When asking people who attend our courses and demonstrations what challenges they have had with bread making, the most common response is the dough not rising or the loaf was too dense. No-one leaves a class without having made a perfect loaf of bread so whats the problem? We have even started offering dried yeast alongside our normal fresh yeast, which isn’t quite so easy to find, and still the results are good.
I suspect its largely down to temperature and time. If using dried yeast, I prefer the very fine Dove Farm granules which can be added directly to the flour. The Allinsons dried yeast is fine but it has to be reconstituted in water first. Either way, the first trick is to use 2/3 cold water from the tap (make sure it really is cold) and 1/3 boiling water. If reconstituting dried yeast, add a pinch of sugar to the water before you add the yeast and check that bubbles are produced before adding to the flour.
It is not strictly necessary to leave the dough somewhere warm to prove/rise. Unless your house is freezing, anywhere will do; dough will even rise in the fridge if you leave it long enough. So, don’t be impatient; in a warm room it should not take more than 60-90 minutes but maybe longer in a cold space or if the dough contains lots of sugar, alcohol or spice (see Hints and tips; teatotal yeast).
If after several hours it has not risen, don’t put it in the oven hoping that ‘oven spring’ will fix it. You will end up with a partially risen loaf and a dense layer of undigestable dough at the bottom of the loaf. Better to mix it again (possibly halving the dough and mixing in two batches), adding more yeast, flour and water and trying again.