The Fresh Loaf

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Long-time breadmaker here -- I've lost my touch. Please help

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tkarl's picture
tkarl

Long-time breadmaker here -- I've lost my touch. Please help

Me:  I always use a breadmaker and I ALWAYS make whole wheat.  I bought the original DAK Breadmaker when it first came out.  I had tweaked my DAK WW recipe so that the rising bread nearly kissed the glass top every single time.  Then I bought an Oster about 3 years ago primarily because they had a WW recipe that did not require any added Gluten flour.  The Oster worked fabulously.  That is the good news.  My problem now is that I cannot repeat my successes now no matter what I do.  Now, Every single loaf comes out to about 1/2 of the expected size -- in BOTH Bread Makers.

Ok, to provide more specifics:  1)  My room temperature is now (Chicago winter) is set to 57 degrees.  Not expecting things to work right because of this, I have warmed the breadmakers, the flour, the water, the yeast -- everything.  2)  I've proofed my yeast.  According to Red Star, 1/2C water + 1t sugar + 2 1/4t yeast (all at 115-120 degrees) + 10 minutes should raise the volume from 1/2C to 1C.  It does.  All my jarred yeast stays in the freezer.  3)  I've created a nice warm environment by putting 1/2 gallon jars of hot tap water outside the BM.  Then I put blankets around the whole thing plus a warming pad on top.  All this was of course is removed when the baking starts.  4) I am very careful when measuring.  I use the same measuring cups & technique I always have.

Just recently, I've also began milling my own flour.  Today, I thought to use store-bought WW flour to see if the milling was causing an issue.  I fired up BOTH BMs and they now both have 1/2 loaves in them.  I'm at my wits' end here.

What has happened to my bread-making capability?  Assistance appreciated.  Oh, and this is my 1st post here.

breadbabe's picture
breadbabe

Are you weighing or measuring? I found that fresh milled flour success was much more consistent when I switched my full recipe to grams. It also helps that i can weigh the grain and use 100% of the resulting flour.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

I have always measured.  As previously stated, I've had great results -- all with store bought flour.  I had thought the milling might have been the issue, so today I made bread in both machines with the same result -- 1/2-sized loaves.  My recipes do not have weight equivalents.  Without being able to duplicate my good results, I have no reference to weigh the working flour to compare to my milled flour. 

I noted that one of the high-end Zojirushi models will pre-heat the ingredients, but such a purchase is out of the question at his time.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

check the water.  You've accounted for the other variables.  Do you use tap or bottled water?  I'm guessing you use tap water.  Perhaps the city has recently changed their treatment chemicals or filters or ....  They may even have published the fact (check their web site or give them a call).  I'd give your old standby methods and ingredients another try.  Keep everything the same, but try bottled water and see what happens.

It's worth a try I hope.
Hang in there.  There's a reason, and you can find it.  Just keep at it.
OldWoodenSpoon

tkarl's picture
tkarl

I have a water filter that I  always use; however, it has been awhile since the filter was changed.  Also, if water quality was an issue, wouldn't it affect the yeast proofing described above?

tkarl's picture
tkarl

Certainly worthwhile to try bottled water!!! 

Antilope's picture
Antilope

and the yeast is rising more slowly. Or maybe the type of yeast used.

When you are baking using a manual recipe, you decide how long to knead in a mixer or by hand, you also decide when the dough has risen enough to bake. If using Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast those rising times may be different (let's say 45 minutes vs 1 hour). Or if the dough is a little colder and takes longer to rise. For a manual recipe, it doesn't make much difference, you just wait longer until the bread has risen enough to bake.
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In a bread machine, everything is run by timers. The bread machine timer may give the dough 45 minutes to rise. If the wrong yeast is used or dough is too cold, the machine may bake before the dough is risen fully, or it may have risen too much. This was all determined when the manufacturer designed your bread machine. Different models or brands of bread machines can be different. So it's important to follow the manual that comes with it.
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Chances are, you can run your bread machine in a more manual mode, starting the BAKE CYCLE when the dough has risen enough instead of allowing the Bread Machine Timer to do it.
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By using the separate Manual DOUGH and BAKE CYCLES, I mentioned above, you control when the bread is baked in the machine and then what type of yeast or temperature of the dough is used isn't so critical. Just let the dough take its own time needed to rise and then run the BAKE CYCLE manually.

I usually start my bread machine in a Manual DOUGH CYCLE to knead the dough and allow it to rise and be punched down. I then unplug my bread machine and allow the dough to rise the proper amount (usually to near the top of the bread mixing basket.) Sometimes this can take 45 minutes, sometimes it takes 90 minutes. You have to keep checking and monitor how high the loaf has risen. When the dough has risen the desired amount, I then plug in my bread machine and run a Manual BAKE CYCLE to bake the bread. It usually comes out perfectly using this method.

The moisture in the dough can also affect the rise and density of the bread.

Monitor the first few minutes of mixing and kneading. You should aim for a dough with a consistency that you could remove from the machine and knead by hand. If necessary, adjust the dough, with more liquids or flour, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve that consistency. Not too dry and not too sticky. It should be a smooth dough that holds its shape. The dough should not be soupy or crumbly. Too dry a dough can cause dense bread.
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Also, make sure you use fresh, unexpired yeast. Use the type of yeast recommended by the bread machine manual.

Don't allow the dry yeast to come in contact with the salt. These things can also cause the yeast to have a poor rise and make a dense loaf.
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Use lukewarm liquids (around 75 F to 95 F), not too hot and not too cold. Too hot or too cold can also cause a dense loaf.
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I had a similar problem occasionally with dense bread, until I started weighing my ingredients. At the very least, weigh the flour. It's much more accurate and will give more consistent results. It's very easy to add too much flour when measuring flour by volume instead of weight. It's easy to pack too much flour into the cup. You want a hydration of about 60% to 65% for a bread machine.
That means if the total flour weighs 500 grams, you want the total liquids (including milk, water, juice, eggs, but not honey, syrup, butter or oil) to weigh 300 grams to 325 grams. Even with weighing the ingredients, you will still have to make manual adjustments to achieve the correct dough consistency. Your flour may be more moist or drier at times and this requires moisture adjustment to the dough.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

Yeast:  I even called Oster and got the Word: regular yeast, not Bread Machine yeast.  This is what I used.  I proofed both regular yeast & bread machine yeasts a couple of days ago and proofing results were all meeting Red Star's criteria -- although both yeast jars were expired, they had been continually kept in my freezer.

As far as using a Manual cycle as you described, I think that would make my 57-degree room ambient even more of an issue.  My old DAK machine will turn the bake heating element on to regulate the temperature during rising; and, contrary to what Oster's customer service said, I think I observed my Oster machine today also cycling the heating element during rising.  If I went to a manual cycle, or anytime I unplugged the machine, I would not get this rising-cycle temperature -- but just ambient plus my hot-water-jars and blankets.  However, this still might be worth a try.  As you state, the manual cycle is more forgiving than the canned program of the BM.

I spoke to a bread-making guy at my local Whole Foods Market.  He suggested that I should adjust the water/flour ratio slightly until a pinch of the dough snaps back.

Hmmm, 75-95-degree liquids?  Maybe I'm making everything too warm!  I was using the yeast-proofing temperatures of 115-120.

Measuring:  As stated, I have no references to weight.  But I always use the same 1C measure, and I tap it slightly to remove air pockets, then level it off.  I put the measured flour in Ball jars then into warm 100-degree water to warm up the flour.  When I mill, the milling warms the flour.  Now I'm thinking everything might have been too warm.   ???

I might conclude that if this Manual cycle works for you, then I would guess your room temperature is more normal than mine.  I cannot tell at this time how well my BM's are able to create a yeast-rising environment in a 57-degree room.

Still confused here.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

If I  went with the manual cycle idea, I could use my dehydrator with several shelves removed.  What temperature?  I have mine set to 105 for other things.  Should I also put pan(s) of water in there as well?  It is also very dry here in Chicago, and we're heading for some below zero temperatures outdoors.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Put some kneaded, yeasted dough, covered in a bowl in the fridge overnight. In the morning it will have doubled in size, at 40F. So it should rise fine at 57F, it just takes longer than it does at 75F. The bread machine timer is just triggering the bake cycle before the dough has risen enough. Like I mentioned above, the bread machine is probably giving the dough 45 minutes to rise and then baking. At lower temperatures, the dough takes longer to achieve the rise that is needed. It just takes more time, like 1 or 2 hours. A manual Bake cycle will give it that. 

Maybe there is some other reason for the slow rise. Maybe the whole wheat dough is heavy and slower rising. Maybe the yeast, even though it proofs, is a little older and slightly tired. Maybe you are adding a little too much salt, which will slow down the yeast rise. Maybe you are getting the yeast too hot and damaging or killing some of it (above about 130F kills it). If you are not using a thermometer and heating things above 100F, it is easy to subject the yeast to too much heat. Either way, the bread machine is only giving the dough 45 minutes to rise, and the dough you are making requires more time than that to achieve full rise. The only way to give it more time is a manual rise time and manual bake cycle. At least until you can find out why the dough seems to be rising slower than it use to.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

I think it might be the Salt.  When I had good results I was using regular table salt.  A Couple of years ago, I splurged and bought some fancy-shmancy sea salt -- I think it was $11 for a ~12oz jar.  To my taste, It's just plain saltier than table salt.  Now I need to try Regular Salt and see what the yeast thinks of it.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Do you add the yeast to the liquid ingredients or to the top of the dry flour? I would place the salt in the opposite location. If the yeast is mixed with the liquids, I would add the salt to the top of the dry flour. If the yeast is added on top of the dry flour, I would add the salt to the liquids. This will keep them separated until mixing. Also, don't use more than about 2% by weight, salt to flour (500 grams of flour requires about 10 grams of salt).

tkarl's picture
tkarl

Always.  The yeast goes on top of the flour. 

breadbabe's picture
breadbabe

I have interchangeably used table salt and sea salt for years. Never seems to affect anything. (I'm also in the camp that puts the salt, active dry yeast and water all in at the same time. Works for me.)

But what might change with the salt is weight - back to the measuring question. Coarse salt and fine salt may measure differently, but will always weigh out properly.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

From Oster's Manual:

- FIRST, liquid ingredients

- SECOND, dry ingredients

- LAST, yeast

Also, make sure ALL ingredients are at room temperature, (between 77°–85° F) unless otherwise noted in the recipe.

Whole Wheat

Setting Recipes (Menu 3)

 

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Stages (for 1.5 lb. loaves)

For the Whole Wheat bread cycle you can expect the following things to happen as the timer counts

down to zero.

To begin: The ingredients are kneaded for the first time (5 minutes)

At 3:15, the dough rests for 5 minutes

At 3:10, the dough is kneaded for the second time (15 minutes)

At 2:55, the dough begins to rise (49 minutes)

At 2:05, the dough is “punched down” (10 seconds)

At 2:05, the dough continues to rise (25 minutes and 50 seconds)

At 1:40, the dough is shaped (10 seconds)

At 1:40, the dough comes to the last period of rise (49 minutes and 50 seconds)

At 0:50, the dough begins to bake (50 minutes)

At 0:00, the bread is finished.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

It will help us to more fully understand what might be going on if you post your bread recipe. Thanks. I would like to see how much flour, liquid, salt, sugar, yeast and butter, etc is going into the recipe. Also post how you add or mix together those ingredients in the bread machine.

I've been using bread makers for over 20 years and have owned 5 different models over the years.

jcking's picture
jcking
tkarl's picture
tkarl

OSTER Breadmaker

 

100% Whole Wheat Bread - 2 lb. loaf Wheat

1 and 5/8 cups water

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 and 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

3 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 Measure and add liquid ingredients to the bread pan.

2 Measure and add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the bread pan.

3 Use your fi nger to form a well (hole) in the fl our where you will pour the yeast. Yeast must NEVER

come into contact with a liquid when you are adding ingredients. Measure the yeast and carefully

pour it into the well.

4 Snap the baking pan into the breadmaker and close the lid.

5 Press the “Menu Select” button to choose the Whole Wheat setting

6 Press the “Loaf Size” button to choose 1 lb., 1.5 lb., or 2 lb.

7 Press the “Crust Color” button to choose light, medium, dark or rapid crust.

8 Press the “Start/Stop” button.

 

Yes, there is lots of sugar, but it does not require any added Gluten Flour.  I have had great results with this recipe in the past -- but not presently.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

My only concern is adding Active Dry Yeast, dry, without proofing it in water. I would feel better about the recipe if Instant Dry Yeast is used. It is made to be added dry to the other ingredients. Active Dry Yeast usually requires proofing (activating in water) before adding to a recipe.

tkarl's picture
tkarl

Active Dry Yeast is all I have ever used.

jcking's picture
jcking

All the warming up maybe causing the dough to over rise and or over proof. Is there any way to check the progress of the dough? Does it rise, stir down, then rise again on the proof cycle?

Jim

tkarl's picture
tkarl

All the warming up activities were done to separate ingredients -- not the dough.

I even made one loaf from the yeasts I used for proofing -- it turned out about the same as the other 1/2-loaves I've been getting.

jcking's picture
jcking

If all the ingredients and their surroundings (water bottles etc.) were warm, wouldn't that equate to a warm, maybe too warm of a dough, rising and proofing too fast and then collapsing?

Jim

tkarl's picture
tkarl

My dough does not rise & collapse, it just does not rise as well as I know it did in the past.  The final result is edible but nearly brick-like.  These results are repeatable.  If I add Gluten flour it seems to help some.

Does anyone think that New Yeast would help even if my present yeast proofs as it should? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think you should try new yeast.  I've been suspicious of it from the beginning of the post.  It does age, even in the freezer.  It may test foamy but that doesn't mean it can lift dough.  It will slow down a rise as the yeast takes longer to build up momentum.  You could try to double the yeast to see if that improves anything.  If it does, then the yeast has lost some of it's power and you can use it up twice as fast. 

When activating or testing the yeast, does the aroma strike you as normal or does it seem more nutty than yeasty?

tkarl's picture
tkarl

It certainly would not hurt to double the yeast amount.

Hmm, you are saying that even if the yeast proofs out according to Red Star's proofing recipe that it still may not make bread properly?  Wow, this would be news to me!

I think I'm going to try New Yeast, ASAP.

Where do you folks get your yeast?  I just found this on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Star-Active-Yeast-Pound/dp/B005KR0MZG/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Seems like a considerable deal compared to grocery store prices.  Has anyone ever bought yeast from Costco?  One reviewer on the above-listed item says $3.89 there -- but no quantity was given.  Please share.

breadbabe's picture
breadbabe

Red Star from Costco (2lb brick) is all I've ever used (I'm not using a breadmaker, either). I've had success, so i never changed to anything else.

Maureen

tkarl's picture
tkarl

What price did you pay for the 2lb brick of yeast at Costco?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

buy yeast in tiny little packages than bulk.  Always check dates and make sure the vacuum is still intact.  Depending on where you live and the postage service, season etc.  shipping can also kill or damage yeast in transit if exposed to sunshine or heat.  Yeast should be protected in your local supermarket and on the trip home.   Closed, locked cars can/trucks get hot fast in sunshine.  Been there.  Cold weather is not so problematic.  If being delivered by a friend, stress the keeping it cool part, "like butter."  

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Two 16-oz packages, bundled, of Fleischmann's Instant Dry Yeast for $ 4.39.

http://www.samsclub.com/sams/fleischmann-s-instant-dry-yeast-2-16-oz-bags/164800.ip

This is just weird. The computer supply place, NewEgg also carries Two 16-oz packages, bundled, of Fleischmann's Instant Dry Yeast for $ 5.92.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1FS0PG4557

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

I seem to remember that bread machines require that you put the ingredients into the machine is a specific order.  Can't remember the order but it's important to the process that the machine uses.  Check your instructions for this if you haven't already.

Aside from that,  consider not using a machine at all and get your hands stuck in !  :-)

tkarl's picture
tkarl

I got my Costco yeast!  $4.89, I think.  Plan is to put some in my old yeast jars, then all yeast in the freezer.  How do you folks handle your yeast storage?

tkarl's picture
tkarl

OK, I used table salt -- not the fancy sea salt, I used aged filtered water (to make sure the fluorine is gone), I used store-bought flour -- so the Mill is out of the equation.  I'm even using the DAK BM instead of the Oster.  Guess what?  NONE of the above issues was the problem!

OK, color me extremely embarrassed here.  :-( 

When I got my Oster, it came with a handy measuring scoop.  I had been using it for all my yeast measuring.  Wait for it .... here it comes ... ... ... thought it was 1T; it was really only 1t!   Oh, do I feel like an idiot.  I was ready to do this again, and found the problem almost by accident.  Now I've measured everything with my tried & true Stainless Steel Measuring spoons.  No, I am not at the point of weighing -- yet.

My apologies to all the folks here who replied.  If you were here, I'd give you each a slice or two of my loaf -- it will be ready at 7:42PM CST.  I will reply later this evening with bread in-hand & in-tummy!