The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

HELP!!!! I'm about to give up!!!

HollyPreston7's picture

HELP!!!! I'm about to give up!!!

Hi everyone!  Making bread at home has become a hobby of mine over the past few months.  I took a class and learned some basics and have loved it ever since.  The problem I keep having though is that whenever I try to make ANY bread at home, it never turns out good!  It's never soft and chewy like good bread is, it always comes out dense and dry.  Originally I thought that it had to be that I wasnt developing the glutens enough so I would just knead for longer...but it hasnt helped!  Please help!!!!  I'm one bad experience away from just dropping it and forgetting the whole thing. 

What could I be doing wrong??  I've tried all different types of bread, white, wheat, sourdough, milk rolls, you name it...

Jw's picture

did you start with a real basic recipe and develop from there?

A few things that could be wrong:
- proofing too short
- temp. / oven time wrong
- wait and dry the bread after you take it out of the oven (1 to several hours/days)

Do you have pictures? Do you keep a diary of your bread baking activities? that sometimes helps on improving the final result.

I trust the real bread masters will respond as well.


ladychef41's picture

Always start with the basics; have you oven calibrated, check the temperature of the water you are using, the freshness of your yeast and all the other ingredients, and the temperature of where the dough is proofing.  If all of those are fine, then you can move on to the other suggestions.

LindyD's picture

Whoa, Holly.  Don't let the flour overpower you, as frustrated as you may be.  Your description of dense and dry could be caused by something as simple as underhydration or the type of flour you are using.....or the way you are measuring your ingredients.

A few questions:  What source are you using for your bread recipes?  Do you weigh your ingredients?  What type of flour are you using?  Bread flour?  AP?  Bleached or unbleached?

Have you tried any of the recipes posted here at TLF?

rainwater's picture

It could be your yeast!  Maybe the yeast in the class was very fresh.  I use the "Saf-Instant" yeast.  You can order it from King Arthur flours.  I had pretty good results using yeast from the grocery store, but results improved quite a bit when I ordered my "instant" yeast from King Arthur. 

dlt123's picture

Now this is just my observations... I too recently purchased some SAF bread yeast and it is very good... But, I felt it had a rather neutral flavor, which does make it a good yeast for all breads.  It doesn't impart a significant yeasty taste to your breads...

But personally, I like a good earthy yeasty flavor to my breads and have gone back to Fleishmanns Bread yeast.  I really love the flavor Fleishmanns imparts and it gives my breads a wonderful aroma, taste and yeasty spike... So I am sticking with Fleishmanns.

But if you want a more neutral flavored yeast, SAF is excellent.

Just my 2 cents and your milage may vary...  :)


jeb's picture

Have you tried Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta?I just made it today, for the first time, and it was wonderful. And, it seems to be fairly forgiving. I had to leave home for 3 hours that I wasn't expecting, and it had collapsed down on itself during the bulk fermentation. I went ahead and proofed it for the 45 minutes, and then formed it (as best you can with that wet a dough!) and cooked it. It was still pretty good! It had a good crumb, and great crust.


PaddyL's picture

If you keep kneading it past, say, about 10 minutes, you're probably kneading in too much flour.  It's tempting to do so, but try to keep your dough on the sticky side.  Here's a recipe that's just about foolproof.

Double Crusty Bread

2 cups lukewarm water

1 tbsp. active dry yeast (If using instant yeast, cut it down to about 2 tsps.)

1 tbsp. sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tsp. vinegar

6 cups, approx. flour (You can use half ww and half white, or all white.)

Put the two cups of water into a large bowl with the sugar.  Put the egg, the oil, the vinegar, and the salt into a small bowl or measuring cup and mix them together.  Mix the yeast (if instant) with some of the flour and add it to the water, stirring well.  (If you're using active dry yeast, sprinkle it on the water/sugar and let it bubble up well.)  Add the egg mixture to the batter and beat in flour until the dough clears the side of the bowl.  Tip out of the bowl, and knead about 8 minutes, only adding enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface.  You could try adding the flour in tablespoonfuls so you won't use too much.  Put your dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise till double.  Punch down, re-cover and let it double again.  Punch down, turn out, and divide in two.  Form into loaves and put in two greased bread pans, 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inches.  Let rise till double, and bake in preheated 350 deg.F. oven about 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

The original recipe came from The Great Canadian Bread Book by Janice Murray Gill.  I've made it so often I know it off by heart and it has yet to fail, even when I've given it up to 4 rises in the bowl, or let it rise so much that it was practically leaping out of the bowl.  I've used all white all-purpose, half whole wheat and half white, and once, all whole wheat, and still it rises and it bakes up to some of the lightest bread ever.  And it makes superior toast!

Good luck, and whatever you do, don't give up!



HollyPreston7's picture

Thanks so much to everyone for your advice...I'm starting from the top and gonna work my way down until I get it right!  Here's my first attempt at Paddy's Double Crusty Bread recipe.  I gotta tell worked.  It didnt come out perfect, but I was very pleased...finally!! 

Here's a picture of the crust...not as brown as it should probably be, and definitely not as crusty.



And here's a picture of the crumb.

Again, I'm very pleased with how this one came out.  Any advice on what I should do differently?

Next I want to try to make the Ciabatta that was posted!!  I'll keep you updated.  Thanks again!

PaddyL's picture

This bread doesn't brown a whole lot.  I used to put an egg wash on the tops to get a nice brown crust, but we liked it plain too.  And I've since moved on to other breads, including sourdough, though 'moved on' doesn't sound quite right; I still make this bread, mostly with part whole wheat, but it remains one of our favourites.

dlt123's picture

HI Holly, I too had the same problem you have...  I posted a question on this board asking why my bread was so dry... I had to drink a ton of water just to eat it...  Here is the link to my original question for my dry bread problem...  There are some good recommendations, which I followed and it made a big difference...

Here is the link:

Also, I recently snagged a good deal from eBay on a used Whisper Mill flour mill... It's not the flour mill I wanted to get, but I got such a great deal on it that I'm happy.  It makes very nice fine flour.

To say I'm surprised how much better my bread is now, is an understatement.  My all home milled grain breads are as soft as store bought White bread.  My last loaf was made with all milled WW flour, no white bread flour was used, and it was excellent.  So if you ever decide to continue making bread, I strongly suggest investing in a home flour mill...

One more thing you might try besides the suggestions in the thread I've posted here...

The day before you plan on making your bread, take 3/4 of the all water or liquid ingredient needed for your bread recipe and add 1/2 of the flour needed as well and mix together making a "sponge"... Also add 1/2 Tsp of yeast to this sponge and let it set out all night fermenting away... Note: if you are using milk, place it in the fridge just before you retire for the night...

Then the next day add the rest of your recipe ingredients and the full measure of yeast and continue as normal.

I alway make a sponge for all my bread making and it really adds to the flavor of the finished bread.

So don't get discouraged and do check out the thread I mentioned here...

One last thing... also consider using some Vital Gluten flour to your recipe... About 2 Tbls of Gluten per loaf of bread.  This will make a big difference as well.

Hope this helps and good luck,


HollyPreston7's picture

Great advice!  I'm hoping to get more practice with another loaf tomorrow morning.  I'm going to make a sponge tonight like you suggested and I'll take pictures and let you know how it turns out!

Also, I dont know why I've never heard of Vital Gluten Flour until now!  It makes perfect sense.  I see that Bob's Red Mill has a Vital Wheat Gluten Flour.  Is that the same thing or is there a plain gluten flour as well?

Thanks again for your help

dlt123's picture

Hi again Holly, Vital Wheat Gluten Flour is the same thing.  You should be able to get it at most bulk flour sections of health food stores... We have a Fred Meyers Grocery here and they had it in their Health food section in bulk.  I believe almost any store that has a good flour assortment will have it either bagged or bulk.  It really made a big difference in the softness and freshness of my breads.  Again, it was suggested to use about 2 Tbls per loaf of bread and that seemed to hit the mark. 

Like I mentioned, I now always do a sponge or soaker on my breads.  It also makes a difference in the outcome.

Let us know how things come out and keep at it, you'll be richly rewarded with great bread... but be warned, you'll be eating more bread after you get this all down. :)  Watch that waist line.  :)

Take care,

niagaragirl's picture

I am in the process of writing a post for my blog on Measuring. When doing some testing for writing the material on how flours measure out, I found that in a dry measuring cup, all purpose flour spooned in consistently weighed in at 4 ounces. However if scooping from the bag, the compression that can take place while digging into the bag can result in your "one cup" weighing in at as much as 5.25 ounces if you're really aggressive about it ;-) It's nothing I didn't already know, but since getting my snazzy new scale, I wanted to test things out for myself.

Most of the good recipes like the ones found at King Arthur have been kitchen tested there and are based on weight. If a recipe there calls for 3 cups, or 12 ounces of flour, the extra 3.75 ounces gained by scooping into a bag for a prescribed 3 cup volume will alter the intended hydration drastically. As you can see, it's almost like adding an additional whole cup of flour to the recipe. For basic loaves, like a sandwich type loaf, your final bread density would then come out more like a bagel than a soft bread.

Things change again when you use a stone ground flour. A stone ground wheat can weigh 4.5 ounces in the dry measure cup, and even what seems to be a fluffy whole wheat can weigh in at 4.25 ounces.

By weighing, you always get consistency. 4 ounces is always 4 ounces, where measuring by cups can vary depending on how the cup is loaded up. Weighing is also easier in the long run. You just load the scale for the proper amount and you can stop counting cups.

Based on my observations of others after teaching a few basic classes for a local church group, for the new baker it's always been the measuring that reults in the dryness. An investment of 30 bucks or so in a decent scale will save you loads of disappointment.

Hope this is of some help to you, and good luck!


HollyPreston7's picture

You know, deep down I always knew the importance of weighing vs. measuring but after you wrote that I decided that I should actually do something about it.  Any recommendations?  Digital or not?

What kind of blog do you have?

niagaragirl's picture

Definitely digital. The one I got always weighs in grams as well as ounces. That's a great help. If you are USA, tr the Bed Bath and Beyond stores - they had a nce selection when I waas there. Otherwise Amazon is the "weigh" to go ha ha.

My blog is here

It's about yeast baking for total feebs like myself ;-) Although I will take a few detours, such as including the great cream puffs I made last nite.

Believe it or not I am still working on the new Measuring post. Everytime I turn around, I find something new that should be included.


dlt123's picture

Get a digital... Here is the one I recently purchased, it allows for Baker's Math/Percentage Weighing functioning, which I've never done but thought it might be a good thing to have on a kitchen scale. You'll have to read up on this, since I have not tried to use this function yet so can't help here. 

I really like scale, it looks very nice and fits on my table fine, it weighs up to 17 pounds and has the usual Tare, Mode measurement ranges.  It's a really nice scale.

These run around $50, kind of spendy I know, but I've seen pricier ones as well.  I would search the net for better pricing if this place is too expensive.  Here is the link

Note: You don't need one as expensive as this, just make sure it allows for some hefty weight since you might start making larger batches of bread that can start getting up their in weight.

Best of luck,


nbicomputers's picture

i know that instant yeast seems to be the favort here but i would try to get some fresh yeast since it is almost fool proof. i am not sure about and you did not post the formula you are using

so here is a very basic formula for soft rolls that can be used for dinner rolls hamburg and hotdog rolls as well as white pan brean for sandwitchs i hand used this for almost mt whole 25 years as a baker and it has searved me well if the rormule it to big (and i am sure it will be) for you just make a halv or 1/4 of it

sugar 6 oz or 4 oz and 2 oz honey  3/4 cup or 1/2 sup and 2 Tbs honey

salt 1 oz  2 Tbs
Dry Milk Powder 2 Oz  4 Tbs

shortening (butter)5 oz  10 TBs

Eggs 4 oz about 2 large eggs

water 2 LBS (1 quart = 4 cups= 2 pounds)

Fresh yeast3 oz or 1 and 1/2 oz dry yeast


Better for bread flour 3 and 3/4 pounds) 15 cups

if you can get the fresh yeast just crumble it in to the flour


THAT IS THE ONLY SPECIAL MICING INSTRUCTIONS OTHERWISE just put everything in the bowl or mixer and mix intill you have a smooth dough rise once shape and rise  again (proof) and bake at 400 for rolls and 375 for bread

if you want a soft pritty crust wash the top with a beeten egg

you can find my contact numbers on my web site

and feel free to call me with questions.

good luck and don't give up you can do this!!

SteveFox's picture

Ok I am going to tread probably where I have no business treading. I am probably newer to bread making than you. A couple of weeks ago I final took the plunge and moved off the bread machine and tried doing it myself. The first thing I did was use Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for basic soft white bread:

And since all I had were measuring cups and spoons I had to make do and hope for the best. 

So far this bread has come out great every time. Yes some serious shaping and size issues, but moist and flavorful.

Now I could be just lucky, but that would go against my history :)

A couple of points, good flour I use King Arthur, fresh yeast, and I use filtered water out a bitta pitcher.


100percentwholegrain's picture

Don't give up, Holly.  You'll make it, and it will be great!  I don't do the artisan breads, which you might be working on, but I've made great whole wheat sandwich bread for lots of years now.  Fast and simple is my preference. 

There's a quick recipe for raspberry pastry that I've had great success with.  It's at this link if you want to try it: whole wheat bread.

I also use saf-instant yeast, which is partly why the recipe is quick to make.  I also grind my own wheat and it has great flavor.

Hang in there - success is just around the corner!

LindyD's picture

Congrats, Holly.  You've done good.  Just keep on reading here and baking - won't be long until your posting pics of your most recent beautiful creations.

Do get yourself a nice digital scale, though, and weigh your ingredients.  Makes a big improvement in your breads, plus it's so much faster than fiddling with cups and spoons (less to clean up, too).

Enjoy that bread!

madzilla's picture

I don't know, this is just an idea, but is the temperature in your kitchen warm enough? Is it drafty? I found that when I warmed my kitchen up before baking bread it helped so much.  I also have been tweaking a recipe that is turning out really well if you are interested in trying it.

2 1/2 cups white bread flour

1 1/2 cup hungarian whole wheat flour

1 cup hodgson mill white bread mix

3 tbs organic cane sugar

3 tbs unsalted butter

2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp vital gluten

1 cup sourdough starter [I made this and it has been in the fridge for about three weeks]

1 1/2 cups water

1 tbs dry active yeast

I mix the 2 1/2 cups of white flour in the mixer [I use a Kitchen Aid that my grandma gave me...yes I use a mixer to knead, I don't have time with three little monsters running around!] with the salt and dry yeast. I put the water, butter, and sugar in a pyrex 4 cup measuring cup and get it to 125 degrees.

I pour it into the dry mixture on low speed, all at once.  Then I add the sourdough starter [it has been warming to room temp for about half an hour].

I mix this for three minutes on high speed [I set a timer]

When the timer beeps, I turn it down to low speed and begin adding the rest of the flour.  Once all the flour is added, I change to my dough hook, set the timer for exactly 8 minutes.  Any longer and I am afraid it would make the dough stiff. It also helps to watch it knead and make sure it is doing that properly.

Once 8 minutes is up, I pull the dough off of the hook, and on a floured surface I knead it for about three turns. Then I tuck until the top is smooth and round, put olive oil in my wooden bowl, and make sure the top is covered with oil so that it won't get dry.  I then put in on top of my pre-heated oven [I have a gas stove/oven...the old kind] for about an hour.  It rises quite a bit, and then I punch it down, knead it about three turns, re-shape into the ball, and cover again.  This rise is for about an hour to hour and a half.  [depending on when I remember it is rising and needs baking] Then I go get it out of the bowl, punch it down the last time, and don't knead.  I just form it into the loaves, put them in the pans [oiled] and pop it into a 375 degree oven for 32 minutes.  It get wonderfully golden on all sides, but doesn't get tough.  It is nice an spongy enough for sandwiches, but dense enough for just butter.  I can't keep it on the counter. My husband and kids eat it up so fast! We are going to get SOOOO fat!

Anyway, that's how I do it. I will post pics for you the next time I bake it so you can see how it turns out.

I don't know if this is much different from what you do, but maybe it will spark some ideas on how to get your loaves doing better.  Take care!


p.s.-just one more thing. The bread is alive, and I remember a woman telling me one time not to forget that. It is "life". If you treat it like life, and transfer the warmth from your hands, make sure your kitchen is warm, and do what you would do when handling a baby, then it will surely rise and grow.