so it becomes easier to work with.

  • Hi Fauzia’s kitchen this is a great website!. I was asking about how long to knead when making mahamri (mandazi). Last week I used the instant yeast and let the dough rise for about 6 hours before cutting them up but still when frying they did not look nice and didnt plump up . Could it be that I did not knead the dough enough or didnt get the dough to a good consistency. Please help!How do I know when I have kneaded the dough well.

    • Hi, please test the yeast to make sure it is working. After rolling out and cutting the mandazi, did you allow them to rise again before frying?

  • salam sis, my yeast was named ‘instant dry yeast’ so i used this directly with flour to make pizza dough.. But it dint rise.. What is the reason? Shal i activate it when i use it for the next time? We dont get the SAF brand here. I used ‘ mauripan’ is it a good brand??

    • W/Salaam, it can be that the yeast was not good. Try testing it to see if it is working well, use this note as a guide and let me know what the results are. Have not heard of mauripan brand so am not sure on whether it is good or not, sorry dear. Yeast

  • salam sis, jazakallah 4 ur note. i testd it n i found that there isn’t any problm with the yeast,,, evn it was named instant, it shud be activtd 1st. And witout wastng the tested yeast, i tried it with making some naans.. Wow it was great!! Then i made some yoghurt rolls,, u shud see how it did rise??? After baking the rolls, thy were so soft n beautiful.. Alhamdulillah.

  • Asa, prepared dough for Honeycomb bread…however the instant yeast did not rise. I also did the yeast check. Also in the dough you could see the round yeast. Is that okay?

  • The yeast was frothy after the test. And I did give it more time to rest…overnight actually. I ended up using that dough for chappatis and it was delicious with Chicken 65. But I do want to try the honeycomb bread. If it doesn’t rise should I not proceed with the recipe? And also your recipes are awesome and the detail methods makes it fun to follow 🙂

    • Try doubling the amount of yeast in the recipe and see if that helps. Be careful NOT to pour hot water/milk on the yeast as that will kill it instantly, liquids should be warm. Let me know how they turn out when you try the honeycomb. 🙂

  • I’ve always used it directly from the fridge without any problem as it is a very small amount normally used in recipes and should come to room temperature fairly quickly.

    • W/Salaam, pour some into a small airtight tin for your regular use (you can keep refilling this tin as needed) and place the tin on the fridge door. The rest of the pack, wrap it up well and tape it down, then put it in a plastic bag and tie it up tight. You can also refrigerate this pack and only open it whenever you need to refill your regular-use tin.

  • im a big fan of yours, pls
    im a big fan of yours, pls tell me that these days saf instant yeast packs available in grocery stores are like a hard rock and not in powder form? y is that even thoughits not expired or unsealed? is that yeast worth purchasing???

    • It’s compacted that way to
      It’s compacted that way to prevent the yeast from dying out from air exposure but once you open the pack it should be in powder form inside.

    • W/Salaam, it doesn’t have to
      W/Salaam, it doesn’t have to be airtight, you can just cover the bowl that contains the dough with a towel or a plate and that will be good enough. Keep the bowl somewhere that is not drafty, like inside a switched off oven or microwave.

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