The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Where did I go wrong? Please help!

Luna Pan's picture
Luna Pan

Where did I go wrong? Please help!

Hi folks -

Well, I just failed at my first attempt to make bread.  I tried making french bread using Carol Field's cookbook "The Italian Baker" and never made it past the biga.  I was unable to get my dough to rise and I don't know why since I followed the instructions.  Can anyone suggest what I may have done wrong?  Could my room temperature have been too low?  (It's about 70 degrees.)  It was supposed to rise within 1.5 - 2 hours.  I even used the author's tip to help speed up the rise by heating up my electric oven at a low setting for 3 minutes, and then turning it off before putting the dough in.  After several minutes, nothing seemed to happen.   Should I have left it in longer?

Any help provided will be greatly appreciated as I am determined to make my own bread!

Thank you!

P.S. I accidently posted this question on the blog, so if you see it there please ignore it.


Ria's picture

Are you sure the yeast was healthy? Was your water too hot (and thus could have killed the yeast)? Without seeing the recipe I'm guessing...

Other things to consider: kneading (too much? too little?) Could the oven's low setting actually be much too hot (did you use a thermometer?)?



Luna Pan's picture
Luna Pan

Thanks for answering my cry for help. 

As for the yeast, I believe it was healthy since the biga rose so well overnight.  And the water I used was from the tap (the receipe called for room temperature) and it was by no means even warm.

As for the kneading, I may have done too much, although I kneaded for as long as the receipe called for.

Finally, as for the oven's setting, I did not use a thermometer.

Since I have plenty more biga left over, I will attempt this receipe again and hope for the best.

Thanks again!




god of the kitchen's picture
god of the kitchen

Hi Luna,

First of all, two things:  Sorry it didn't rise, and So What?  Every now and again, I think everyone looks in the bowl, ready to shape a loaf, and sees a ball about the same size it was two hours ago.

Regarless of what the recipe says, if you used a dry yeast, the water temperature must be between 110-120 degrees F (use a candy thermometer), or the yeast is unlikely to become active.  If you are doing an overnight rise, then it has more time to wake up.  But for an hour, the water needs to be warm.

Also, if you don't use bread flour or all-purpose with some vital wheat gluten added, you'll get a lower rise.  The extra gluten helps to "seal-up" the dough.

If you had fun, keep at it.

yozzause's picture

Hi Luna

i dont know how new you are to bread making, i think a lot of people try to run before they can walk.

Sour doughs and doughs requiring biga's, poolish etc and long and or retarded fermentations are probably at the pointed end of baking endeavours and can lead to some disappointments.

Straight forward doughs are probably the easier route to take in the begining using commercial yeast that is a known performer ie that if you add say 2% then the fermentation period will be 1 hour if the dough is finished at 80F degrees.

I am still exploring sour doughs and extended fermentation periods and it is all new and quite a  challenge for me even with a baking apprentceship and 10 years in the trade. 

Jw's picture

Luna, your room temperature should not be the problem, it is my room temp. as well. When I put dough (ever) in the oven, I only switch the light on. That is warm enough.

My suggestion: try it a few times and keep a log on your progres.


Luna Pan's picture
Luna Pan

Thanks everyone for your feedback.  I will, of course, give it another try.  I'm just confused as to why my cookbook would have said to mix the yeast with room temperature water instead of at a certain degree.  Next time I will increase the temperature and see what happens.

Thanks again!

yozzause's picture

Baby's bath water temperature is a good definition for water temperature,
room temperature has a huge variance from close to freezing up to completely stifling, and it is by the way of water that we can make allowances for these big differences.
I have had to use chilled water in the middle of an Australian summer to quite warm in a cold dough room in winter
regards Yozza