What to do with bread dough that didn’t rise

You’re all excited to make a loaf of bread or maybe even pizza but when you go to look at your dough it’s as flat as your meal plans now!  If that’s happened to you you might be wondering what to do with bread dough that didn’t rise – is it a lost cause?

Here are the two things I do with unrisen dough so don’t lose hope.

  1.  Add some different yeast, a bit more flour and give it a knead again to try and rescue it
  2. Make flatbreads or pitta breads

But also make sure that it’s had enough time and has been in a warm place before you make any decisions – perhaps all is not lost!



If the dough has definitely not risen think through the the time available and what you might be wanting to do with the dough afterwards.


Why did my bread dough not rise?

First things first, did the bread dough completely fail or does it just need some more time in a warm place?  Try punching it down – did it have any air in there at all?


In winter, when kitchens are a lot colder, it can make the job of proving your dough tough.  (Proving means proving that the yeast works – if it rises then the yeast is good!)  If you’re not sure then I recommend placing the dough in a warm place, maybe near a radiator for a little longer to see if it makes a difference.  Dough will rise in cold temperatures but can be a lot slower!


Here are my tips for getting dough to rise faster.


If you’re sure the dough has failed then it’s good to think about why that is.


The main reasons why bread dough doesn’t rise are:

  • forgetting to put the yeast in completely (I know it sounds daft but I’ve done it a good few times!)
  • using yeast that is out of date and dead
  • adding water that is too hot
  • adding salt too near the yeast


You can test to see if your yeast is dead by adding some to some warm water and a bit of sugar and leaving for ten minutes – if the mixture is bubbling then you know the yeast is still good.  If not then it’s past its best and needs to be discarded.


Another way that the yeast can fail is if you add water to the mixture that is too hot – it should be just warm and ok for your hand to be in it.  Any hotter and it can kill the yeast even if it was good to start with.


Finally salt can really upset the yeast if it gets too close in the mixture.  When adding the yeast and salt try and add them in different areas so they aren’t too close when they start mixing together.


How to rescue bread dough that didn’t rise

If you have lots of time you can try and rescue the dough that didn’t rise.  How I’ve done it in the past is by introducing the yeast back in to the dough.

Check the yeast is good by doing the test I detailed above.  Don’t use too much water – a couple of tablespoons should be enough.

When you know that the yeast is ok you’ll need to add the yeast mixture to your dough and then add some more flour so that it keeps the consistency that you need.  Cover.  Put in a warm place and check on it in an hour or so.


This can have varying results but I always think it’s worth a go rather than wasting it.



How to make flatbreads with unrisen dough


Another option to contemplate is making flatbreads.  Flatbreads don’t use yeast anyway and so the fact that the dough hasn’t risen won’t matter at all.

There are a few ways to make them.  My favourite way is as follows:

  • get a flat, non stick frying pan hot.  You don’t need any oil.
  • roll the dough out in a really thin circle (or as close to a circle as you can!)  I use about a golf ball sized bit of dough for each flatbread.
  • place the flattened dough in the pan and cook for a few minutes
  • flip over and allow to cook on the other side
  • place the flatbreads in a folded, clean tea towel to keep them soft.


Alternatively you could try rolling them to a small pitta bread size and bake in a really hot oven.


When dough doesn’t work it’s time to get creative and see what else we can do with it.  So long as the dough gets cooked in some way you’ll be able to make something that might be edible.  I’d love to hear what you’ve done if you’ve had any other ideas – do share in the comments!