The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello and help - advise

OICU812's picture

Hello and help - advise

Hello all!  I have been lurking for sometime now and am now so completely fustrated with my lack of rise that I finally had to join and post.  I live in Santa Barbara, California which is pretty temperate, however my house is all tile, has very high ceilings and is very cold (we only turn on the heat a couple of hours for our morning routine and a couple of hours at night.)   When making bread I can zap my water in the microwave and check the temperature but as far as a warm place for my starter or bread to sit is challenging.  I tried heating the oven for just a second and then waiting for it to cool enough to where I thought it was at the mid 70's for the rise but AGAIN my final creation was tasty but lacking the holes it should have had.  Any suggestions other than buy a warmer house?

sphealey's picture

=== I tried heating the oven for just a second and then waiting for it to cool enough to where I thought it was at the mid 70's for the rise but AGAIN my final creation was tasty but lacking the holes it should have had.  Any suggestions other than buy a warmer house? ===

Common warm rising tricks include:

  • Putting the dough in the oven with the door propped open just enough to activate the oven light; the insulation of the oven and the small amount of heat from the light usually results in a 70-80 deg.F environment.  Of course you have to remember to move the dough elsewhere before preheating the oven to baking temperature!
  • The top of the refrigerator is a warm spot in most houses, particularly if the fridge is in a niche so that the exhaust heat flows up the back wall
  • An upside-down cardboard box with a night-light inside.  Basically the same idea as the oven.  If this works you can get fancier; a picnic cooler with an aquarium heater in the bottom, a layer of fresh water, and a rack to hold bowls of dough is the usual homemade rising chamber.
  • Just let the dough ferment (rise) longer.  My house varies between 64 - 78 deg.F depending on the season and how much heat/AC we want to use; I just adjust the rising time accordingly.  Longer rise at cooler temperature generally creates better flavor.


crunchy's picture

Are you sure it's the cold and not poor gluten development or bad yeast? If it is the cold, I think just wrapping your bowl in a couple of towels or an old blanket would be enough. I've even heard of people who put their rising dough in their bed, all snuggly under the comforters.

OICU812's picture

I thought it may have been my yeast - so tossed all of it and purchased all new, still the same exact sorry loaves!  The dog only gets to snuggle under the comforter the night before laundry day - so NO WAY is my dough getting to trump doggie. 

All good ideas, I'll try again tomorrow.  I actually brought the ingredients for my poolish to work w/me today - so far in my warm office things look good - then while it needs to chill it will have no problem at home!


LindyD's picture

An electric heating pad also is useful when placed under a container housing the dough.  Just be sure to place a thermometer inside the container so you can monitor the temperature.

You wrote:  AGAIN my final creation was tasty but lacking the holes it should have had.

What's the hydration of your dough?

OICU812's picture

I only just skimmed/began reading about hydration in the Bread Maker's Apprentice last night so I can't really give an answer yet - still just a baby!

gaaarp's picture

In baker's percentages, your flour is always 100%, and the rest of your ingredients are measured as compared to the flour weight.  This is done so a recipe can be easily scaled to size.  If you know the baker's percentages for a bread made 100 loaves at a time at a bakery, you can easily scale it to make 2 loaves at home.

Hydration refers to the amount of liquid, by weight, compared to flour.  So for example, if your recipe calls for 500 grams each of flour and water, you would have a 100% hydration dough (the recipe has the same volume of water as flour).  By contrast, 500 g of flour and 325 g of water would be a 65% hydration dough (325/500).

Marni's picture

Hello and welcome from another Southern Californian!  I'm in LA.  I love Santa Barbara, so beautiful.

You can try heating a cup of water in the microwave and then letting the dough rise in the warmed, moist oven.  

I also wondered about the hydration.  Could you post your recipe?  You might get more complete answers that way. 

I've noticed lately, with the colder weather that I have better results with instant yeast rather than active.  I have no idea why this is so, but it is.

I hope this helps. 


micki's picture

No joke! Got the idea from another member here. I've got a collapsible cooler. I sit a cup of hot tap water in it for about 10 minutes, remove the water and sit the bowl of dough in. Zip it up and sit it out of the way. Don't even have to cover the dough with anything else! Micki

Stefania's picture

Do you have water heaters in Santa Babara?  Hopefully in a closet?  Does that closet stay warm?  We rise on our water heater in the closet in a tightly saran wraped bowl, the closet stays 85 deg. F. year round.  I'm thinking of putting a pass-through in the kitchen wall between the closet and the water heater.



arzajac's picture

I live in Kingston Ontario.   It's minus ten degrees celcius outside today.  Our house is kept between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius.  21C is just under 70F.

My breads rise just fine.  Mind you, I never make same-day bread, I always use a preferment (slow).  My final proofing is usually between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the hydration of the dough.

Exactly how cold is your house?




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If the car stands in the sun it can get pretty warm in there.   I've risen bread in the boot/ trunk but don't forget it's there,  good to make a reminder note in the kitchen, "out of sight, out of mind" sort of thing... 


MommaT's picture



I've discovered a place to put my bread dough to rise - in the microwave!  

I find the enclosed space (also close to the stove action and the refrigerator warmth) captures the heat generated by the dough itself and provides a fairly stable environment when my kitchen is too chilly.  If it's really really cold, I heat a cup of water in the microwave to generate a little warmth then take it out and put my dough in.  

The only catch with this 'method' is that the heat tends to increase, so you have to watch your dough, lest you over-proof it.  I did this last night and ended up with some very tasty, but flat wheat loaves.  :-(

Good luck with your quest!


Klutzy's picture

I'm a real newbie at breadmaking, but in BMA, Peter R. actually recommends rising the dough at room temp, even if it's a cool room. I'm in New England, keep the thermostat at 64 or 65, and have had no trouble at all getting my bread to rise all on its own. It will rise in the fridge if kept there long enough, so it must be something else that is causing the problem. Maybe you are just not waiting long enough? A watched loaf never rises, and all that. ;-) Good luck!

Yerffej's picture

I have concluded from my reading that I would not put anything in a microwave.  Putting water in a microwave is most detrimental to the water.


MommaT's picture

Hi Jeff,

Perhaps I was unclear - I only use the microwave as a closed box.  It is not on during the time the bread dough is rising.  If I heat the water, I never use the water, I just utilize the warmth created.




makingbaking's picture

I dont know that your trouble is really caused from the cold room - it seems that rise would take longer but still happen.  That being said here is an easy solution for creating an evironment to ferment and rise dough

Fill a dutch over with very hot tap water and place in the bottom of your oven.  Place dough on middle rack.  Shut oven door, leave oven off.  You now have a hot and humid place to raise your dough.  The hot water will raise the temp of the oven and the insulation of the oven will hold that temperature for hours

As far as bread lacking holes I would examine

  • How much are you handling the dough post proof and during shaping.  Anything more than minimal light touching can degas which will hurt irregular hole development
  • How stiff is your dough.  Easier to get irregular holes in wetter dough - though possible to get this in stiff dough too but far more difficult
  • How long do you let sit post shapping.

Hope this helps




Yerffej's picture

I too may have been less than precise as I was referring to the original post that said; "When making bread I can zap my water in the microwave..."


gavinc's picture

Do a search on this site for "proofing box".  There's lots of good ideas for cheap and easy proofing boxes.  I made mine with two tubs and an aquarium heater for year round use.