The Fresh Loaf

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Help With Basic White Bread Texture Please

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Arcadia's picture
Arcadia

Help With Basic White Bread Texture Please

Hi


I wonder if anyone would be prepared to hazard a guess as to what may be going wrong with my 500g white loafs? I'll try to provide as much information up-front so please bear with me. I am fairly new to bread making but am an experienced brewer, so I'm reasonably familiar with yeast biology.


 


The problem:


The bread actually tastes wonderful. My problem is with the texture. It is a little on the heavy side and I do not get the variation in gas-hole size within the loaf after baking. Nor do I see much evidence of an oven spring when I bake the bread.


I have tried two raises, one raise, hotter oven (gas mark 8 for 5 mins then turned down to gas mark 6 for 30mins), more water, less water.


 


The recipe:




  • 500g branded bread flour

  • 1 and half tsp quick yeast (also tried making a starter culture with some of the water)

  • 1 and a half tsp white sugar

  • 1 and a half tsp salt

  • half tsp citric acid

  • 1 desert spoon malt vinegar

  • 250 (ish) ml water

  • up to 12g butter or veg oil (tried both)



 


The Method:


Mix and knead for 10-15 mins. I have tried this by hand and also which a food processor with a dough blade. I have heard mention of the "Window Pane Test" - I've never been able to get that, but the dough is consistent and fairly elastic.


I proof it in a home-made 'incubator' at 28 centigrade until it has at least doubled in size (approx 2 hours). Then into the preheated oven. Still no 'spring'. On other occasions I have gone through two proofing cycles - but I thought that I may be over proofing it.


Cook at gas mark 6 for around 30 mins with no attempt to steam the oven - I'll work on crust variation later.


 


The outcome:


Reagrless of how I vary things the texture always comes out the same. Uniform, small holes throughout the loaf. No large or medium holes. No stretch marks on the crust.


Any ideas?


 


Dave


 


 


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Using your numbers:


500 g flour


250ml = 239.5 g


Hydration = 240/500 x 100 = 48% Throw in a couple more points for the malt vinegar, citrus acid, and the water in the butter, your hydration is still only about 50%. That's a very dry dough. Its elasticity is probably attributable to the butterfat and 15 minutes of kneading. However, at that low a hydration, I wouldn't expect anything else except a tight dense crumb.i.e., what you describe as uniform, small holes.


Search through TFL postings. You will find many discussions re hydration percent and its effect on open, large-holed crumb. Basically, you need to increase the hydration %. How much is dependent on what kind of bread you're trying to achieve, e.g., sandwich bread, or ciabatta.


Steam effects crust, yes; but it's purpose at the beginning of your baking is to keep the dough's surface flexible to aid it to expand. Not using steam you're aggravating an already very stiff dough.


For the future, I can't speak for every TFLer, but I have no idea what temperature corresponds to Gas settings 1, 2 etc. I suspect there are others who also don't know. Please use temperature, °C or °F. (Most North American home ovens are °F. but most TFLers know how to convert temperatures.)


David G

davidg618's picture
davidg618

My curiosity won out again.


I just found this useful chart online, and served my own ignorance.


Oven Temperature Equivalents
Fahrenheit (°F) Celsius (°C) Gas Number Oven Terms
225 °F 110 °C 1/4 Very Cool
250 °F 130 °C 1/2 Very Slow
275 °F 140 °C 1 Very Slow
300 °F 150 °C 2 Slow
325 °F 170 °C 3 Slow
350 °F 180°C 4 Moderate
375 °F 190 °C 5 Moderate
400 °F 200 °C 6 Moderately Hot
425 °F 220 °C 7 Hot
450 °F 230 °C 8 Hot
475 °F 245 °C 9 Hot
500 °F 260 °C 10 Extremely Hot
550 °F 290 °C 10 Broiling*
       

 

David G

Arcadia's picture
Arcadia

OK thanks. This is very useful. I have been going in the exact opposite direction, striving to get a drier dough following a very unpleasant experience with dough that was clearly too wet .. and sticky ... and horrible :)


I'll have another session at the weekend and address both the hydration and the humidity of the oven.


Thanks also to the other respondents - I'm taking everything on-board.


 


Dave


 

grumpidoc's picture
grumpidoc

I agree with David G - higher hydration helps. Also my bread texture improved a lot when I stopped the good old English 'knocking it back' and started a gentle stretch and fold after the first rise.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Hi Dave,


In some regards, brewers and bakers share the same knowledge. My observation is that brewers are more informed of and seem to be more comfortable with adding things to a formula to get it just right. That can also make it harder to create basic breads.


To start, bread in it's basic form is only 4 ingredients. Flour, water, salt and yeast of some kind. The kinds of breads that can be made by varying the technique and hydration of those 4 items is amazing. I'm going to suggest that you get a scale of some kind to weigh your ingredients. For many reasons having to do with human nature and technique, a cup of flour can be scooped in a wide range of weights. If you want to duplicate a formula, the chances of immediate success are far greater with a gram scale.


As a place to start with a basic white bread, I suggest you start with a recipe of the 4 basic ingredients and skip the malt, sugar, and acids. The branded bread flour probably is enriched anyway. The amount of salt is generally 1.8-2% by weight as compared to the weight of the flour. That means 500g of flour gets 10g of salt. The amount of water is also related to the total flour weight. 65% hydration is a good easily manageable dough although once you find you can handle 65%, you can increase the water to as high as 80% and still manage the dough by hand with adequate bench flour. Again 65% hydration of 500g of flour is 325g water.


I don't weigh yeast in the small batches we make as home bakers. You can use Instant Dry Yeast at 3g per teaspoon but would start by using 1-1/2 teaspoons of IDY for your 500g loaf. The activity will be dependent on temperature as you know. 22C is a good place to ferment dough and you should adjust the water temperature so that the dough starts off at that range. Let the dough double once, divide and or shape and let it double one more time. Bake at the gas mark you mentioned and you should be enjoying great bread soon. A single 1/4 inch slash down the middle will help allow the dough to expand without tearing, but it isn't crucial. Good luck.


Eric

flournwater's picture
flournwater

A couple of things I'd like to add to Eric's comments.  Because we don't know the protein content of your flour we can't say, for a certainty, what hydration level is best for your specific circunstances.  Remember that low protein flour will absorb less water than high protein flour.  The difference can be as much as 30%; that's significant.  The texture of your bread will depend greatly on those two factors.  As Eric suggested, use a scale to weigh your ingredients and start working with a simple flour/water/salt/yeast formula.  Adjust the amount of water by about 10% (relative to the amount you introduce in any one formula  -  e.g. if formula #1 uses 300 grams of water, formula #2 would use 330 grams) and don't change anything else. If you make careful notes with each loaf you bake, you'll find a "sweet spot" in your formula that gives you the texture you're seeking.


Kneading dough raises its temperature and nothing raises it faster than kneading it in a food processor.  A food processor will knead dough as much as ten times faster than a dough hook on a stand mixer.  If you're kneading your dough in a food processor you may be overheating it.


As mentioned earlier, steam can be critical to a good oven spring.    You don't have to score your loaves, but it sure can help.  To obtain the best oven spring your loaf needs to expand.  Without steam and/or proper scoring (note emphasis on the "and"), the dough surface will set too early and restrict the expansion of the loaf's interior.  Perhaps those are some of the things getting in the way of that nice fluffy soft loaf you're trying to achieve.


Best of luck with your experiments.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

A couple suggestions for making a softer,fluffier loaf.Is that what you want?


1. Bread flour is high in protein,develops a lot of gluten and gluten gives a chewier,heavier texture.


2. If you were near where I live, I would say use AP flour and see if you like where the texture is going.Here, the AP flour can make a nice loaf of light textured bread. However, I am not familiar with the flour and protein level where you are (England?). The AP flour there may not have enough protein to form a good gluten network.If the AP flour there does not seem to have adequate gluten, then use some bread flour.No recommendations on amounts here.Experiment with different percentages of AP/bread flour.


3. If you want a softer,fluffier texture, add an egg to the recipe and use some milk as the liquid. All these things soften the crumb.


4. If you want a crispy crust and holey interior,still use the flour suggestion but don't use the milk and egg. Handling technique will help with the holey interior.


In your initial post, you said you raised til double and then put it in the oven.Did you do anything to shape a loaf? and then proof the loaf? I would mix,rise to about double,shape into a loaf while handling very gently,proof till ready and then bake.After the initial vigorous mix, always handle the dough gently.


HAve fun.