The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread failure.

KneadToKnow's picture

Bread failure.

Hello all,

I'm in need of help.  I've been trying off and on, to bake bread for some time now.  I've tried probably eight recipies and can never get things to work right.

The loaves always come out looking great.  They rise well, brown nicely and visually are successes.  Unforunately, they neither taste right or have that "trademark" mousthwatering bread aroma. 


1 The breads always seem flat tasting for lack of a better word.  Not four-y, just bland.

2 The breads always seem crumby.  The inside seems to come apart almost (slight exageration) sandy, not that streatchy chewy texture it should have.

3 *This may be the cause of 1 and 2*.  I am Kneading-challenged :(  I've watched YouTube videos, read dozens (yeah, litteraly) of articles and I Never get that gluten build that allows the dough to streatch rather than stay sticky and tear when pulled :(  That "Change" in the feel just never happens.  Tonight for example, I made the recipe at the link at the end of my post [1].  I swear, I kneaded it for 55 minutes before giving up angry and still no streatchyness to the dough.  It's working on it's first rise right now, but I do not expect success :(

I am using bread flour.The bread does rise nicely. but so far.... I'm failing badly here.

Any and all help is greatly appriciated.

Thank you.


flournwater's picture

I have three suggestions:

Find a bread formula that relies on measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume.  It's so easy to introduce errors when measuring ingredients by volume that you may never identify what the problem is with a disappointing loaf of bread.

Second, find a formula for a style/type of bread you would most like to prepare and stay with that formula until you've mastered (or almost mastered) that one bread formula. 

Last  -  IMO, all purpose flour (bleached or unbleached) is prefectly acceptable for making bread.  Especially when you're getting started.  Unless the formula you select specifically calls for bread flour, there's no reason to spend extra money on special flour until or unless you've got some experience.  On the other hand, if bread flour is specified, try to use the same brand/type of flour each time you prepare the dough.

hutchndi's picture

I have a little example of fournwater said about the errors ithat can be introduced by using volume measurements. Before I grudgingly bought a scale, I really had no idea what the dough was supposed to look and feel like, other than  peoples descriptions posted on newsgroup forums. There were allot less videos available online a few years ago also. I was trying to follow everybodies instructions and recipies for cup and spoon measurements, but had all of your problems and probably more. One silly thing that I was doing was using two different measuring cups, one for flour and one for water, thinking that was a pretty good idea. Guess what, the two slightly different styled measuring cups were consistantly measuring differently by a few ounces (I can't remember exatly how much, but it was significant) and to make it worse, I was switching back and forth between which one I would use for which, not thinking it made a difference. Did you hear the palm of my hand slapping my forehead?

I bought a DVD from king arthur flour called artisan bread baking and the first time I watched the video I realised that the consistancy of my dough was WAY off. After that, as soon as I could scrape up a few dollars I bought a fairly inexpensive scale and retried some of the recipes that gave me so much trouble earlier on. The difference was night and day. That was a few years ago, and now I rely on the scale somewhat less, and if I were to revert to volume measurements now I would have less trouble adjusting my ingredients by feel, but I may have given up long ago if I had not made the changes.


SourdoLady's picture

Learn to do 'stretch and fold' with your dough. Just Google it or do a search here on site. You will find lots of information on it. Also, retarding dough in the fridge overnight will help to develop the gluten and enhance the flavor due to fermentation. I highly recommend it. Make sure your dough is soft, and not stiff. You may be adding too much flour. Good luck!

occidental's picture

My two first thoughts were already posted above.  First, are you using a scale?  If not I'd suggest that at least until you get a feel for the dough, that using a scale will produce much better and more consistent results.  Second, I would never knead anywhere close to 55 minutes, but would instead try a stretch and fold.  The recipe you are using advocates using an autolyse (mix the ingredients and let the gluten develop on it's own)  After this I would just do a series of stretch and folds (2-3, even spaced) over the rise time.  Give it a try...if anything else maybe you won't be so frustrated about all the time you spent kneading for subpar results.  Here is a link to a very short video that really illustrates stretch and fold:

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

My first successful hearth bread was very similar to the one you are making, which didn't require much kneading, just a 20 minute autolyze, 4 minutes kneading and some stretch and folds, and produced exceptional flavor and texture for the effort (though it is time-comsuming):  The sponge ferments at room temp for 3 hours, then is refrigerated overnight.  Next day, the dough is mixed, autolyzy (rest) for 20 minutes, kneaded 4 minutes (I use a Kitchenaid on low speed), allowed to rise at room temp for 1 hour, fold (I do this in the bowl as the dough is rather sticky -- just use a plastic scraper and fold the two sides over the top, and then fold the top and bottom over) -- cover, rise for 1 hour, do another fold, rise for an hour, shape and bake. 

First, the slow, cold temperature rise develops the flavor that your bread is lacking;  second, the autolyze and folds develop the gluten structure that gives bread that texture you're looking for.  I got the best results with King Arthur bread flour, but I've since used Gold Medal AP for this and it comes out fine.

Whenever I hand-knead, I always add too much flour, which makes for a dense, crumbly texture.  If you have trouble with the stretch and folds on the counter with wet dough, try the fold in the bowl method (you need a very wide, large bowl to do this) with a plastic scraper dipped in water.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


Overkneading is possible and it makes lousy bread.  Kneading not only blends ingredients, it tightens the dough.   Try autolysing the dough as mentioned above for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the salt and knead.  But no longer than 5 minutes!  Workouts are for the gym!

Flavor you can get with slow fermentations.  A very popular one is a poolish.  Mix roughly the water and some of the flour in the recipe to make something like a pancake batter, then throw in a pinch of yeast, stir well, cover and let it stand out on the counter 6 to 14 hours, then add the rest of the ingredients and follow the recipe.  Makes a big difference even if you can't get the minimum amount of flour worked into the dough. (Tip: Saves on flour, too!)

Also if you find your bread tastes bland, your taste buds have developed a bit and it's time to slide up your own personal learning curve!  Welcome to the Fresh Loaf! 


celestica's picture

Stretch and Fold combined with a long slow rise is the easiest (electricity free) method for gluten development, in my opinion. Try it and let us know if it works for you.

Good luck!


KneadToKnow's picture

Thanks to everyone for the replies. As expected, the bread turned out... blah. :( Again it did a nice rise, but was completely bland/flavorless. It didn't powder like I mentioned others had so I suppose that's something, but I still grade my efforts so far as an F

Here's a few updates/answers to the replies so far:

-Find a bread formula that relies on measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume.

* I'll try. Money's a bit tight right now due to the economy, so a new kitchen scale may have to wait. I have tried sifting the flour in order to help prevent over-flouring (is that a term? ;) )

- no reason to spend extra money on special flour
* I try to buy flour when on sale so It's usually about the same price as "normal" flour. Since I'm having problems with the gluten development wouldn't switching to AP exacerbate that?

- Learn to do 'stretch and fold' with your dough.

* That's really the heart of my problem I suppose. I try dumping the dough on the counter, push it forward for the stretch and it tears or breaks instead. Even with this last batch and the almost full hour of kneading, I still was not able to do that "Window test" folks talk about. My "window" would split rather than get see-through-ish

Mini Oven
- Also if you find your bread tastes bland, your taste buds have developed a bit and it's time to slide up your own personal learning curve! Welcome to the Fresh Loaf!

* Thanks for the welcome *waves back*. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you mean by sliding up my learning curve. I enjoy other fresh-baked breads (nicer restaurants, etc) it's just my own that tastes... yuck. I've tried several recipes trying to find a more flavorful mix, but still remain stumped.

Multiple comments around not kneading so long.
* Right, I know I shouldn't have to, but again, since the dough never hits that change people talk about in "kneading - how too's", I must be doing something wrong. In prior batches I've tried doing it for the 4-10 minutes recommended, but still ... no success. My 55 minute marathon was pretty much in desperation trying to do anything to get a successful batch :(

Again, I truly appreciate everyones willingness to help.

occidental's picture

I wouldn't call it 'cheap' but if you do get to the point where you can afford a scale, a less expensive scale that I have been very impressed with during my own use is the escali digital scale which runs about $25 on Amazon.  It has all the essential functions including tare, measurement in grams, ounces and pounds.  I know it makes a big difference for me in producing consistent results so that is the only reason I suggest it.  Good luck in your endeavors to get a tasty loaf!