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I've tried a couple different kinds of basic bread recipes (both active dry and instant yeast) and no matter how closely to the letter I follow the recipe, I can't seem to get the dough to rise in the time suggested in the recipe. It takes so much longer and I fear the longer rise time makes changes the taste of the bread (and serves as an I convenience to my timing, though I guess that's slightly less important). I'm starting to wonder if my room temperature might be slowing down the rise time? My house this time of year is usually mid to high 70's and I will try to put the dough in sunlight if it's shining that day.

Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong and how I can help my dough rise quicker?

Edit: Ok, after attempting the suggestions in the answer below, I still cannot get my bread to rise. This is an oatmeal sandwich loaf which I was able to get a great 1st rise (doubled in bulk after 2 hours sitting in the sun), but the second is taking longer. After 2 hours, this is the best I got:

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Not to mention that I suck at kneading because I can never get the dough smooth. These both have visible folds on the top which will inevitably burn in the oven... When I leave the dough for the 1st rise, I spray the top with oil to hold in the moisture and cover with a lint-free linen. But when I split the dough and press the gases out, the top is always a bit dried out and slightly hardened. This makes forming it into loaves difficult and leaves this fold on top. I am told that handling it too much after the first rise is not good and will make the 2nd rise take that much longer. Maybe I'm wrong a out that?

Warm equipment, super warm day today (80+ degrees and super sunny), I did use sugar and butter and allowed for a longer rise. This recipe called for 1tbs instant yeast and I even threw in an extra 1/4tbs for good measure. I made sure the salt and yeast were not mixed in together. But I just can't seem to make my breads light and fluffy. They are always small and dense. What gives? I'm so frustrated :(

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You probably aren't doing anything wrong. The times in recipes are approximate, and often vary enormously from reality, you should always work towards a result, not a time when it comes to bread baking. I've had bread take 2 hours to rise more than once, there's no problem with it. In fact, you get better gluten development and flavor in your bread with a longer rise. So, if don't rush if you can avoid it, take your time and get better bread. If that's not an option you can speed things up.

The temperature of the room is one variable, 70°F is perfectly normal for rising, and putting it in the sun will heat it up a lot, so temperature of the room doesn't seem to be a problem. There are a few other variables that come immediately to mind:

  • Yeast, if it's old many of the organisms will be dead, if it comes into contact with salt it will retard the yeast. Instant yeast is milled finer and gets to work faster, so use that, and put the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of your flour when you mix it in. You can also make a sponge using 100g of flour, 100ml of water and they yeast from your recipe, mix it all and let it sit for 30-40 minutes. It gives a perfect environment for your yeast to get active and healthy before you mix in the rest of the ingredients. It may seem like it will slow you down but it actually speeds up the process as rising is much faster
  • Ingredient and equipment temperature: if you start with cold water, flour etc you will slow your rising as the dough will be cold. If you put your kneaded bread into a cold bowl to rise it will cool the dough. If you want things to go faster make sure your ingredients and equipment are at a decent room temperature, or slightly warmer
  • Enrichment ingredients: butter, oil and sugar all enrich dough, and enriched dough will rise slower than non-enriched
  • Adding more flour than the recipe calls for: a common mistake is to think dough is too sticky and keep adding extra flour when kneading. Don't do it! It takes time for the flour to absorb all the water and the gluten chains to unravel, just deal with the stickiness. If you keep adding extra flour your bread will get too dense and rise much slower and have a tight, crumbly structure.

There are several questions on bread on this site which might be worth a read, for instance this, this, and this.

  • Ok, I know I accepted this answer, but I've had the same problem despite trying your suggestions. See an edit to my question. – TheSmallestOne Jun 16 '18 at 22:48

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