Have you ever got into the kitchen and realized your dough didn’t rise? Whether you’ve simply forgotten to let it rise and are now out of time, or something went wrong in the rising process, people often wonder if it’s still possible to bake the unrisen dough. Have no fear! In this article, we’ll answer all of your questions about baking unrisen dough and offer helpful pointers to assist in your baking process.
Baking Unrisen Dough
Unrisen dough, in general, cannot be baked due to its density. The yeast inside your dough must rise before baking, which allows it to undergo chemical reactions which create air pockets or little bubbles within the dough. Without these little pockets of air, your dough will bake into a flat and dull bread that is simply too dense to be enjoyed. While it is possible to bake dough that has not risen, it is not recommended for this reason.
The final result of baking dough that hasn’t risen will not be worth it, as you won’t achieve the perfect bread you’re dreaming of! This doesn’t mean it’s time to throw the dough straight in the trash! Instead, it may be more useful to repurpose your dough into a different recipe.
Keep reading as we explore the various reasons your dough may not have risen to help you prevent the same instance from happening again. We will also discuss some of the many options you can consider to repurpose your dough that has not risen.
Reasons Why Your Dough didn’t Rise
We understand the frustration of coming back to your dough to find it has not risen. It can be even more frustrating when you simply cannot figure out why it did not rise! Understanding the basic premises of how dough rises will help you troubleshoot why your dough didn’t rise and ensure this does not happen to you again!
As previously mentioned, it is not recommended that you bake dough that hasn’t risen.
We know this is because when yeast rises, the air bubbles allow for the final result to be both moist and light. Without this chemical reaction taking place what we’re left with is a more dense dough.
Before we can analyze why the dough didn’t rise, it’s helpful to understand how the dough rises in the first place.
Many bread recipes include an ingredient known as “active dry yeast”, which is an essential ingredient to ensure your dough rises. You might be wondering what the “active” part in this name means. Yeast is actually a living thing! Since yeast is a living thing, it must thrive and eat like all other organisms. This process is known as fermentation, where the yeast “eats” or “feeds” off the sugar in your bread dough.
This essential step plays a vital role in understanding how dough rises. Through this fermentation process, air bubbles or pockets are formed.
When making bread, the proteins in the flour of your mixture will combine with water to form gluten. The gluten is quite stretchy, meaning it allows space for the air bubbles to grow.
This is why it is important to properly knead your dough, as the kneading process allows gluten to expand and allows for your dough to create the right environment for many air bubbles.
The final result will be a bread that is both moist and airy!
Now that you have learned about these chemical processes, it becomes clearer why it is important that the dough must rise properly before baking. Let’s identify some possibilities that can go wrong in the rising process:
While this might seem obvious, (as would checking to make sure something is plugged in before claiming it’s broken), making sure your yeast is fresh and not expired is the first step in ensuring that your bread comes out great.
This is because we know that yeast is alive. Over time, yeast becomes inactive which means it will not be able to form the gas bubbles that are needed to rise. However, yeast can last three to four months after the package is opened. One tip is to store your active dry yeast in the refrigerator after opening to make sure it stays fresh for longer! It’s also a good idea to label the package with the date it was opened to give you an idea of whether or not it should still be active.
Performing a Yeast Test
If you didn’t date the package and are unsure how long your yeast has been sitting, we recommend adding one extra step before baking to ensure your yeast is still active. To do this, simply add slightly warm (not hot) water and mix in a teaspoon of yeast. Allow this to set for about 15 minutes.
Examine your mixture and you should see small air bubbles forming on the surface. If you are not seeing any air bubbles, this likely means your yeast is inactive. If so, get fresh yeast before you resume baking. Tip: If you think your yeast is fresh but it’s not reacting with the warm water you can try adding a teaspoon of sugar which should help to activate it.
The temperature of the environment you are baking your bread in will play an important role in the dough rising process. Warmer temperatures are ideal for dough to rise. Since yeast is a living organism, it thrives in warm temperatures.
You may find that in the warmer summer months, depending on where you live, your dough may rise faster than in the winter. The temperature of your home most certainly plays a role how effectively the dough will rise. Please be sure to be patient to ensure the dough has enough time to rise in cooler conditions (and consider raising the thermostat before you start preparing the dough).
In general, the ideal rising temperature for dough to rise is between 80- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. However, this is not always attainable as room temperature generally falls below these temperatures. When letting your dough rise at room temperature on the counter, be sure it is not in a place with a draft or a fan.
On the topic of temperature, one other important thing to note again is that active dry yeast should be dissolved in warm water with preferably with a teaspoon sugar. Be sure to properly follow the exact temperatures on the yeast package to avoid issues with your dough rising.
The temperature of the water should be between 110- and 115-degrees Fahrenheit, which you should be able to use a simple kitchen thermometer to measure. If your liquid is too hot, this will cause the yeast to die and result in dough that does not rise. In contrast, liquid that is too cool will not work either, because yeast requires warm conditions to thrive.
Exposure to Salt
This fun fact is often not known by many new bakers. Contrary to the way salt works to speed up a pot of boiling water, too much salt slows down yeasts’ fermentation process. Of course, as most do, your bread recipe will have a small amount of salt for taste but be sure to measure correctly. Make sure your dough does not come into contact with any other salt to ensure that your dough rises correctly. Tip: To ensure accidents don’t happen, make sure you do not pour or measure your salt over top of the same bowl as your dough.
Too much Flour or Sugar
When it comes to baking bread, proper measurement is surely one of the most important considerations and one that can make the difference between a good bread and a great one. If your dough has not risen, it is possible that too much flour inhibited the yeast from having enough space to rise.
One way to prevent the addition of too much extra flour is to properly knead your dough for at least 10 minutes so it forms a good gluten structure. This will allow your dough to hold gas bubbles well and only add extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Also, be mindful of what type of flour you use in your dough. Flour with low protein content does not produce as much gluten as higher protein content flours.
Much like too much flour can cause dough rising problems, too much sugar can also cause similar issues.
The sugar in your dough mixture helps to absorb the moisture from the mix, but too much sugar can absorb too much of the liquid which will leave your yeast dry. As such, your dough will not rise properly.
Follow your recipes sugar requirements exactly to ensure this common mistake does not happen to you!
Cover your Dough Properly
To keep your dough moist, cover your mixture with plastic wrap or a damp towel. This will prevent the surface of the dough from becoming too dry, which can affect the rising and the texture of your bread. Ideally, the dough should be covered in an airtight container to allow for proper rising conditions.
Repurposing Dough that Hasn’t Risen
Before you rush to trash your dough that has not risen, here are four easy alternatives to create something new.
Flatbreads or Tortillas: Since your dough has not risen, it will be flat or at least partially flat. While this may not be perfect for a thick bread, it is perfect for creating types of flatbreads, such as tortillas or Indian or middle eastern flatbreads.
To do this, you can take your existing dough and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a very thin layer on a floured counter. For flatbreads, the thinner the better!
Tip: Its recommended to cook each tortilla in a pan right after rolling to avoid drying them out. Also, don’t pile the uncooked tortillas to avoid them sticking together. Ask a friend or family member for help and create an assembly line!
Pizza: Another way to repurpose your existing dough is to make a thin-crust pizza. Believe it or not, no yeast pizza dough is a thing!
- To make the flatbread pizza, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (usually around 500 degrees Fahrenheit) for around 30-45 minutes.
- While its heating, portion out the dough into several small balls and begin rolling each ball into a very thin layer. You can form your dough into any shape you’d like for the pizza, it could be circular or even rectangular.
- Once you’ve decided on the shape and rolled out your dough transfer it to a non-stick pizza stone or baking pan.
- Cover your dough generously with sauce, cheese and other toppings of your choice.
- Bake the dough until a nice crust has formed and its texture is firm (usually around 4-7 minutes) and the cheese has melted.
This option is a fun idea because there are endless possibilities of how to top your pizza! Perhaps you go for a traditional pizza with simple sauce and cheese, or maybe you want to get fancy and try a new combination of toppings.
Croutons: Maybe you were making a fresh bread to serve with your meal. Perhaps you were planning a fresh greens salad to go along with it. Another way to turn a bread-fail into a win is by making homemade croutons to enhance your salad. If you’ve never made homemade croutons before just know that they are on another level of deliciousness compared to store bought croutons.
- To make the croutons you want to first preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
- While the oven is heating roll out your dough but not as thick as the flat bread, we recommend a thickness of about ½ inch.
- Bake the dough for 20-20 minutes until it has a nice golden color.
- Let the cooked bread rest for 30 minutes and then cut up the bread into small cubes and lay them across a baking tray.
- Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder and sea salt.
- Bake the cubed bread for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Since the bread is fresh it may take a little longer so watch it closely!
Flatbreads, tortillas, pizza or croutons not your thing? These are only a few examples of the many ways you can repurpose dough that has not risen to make something new. Get creative with it!