The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My bread won't rise!

nelbel_1's picture

My bread won't rise!

I love this place but am way over my head. I'm just starting to delve into bread baking as a whole. And this site has so much inspiration.

I am having problems with my bread since I moved. I was in central Germany and all of my bread turned out fabulous. Now I am in Central TN and none of my yeast breads turn out. My sourdough is denser than rocks and I'm getting discouraged.

I'm using KA whole wheat all purpose flour. Feischman's yeast warm liquids. The kitchen is warm enough.  I don't think I'm over kneading, but I don't really know.  I'm currently trying a new loaf with the "flop and pull" (that's what I call the stretch and fold) method. I don't have a scale or fancy equipment. I do it by hand, and often right on the countr top.

My starter rises fine, but my dough just will not. All the loafs are super dense, though they taste good.

Any suggestions?



* edited to say: It's not just the sourdough.... it's ALL my yeast breads.  I don't always use my starter for my breads.

JMonkey's picture

If you're used to baking with European flours, I'd suggest increasing the amount of water in your recipes by 10-20%. American wheat is a lot "thirstier" than European flours.

As far as kneading goes, I make whole wheat breads all the time, and have had GREAT success with the stretch and fold (or fold and flop, which I like better, actually) method. If you've not seen it already, check out this page on stretch and fold. Mike Avery does a great job explaining it, with video even.

nelbel_1's picture

I was using Eruo flours. I'll add more water and keep the dough wetter. That may help.   The flop and pull dough seems to be rising, but it's not the right texture, I can see and feel that already.   I'll bake it this evening and see. My sourdough in the oven is pretty solid. It just didn't rise.

I'll try more water.  Thanks!


JMonkey's picture

... here's what I make a couple of times a week for our family's bread.


  • 190 grams stiff whole wheat starter (60% hydration)
  • 295 grams water
  • 300 grams whole wheat flour
  • 9 grams salt
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter (14 g)
  • 1.5 Tbs honey (30 g)
As far as the procedure, I mix the water and starter first, mash it a bit with my fingers, and then give it 5 minutes or so to soften. Then I add the honey, salt and melted butter to the water, which I swish around with a spoon. Last, I add the flour and mix it until hydrated.

I let it sit an hour, then I work out any lumps with my fingers and do a stretch and fold. I'll do two more with 30 minutes to an hour in between. Depending on how cold it is -- and these days it's about 64 degrees, max -- I'll let it rise for 3-5 hours. I then preshape, let it rest 15 minutes, and then shape it into a sandwich loaf in a greased pan.

If it's warm enough, I'll let it rise on the counter. If not, I'll put it in a cooler on an upturned bowl and then throw 1 cup or so of boiling water in the bottom. After 2-3 hours, it's usually risen to about 1/2 to one inch above the rim. I then slash it and put it in a cold oven turned to 350 degrees F. It bakes for 50-55 minutes.
nelbel_1's picture

I'll figure out how to get that to work though. The water and flour weights are nearly equal and the starter seems to be what's keeping it in the firm side. I keep my starter pretty firm. I don't know the percentage, I'm no engineer. :)  I have to knead it to feed it though.  It seems like it is a very wet dough.

 It's been a while since I've done it right, I must not remember what the dough was doing.  I'll keep going and give your recipe try. Thanks for the recipe.

zolablue's picture

Is it possible that the change in flour type changed the strength of your starter?  I'm not the one to help you with this but it could be something to look at and perhaps someone else could comment.

nelbel_1's picture

I've worked on it to get it right, nice and sour.  It likes the KA whole wheat all purpose best. It looks perfect when I feed it.  It's seriously my best starter yet. Which is why I can't understand why my bread is like rocks.

I can start a new starter with a different flour. Maybe I will see different results.


tanpohkee's picture

I had the same problem before and found out from this site that the starter was too sour. I reduced the starter and the bread was better.

 Hope this helps.


cityKittyz's picture

I am curious whether this issue was ever resolved as I am having the identical problem.

I, too recently moved, but it was a local move, and the flours I am using are the same. I usually purchase whatever all purpose is available and add vital wheat gluten. These last loaves have been made with Gold Medal A.P. and I wonder if they have changed their wheat blend for that flour.

My new apartment is less than ideal and came with a vintage electric stove that is one step up from a wood burning stove. Nevertheless, I should be able to produce loaves even with a wood burner, right?

My starter proofs like great guns, but from the outset, the dough does not appear to be right. It used to be smooth and silky and now looks more like a whole grain dough with little bits of lumps and bumps in it (like bran in whole grain) and it tears when it expands rather than stretching.

Prior to moving, my loaves were consistently reproducible—I had it down to a science. What has happened?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

how often, temp, and how much?


cityKittyz's picture

I used to feed him once a week—and baked once a week but after I moved noticed that it was not responding well, possibly because I did not bake for about 2 months during that process. However, he went into intensive care outside of the refrigerator where he was fed 4 times a day for two weeks until robust, once again. 

Since that time, I have initiated a different feeding schedule: when I first return the starter to the refrigerator, it is very loose; a couple of times a day I add a few teaspoons of flour, stir and return. I do this until the dough becomes rather thick and then it is fed once a day (still in the refrigerator), until baking day.

When I am ready to bake, the starter is proofed about 8 hours overnight. Generally, I use 1/2 c starter to 1-1/2 c water and 2 c flour; it is quite thick. By morning, the starter is frothy almost to the top of the bowl (and sometimes knocks the lid off).

I don't think anything is wrong with the starter, I think it is something else I might be doing. After reading numerous cases of similar occurrences, I'm thinking I might need to increase the ripened starter from the 2c which I now begin the dough with, to 3 c.

I also think that a part of my trouble is that my apartment is frigid (but so was my other apartment) the main difference now is that I used to proof the starter and rise the dough in my oven with the light turned on (the temp was perfect) but the junker I have in this apartment doesn't have a light so I am trying to do it in a home-made proofing box with heating pad. It seems to be perfect for proofing the starter, but does nothing for dough rising.

Does that sound plausible?

Thank you for your help!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Where to start... 

Sounds to me like your yeasts concentrations are weak.  Your starter is living organisms and feeding them flour everyday in the cold fridge is just not enough to raise bread.   Feeding, allowing them to go thru several generations at warmer temperatures is important.   Sounds to me like the yeasts are just too cold and there's not enough of them.  Bring the starter out of the fridge and feed 2 times a day, every 12 hours and put them at about 75°F.  Feed them twice as much flour as you have starter (by weight) and add the water to make a wet paste, like toothpaste.  Reduce your starter to a spoonful or two each time you feed it.  Do that for a few days.

Then when you want to refrigerate the starter, let it have a few warm hours before you tuck it into the refrigerator.  You don't need to add flour to it while it's there, just treat it like a storage jar and take a spoonful out to feed and grow overnight to use into a recipe the following morning.  You can keep it like that for a week or two.  Then when you want to refresh it, take a few spoons of starter (add water and flour) and let it mature 12 hours.  Then reduce to a spoonful, feed again and refrigerate after a few hours warm time.  This will keep your yeasts happy.


AnnaInMD's picture

ever since the temps dropped 20 degrees, my bread decided to play dead.


Argh !!

sanchiro's picture

I just baked three sourdough loaves tonight, one a torpedo and the other two rounds. They were shaped well in the proofing pans (steel pans lined with lightly floured towels) and yet once I turned them out, when the oven was hot and ready, they deflated signicantly, despite my transferring them very gently.

The crumb is great, with lots of gas pockets, taste is great, just they are all three rather flat. I think I didn't get a really tight membrane on each before letting rise. Should I be reshaping just before baking or just leave alone after proofing an hour or two and put in to bake?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You might be shaping for final rise too early or the dough needs stretches and folds to build up the structure so that the final rise holds.  Use the search box or check out the videos on stretch and fold.  

Deflating is most often an indication of overproofing so get that dough into the oven sooner before it is double, more like 3/4 risen and let the oven do the rest.