The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie Yeast Question - why didn't my dough double in size?

dwiggin3's picture

Newbie Yeast Question - why didn't my dough double in size?

Hi, I’m new to bread making, so apologize if my question is rather simplistic.

I made my first loaf of general cheese bread – from a random recipe from a cookbook. It called for one packet of yeast but gave the option for two packets if you particularly liked yeasty bread, which I do. According to the recipe, it said to take 1 ¼ cup of warm water and dissolve my yeast packets in them for 15 min. The recipe also stated I should as a teaspoon of sugar. After mixing the yeast, sugar and water and letting it sit for the required time, it should double in size. However, the directions on the back of the Fleischman’s yeast packet said to dissolve one packet of yeast in ¼ cup of warm water with one teaspoon – no mention of doubling in size or what to do if you were using two yeast packets. I wasn’t sure which directions to use, so I put two yeast packets in 1 ¼ cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar and let is sit for 15 min. (I microwave my water and it was warm to my fingers but not hot) It did not double but everything was dissolved so I figured I might as well move forward.

After mixing all my ingredients, including cheese, 1 egg, salt, pepper and white flower, I kneaded it (I LOVE kneading) and put is in a lightly oiled large bowl, covered it and placed it in a warm place to double in size. The dough never entirely doubled and there was none of the ballooning or punching down that I expected. I let it sit for over 2 hours. After the initial resting period, I followed the directions and kneaded the bread lightly and then placed it in my bread pan which was lightly oiled and floured. I then let it sit covered and in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. It rose only slightly – as it did the first time.

I’ve since baked it and it tasted great – but was very, very dense. I think I should have cut the dough in half and put only half the dough in my pan since the middle of my bread was still a bit chewy.

Did I mess up my yeast? Whey didn’t my dough double? While the dough had this fantastic smell and the texture of it was so soft and pillowy, I was disappointed that I didn’t achieve this voluminous doubling. What did I do wrong?

Finally, how does one change the density of the baked bread – I’d like learn how to make dense bread, chewy bread and light/airy bread. Thoughts?


sphealey's picture

Three things:

  • Yeast, water, and sugar isn't going to double in volume.  It might foam up a bit but there won't be any volume increase until you get to the dough stage.  Sounds as if those instructions aren't vey well written
  • If your yeast is Instant (sometimes called Bread Machine)  you don't need to do the "dissolve in water" step
  • Your dough might actually have doubled in size.  When a doughball is in a bowl it is free to expand in all three dimensions and a sphere doesn't have to get much bigger to have doubled in volume.  When you are starting out it helps to put the dough in a cylindrical clear plastic container (either a dough bucket from the kitchen store, or an ice cream bucket or some similar plastic cylinder), press the dough down lightly until it is an even height, and mark this height with a piece of masking tape.  Then check in 30 minutes and see how far it has expanded; when it is twice the original height it will be twice the original volume.
SourdoLady's picture

It sounds to me like you had bad yeast or the water was too warm. I have had brand new yeast, far from the expiration date that failed to rise. It should have got very foamy when you proofed it in the water/sugar. The amount of water doesn't matter much. It is just part of your liquid for the dough anyway. I have proofed yeast that doubled and even tripled in 15 to 20 minutes.

To answer your questions:

1. For dense bread, don't let it rise as long before baking. Whole grain flours will produce a denser bread than white flour.

2. For chewy bread, use bread flour or add some vital wheat gluten to the dough. Make a lean dough that is only flour, water, salt and yeast.

3. For light and airy bread with a tender crumb but not big holes, use AP flour and a recipe that includes all or some of the following: egg, fat, milk, sugar. If you want an airy bread such as a ciabatta that has lots of big holes, then you need a very wet lean dough.

dolfs's picture

If you haven't baked bread before, start with a simple bread with only flour, water, yeast and salt. Get that under control. You will come to understand the basic process (lesson available on this site), and develop some dough feel. Many people are disappointed on a first try (which may have been too ambitious) and give up, others make mistakes but get lucky. Don't give up!

As mentioned above: if your water/yeast/sugar mixture foamed, your yeast was definitely OK. If not, either yeast was dead, or you killed it with water that was too hot. This "yeast" hydration step is only necessary for active dry yeast but when in doubt, can also be used for other types to test viability. Once you get more experience you will prefer instant dry yeast, which doesn't need this step.

Make sure you knead your dough to proper gluten development (window pane test). If you don't, the gas produced by the fermentation may actually escape, rather than "blowing up" the dough.

Chewy inside can also be caused by insufficient baking time. The internal temperature of your bread should reach 195-200F for a bread with cheese in it. A thermometer is your friend. If you don't have one, the "thump" test should be used. I really does have to sound somewhat hollow before it is ready.

When asking for help, publish your recipe. Often times the experienced folks here can easily see if there is something wrong with it. It helps trouble shooting.


See my My Bread Adventures in pictures

JERSK's picture

    I think you killed the yeast. if it was warm to your finger, it was probably too warm . fingertips have a high heat resistance compared to say warm to your wrist. Room temperature water will work fine if just a little slower. A thermometer works best. !00 degrees F or less. Yeast dies at about 115 warm, but not hot.

dwiggin3's picture

Thanks everyone. I think I did kill the yeast with the water being too hot. There was absolutly no foaming whatsoever. However, I will stick to simple breads untill I get my hang of things. While I was a bit dissapointed with the final product, I loved the kneading part (I kneaded at lot - loved the feeling and texture of the dough). I'll keep looking around this site for more tricks/tools to increase my knowledge.

Thanks again

Diana's picture

I just wanted to add that when your rising your breads in the oven you also run the risk of killing the yeast there. If you can't rest your hands on the walls of your oven you shouldn't put your bread in. I've never killed my yeast and I've done alot of crazy things like adding hot milk & butter to my yeast/water. Just remember to let everything cool down and buy that thermometer as suggested earlier. It was my best friend for a long time and we still chat often.

Good luck with the new loaves and don't forget to let us know how it goes.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I have two hints to share about rising breads in the oven.


The first is, don't turn the oven on. The lamp in your oven will produce more than enough heat to raise your breads gently. Even there, check your oven temperature with a thermometer. In the summer, the oven temperature can rise farther with the lamp on than you might think. Dough likes to be in the 75 to 85F range. Much outside that, with some exceptions, and you are asking for trouble.


Next - many people have had the experience that they were raising some bread in the oven and someone else turned the oven on. While the bread was still in a rising basket. Easy answer for most ovens - take the knob that controls the oven off its mounting post and put it in the oven with the dough that's rising. The villans will have to look for the knob and will see the bread.


Speaking of bread rising in the oven, it's time for me to pull the bread out and start preheating. I've been playing with whole grain rye flour since I can't find medium rye in local stores. I'm moving soon, and I don't want to buy a 50lb sack just before the move. Also, I need to re-do my rye recipes on my web page to accomodate whole rye since that seems to be all grocery stores are carrying these days.