The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help Making My Wheat Bread Rise

seattlebreadmaker's picture

Help Making My Wheat Bread Rise

Hey Everyone,

So I am new to baking bread, just took a day class on how to do it. Ive been trying to perfect the honey wheat sandwich loaf and I am running into a few problems. The biggest issue is I cant get the bread to rise fully, so my loaves are smaller then I would like. I cant figure out what is causing it. I have substituted almond milk instead of regular dairy and was wondering if that would do it. Ive also been wondering about the temperature in my house which is 72-74 degrees and wondering if its too cold. How long can I let the bread rise for without over proving it ? I've only been letting it rise for an hour each time. The only other change I am making is I am using white bread flour in combination with wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. But I am not sure that would cause the problem. And the last reason I can think of is that I am over working the bread when kneeding it by hand. Any ideas ?




Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Well, none of the tweaks you mention should affect the rise too much, but I can't really tell without knowing the recipe and all the ingredients, as well as the technique (particularly how long you bulk ferment the dough versus how long the final, shaped proof is).

Your house temperature sounds fine really, but if you want a warmer place to rise dough you can put it in the oven with the light on and the door cracked open (put a wooden spoon handle or something in the top of the door to hold it open just a bit. Be careful it doesn't get too warm in there though. You don't want it much above 80 degrees F. And it's very, very difficult to overwork dough when kneading by hand, so don't worry about that. :)

seattlebreadmaker's picture

thanks for the response, i will go scan in the recipe and post it later today to make things a little clearer. 

clazar123's picture

It is hard to give much help without the recipe and technique you use (any resting, how it was bulk fermented, etc).

Hydration/water-both amount and time to absorb

As a general rule with whole wheat, the recipe should have enough water  and the dough given plenty of time to absorb it. All those branny bits in WW take a lot of time to absorb water. If you don't give it the time before the bake then the branny bits will rob the moisture from the crumb after the bake. This causes the slice to crumble when you try to cut it or eat a sandwich made with it. It will also help the dough relax and be more extensible so it can rise.

Knead to windowpane

It is also important to knead well to windowpane. Use the search box if this a new term. This is another reason the dough needs to have enough moisture. Otherwise it takes forever and really kills your hands if you are kneading by hand to get a small amount of moisture distributed well enough to pull a windowpane.

Portion the dough, ball and benchrest

When you are done kneading, cut off the amount for your loaf, shape into a ball and rest,covered (so it doesn't dry out) for 15-30 minutes. It should be nice and relaxed. Shape, pan and proof appropriate time for the dough (not quite doubled).

SO these are some general ideas for you. With whole wheat, these are important concepts.

seattlebreadmaker's picture

thanks for the response, I will upload the recipe when I get home later today. I havent portioned out the bread pieces like you are suggesting, I just make three loaves worth in one ball. Do you think that's a problem ?

clazar123's picture

Mix dough for 3 loaves in 1 bowl.

Bulk ferment all the dough for 3 loaves in 1 bowl.

De-gas, divide into 3 loaf-sized pieces, pre-shape each into a ball and allow to rest, covered, for 15-30 minutes.

Shape each into loaf and place into pan (if you are using a pan)

Proof for appropriate time.


seattlebreadmaker's picture

151 Grams (1.5 cups) rolled oats, plus more for finishing

567 grams (2.5 cups) water at 70 degrees F

100 grams (.5 cups) milk, at 70 degrees F

10 grams (3 teaspoons) active dry yeast

556 grams (4.5 cups) bread flour

351 grams (3 cups) whole wheat flour

95 grams (4 tablespoons) honey

40 grams (3 tablespoons) neutral flavored oil

20 grams (3.5 teaspoons) kosher salt

Knead dough until window pane test and put in bowl with oil and prove for 1 hour.

Fold four sides and degas and let prove for another hour

split into three equal pieces, shape into bread pan and let rise for another hour

cook at 450 for 15 mins, and 425 for 15-20


I am not using oats for this recipe and I am also realizing that the almond milk I have used so far has not been heated which may have affected it. Any suggestions ?

clazar123's picture

So much easier to give suggestions when there is a formula and technique! Thank you!

First of all, it took me a long time to figure out that I needed a common "language" to get help on a forum without the benefit of conversation and demonstration. Also, being on an international forum, sometimes the posts can be quite interesting when we finally figure out what the other is saying or meaning. It's almost a "First contact" situation.

Bulk or primary fermentation or rise is the first rise after the yeast is mixed into the dough. Many recipes say "rise til double" but some doughs require  less and some require more. The purpose of the bulk fermentation is to increase the yeast population and therefore the production of gas and fermentation by-products that flavor the loaf. The gluten strands will organize almost by themselves when water is introduced to the flour but it takes kneading/mixing to activate the starchy gel and expose all those flour particles to water and yeast. WW needs more time to absorb that water-think of how long it takes a stick in a puddle to become waterlogged and sink.

Bulk fermentation timing cannot be determined by a recipe. It is as long or as short as the dough needs it to be. As a baker, we can estimate and we can assess the effect on the dough and the timing and we can also influence the timing. Temperature affects it a LOT! Even the difference between 75F and 80F can greatly impact timing. (Hint: This is where the temp of the ingredients can make a difference as well as the room temp). Yeast is a living organism that reproduces best at its optimal temp-about 82F. Think tepid bath water for a human. Anything cooler and reproduction (and fermentation )rate goes down. Anything over and it goes too fast and peters out or dies if it gets too high (120F)

Proof/final proof is after the bulk fermentation and right before the dough is baked. The dough is panned or final shaped at the start of the final proof.  Again-the timing of the final proof is up to the dough-hydration level, temp of room and ingredients, strength of yeast, length of bulk fermentation,enzyme activity in dough,etc. Some cookbooks tell you to ,again, rise to double on loaf breads. With some flours this is too much. For me, judging when it is ready to bake is the trickiest. Too much-it deflates or is dense or has large holes interspersed with denseness. Under-proofed and it is generally dense, esp on the bottom of the loaf. 

On to hydration level.  This is the percentage of water compared to the total amount of flour (in grams) and professional baking recipes are often summarized in Baker's Percentage .  It makes it easier to scale up or down the amount of product to be baked.

Since you did not use the oats, I will not include that. It would have been an even drier loaf with the oats!

Total flour is 556+351=907

Total liquid is 567+100=667

Hydration is 667/907=.735 or 73.5% hydration.

(Disclaimer: I am an amateur at using this-pros may even need to subtract the percentage of milk solids to get the "real" amount of liquid in milk. Honey is counted as liquid by some.)

So here are some thoughts for you . A honey sweetened WW is one of my favorite loaves-even at 100% WW (no bread or AP flour). A moist, fluffy loaf is definitely do-able.

I think that the hydration is too low for a dough that uses bread flour and ww. Bread flour has higher gluten percentage and those strands need a lot of moisture to hydrate and become extensible.  The branny bits of ww need plenty of moisture and time so that it doesn't rob the crumb after the bake and make a crumbly slice.

So my first suggestion is increase the hydration to 85%. Water 635 g and Milk/Almond milk 115g (warmed to body temp). Knead/mix to window pane. Bulk fermentation to double. S&F (stretch and folds not needed if kneading to windowpane but don't hurt). Dough should be soft,almost sticky and become soft and tacky when moisture level is right and has absorbed properly. Tacky means like a post-it note. Sticky means your finger comes away with a slight adherence of dough.

My second recommendation is to search the term "autolyze" and "retard" and see if the concepts would be helpful. WW benefits greatly from either.

There are SO many ways to make a good loaf. I have individualized my method to my lifestyle.My method of making my WW sandwich loaf is to use a preferment (another search term) and mix the dough (to windowpane) in the evening. I put it into a greased covered container and into the refrigerator overnight. Next AM, rest on counter to warm up and continue rising to double and proceed from there. There are endless variations on this method.

Salt-your salt is at 2.2%. My personal preference is to be at 1.8-2.0% max. Some people go even higher but it is all personal preference though salt can have an effect on yeast if it is too high or sits next to yeast too long before it is mixed in. Some people add salt AFTER kneading to windowpane as the starches are released easier from the dough without the salt. My problem is that I often forgot to add it! Bread looked great but was very bland.


Take a look at some "porridge" breads posted lately and see if it gives you any ideas. Island66 and Danni3II3 has some lovely posts. The starchy gel from pre-soaked or even cooked cereal can moisturize, and soften a WW loaf.

There is a world of variations out there. Choose one and practice.

Bake delicious fun!



seattlebreadmaker's picture

Wow this a great amount of information, thank you very much taking the time to write this. I have a few questions. I usually prove the bread three different times- bulk fermentation, another fermentation and then the final one. Do I need to do three or is two enough ? I looked up autolyse which seems interesting - do I just mix the flour and water for this, or do I add the yeast as well ? And for retarding bread, does that happen in the fridge ? Should I let it prove fully before putting in the fridge ? Ive been wondering what to do with making four loaves of bread at one time because they all wont fit in my oven. I guess I can put on or two in the fridge and let the others cook first ? I looked at the expiration date on my yeast and it says it should be fine still but maybe I should replace it and see if there is a difference ? I will try adding more water and milk and see how that changes it. Thank you very much for the suggestions. 

IceDemeter's picture


Whether you are using the same size loaf pans as called for in the recipe (there is a surprisingly large difference in the actual volume of a 4" x 8" vs a 5" x 9" - or something in between).  If the recipe is set up for 3 loaves in 4" x 8" tins, and you are using larger tins, then you'll need to either accept the lower "rise" (which comes with wider slices), or scale the recipe up to suit your tins.

Whether you are substituting the oats in the recipe with something of equal volume (that is 1/2 cup per loaf difference - which is more than enough to be noticeable).

Just how much whole wheat flour you are substituting.  Whole wheat is heavier and doesn't rise as much as all purpose or bread flour, so there can be a noticeable difference in the overall rise if you are using more than about 10-15% of whole wheat.

If you are not activating the ADY in the warmed water for 10 minutes prior to mixing it in then it is possible that adding it in with refrigerated almond milk is enough to actively slow down the action of the yeast, giving you a much slower rise than you are timing for. 

Other than that, the other advice given is all spot-on!  Hopefully you can get back to us with some better results on your next bake!

seattlebreadmaker's picture

These are very good points. I will have to check which size pan they suggest using, I am using a 5x9 pan. If I am not adding oats, should I add more flour instead ? I have been adding 3 cups wheat flour, 4.5 cups white bread flour. Will this be an okay ratio ?



the hadster's picture
the hadster

I am not an expert, and I'm not nearly experienced as many on this site.

You said that you let it rise for an "hour each time."

Does your recipe ask you to let it rise until double in bulk during the first rise (bulk fermentation)?  If so, it might take 1.5 or 2 hours to reach that benchmark.

If you are instructed to let your dough rise an hour before and your dough hasn't moved enough, you could let it go for a bit longer.

Another to thing to check is to check the age/freshness of your yeast.

And the final thing is, keep baking bread!

seattlebreadmaker's picture

yes you are right, I dont think Ive been letting it prove for long enough, just 60 minutes because I didnt know how long I could prove it for without hurting the bread. But I will definitely do it for longer next time. The expiration date on the yeast says its still good, but I have wondered if its gone bad or not. Thank so much.

the hadster's picture
the hadster

And you will learn from them.  I went from under fermenting / proofing to over fermenting / proofing.

Just keep making bread.  Pay attention to how it feels at it's different stages.  Pay attention to how it tastes when baked.

You and your family/friends are the only people who's opinion matters.  My family likes a denser crumb than is currently in vogue, so that's what I make.  My family does not like the taste and/testure of 100 percent whole wheat, so I lighten it with bolted or commercial white flours.

Just keep baking!