Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bread Bleg: Okay, I'm confused.

Yesterday was my third bake since moving in. The first was not good, for what I thought was an obvious reason: I didn't do anything about proving the yeast, and the room was too cold for proper rising.

The second seemed to go better: Much better rising, resulting in bread that, while kind of dense, didn't have the consistency of brick.

The third, ...

I certainly can't fault the yeast. It damn near came out of the cup, in showing its enthusiasm.

But I knew I was in trouble before the first rise. The texture is grainy, not resilient at all. It completely failed the "window test" I read about.

The first rise seemed to go well enough, though...

And the second wasn't a complete disaster. Usually when the bread's going to be terrible, it's because it doesn't rise right.

Not great. I've got a feeling I just baked a couple of bricks.

Yup. Brick.



Judy said...

LOL I must have terribly low standards for bread. It looks great to me and I bet it tastes divine warm with butter and maybe a little honey or homemade jelly.

In all seriousness, I use a no-knead recipe that sets for 18 to 24 hours before baking and I use a small round cake pan to bake the bread in. I have found the pan to be the greatest aid in getting a loaf that doesn't spread out and for some reason the loaf has a more tender crust. As far as a kneaded loaf of bread I can't get one to turn out like my mother's to save me. They are all bricks. That is why I use a no-knead recipe.

Carl-Bear said...

I like dense breads, so I don't see a problem myself. But tastes vary.

After that first rise, are you just punching the dough down or kneading it again? Punch down is all you really want.

Joel said...

No, just punching it down, Carl.

Joel said...

And I like denser bread, too. But a texture like a slab of wallboard is taking that too far for my taste.

Jamie said...

Joel, you might check the 5 minute artisan breads online. Also Alton Brown has a great recipe for bread at that tells not just how to make bread but science behind why you do things in a recipe.
Just looking at your loaves you may want to make smaller loaves and watch the cooking time. I have noticed when I make smaller loves from the same recipe/batch they tend to be lighter and not so chewy.
I have several bread recipes at my site that most have good luck with as newbies to bread bakeing.

LJH said...

What's your elevation there in BFE? Particularly in baking, adjustments in liquid and flour measurements are necessary.

LJH said...

OK, looked it up. Apparently the extra liquid/more flour thing is for cookies & such, for bread they say this -

Yeast doughs rise faster in high elevations. To achieve fine-texture make of of these changes:

Rise a shorter time, just until barely doubled.

Use less yeast

Punch down twice instead of once to get three risings

HTH. I'm at 6200 ft. but don't eat bread so this is not from experience, just a cookbook.

LJH said...

Repost to add:

LOVE the cup; subtle.

Anonymous said...


From looking at the cut view of the bread I can tell a couple of things....

1. It needed to be mixed (kneaded) a bit more....I can see the striations in the bread where it layered.

2. The dough looks a bit dry...might try 1/4-1/2 cup more water.

3. it might be that the rising times need to be adjusted. I can see that the loaf has more airspace at the top than at the bottom. perhaps a bit less final rising...and a bit more second rising.

4. when you mix it up...before you turn it out to knead it, try mixing more vigorously....almost like you are trying to whip air in...also when mixing it up.....put the liquids in the bowl, and add the flour a handful at a time....vigorously mixing in between so that it is all uniform before you add the next one. Once it is too hard to spoon mix, THEN turn it out onto the kneading place....when almost all the flour is added...THEN add the salt...sprinkle it on, and knead.

Sorry if you are already doing all these things. YMMV.


Anonymous said...

One more thing....I have taken (in the winter) to letting it rise in the oven. My oven lets me set it to 100 deg as the lowest temp. That is just about perfect.


Groundhog said...

Tis only half brick sir. You are nearly there. One thing no one else mentioned is the kind of yeast you are using. The way you are making it you want active dry yeast, not instant. It did look like you could have used a bit more liquid too.

MamaLiberty said...

I'd be happy to send you my bread booklet with all the tips I've learned through the years. No need for dry, chewy bread at all.

Good advice here, for the most part, but I mix ALL dry ingredients into the flour first, then measure out all the wet stuff into the mixing bowl. The dry is added to the wet and mixed until I can't stir it (or I use the stand mixer with dough hook). Then knead for at least 15 or 20 minutes without adding any more flour. There's a trick to it...

The picture definitely shows that the kneading was inadequate. Smaller loaves work well too.

Anyway, send an email to mamaliberty - at - if you want the book. That goes for anyone here, of course. :)


I am not very good at baking "non dense" loafs of bread, however this recipe turns out good every time;

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour (i use what ever white flour i have)

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.Mix salt and oil into
the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes

For heat you can put them next to the fire on a chair. Or on a heating pad (not sure if that takes a lot of electricity)


oh and remember rising loafs want humidity; so if you rise in the oven heat up a bowl of water in there first, then turn off the heat and put in the dough; and/or use a wet dish towel to cover the bread while rising in the bowl or pan. if it stand alone, be careful using anything that will touch the bread.

Anonymous said...

We have all been spoiled by supermarket bread. 100 years ago bread was hard and crusty on the outside and fairly dense on the inside, what you might call a brick. If you look at the list of ingredients on store bought bread all of those unpronouncable ingredients play a role in the almost perfect rising of their bread and the complete distribution of fine bubbles. Accept that when you make bread from 4 or 5 basic ingredients you won't get Wonder bread you will get peasant bread.

MamaLiberty said...

Well, Anonymous... my bread is not a "brick" and I don't use any of those chemicals. Those chemicals are there as a cheap and fast substitute for the natural ingredients that have been used to make good bread for centuries.

Anonymous said...

Amen to Mama Liberty.

Traditional bread has but 4 ingredients: Water, flour, salt and yeast.

If I wish, I can make a loaf of nice white bread that will rival anything you can buy in a store. Not textureless like wonderbread, but with a great flavor and a good crust. I *like* a decent crust.

White bread is easy. Now making a good sourdough THAT is a challenge.

BUT...I have to say that breadmaking is an art. I could not begin to count the hundreds of loaves of bread I have made.

Its really cool to feed my family with 2 pounds of flour.

Joel, you need a book.

Its 'the village baker' by Joe Ortiz. ISBN 1580089569.


Jon said...

from my wife, who bakes at least once a week:

"At a first glance at the pictures I would say too much flour in the dough so that it was too dry. That wears out the yeast and it can't rise (or the ones that survive the gorging take a LOT longer on the 2nd time around). The whitish stripes in the bread are the excess flour. You need to start your dough on the sticky side and add flour carefully. When it looks shaggy like that it means it hasn't incorporated all the flour properly.

Did he knead by hand or use a machine. That could definitely use more kneading time - it's really hard work when the dough has too much flour and sometimes doesn't make it all the way.

It might have been salvageable if he had let the 2nd rise go longer - without knowing how long he left it it's hard to tell. But that 2nd rise doesn't look promising to me.

Just how far north is he? Elevation also can play a role as well. I'm not up on elevation-baking, though, so I'd have to research to find alternatives."