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My bread texture is spongy and gummy.. any fixes?

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SiMignonne's picture

My bread texture is spongy and gummy.. any fixes?

This is my second time baking my honey oatmeal bread.  The first time I followed the recipe almost exactly.  The second time I substituted 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour to the recipe.  I also let it rise the second time in the fridge over night.

The flavor was much better the second time around although I could have let it risen a bit longer than I did so it turned out a little short looking.  Here is my problem, the texture is not right.  It's spongy and gummy yet crumbly at the same time.  I would like for it to be a bit lighter and airier if possible.  If I press my finger into a freshly cut slice it will bounce back and won't leave an impression at all. 

The first and second loaves had the same texture.  Any ideas on how to fix this problem without affecting the taste too much?  I do have to say that they make great toast!

This is the recipe I have from my mother, which is from her mother, etc.  Any input would be amazing!!



holds99's picture

This recipe appears to be a direct-method using yeast only for leavening.  My guess is the yeast is losing it's oomph or dying when you put your dough into the fridge overnight.  Note: Retardation (placing dough into the fridge overnight for flavor development) is usually reserved for sourdough breads---not direct-method breads).  Sourdough is an entirely different ball game, so to speak.

My suggestion is to follow your recipe exactly until you are successful.  Then you can think about modifying the recipe.

Using the direct method (yeast only). Mix it, let it go through the number of rises (prefermentation) called for in the recipe (my guess is 2) then shape it, put it into loaf pans, let it do its final rise, until doubled in volume (don't overproof it), then put it into a preheated oven and bake it until the internal temperature reaches 205- 210 deg. F.

Good luck,


Dwu3193's picture

Since dense bread is usually more gummy, you should probably just let your bread rise more. You probably already know this, but the added whole wheat flour and retardation in the fridge (which by the way, didn't really kill any yeast, just slowed it down) increased the necessary rising time to produce a light bread. Also, you might want to try increasing the hydration a little. That will increase the oven spring and it won't become too wet and sticky since the bran soaks up a lot of water.

holds99's picture

when you make the statements: "...which by the way, didn't really kill any yeast, just slowed it down." and "dense bread is usually more gummy." and "you should just let your bread rise more."  More than what?  Obvously, you don't understand overproofing!  I would suggest reading a good baking book.

After checking your posts for the past year I didn't see any.


Dwu3193's picture

I'm pretty sure refrigerator temperatures only slow down the yeast (while freezer does kill if they're not dormant), or at least that's what most books I've read have said. For me at least, under risen, dense bread usually is gummy. Also, I meant that SiMignonne's dough should rise longer. Sorry for the confusion.

nbicomputers's picture

putting the dough in the fridg is a very accepted way of retarding any dough straight, spomge and dough, or sour dough. it has been used by pros for decades so the statment above is incorrect at best.  since yeast goes dormant at 32 degrees F you can also frezz dough. i have had dough in the frezzer ready to rise and bake for as long as 16 weeks with no quality lose. froxen dough has become a industry  and with all the in market (supermarket) bakeries it's doing quite well.  All that needs to be done is to brust the dough with a small amount of oil or cover it someway to prevent a skin from forming and your dough will do quite well in the fridg or frezzer.

if you don't mind posting the formula bith the one without the changes and the ony you actuly made and i will try to see what went wrong.  give as much detail as to mixing shaping and proofing as you can.

i understand this formula has been past down in your family so it is something you might want to keep to your self.  if that is the case you can e-mail it to me and i will hold it in confdence(sp) andw ill not disclose it to anybody execpt when talking to you.

holds99's picture

"i understand this formula has been past down in your family so it is something you might want to keep to your self. if that is the case you can e-mail it to me and i will hold it in confdence(sp) andw ill not disclose it to anybody execpt when talking to you."

Reread his post and you'll see the link to the formula (which I read before answering him) imbedded in his post.  Don't know why anyone would encourage someone, especially an entry level baker, to retard a straight dough recipe without knowing the condition of the dough (how long it had proofed) before storing it in the fridge but I'm sure you have your reasons.

I'm out of here.


SiMignonne's picture

The only reason I let it do it's second rise in the fridge was because I did not have enough time to let it rise and then bake it before going to bed.  I was in a hurry to finish the loaves before Monday morning sandwich making but did not leave enough time. 

As for the entry level baker comment is concerned, why should I not be allowed to proof things in the fridge?  I researched proofing in the fridge before I started and saw nothing in them that said an entry level baker could not proof this way.  I must also note to you, that the texture of the bread was the same the first and second times I have made this bread, therefore the problem is not in the rise in the fridge so lets drop that convo shall we?

My thought is that my problem is in the kneading of the dough.  I mix it in a large bowl and when I can't stir anymore I drop it on the table top covered in flour to knead in the rest of the flour (about a cup or so). I knead by hand and usually do the fold press method (if it's even called a method).  I do this until it is tacky but not sticky and until it 'bounces back'.  I have seen people fold their dough and let it rise again, my dough won't stretch that far so I have never tried it.  Either it's too sticky to do that, or it just simply won't stretch that far.  Could I be adding too much flour to the bread while I'm kneading it?

I have a Kitchenaid mixer but when I tried to knead the dough in it the dough balled up in the center and really didn't get any kneading action, just kept going around in a circle so I figured doing it by hand would be best.

This is not a family secret, I simply added the family part to say that if they've been doing it for years then the recipe isn't wrong, it's my method that is wrong.  perhaps I could let it rise longer on the second rise?  I always rise in a warmish oven with the light on, so I know it's not too cold.

davidm's picture

I'm a long way from being an expert, but most of the breads I've made have been multigrains and so on. I also am addicted to oatmeal and use it constantly, and have had heavy results before, so here goes with some thoughts as they occurred to me.

It's not the fridge.

Your formula has volume measurements, so it'll be hard to be consistent with hydration.

This dough is likely to be somewhat sticky even if underhydrated, just from the fair amount of honey or molasses. It may need more hydration than you're giving it, and the stickiness is giving you a distorted sense of the situation. If you're kneading with a lot of flour (and one cup is really a lot) on the bench, then you may indeed be too dry. The part you describe about the 'balling-up' in the KA mixer reminds me that's what I have gotten in the past with muscular (but still sticky) dry doughs. You say too that the dough won't stretch for a four way fold, and that suggests to me you might have plenty of gluten development, and it just may be too dry, and is hugging the hook. 

What I would do at this point is weigh the ingredients, water included, and calculate the hydration from those weights. My oatmeal etc. loaves do best at about 65% (not much less) and if they have honey and such in the mix they can be pretty sticky, but they mix fine in the KA. Add water if you need to so as to get a hydration in that range. I don't think the dough should feel tight at all, but it should have some muscle.

Really, if you can get away from volume measure and go to weighing, you won't be sorry. And the percentages I'm talking about here are "baker's percentages" and I don't know if you've got to that yet, but it's invaluable. I think there's a discussion of how all that works in the 'handbook' section here on TFL.

You'll need strongish flour to lift the honey and oats too, all purpose may not get you there. Bread flour at least. 

Let it proof in the pan until it crowns above the pan an inch or so at least, and if it doesn't fall in the oven you should not get a real heavy bread.. If it does fall, then, well, let's cross that bridge if we get there.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

nbicomputers's picture

did not see the link thats my bad

as for the fridg i did not encourage or discurage puting the doug in the fridg all i said was it is a method that has been used for years for every type of dough.

many bakers mix a straight dough cut them into 6 pound (smaller or larger can be done) and put the dough right in the fridg from the mixer to bulk ferment and then take out what is needed shape proof and bake even shape and put back in the fridge to proof bake latter. it is done all the time with every type of dough.

Oldcampcook's picture

If I may point out, the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes that is all the rage on the net now is a YEASTED bread and it is kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

I keep a batch and when I get home from work, I can have a loaf of pretty decent bread in the oven in about 40 minutes or so. And the flavor improves with each loaf.

On the weekends, I bake primarily sourdoughs, so I go between both worlds.




clazar123's picture

You have been given some good advice above but I think you also need to consider baking temp and the internal temp of the bread. This was mentioned above but got lost in a bunch of crankiness.

Your original recipe says to bake at 325 for 45 minutes. That is a pretty low temp and porbably not enough time. It may work out better at 375 and check the internal temp of the loaf when you think it looks done. It should be 195-205F when it is done.Get a quick read thermometer for about $15-$20. Great tool.

Another comment has been made about hydration and the stifness of the dough. I agree that a bread flour should be tried and also increasing the liquid a little-esp if you are adding whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour really sucks up water but not right away.So the dough should feel almost sticky and certainly tackier than an all white flour dough. As the dough rises, the whole wheat bran eventually soaks up the water and if you didn't start with an almost sticky dough, it will be very dry.

SiMignonne's picture

As far as the temp goes, I baked it exactly as directed the last time and the internal temp was around 199-200 so apparently 325 for 45 minutes is fine.  Yes I have a thermometer and I love it!

Also, about weighing the ingrediants, I have a food scale and would love to start weighing.  To begin to do this would I put the measured amounts on the scale and then jot down the weight for saving?

Hydration - I'm not that knowledgable with hydration.  I only know when the bread sticks to the counter and my fingers and pulls off that I should add some flour.  I will mess with hydration this next time and see if I can't get the muscle that has been talked about.  Knowing that the wheat flour sucks up more water is good to know.  That will be my change the next time I try this and we'll see if it helps out.

It should be noted that when I refridgerated the dough over night the flavor did improve greatly.  It tasted much much better than the previous batch. 

I'll make sure to read in the Handbook about hydration today.  Thanks for all your advice so far, it's one of the reasons I love this website so much.


davidm's picture

Yes, that's the idea. Scoop the flour as the recipe suggests, and weigh what you get. 

Let's say, just for an example, that you scoop what the recipe says and it weighs out at 20 ounces for the flour. (I'm just making this up, you understand). A reasonable starting point for hydration level would be 63 - 65% for a bread like this. With the "baker's percentage" everything is expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight. So you would need, say, 65% of 20 ounces as your water amount. That's thirteen ounces of water in this example. 

Be aware though that this figure doesn't account for the water needed to soften the oatmeal. When there are oats and other grains in a bread, they capture a lot of water and make it unavailable to hydrate the bread flour, so with  oatmeal in the formula we need even more water. The overall percentage  hydration of one of the breads I make regularly is about 98%. That is, there is almost as much water (by weight) in the dough as flour.  But it comes out right since a lot of the water is absorbed by the oatmeal and grains. This bread you are working with won't be quite in that range, but it will need more water than you might at first think.

You say "I only know that when the bread sticks to the counter and my fingers ... that I should add flour." I would encourage you to re-think this. It's not always (or even usually) true at all. Really. Especially in doughs that have sticky ingredients like honey and so on. If you are kneading with additional flour until all stickiness has completely disappeared, I would think you are almost certainly going too dry.

Adding too  much flour to a dough so as to make it easier to handle is a mistake I have made many times. Standard dough is often sticky, or at the very least tacky, when it is properly hydrated. (some rustic doughs are godawful sticky, but that's a different discussion)  If you prefer to mix by hand, and many folks do, that's fine. But this recipe, properly hydrated, should mix easily in your KA, (you mentioned that you had trouble with that) and if it won't, my first guess is that you are underhydrated.

Weigh everything, and keep track of what you do in notes, and you'll get this figured out. It can be discouraging at first I know, but you'll get past this. A little bit too much water is usually less of a problem than too little. Your dough should feel pliable and not hard and stiff, but when you stretch it there should be some elastic resistance. (muscle) But you should not have to fight it. It likely will be a little sticky. Certainly it will be somewhat tacky. Once you get it right, you'll remember how it feels for evermore.


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The advice you've gotten so far is good in general, but I think the culprit is probably something else. I did something very similar to what you're trying to do and got similar results, until I figured out the problem was enzymes... on steroids. I started with Beth Hensperger's Maple, Oatmeal, and Oat Bran Bread. I was trying to turn that into a 100% whole grain bread by crossing it with a light 100% whole wheat bread dough I had made many times. The result was an unqualified disaster.

The dough started out looking and feeling perfect, through the first and second rise, then didn't proof well and turned out dense, gummy loaves. No matter what I did, I couldn't get the dough to hold up. And the longer I fermented, the worse things got. The dough actually fell apart in my hands one day while I was forming the loaves. The gluten had disintegrated, and what started out as a nice smooth, elastic dough had turned to grainy playdough.

All of the experts I consulted pointed to the bran---too much whole grain stuff they said. It's cutting the gluten. But that just didn't feel like what was happening to me, so I started experimenting. No one seemed to be able to tell me anything about what enzymes might be lurking in oats, but it just seemed to me that there was some sort of proteolytic process destroying the gluten, more than what is generally considered to be beneficial for extensibility. A little is good, a lot is devastating. And whole grains have more enzymes.

Enzymes are interesting in that they take a certain period of time to do their job. The gluten strand remains intact while the enzyme is clamped on, until the very end when it is clipped and severed, and the enzyme is freed up to move on and start working on the next strand. I always picture proteolytic enzymes as little pac-men taking bites out of the gluten network. At some point, the whole thing is going to collapse. You have to get the dough into the oven before the gluten has time to break down.

The countdown seems to start when the oats go into the dough, and appears to be accelerated by whole wheat flour. Working on that assumption, I tried keeping them separate for as long as possible and delaying incorporation of the oats into the dough. It worked like a charm. Here's what I would suggest:

1)  Make a soaker with the oats and part of the water. I think "soaker" is somewhat of a misnomer, because you don't need to saturate it to the point of water-logging. 1/4 cup water per cup of oats is enough to moisten it. Toss together---it will absorb quickly---then cover and let sit out at room temp overnight.

2)  Make a biga or sponge with the rest of the water, the whole wheat flour, and part of the white flour and yeast. Refrigerate overnight.

These two things will build flavor, taking the place of the first rise.

In the morning take the sponge out, deflate and allow to warm up a bit. (You can speed this up by cutting it into pieces and laying them out on the counter, covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel.) Then knead together with the oats, crumbled if necessary, and the rest of the ingredients. Form your ball and let rise once, then divide and proceed. I would try to keep the bulk rise and proofing time within 1 1/2 to 2 hours each, so adjust the yeast amount if you need to (you might not).

SiMignonne's picture

These both sound like great ideas I will take them all into consideration.  One thing I learned through more reading today was to let the dough sit for about 15 minutes after mixing and before kneading.  I also am going to try to tri-fold the dough instead of kneading it to death.  Along with the extra hydration skills I have recently picked up! 

Debrawink - I will also think about seperating them until after an overnight sit, the overnight sit sounds wonderful to me!!

Thank you again for all your help and insight.  I will update when I have completed another batch.

bassopotamus's picture

There are plenty of yeast doughs that spend time in the freezer. I just pulled out the second half of a recipe of pain a'lancienne. The rise is slow, but it tripled in the fridge overnight. I used half, and the half I left doubled in the next 24 hours (it had partially deflated when I portioned it out before.