What Causes Dough Not to Rise: Understanding the Causes and Solutions

Disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

Dough not rising can be incredibly frustrating for any home baker. Whether it’s bread, pizza dough, or even pastry, not only is the end product disappointing, but all the effort, time and ingredients are wasted. There are many reasons why dough doesn’t rise correctly, from improper kneading and proofing to incorrect temperatures and humidity. In this article, we will explore the different factors that can affect dough rising, and provide you with solutions and expert tips to ensure perfect outcomes every time.

The Science Behind Dough Rising: Understanding Yeast Fermentation

Yeast is a key ingredient in most bread and dough recipes. It is responsible for creating carbon dioxide gas, which in turn causes the dough to rise. Yeast fungi feeds on the natural sugars in flour and produces carbon dioxide gas, alcohol, and organic acids as by-products. This process is called fermentation.

For fermentation to work, yeast requires a warm and moisture-rich environment. The ideal temperature range for yeast is between 68°F and 77°F. If the environment is too cold, yeast will become inactive, and if it is too hot, yeast cells will die.

There are different types of yeast that can be used in baking, including active dry yeast, instant yeast, and fresh yeast. Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in warm water before use, while instant yeast can be added directly to the dough. Fresh yeast has a shorter shelf life and needs to be refrigerated.

Over-fermentation can also be a problem in dough rising. If the dough is left to rise for too long, the yeast will consume all the available sugars and the dough will collapse. It is important to monitor the dough and follow the recipe instructions carefully to achieve the desired rise and texture.

Common Mistakes That Can Cause Dough to Not Rise

One of the most common mistakes that home bakers make is using expired yeast. Yeast has a limited shelf life, so it’s important to check the expiration date before using it. Another common mistake is not activating the yeast correctly. Yeast needs to be combined with warm water and sugar to activate it before adding it to the dough. If you skip this step, the yeast won’t be active, and your dough won’t rise.

Over-kneading and under-kneading the dough can also affect the rise. Under-kneading can result in dough that is too dense, while over-kneading can lead to dough that is tough and doesn’t rise properly. Using too much flour can also make the dough too dry and tough to rise.

The Role of Temperature and Humidity in Dough Rising

Temperature and humidity play a critical role in dough rising. As we mentioned earlier, yeast needs a warm and moisture-rich environment to thrive. If the temperature in your kitchen is too cold or too hot, it can affect the rise of your dough. Similarly, if the humidity level in your kitchen is too low, it can cause the dough to dry out and stop rising.

One way to ensure a warm and humid environment for your dough is to place it in a covered bowl and leave it in a warm place in your kitchen, such as on top of the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can create a warm and humid environment by placing a bowl of hot water in your oven and placing the covered dough next to it.

Different Types of Flour and Their Effect on Dough Rising

Not all flours are created equal, and the type of flour you use can affect how well your dough rises. For example, bread flour contains more gluten than all-purpose flour, which can help the dough rise better. On the other hand, cake flour contains less gluten and can result in a more delicate texture that may not rise as much.

When making dough, it’s essential to use the right type of flour that is appropriate for the recipe. If you’re not sure which flour to use, read the recipe carefully or consult with a baking expert.

How to Test If Your Dough is Rising Properly

To test if your dough is rising properly, you can perform a simple test. Gently press the dough with your finger; if it springs back, it’s a sign that it’s not yet fully risen. If your finger leaves an indentation, it’s a sign that the dough has risen correctly.

Another way to check if the dough has risen sufficiently is to use the “poke test.” Use a finger to poke an indentation into the dough, and if the indentation stays, the dough has risen correctly.

Troubleshooting Tips When Dough is Not Rising

If your dough is not rising, there are some troubleshooting tips that can help revive it. One common solution is to let the dough rest for a longer period, or in a warmer environment. You can also try kneading the dough a second time, which can help activate the yeast and create more air pockets in the dough.

If none of these solutions work, it may be necessary to start over with fresh yeast and ensure that all the other factors, such as temperature and kneading, are correct this time around.

Using the Right Equipment for Proper Dough Rising

Using the right equipment can also affect how well your dough rises. Be sure to use an appropriate size bowl or container to hold the dough. A bowl that is too small or too big can cause the dough to either rise too rapidly or not at all.

It’s also important to cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out or forming a crust on the surface. Similarly, using a warm draft-free place can help create the ideal environment for your dough to rise effectively.

How to Store Yeast for Best Results in Dough Rising

If you’re not going to use yeast immediately, it’s important to store it correctly. Yeast needs to be kept in a cool and dry place, away from moisture and light. Once the yeast package has been opened, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for several months. When using refrigerated or frozen yeast, let it come to room temperature before using it in the dough.

The Importance of Kneading for Optimal Dough Rising

Kneading is an essential step in creating dough that rises correctly. Kneading helps to activate the gluten in the flour, which creates the elastic and springy texture that allows dough to rise. To knead the dough correctly, use the heels of your hands to push the dough away from you, then fold it back and repeat the process. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Expert Tips for Achieving Perfectly-Risen Dough Every Time

To achieve perfectly-risen dough every time, it’s important to follow the recipe precisely and ensure that all the ingredients are measured correctly. Use high-quality ingredients, including fresh yeast, and avoid making any shortcuts.

Another crucial tip is to be patient and give the dough enough time to rise fully. Rushing the rising process can result in dough that is dense or has a poor texture. Finally, practice makes perfect. The more you bake, the more you will learn about the different factors that affect dough rising and how to adjust your recipes accordingly.

Alternative Methods for Achieving a Light, Fluffy Texture Without Yeast

If you don’t want to use yeast in your dough, there are alternative methods for achieving a light and fluffy texture. One option is to use baking powder or baking soda, which can help create air pockets in the dough. Another option is to use self-rising flour, which already contains baking powder and salt.

However, keep in mind that these methods will result in a different texture and flavor than yeast-based dough.

How to Fix Over-Risen or Under-Risen Dough

If your dough has risen too much, it may collapse during baking. To fix this, punch the dough down gently and reshape it before letting it rise again. If your dough hasn’t risen enough, you can try increasing the temperature or moisture level in your kitchen to encourage further rising.

If all else fails, you may need to start over with fresh ingredients and ensure that you follow the recipe and all the tips above.

The Science Behind Gluten-Free Flour and Its Effect on Dough Rising

Gluten-free flour doesn’t contain wheat protein, which is what creates the elastic texture and allows dough to rise. As a result, gluten-free dough may not rise as well or have the same texture as wheat-based dough. To help gluten-free dough rise, use a blend of gluten-free flours that contain xanthan gum or other binding agents that help create the elastic texture that allows dough to rise.

Additionally, it’s important to note that gluten-free dough requires different handling and kneading techniques than wheat-based dough. Follow a recipe specifically designed for gluten-free dough to ensure the best results.


There are many factors that can affect the rise of dough, from the type of flour used to the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. By understanding the science behind dough rising and following the tips and solutions provided in this article, you can achieve perfectly risen dough every time, whether you’re making bread, pizza dough, or pastry.

Remember to be patient, follow the recipe closely, and practice. With time and experience, creating perfectly risen dough will become second nature.