The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie ? Part II - now i'm REALLY confused

gringogigante's picture

Newbie ? Part II - now i'm REALLY confused

I tried to go at it again tonight using the temperature info y'all gave me last night. I was making some Challa bread, and it didn't even rise at all! It's like there was no yeast in there at all!!  This is the second night in a row like this.....

I was so frustrated, so I proofed the Instant Yeast and a packet of Active Dry Yeast that was in the cabinet to see how it would compare. I proofed them in warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of yeast.  Suprisingly, they both rose just fine!!

That means the instant yeast was working just fine, so how the hell did it not work in the CHalla bread I was making?


Ingredients used for the Challa:

Water - 3/4 cup + a little added until the consistancy was right

Yeast - 3/4 teaspoon

Sugar - 1/4 cup

Oil - 1/4 cup

Salt - 1/2 Tablespoon

Eggs - 2 large

Flour - 4 1/4 cups


Steps used:

1. Combined all ingredients except eggs and flour.

2. Stir together

3. Add eggs and whisk

4. Slowly add flour

5. Knead

6. Put dough ball in greased bowl and cover. Let rise until puffy (almost doubled).

7. Punch down, cover, and let rise for 1/2 hour.

8. Cut into thirds, braid, egg wash, and let rise for 30 minutes.

9. Bake 375 for 30-40 minutes.


Obviously, I never got past Step 6 because the dang thing never rose! I used the Rule of 240 as taught last night for the water and dough temperatures.

I am so confused. How could this possibly be so unpredictable and difficult?

I don't want to quit this early in the game, but I have no way to narrow down any of the variables because I don't know which ones are correct and which are incorrect.

Any help would be appreciated........sigh.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

First:  I'm sorry to hear you have had such frustration on your next attempt.  Be patient.  This is solvable.  It is always too early to quit.

Second:  Thank you for providing good information for us to go on.  This will help a great deal.

Third:  As you will always find, someone can think of a question you did not already answer. I am curious what the temperatures were that you used in your "Rule of 240"...  It will be very helpful to complete the picture.  Another fact I'd like to hear is how long you waited for Step 6 before you declared it a bust.  I've waited as much as 3 or 4 hours when my kitchen is cold, my flour is cold, or I mis-measured my yeast or any one of a number of other factors came in to play.  If your yeast is good, and you proved it is, then it will rise, sooner or later, even if it is only a little bit.  Or there is something wrong with your flour.  Speaking of questions, how fresh is your flour?  (yeah, I know.  That's another question, not an answer)

Hang in there!  I'm going to go see if I can find a link to a thread about someone that spent months, literally, making silly putty instead of ciabatta dough.  In the end it turned out to be his water.  So, don't dispair.  As I said above, it is always too early to quit.


gringogigante's picture

I subtracted the kitchen temp of 75 from 240. Then I subtracted the temp of the dough (which was 75) rom that. This gave me the temp of the water to use...

So, 240-75-75 = 90

So, I made the water 90 degrees F.

The dough is new (bought it last week).

I'm still letting the dough rise. The recipe I found on youtube said it should double in an hour. I just checked and it rising VERY slowly.

What would make it rise so slowly? Is that a temperature thing? If so, the temperature of which ingredient?

If it is going to take his long, how could I possibly make anything predicatbly? If it's supposed to take one hour and it takes 4 hours, that's really gonna throw a wrench in the works every time I try to make bread.

Can this be spead up or can I do something to get i back down to an hour?

LindyD's picture

When we speak of a "desired dough temperature," that means the actual dough temperature after you have finished mixing it.   

Did  you mix by hand or by machine?  Was the dough temperature 75F after you were done mixing?

Rising times in recipes are always generalizations because the variables in the kitchens where created are not going to be the same as in your kitchen.  A favorite TFL mantra is watch the dough, not the clock.

You might want to read that link I supplied about caculating the dough temperature you want to wind up with, since it takes all the variables of your own enviornment into account.

There's a recipe for challah under the "favorite recipes" link on the left hand side of the TLF page.  You might want to take a look at that one to see if it might be more helpful.

Remember....we can only learn by doing.

gringogigante's picture

That's the only way to figure  out what temp to make the water..... Here's the quote fom yesterday:

"Get an "instant read" thermometer. First let it tell you the air temperature (just set it on your work surface for a while and see what it says). Subtract that from 240, and write down what you've got left. Mix up all the dry ingredients for your bread. Stick the thermometer deeply into that (but not so far the end of the probe touches the bottom of the bowl), wait for it to stop changing, and see what it says. Subtract that number from what you had left before. This final number tells you what temperature you need the water to be before you put it in the dough (it should be between 50F and 150F; likely it's in the narrower range 60F through 120F). You may need to use a microwave to heat up the water a little. The desired temperature may be very different next time you make bread, so you'll need to do this whole process over every time."

noonesperfect's picture

There may be some confusion over terms here.  You measure the temperature of the dry flour and the temperature of the air, and subtract them from 240.  The difference is the water temp.  After you mix the dough, take the temperature of the dough before you start the first proofing.  Assuming you mixed by hand and the room is a reasonable temperature, your dough probably will be right around 80 degrees.  When you use a machine to knead your dough, the friction caused by the machine raises the temperature of the dough and also must be taken into consideration when determining the water temp.

It looks like you are doing the calculation correctly, but taking the temp of the final dough itself is a good way to double check.  If the temp is lower than 80, it will take longer than you expected to proof.

Another thing to consider is that large amounts of sugar can slow down fermentation, so unless you use osmotolerant yeast, fermentation could take longer.  In other words, let your dough continue to ferment until it reaches the stage you were looking for.  Keep track of all the variables and see if you are getting consistent results.  If you need faster fermentation, try to find a way to put your proofing dough in a warmer environment (or as a last resort add more yeast).



longhorn's picture

You say "The dough is new (bought it last week)." What dough did you buy? Your recipe indicates you mixed it from ingredients????


LindyD's picture

I'm not sure what the "rule of 240" is all about, but if you are trying to calculate the correct dough temperature for challah, which is 78F to 80F (per Hamelman), you should follow a method which will result in some accuracy.  King Arthur Flour has listed the instructions taken from Hamelman's Bread here.  It's a very simple calculation to do.

It's important to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to dough temperature.  

How long did you wait for the dough to rise and at what room temperature? A similar recipe in Bread notes the bulk fermentation is two hours, or you can reduce the dough temp to 75F and retard it overnight.  

I know it's probably frustating, but you will achieve your goal so long as you keep trying.

gringogigante's picture

My can bread baking be this complicated? Formulas, temps of every single ingredient, etc...

How did people make bread before all these crazy forumlas? Surely it can't be this complicated...

LindyD's picture

Not really crazy....

If you are seeking predictability and consistency.  

On the other hand, you can just mix the ingredients, keep an eye on the dough, and wait for it to develop sufficiently for the next step.  It might take longer than you like, but it will get there eventually.

A lot of people like the no-knead approach, which is simpler and doesn't require much attention to detail.

The important thing is to bake something you actually enjoy eating and are proud of.

yozzause's picture

all these formulas, variables, and temperatures are crazy


My can bread baking be this complicated? Formulas, temps of every single ingredient, etc...

How did people make bread before all these crazy forumlas? Surely it can't be this complicated...


 Hi there Gringogigante

The truth is that all these crazy formulas have always been there,  before commercial yest was available to speed up the process fermentation took a lot longer and fitted into the normal working life of the village baker, he made the doughs  and then had time for a fair sleep returning to fire up the oven and process the dough. something i even experienced when as an apprentice went to a remote country bakery.

The advent of commercially available compressed yeast allowed bakers to be able to speed up the process by adding  lots more yeast, for instance you could use 1lb of compressed yeast to 150lbs of flour to produce a dough that would have a bulk fermentation time of 8 hours  or you could use 8 lbs of yeast for 150lbs of flour to produce a dough with a bulk fermentation time of 1 hour  which was quite handy if you had a late order come in.

Further developments  with bread improvers allowed for conditioning of doughs and reduced yeast usage to the point that you are now able to produce doughs that have no bulk fermentation at all, just mix shape allow to prove and into the oven. All fairly convenient but at the expense of flavour and texture.

With fairly rich doughs  such as challah with eggs oil etc  these ingredients  can often carry the faster doughs as far as flavour is concerned, but a dough with a 3 or 4 hour bulk fermention will always taste better than an instant variety. People are now waking up to this fact and that is why there is such a following for the older style and more traditional ways of producing breads.

Should you choose the express lane and want to replicate the fast food bread outlets, then bread improvers are the answer, they are usually minute amounts .03 to .05 to the total flour weight or commercial bread mixes have them in.

Finished dough temperatures will still be very important though.

Good luck in your endeavours

Regards Yozza

gringogigante's picture

I assume that I should NOT subtract the "friction Factor"?

LindyD's picture

There really is not much of a friction factor when hand mixing.  

If you are using a stand mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, I've found assigning a friction factor of 26 works pretty well.

P.S.  I admire your determination!

Daisy_A's picture

Hi gringogigante,

I sympathise with your frustration as bread maths really challenged me in the early days.

Sorry I can't say why your bread didn't rise.

However, was the link you were given to Wild Yeast? I use Susan's water temp calculator all the time, as it works out all these variables for you. Worth checking.

Go to the link below and download the Excel spreadsheet left and under the picture of the bottle.

Best wishes, Daisy_A

PaddyL's picture

I never take the temperature of anything when I'm making bread, and since I'm using instant yeast, I simply add that to the flour so there's no proofing involved and no water temperature to take.  The only thing that kills yeast is the heat in the oven; cold will not kill it.  I think you're worrying your bread too much.  Sometimes it takes longer to rise than other times.  If you've kneaded it well, and set it to rise in a warmish place, out of drafts, it should rise...eventually.  How much yeast are you using?

gringogigante's picture

I've been mixing by hand and kneading by hand. I think I may be doing both inadequatly. Ive just bought a mixer paddle and a dough hook for my kitchen aid mixer. That should help.

Janknitz's picture

I get lovely and consistent challahs without all this rigamarole.  I think many people would not bake if they were worried about all these details.  

You can KILL yeast if the water is too hot, but otherwise it should be fine given time.  I go for water that feels barely warm to my finger stuck in it (yes, I have a thermometer, but don't need that much precision)

For enriched doughs like challah I either stick them in the fridge to do the bulk fermentation overnight (when I want more control of the timing) or I keep the dough warm for a faster rising when I'm home but don't want to devote the entire day to bread making.  Either way, the dough rises, the crumb and crust are near perfect, and I make GREAT challahs.  And I NEVER worry about dough temperature and the effect of friction on it, etc. ;o)

When I'm not using the fridge for time control, I use my microwave as a proofing chamber if our kitchen is cold.  I heat a pyrex measuring cup of water and then stick the dough in with the hot water to proof.  But when it's warmer (at least 70 degrees) I just proof on the counter in a covered container.  

Dough is done rising when it's done (finger poke test).  If your kitchen is cold, it may take longer.  You can use the "proofing chamber" described above if you need more warmth.  

P.S.  My favorite challah dough de jour is KAF's "classic challah" recipe.  

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Let's back off a step or two here, and slow down some.  You are getting a lot of advice, and it all looks good.  Doing all those things will help you bake better bread.  Not doing some or all of those things perfectly, however, will not cause your dough to not rise.

I see that you provided answers (thank you!) to all of my (our) questions, and got a lot of opinions.  So, your yeast was proofed before you mixed your dough.  Your flour was fresh, and you just bought it a week or so ago, if I understood you correctly.  From your "Rule of 240" calculations I see your kitchen temp was 75F, which is adequate for raising dough, but perhaps a smidgen on the cool side (it will take a little extra time).  I assume you used tap water, and that you have no reason to think it is not good.  By that I mean, you know it is not hyper-chlorinated, and that it tastes okay when you drink it.  From your math, and a guess, you probably ended up with a final dough temperature of somewhere around 78F.  When you hand knead you get to ignore the "friction factor", so no worries there.  Pretty good overall, and I would have expected your dough to rise more readily.  However, Lindy_D gave you some good advice above that pertains directly here:  watch the dough, not the clock.

So.  After all that, how is your dough doing after giving it a few hours to rise? You said it was rising slowly.  I wager you will get a nice flavorful Challah if you wait it out.  You see, I think I am not too surprised that it is going slowly, after taking a look at my "Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  Her book includes a couple of Challah recipes, and her "Traditional Challah" uses about the same amount of flour your formula called for, but uses 3 times the yeast.  She specifies a starter/sponge of 1 Cup of flour and 1 tsp of instant yeast, plus a main dough of 4 2/3 Cup of flour and 1 1/4 tsp of instant yeast.  That is a total of 2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast, compared to the 3/4 tsp in your formula.  Her formula specifies to let it rise before shaping to about double it's bulk, for 1 to 2 hours, with that much yeast in the dough.  Less yeast means it will take more time, but the time will also give you more flavor.

Wait it out!  I think you started with a small yeast population and must give it time to catch up.  Given enough time, it will catch up.  If you want to try to speed it up some, put a cup of water in the microwave and bring it to a boil.  Then, push the cup into the corner and put the dough in the microwave and shut the door.  Or, put it in the oven with the light on.  Or, go the other direction and stick it in the refrigerator for the night and come back tomorrow.  Warm it up for 45 minutes to an hour on the counter, then shape it.  Proof it (let the shaped loaf rise till the dent of a moistened fingertip slowly fills in) and then bake it.  As I said earlier, I think you will get a nice flavorful Challah if you wait it out.

Again, hang in there, and good luck!

Chuck's picture

Well, it's clearly not your yeast, and it doesn't sound like it's your dough temperature, and although your room temperature isn't ideal, the rather small difference doesn't explain your experience. So let me repeat one of my previous guesses and hazard a couple new guesses too:

My previous guess that the jury's still out on is the possibility that you're using tap water and it contains so much chlorine it's killing the yeast. That seems unlikely if you used the same water to "proof" the yeast; if it worked for proofing it will also work in the dough. But I don't yet see anything that will completely rule this out.

One new guess: salt and yeast don't get along well. If you stir the small quantities of both into the large quantity of flour before adding any liquid, it will work just fine. But if the yeast gets wet and then the whole pile of yeast comes into direct and sustained contact with a whole pile of salt, that will kill off lots of the yeasties. Is this possibly what's happening to you?

A second new guess: recipes often call for "covering" the dough during rising, and frequently a wet towel is used for that purpose. Unfortunately if the towel is fairly wet, evaporative cooling can be significant. Instead of a damp towel, cover rising dough either with the container lid placed upside down, or a mist of oil then saran wrap.

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

How about more yeast?


3/4 teaspoon sounds like a small amount for over 4 cups of flour.  I would try at least 2 teaspoons, maybe 2 1/2.  If the temperature is fine, the yeast should take off.

Mary Clare

yozzause's picture

i would second MARY'S  thoughts Yozza

clazar123's picture

You have a ways to go before you worry about temp.

Look at your recipe and compare it to other challah recipes.

One thing I see is that there is much less water/flour than other recipes. Was your dough very soft,silky and almost sticky? It should be.

The other is that there is much less yeast than most recipes. 3/4 tsp yeast for 4 1/4 cups flour will give you a delicious dough-but will take about 6-8 hours to rise. I would use that if I was doing an overnight rise.Most recipes would use 1-2 packets of yeast with 2 1/4 tsp each. If you use the 3/4 tsp, it will take a long time to rise but it will develop more flavor.So let it rise,shape,proof (longer proof) and bake.

Learn the characteristics of dough using the videos and tutorials on this site . Then make challah (or another recipe you want to learn) over and over until you learn how it handles and how various factors affect it.Keep a notebook to track how you changed one baking to the next.

 And keep coming back and asking questions and searching. You have wonderful access to all kinds of experienced teachers and fellow students here. 

gringogigante's picture
OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Now, that's better, no? 

Thank for posting the photo so we can see your results.  Nice loaf, and it's great to hear you smile!  I bet it tastes great too.

So, tell us what you did after all the advice and opinion you got.  What was the "it" that worked?


postscript:  The next one will be easier!

gringogigante's picture

It seems that the yeast amount was to small, so it just took a really long time to rise. I took an internet recipe I found on YouTube and cut in in half cuz I didn't want to make 2 large loaves. But it still wouldn't have worked in the stated 1 hour. it took more like 4 hours to rise.

So, I jsut stayed up late and finished it.... I think I'm only gonna make Challa for the next 4 - 5 loaves and get some consistency. Then go to the next kind of bread and do the same repetition until I master that, and so on....

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

That is a good plan.  You might also want to consider using the lessons and handbook resources here on TFL.  Just click on the links in the top bar on the page to look them over.  They are full of "startup essentials" to help you up that initial learning curve, and to begin to develop some "bread sense";  that is, a beginning familiarity with the general process, some sense of what the dough feels like in your hands and how it behaves in your particular and unique environment.  They are there for you if you want to use them, and many beginners find them helpful.

Thanks for the update.

Chuck's picture

Often -to look more concise and maybe also to save ink- recipes will use the shorthand 't' (lower case) for teaspoons and 'T' (upper case) for Tablespoons. Another common usage is abbreviations: tsp. for teaspoon and tbs. for tablespoon, or alternately tsp. for teaspoon and tbsp. for tablespoon, etc. And sometimes recipes mix these, like t. for teaspoon and Tbs. for tablespoon. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any standard, so every book and recipe may be different. Almost all of these conventions are relatively subtle, and fairly easy to misinterpret (or in some cases not even notice:-) if you're not watching for them.

Any chance the recipe meant 3/4 Tablespoon instead of 3/4 teaspoon of yeast?

yozzause's picture

Great to see and well worth the wait and good thinking with the replicating you will even be able to compare the short and long versions, nice loaf.