Your questions answered: Yeast bread that doesn't rise
Reader Mary T. wrote to me regarding some yeast bread:
I wanted to make a yeast dough today using a recipe I have used in the past...BUT... the dough never rose. I used Red Star Active Dry Yeast, which is what the recipe called for. The yeast expires in December of 2007... so the yeast is good. I used the warm water it called for.
It's been 3 hours and still no action. I even put my oven on 200 degrees F, closed it and put the (oiled) bowl in and waited. Nothing happened.
The dough has a little milk, one stick of butter, two eggs, sugar and lemon zest.
HELP! I don't think the bread will ever rise, but my question is: Is the dough good for... ANYTHING?
I'm not a bread expert, but here are the two possibilities I can think of: Either the yeast wasn't good, or the dough got too warm and killed the yeast. I know you said you used warm water, so that's probably fine -- but if the yeast came into contact with water that was too hot, it could kill the yeast. Also, it sounds like you probably didn't put the dough in the oven at 200 degrees until it had already been a long time (longer than it should have needed to start rising!), but that could kill the yeast, too.
I usually set my oven at 200 degrees for 2-3 minutes, and then I turn off the oven and put the covered dough inside to rise. (On one occasion, I put the dough in while I was heating the oven, and forgot to turn it off -- resulting in dough that got too hot and wouldn't rise due to yeast that had been killed!) And the water temperature should be 110-115 degrees... it should feel about the same temperature as the underside of your wrist, if you're using tap water.
From the recipe you described to me, it sounds like it has ingredients that shouldn't pose any rising problem.
Now, what to do with your dough. One thing to consider is that dough with perishable ingredients (like eggs) can't sit at room temperature too long... two hours is the longest recommended safe time for eggs (cracked) at room temperature. So you may have to toss the dough. For future reference, though, you could consider rolling the unrisen dough into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick, and cutting into squares, using a pizza cutter or butter knife. Bake pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet at 375 degrees until lightly browned, probably about 15-20 minutes. The end result will taste something like our homemade unleavened bread, which we make at Passover. It's very different from "regular" yeast bread, but makes a good snack, and would be a way to salvage the dough that just won't rise!
I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties, and I hope this was helpful. :)