The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Repeated failure to rise

littlelisa's picture
littlelisa

Repeated failure to rise

Hi guys

We moved to Mauritius a year ago, and my breadbaking has taken a huge knock. I pretty much always bake the same bread:

1 kg flour (strong white stoneground, which I bring over in my suitcase from SA as the local flours are useless here)

20 g salt

10 instant yeast (again, same brand as I used in SA)

800 ml water

My usual technique is to mix, let it rest a little, then fold and rest at 45-minute intervals with four fold-and-rest periods then a shape and final rise before baking. Generally it takes the first two intervals to get to a nice puffy sort of dough that's readily doubling (or more), but after that I'm dealing with very reliable airy dough.

Here in Mauritius I've had to dial back the liquid to around 650-700 ml to accommodate the humidity. But several times I've mixed the dough, and ... nothing. The dough sits in the bowl like a wet blanket. What gives? I'm so confused. Should I be adding more yeast? Why? 

Help!!

Lisa

mutantspace's picture
mutantspace

why dont you make a poolish and see how that goes....humidity isnt going to help so you have to make sure your yeast is well sealed in a dry cool environment....  

pul's picture
pul

Is your yeast really active? If exposed to too much heat, it may be dead. You should store it in the fridge and make sure it does not go through radiation when bringing it from SA.

littlelisa's picture
littlelisa

A poolish is a brilliant idea, I'm going to try that. 

I don't see how the yeast could be dead - it's that instant yeast you get in little foil sachets that are totally sealed. I don't know... even if the supermarket's shipments get irradiated or sprayed or something, surely the packaging would protect it? But yes, maybe I should bring my own over from SA rather than relying on the stuff the supermarket brings over!

 

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Could it be something in the water? You could try it with filtered or bottled water to check.

-Brad

pmccool's picture
pmccool

proof the yeast to test its viability.  Stir up some water, a pinch or two of sugar, and the dry yeast.  Wait to see whether the yeast gets bubbly.  If it doesn't within a 10 minutes or so, the yeast is probably dead.

Just to test the water hypothesis, do one version with tap water and another with distilled water.  Although distilled water doesn't have the micronutrients/minerals that tap water would, you'll at least know that it is free of chlorine or other chemicals and isn't someone else's tap water.  If both tests fail to produce bubbles, the yeast is definitely the culprit. 

If you can't locate a source of reliable yeast, it may be the perfect opportunity to explore sourdough.

Paul

P.S. It's been more than two years since my last trip to ZA and I miss the place.

littlelisa's picture
littlelisa

OK, I shall test the water and the yeast!

Thanks for the advice all.

Paul - I love baking with sourdough and used to do so when I did a weekly bake for the neighbourhood. But here I'm only baking for family (partly weather, partly exorbitant price of electricity on the island, but mainly because there is no decent flour so I have to bring my own in my luggage when we visit SA two or three times a year), and I just wouldn't have enough use for the sourdough - I'd spend more flour keeping it alive than I'd ever use it. Plus I am a chronic sourdough-murderer; I am terrible at keeping it alive !! 

pmccool's picture
pmccool

And one of the downs is being able to source things easily.

I've been thinking about the yeast, especially if you are transporting it from ZA.  Even though sealed in the foil sachets, it still endures some insults along the way in the form of varying temperatures (and possibly radiation exposure?), especially if it travels in your checked luggage.  While I don't know that any of those conditions would be enough to kill it outright, the cumulative effect may reduce its viability.  If it is then stored at ambient conditions on Mauritius, that will shorten its shelf-life even further. 

Depending on the results of your experiments, you might want to try this strategy when you purchase more yeast on a trip back to ZA.  Got o a store with high inventory turnover that allows you to buy the yeast in larger quantities (say a boxful of the 10g sachets).  I used to see these in Makro, for instance.  The boxes contain 1 or 2 dozen of the sachets.  Test one of the sachets while you are still in ZA.  If it is viable, carry the rest in your hand baggage going back to Mauritius so that it experiences the same temperatures that you do.  The x-ray machines are unavoidable, I'm afraid, but your first bake when you get back will quickly show whether the yeast was affected.  Then store the remaining sachets in the freezer between uses, which will give you the longest possible yeast life.

If flour is expensive or scarce, then I take your point about not maintaining a starter; particularly since you are a self-confessed starter murderer.

Best of luck with your future bakes.

Paul

littlelisa's picture
littlelisa

Hey Paul


No, the foil is bought here at a local supermarket but it's imported from SA (good old Anchor yeast). The packages I'd been using were marked to expire September 2018 (so should have been ok), but I've now bought more packages with October 2019 expiry date. Tested both with both bottled and tap water. The Sept 18 packages were totally dead, and the October 19 packages very much alive. No difference in the effects of the water. Problem solved!! Dead yeast!!


And, having gone back to my various books and refreshed my understanding of biga and poolish starters, I think I'm going to start using a biga which will help my very liquid dough deal with this humidity a bit better. 
Thanks for the help everyone!


Lisa