The Fresh Loaf

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Bread machine quality deteriorating - any ideas?

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ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

Bread machine quality deteriorating - any ideas?

Hi everyone 

I have had a bread machine which I have been using quite happily for about a year now. I spent some time tweaking the quantities of salt, sugar, water etc. until the bread that it was producing was pretty much perfect every time. I've stuck religiously to the same quantities but suddenly in the last few weeks the loaf is rising by probably an inch to an inch and a half less than it was previously and I just can't work out why. 

I'm using Allison's strong white bread flour (as I always have done). I've tried re-tweaking the quantities of everything right through to the temperature of the water but to no avail. 

Has anyone else encountered this? Could it be anything to do with the reportedly poor wheat harvest? Do bread machines simply deteriorate over time? Any ideas would be much appreciated before I go out and spend £100+ on a new machine!! 

Thanks everyone 

In case it helps - the quantities I'm using are 
1/2 tsp easy bake yeast (Allisons) 
2/3 tsp salt 
1 dsp sugar 
1 tbsp milk powder 
350g flour 
240ml water 
10g olive oil or butter

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Good chance it's a matter of time and temperature. Is it possible that your ingredients are somehow colder and taking longer to prove/rise? Or are these stages temperature controlled by the machine?

You should be able to observe/feel the dough during and after mixing to tell if something has changed(for the worse) there.

ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

Good call - maybe it's simply that winter is upon us and the flour etc. is colder when it goes into the machine. I might try storing the flour in the airing cupboard or something to get it a bit warmer. The timings are all machine controlled, but I don't know what temperatures are controlled by the machine prior to first knead / prove.

Any ideas welcome at this stage, it's doing my nut in! 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Try using the liquids as warm feasibly possible(don't kill the yeast). Yes, if you think the flour may be too cold and you have a warmer spot for it, move it.

Just some trouble shooting tips.

ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

OK thanks. I'll try warmer water too. Maybe a change of flour to a different brand may help as well...

copyu's picture
copyu

...before trying a different flour. [Actually, I'm now almost a 100% 'sourdough' baker and I very rarely use my BM or commercial yeast.]

However, I've had the yeast fail, several times, (both 'active dried' and 'instant' types) when an opened package was stored in a kitchen cabinet. Once I'd moved the yeast to the fridge, there were no more problems. That said, I still needed to pay (a little bit) of attention to the "use-by" dates. Prior to refrigeration, quite often, the yeast package said it had many months to go before expiry, but the dough-raising power was severely diminished. Since refrigeration, I could trust my yeast to raise the bread, even a few months after the expiry date. I store my instant yeast in a glass jar with a really tight-fitting plastic lid, in the fridge. 

Sorry if I'm wasting your time, but I hope this is helpful!

Happy baking!

Adam

Graid's picture
Graid

It's almost certainly not the machine's fault. Are you using the kind of yeast which comes in sealed sachets of 7g each or the kind which comes in a tub that last quite a while? If the latter, then try switching to the packet kind, I've had the other kind react pretty sluggishly for me.  Also, one thing that might help with troubleshooting is if you let the bread maker do the dough only and then bake it in the oven, that might figure out if it's something to do with the baking or the rising process.

ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

Thanks Graid - interestingly I use the kind in a tub, but like I say I have been using that quite happily for 6+ months with absolutely no problems whatsoever. I'm interested to hear that it's unlikely to be the machine, I kind of thought that was the case. It's really weird. I'm going to try keeping the flour a bit warmer and see what happens. I'll report back!

Thansk very much for this input, if anyone else has any suggestions they'll be gratefully received. 

Thomas Parr's picture
Thomas Parr

What I do is place all my dry ingredients in a bowl the night before, place in the oven with the oven light on and leave overnight.  I only use the dough cycle on my Zoji, remove  and then bake in the oven.  Always excellent results......especially with the cold temperatures in the winter here in Canada.

ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

So, for my next batch I am going to warm through all the ingredients, flour included. I'll let you know how I get on. Maybe it is just the onset of colder weather which is making things work less well. Will report back.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

If you can, try to take a look at the dough, periodically. You don't want it to over-prove, and collapse this time.

Just try to see if at some point, it rises to levels you were used to seeing.

ngowerjo's picture
ngowerjo

Thanks to some advice from another forum, I have managed to work out what this problem is. Yesterday I went out and bought some Doves Farm organic white bread flour. It was more expensive that the Allisons flour that I normally use, but I thought well why the hell not. Anyway, the difference is remarkable. All of a sudden, my loaves are back to how they were before, and rising a good inch more than they have been recently. It just goes to show that all the people who say to use top quality ingredients are dead right. I'll be sticking to this flour in future. 

I'd be interested to know if anyone else has noticed a sudden drop in quality of the Allison's flour - they must have done something with their blend, maybe dropped the quality to avoid putting their price up. 

Thanks again for your help with this one everybody, once again I'm a very happy baker!

N

Graid's picture
Graid

Months later, I decide to reply.. Glad you sorted out your problem. No, I haven't noticed a drop in quality of Allisons flour, and I do use it with some regularity. However, the Allisons flour I generally end up getting is the extra strength one, which has a high gluten content.