The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bread dough will not rise, stays dense. Help plz

Bardo's picture

Bread dough will not rise, stays dense. Help plz

Hello there, 

I enjoy doing some baking on occasion,but I cannot even get a basic bread recipe right. I will proof the yeast, add the required flour and then knead ,let rise but the dough never sticks together or becomes elastic enough. Kneading is a nightmare and half the dough ends up either on the counter or my hands no matter how much flour I use. The bread dough will not rise well either. As it bakes, it does not become light,but stays dense and the final product has a very noticeable yeast taste. I am following the most basic of bread recipes to a T and I still do not understand why I get such crappy results. Any advice appreciated. Thank you.

jimbtv's picture

If you are willing to do a bit of research on this site I can assure you that you will be baking great loaves of bread in short order. Here are a couple of things to get you started.

Along the header in this forum you will find "Recipes". Basic bread is flour, water, salt and yeast. The flour does not need to be anything special and for the basics I'd use an all-purpose unbleached white flour. It will be the most forgiving until you get your system down. If you use city water it is probably treated with chlorine. I'd recommend you set out a container of water overnight to let the chlorine dissipate.

Yeast is a living organism and is reactivated when fed with water and flour. It digests proteins in the flour and produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. No need to "proof" the yeast (I think you mean reactivate in water) and you can just mix the dry yeast in with the rest of the ingredients. If given enough time the yeast will also add a flavor dimension to your bread. Given too much time it will run out of food, stop producing gas, and you will lose the rise in the bread. The chlorine in bleached flour and city water can negatively affect the ability of the yeast to flourish. One does not need to be too fussy with salt. With that said many bakers prefer sea salt or kosher salt.

Stop thinking in cups and teaspoons and immediately start weighing your ingredients. Most any recipe you find on this forum will be calibrated by weigh. This is very important as correct proportions will lead to a more uniform and repeatable result.

Do not overwork the dough, handle it gently, and let time do the work for you. I'd abandon the 10 minutes of violent needing and the concept of "punching down". Roughly mix the ingredients and let the shaggy dough rest covered for half an hour. Begin a process of stretch and fold exercises on the half hours and let the dough rest again. Much is written on stretch and fold, or slap and fold on this forum and on YouTube.

Throughout this process you will watch, feel and smell the dough go through amazing transformations. The shaggy dough will become supple, resilient, and develop a delightful fragrance.

Time and temperature play a big role in dough development so it can be hard to say what to do and when. Dough that matures in a 68 degree kitchen will perform differently than a dough that matures in an 80 degree kitchen. Neither temperature is a make/break situation - just that development may take more or less time and the end result will vary. If you have a means to control the temperature then maturation and proofing is most-easily managed in the mid-70's.

 As the dough matures it will grow in size and you will see gas bubbles. Sometime before the yeast runs out of food you will need to remove the dough from your bowl, divide it into uniformly-weighed portions, let it rest a bit, then shape it into an approximate representation of the loaf you desire. If your timing is correct the dough will grow some more at which point you move it into a hot oven for baking.

Sandwich loaves are generally de-gassed (squeezing most of the gas bubbles out in the shaping process) then baked in bread pans without the introduction of steam. This provides a tight and uniform crumb and a thin, lighter crust. Artisan breads are developed to retain the gas bubbles and baked in a hot oven with steam injection. This creates the signature open crumb (lots of air bubbles) and that thicker, darker crust.

My last tips would be that you need to plan on accepting failure, only change one thing at a time so that you can measure the effect of that change, and learn the look, feel and smell of a well-developed dough. Bread is relatively inexpensive to make so experiment often, hone your skills, and join the ranks of the bread crafters.

Contributors on this forum are eager to offer assistance and advice so don't hesitate to ask for help. It would be helpful if you could include your recipe, times, techniques and maybe a picture or two.

jameseng's picture

You give good pointers in your post. I think instant yeast is a better ingredient to use than active dry. No need to proof it. Plus, cool water from the tap is a way to avoid unwittingly killing your yeast (if that is the case here). I've also found that extensive kneading is not necessary. Rather, several "stretch-and-fold" steps results in a supple and extensible dough. Bottom line though, practice makes perfect. My first attempt at French bread 20 years ago resulted in an inedible baseball bat. Don't get frustrated, Bardo!