Allowing your dough to rise sufficiently ensures that the resulting product will be light and airy rather than heavy and tough. Dough rises when a leavening agent creates air pockets inside the dough. When you want your dough to rise quickly, make sure you have the optimal environment for air pockets to form.
Using a leavening agent will help dough rise faster. While baking soda and baking powder are most often used in cakes and quick breads, yeast is the main leavening agent used in bread and pizza dough. All three cause chemical reactions to create gas that affects the ingredients in the dough. Some yeast, commonly known as “rapid rise,” has been engineered to activate the chemical reaction faster; and some types of flour, such as self-rising, already contain a leavening agent.
Most leavening agents will cause dough to rise gradually at room temperature. In dough with more moisture, the warmer the ambient temperature, the quicker the dough will rise. However, don’t warm at temperatures above 250 degrees Fahrenheit, as the dough will also begin to cook.
For faster rising, place dough in a warm oven, over a pan of warm water; or microwave once or twice on low for up to 25 seconds.
Active dry yeast is a living organism that goes dormant during storage. To “proof” or activate it, add it to warm water, about 110 to 115 F. Water above about 125 F can kill the organism, so test it first. It should feel hot but comfortable enough to put your finger in.
To speed up the proofing, add a pinch of sugar to the warm water. The yeast feeds on the sugar and begins to produce carbon dioxide gas more quickly. Adding vinegar during proofing creates a similar reaction. Add 3/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar for every 3 cups of flour when mixing the dough.
Let the dough rise to double size in a warm location or cover and put the dough next to a cup of hot water in the microwave and heat on low for up to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 3 minutes, then heat again.
Cover It Up
As carbon dioxide forms inside the dough, it causes the ball to expand. If the surface of the dough ball dries out, the crust that forms will keep the dough from rising as quickly. To enable the dough to rise freely, lightly coat the top of the dough with vegetable oil and cover with plastic wrap or a moist towel.
References and ResourcesDakotaYeast.com: Functions of Yeast
PillsburyBaking.com: All About Yeast Breads
Breadworld.com: Yeast Basics
Whats4Eats: Does Sugar Help Bread Yeast Grow?
General Chemistry Online: What Happens When Sodium Bicarbonate Is Heated?