The Fresh Loaf

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My bread is too soft to cut!

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hamletcat's picture

My bread is too soft to cut!


I finally had success baking a bread that my husband and I both like for making sandwiches.  Right now I am using the no knead type of recipe and my bread maker to do the mixing.  The recipe is roughly 1c. wheat flour (+1 TBSN). , 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 c. water and 1/2mL instant yeast.  After the mixing cycle I put it in a loaf pan and let it rise 8 to 12hrs.  Then I bake it covered in a roasting pan with about 1/3 c. water.  At 425F for 25 minutes and then uncovered for another 10.  It looks lovely and the interior is spongy and soft, but when I go to cut it, it collapses.  I realize that the crust needs to be tougher because it is the force of the knife that squishes the bread down.  Once I can make a decent cut through the crust, it will saw fairly well even though the interior is soft.  My loaf pan is glass, so I am not sure if that is part of the problem.  

Any advice would be much appreciated.  My next step will probably make the bread, but make mini sub buns instead, at least I just have to cut it once to make sandwich.  Should I be looking more at at open oven format instead of trying to steam in a roasting pan?  I am not really sure what the steaming does for the bread anyways, because I don't seem to be getting an oven spring anyways.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Try with only 1/3 cup of water in the dough.   Half a cup water is too much water and puts your hydration close to 100%.  That it stayed risen is indeed a miracle.  If you find the bread too salty, you may want to reduce to 1/4 tsp salt.

If your wheat flour is AP us 1/3 cup water to bring the hydration down to about 55% hydration, more in line with AP wheat doughs.  A Bread flour may need a tablespoon more water so some playing around may be needed on your part.

Try and see what comes out.

I had first suspected your wheat flour might be spelt because this commonly happens with a first spelt loaf.  A crust shell with a very soft delicate crumb.  Spelt is very extendable and often rises too much before it is baked and sets the crumb.  If this is a spelt loaf, don't let it proof so long as it will give great oven spring.  Don't let the dough proof to double but more like 75% or 3/4 risen and then bake.  Then the crumb inside is not sooooo soft that it becomes a problem to cut.

hamletcat's picture

Oh.  I had no idea that I was adding too much water, this information is all good for me.  My original recipe came from a no knead recipe.  It seems to work fine for that, but just not when I actually do knead the bread.  Why does the extra water work for no knead but not for the bread with good gluten formation?  Just curious.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you want to repeat the high hydration, shorten the final proof, the time the dough is spent in the pan rising.  

The dough is too soft to cut because it rose a lot (too much?) then baked and set, it can not support itself well.  It is on the edge of over-proofing.  The other thing you could do would be to let the bread dry out a great deal before cutting.  Might be the way glass bread is made. (another bread thread) 

Water will not hurt gluten formation, in fact that is why so many will push the limits of hydration but it does create lots of steam all by itself when baking.  No need to add much water to the roasting pan with high hydration dough.  A quick rinse of the lid is often enough.  There are lots of things you can change while you're experimenting.  Just keep good notes so you can come back and repeat something you like.  

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Is that a common no-knead approach? I thought you needed some stretch and fold in there to get structure. But I confess to being new to all of this and not having made many loaves other than my Tartine babies. 

BLinn's picture

1. To expand on the flour comments... what kind of flour are you using?  'Bread' flour bakes up hugely high and soft when its the only type in bread.  When I make a loaf bread that is mostly white (for my white-bread-loving men) I put about 25% oatmeal or 7-grain cereal in.  I put the oatmeal in the bowl, pour boiling water, over to cook it somewhat, then add the remaining flours, sneaking in some whole wheat too.  Oatmeal has no gluten in it & gives a very nice 'chew', IMHO.

2. Most bread doughs gets worked and shaped after at least one rising.  Could the dough be too inflated when you put it in the oven?  When doing yeast dough, I let it rise in a bowl, stretch and fold it, let it rise a 2nd time, then shape & bake in loaf pans.  Make sure the dough is not over-inflated before baking- one of my biggest failings!

3. You are baking it under a lid, (a la dutch oven, or cloche) - with water too?  I doubt if water inside a sealed dome is needed.  Moisture from the dough should be plenty.  It keeps the dough soft, to get oven spring, then the oven needs to dry out, to set the crust.

4. Are you making sure it is baked through?  Bottom sounding hollow, and internal temperature about 200 degrees?

5. Are you waiting 'til the loaf is completely cool before cutting? A lot of chemistry happens while bread cools, but can be difficult to wait!