The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! Dense bread!

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girlswear's picture
girlswear

Help! Dense bread!

Hello,


I'm so glad to find this place with great resources. This week I've made my first loaf following recipe from a Hovis yeast package. It smells and taste great, but it was very dense. After some googling and watching youtube and Good Eats (Dr. Strangelove) episodes, I knew my method was wrong. Didn't know about folding, and the day was too cold didn't have proper rise before bake. 


Then I tried the Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal bread from this site today, here is my problem (link to my bread photo and comment). The first 2 rises were fine, but after shaping the rise in pan is where it failed.


Both loafs were not doorstops, even the next day, couldn't have killed a duck (like in the film About a Boy) but it's dense. It's like a very cakey bread!


Also, I don't have a kitchenaid nor any mixers, I've been doing this by hand. Lots of recipes recommend only kneading for 5-10 mins and most of them assume one has a mixer but I could not pass the stretch window test to get the elasticity where needed to be without kneading at least for 20-30 mins. I do the heal-push-turn kneading method. My pizza dough came out perfect, but not my breads. Is it my method or the recipe that i've gone wrong?


Did I overknead? Underknead?


What else could have cause the dense bread?


How can i improve this next time?


I haven't a thermometre, I've heard of the tapping method, it wasn't full hollow but was afraid to overcook the bread. In this case, is this better to overcook than to undercook?


Advise much appreciated!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but a very lazy one.  Try this...  Instead of kneading for 20-30 minutes and getting too much added flour into the dough.  Just mix it up until all the flour is wet then cover the whole thing and walk away for 20 to 30 minutes.  When you've come back to the dough flip it out and knead for a few minutes or longer if you so desire.  You will see that the dough did a lot of gluten development on its own (while you did something else like soak the raisins) and that you can get by with a lot less flour.  Now check your windowpane.


I would skip (or shorten) the second rise.


Um... until you can poke the bread with a thermometer (I use a metal meat thermometer €3.50) you will have to settle with the loaf falling easily out of the pan and the "tap" for hollow sound.  Should sound like a hollow wood door.  


Mini

girlswear's picture
girlswear

Great advse, thank you mini.


I guess I should invest in a thermometer, I get away with it doing my roasts so I never bothered to get one.


I just watched a great video on this "mix. walk away. then knead" method, it's called Autolyse. I'm definitely going to try this next time!


Video from America's Test Kitchen on Autolyse: here


Will try skip the 2nd rise next time. Thank you!

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

When you say skip the 2nd rise does it mean that the second rise can in fact be the third and final rise referred to in the original Raisin Oatmean recipe where it is done not back in the bowl but shaped and put in the loaf pan to rise?  Thanks Mini O.


Judy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Yes, if you go for the 20-30 min autolyse.  If you have warm temperatures, you might find it easier to shorten the rises.  


Make the recipe first.  If your dough can't rise after final shaping, then with the next attempt, shorten the second rise to just folding and after 10 minutes (chance to relax the dough) go onto shaping the 3rd and final rise.


Mini

girlswear's picture
girlswear

I think it worked this time! I made another loaf, this time using autolyse. Did window test, fine, but when I add the wet raisins, it ruined the dough's consitency. (Any tips?) Then I use the hot water pan in oven method for my rise. Shorten 2nd rise, to just resting for 10 mins.


I think I need to score the top, it's a bit weird shape but it looks properly risen this time. Now waiting to cool before cutting then will post photo.


Thank you so much for your advice Mini!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Could be caused from large air pockets.  How did the cut loaf look?   It looks delicious from here!  :)


With soaked raisins, try draining in a sieve and rolling across paper towel or cloth to pick up water drops.  I find it enough to just wash the raisins in a strainer and set them aside to drip until I'm ready for them. 


Some raisins are soft enough that they don't need soaking.  Check raisins first for tenderness and then decide what to do.  Really hard ones can use a soak in hot water to speed up the process.  Don't let raisins get too soft or they will tear and fall apart in the dough. 


I got brownies in the oven.  Got a walnut rye with sesame seed going through a first rise.

girlswear's picture
girlswear

I'm thinking weird shape was caused by the oven as it was expanding towards to door side (cooler?) Maybe I should slash the top next time?


I bought the Tesco value raisins so they're pretty dry. The waitrose ones probably could get away with just a rinse.


Thank you once again for your advise, I'm going to cut my loaf now. Will let you know how it looks cut. Looking forward to make other breads!

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

Mini O is a good teacher and tt's lovely loaf. I am so jealous.  Pls share your huge success just so my understanding of the procedures are correct.


soak raisins and oatmeal separately.  Add flour yeast, milk, honey etc. to soaked oatmeal, and then autolyse for half hr and then knead by hand. The hot water pan method is during 1st bulk fermentation to boost the rise or 2nd rise? How long did you have to knead to get to the window pane effect?  Did you add raisins in the first rise or 2nd?  I'm a little confused wiith your 2nd rise, normally it would take me another 45 - 60 mins or longer, but you mentioned "just resting 10 mins". Can you please elaborate?  Many thanks. 


I'm hoping to use the scaled down recipe for 1 loaf as a trial test.  Many thanks.


Judy

girlswear's picture
girlswear

1. Soak oatmeal for 20-30 mins. Meanwhile measure ingredients.


2. Add the wet to the wet, honey, milk, veg oil (i used melted butter instead)


3. Mix dry ingredients in seperate bowl, all flours (BF & WW), and yeast (skip the salt and cinnamon for now but remember it for later – Saw that in America's Test Kitchen that the salt retards the gulten development so i'm skipping it at autolyse & add it during kneading)


4. Add the dry to the wet (I know this is for making cake mostly...) Mix loosely until all greeted. Then cover and rest for 30 mins for autolyse.


5. Soak raisins in warm water for 30 mins. Drained.


6. Knead dough by hand, add salt, when it's sorta reached window pane, then add the raisins cos the raisins is so wet and changed the dough consistency, this will need more flour to get to window pane again. I think i kneaded about 15-20 mins.


7. Use Hot water pan in oven method for the 1st rise about 1 hour.


8. Degas and folds thirds, then thirds again.


9. Cover and rest in bowl for 10 mins (instead of 1 hour for 2nd rise).


10. Shaping: Degas, fold in thirds. Because I wanted the swirl in the bread, so I flatten slightly, then I sprinkled extra brown sugar, white sugar, and lots of cinnamon as you were making cinnamon buns.


11. Roll tightly. Lengthen dough a little, fold in ends (folding ends is optional).


12. Rest in greased pan for final rise. Brush water on top, sprinkle oats.


13. Back in Hot water pan in oven method again for 1 hour. Do the rest of 30 hour rise on the kitchen counter. (It's been chilly in the UK, too cool for the dough to rise)


14. Preheat oven as instruction 230C (leave water pan in there - this creates fake steam oven which ensures crispier crust) after you take the dough out and preheat for 20-30 mins.


15. Bake for 5 mins, then turn oven heat to 200C. Bake for 15 mins, turn  the bread pan 180º (not oven temp) Bake another 15 - 20 mins or until top is nicely brown and internal temp reach 185F (Mini, i got a thermometer!)


16. Turn it out and let cool on rack before cutting (i didn't have one, so i placed 5 chopsticks on cutting board and rest it on there)


There's already a scaled down recipe for 1 loaf and 2 loafs. Scroll down and it's listed in the comments somewhere. Oh you might like to use a 1lb 8x4x2 pan for 1 loaf. My 9x5 pan is too big for this. Good luck and let us know how yours turned out! I'm going downstairs to eat mine now!

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

for your very detailed step-by-step instructions.  I'll need to print this out tomorrow when I'm back at the office.  I'm from HK  and and we're beginning to experience some cooler weather in the early mornings and evenings, just perfect for bread making.  Since you mentioned that the raisins were too wet, I think I'll just moisten them for a bit and not immerse them in water for too long, then pat them dry with a paper towel.  I've made raisin loaves before but never with oatmeal and I'd like to taste the difference with added oatmeal.


The trick I use to warm the dough is to either heat up the microwave at high heat for a min. or so, swtich off, and stick the bowl in the microwave oven to rise or put it in the cupboard just above my fridge which is nice and warm but that's only when the dough has been in the fridge to proof overnight.  I hope you'll be posting a pic of the crumbs.  Thanks again, Judy

girlswear's picture
girlswear

Oh hi Judy!!! I'm Elsie. I was born in Hong Kong!!!!! My family immigrated to Canada when I was young, now I live in the UK, I haven't been back to HK for 20 years!


Yeah, if your raisins are fresh and plummy then can skip the soak. I haven't got a microwave, so the hot water pan in oven trick will have to do.


Here's the photos of my crumbs! Lovely texture, only wish I made 2 loafs because it doesn't last long!!



Slathered with butterrrrrrr and get ready to drool (look at the swirl!!)


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  Yes, I noticed the clever trick with the chop sticks.  Glad it came out and you're very welcome!  (I was sweating the big bubble theory!)  From the lovely looks of it, I don't think you should slash this loaf. 


Mini

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

So nice to know there's someone on TFL who's from HK even though you're now living in the UK.  There aren't many people here in HK who's interested in baking bread. 


Your crumb looks perfect, I doubt if I can make it as well as you can but will certainly give it a go after I've managed to get a packet of raisins later this week.


Once again, congratulations on a job well done!!

girlswear's picture
girlswear

Even though I grew up in the West, I'm still very in touch with my Chinese roots! I miss going to yumcha and watching TVB series! There's isn't much good Chinese food in London, much better in Toronto where I grew up. I still try to cook Chinese once in a while when I don't feel justify paying £10 for "dry fried beef ho fun"!!


I guess most people in HK don't have a big oven, nor the time to make bread, when there are so many bakery shops around. Hmm... Pineapple bun with slice of butter!


Speaking of....


Oh.. do you know or know of if anyone/any sites have any HK style bread recipes?


I'm also hoping to try making traditional chinese steam buns! I do have a dim sum recipe book from the 1970s!

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

If you can leave me your e-mail address. I can scan copies of the recipes to you.  Drop me a note on jyslouey@gmail.com and I'll be more than happy to send them to you.


I actually attend the local Towngas Cooking school and they teach everything from Chi. Roast Duck to cookies and breads (but not many classes on Artisan breads due to the time constraints. 


I will certainly give the recipe a go this weekend and post pics,   I have a cooking class this Sat. morning to do a roast suckling pig.  I hope I can find some time to bake my loaf.


Judy

girlswear's picture
girlswear

I've send you an email. Thank you very much!


I would die for some Chi Roast Duck right now!! I think my said Dim Sum recipe book is from Towngas!


I do have a steam bun recipe but it requires alkaline and borax, seems a bit dangerous to me! haha I know the purpose of using such ingredients to alter the PH balance. I think I've seen them in Chinatown will have a browse next time i'm near. 

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

I hope you're still reading the posts on TFL as I'm planning on making the cinnamon raisin oatmeal loaf this coming weekend and item 13 on your step-by-step instructions somewhat took me by surprise.  Did you have to prove for a further 30 hrs even though you put your dough in the oven a second time tog. wiith a pan of hot water, or did you mean you proved the dough 30 hrs altoghether from start to before going into the oven?  Was the hot water in pan method still not enough to give your dough the warmth to rise during the 1 hour in the oven? 30 hrs is indeed a long wait.  We experiecing slightly cooler weather in HK but still warm enough to enable the dough to rise in room temp.  Thanks.  Judy


 

girlswear's picture
girlswear

For the final proofing, because it's cold in my kitchen, I knew it'll never really rise. To help it, i was still using the same hot water pan in the first proof. You'll be surprise how long that heat last in there!


The initial recipe instruction for final rise is 90 mins. I needed the oven to preheat, so i had to take it out from the oven to do further proofing on the kitchen counter. Basically, your objective is to get the final rise double in size before baking, so if you can rise in room temp, do so. Go by your judgement but don't over poof it, I don't think it's essential to water poof it in the oven.


Do leave that water pan in the oven when baking though. It creates steam and create crustier crust.


I think I'm going to alter the recipe into a seeded loaf and try to find multigrain hot cereal to replace the oatmeal instead the next time.


Good luck Judy, let us know how you did and post photos!!

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Now girls


The raisins prefer to have a leisurely bathe (overnight) in a sherry or a port, and then drain for a few hours. I don't think you will improve the bread by slashing and usually a fruit loaf or bun derivative doesn't get any decorative cuts , and usually steam isn't employed either, the top of the loaf can be washed with a sugar wash when it comes straight from the oven for a nice shiny appearance, the sherry that drains off the raisins can have a little more sugar added and bought to the boil for a sugar wash, if you prefer a non sticky wash add a little gelatine. A slightly cooler oven too it if the sugar and fat ratios are being increased.


regards Yozza

girlswear's picture
girlswear

I did thought of soaking the raisin with a splash of rum but as I would do for a bread & butter pudding but I thought a boozy bread for breadfast wouldn't be appropriate (although I know alcohol will cooks off in heat). I soaked the raisins with cinnamon water.


The thought of slashing it was because of the slightly lopsided appearance (i still think it has to do with cool air meeting hot air in the oven).

yozzause's picture
yozzause

The loaf looks fine perhaps a little to much dough for the size of the tin giving a bit of a proud top, have a look at the photo of the fruit loaves i recently put up on TFL they show a bit of oven spring and the dough piece was not to big for the tin  in fact the uprights, the twins in the last picture were a bit small for the tin. Dont worry about the booze, just helps to plump up the fruit and enrichens the flavour, and it certainly isn't what you will get from the shops!


I would have liked to have seen another shot from the side, but i think it looks good, my loaves were not sugar washed  either by the way





 regards Yozza

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Elsie,  i have just found a picture with bun wash applied to show the difference so have included it for you 


 



regards Yozza

girlswear's picture
girlswear

That looks fab!!!


Your twin loafs look amazing!


Unfortunately I haven't the lopsided photo to show you and I finished to loaf already! LOL the thing was that I was only making the 1 loaf recipe and my 9x5 pan was too big (think it's for 2lb), it doesn't fill up, and when it rises it barely even reach the top of the pan.


So i had to use the 8x4 1lb loaf pan. I don't mind it looking a bit mushroomy. The texture and taste was good. It wasn't dense. So i was happy with it. I think one of the problem could also be that I forgot to move the oven tray down, so the loaf was very near the element which I think it caused the lopsided effect with one side hotter than the other.


Hope to make another loaf this weekend if i can find the time, probably skip the raisins and add super seeds to make it into a seedy loaf instead.


 

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

is undergoing the first proof. I soaked my raisins in a bit of port wine and water, didn't want the raisins to be too sweet. The dough feels right, and I only added a small amt of flour after I kneaded in the raisins to counterbalance the wet dough. I did not use all of the cinnamon recommended as it looked plenty to me when I sprinkled it into the autolysed dough.


I shall be posting some step-by-step pics so that if anything goes wrong(or hopefully right), I have the pics as a case study and find out what went wrong.   


Yozza, your raisin loaf looks really good, I particularly like the crust which looks soft.  I wonder if I should brush my loaf top with a bit of butter or egg wash to glaze. 


Here's the dough ready for 1st rise



Dough after 1 hr.  It seems to have gone slacker and filled up to the side of the bowl



Gently pat  into a rectangle and did a s&F and rest coveredfor 15 mins



I didn't hear a lot of hissing when I degassed the dough, not a good sign?


Poorly shaped dough to rise in loaf tin



Dough after 45 mins, ready to go into the oven


 


 


The finished product, finally something that is edible.  Thank you to both Elsie and Mini for your help and advice as usual.



Crumb shot to follow once it has cooled down.


Judy


And here's the crumb, its quite soft and light probably because I used a finer wholewheat flour (without the brans and bits) this time and SAF instant yeast instead of fresh.  If only I can find a way of keeping the oatmeal from falling off the top when I cut the bread.  


 


Please let us know how you get on wiith your experiment with the seeds/grain cereal.  I've seen this in the high-end supermarkets but not sure if I should just soak it or whether it needs to be cooked.  I've seen some very nice looking seeded breads  but most of them use a starter, something that I am not familiar with.


Thanks again, Elsie. 


Judy

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Judy / Elsie


Nice pictures Judy, bread looks really good with quite a good rise with the use of wholemeal flour, you can try incorporating your  fruit during the stretch and fold sequences especially if you can dry off the excess moistuture it can even go into the oven on a tray which will further plump up the fruit , not to hot mind you we dont need to bake or toast, just dry.


Your loaf looks like it could take a bit more colour (middle section), either slightly hotter or a little longer in the oven perhaps. a rich dough with goodly additions of fat and sugar usually  ends with a softer crust but a bit of melted butter at the end of the bake will do the trick and give a semi gloss shine too.


If you are wanting to make the  flakes stick try a wash with cornflour or arrowroot  stirred into water and brought to the boil to form a paste and apply to the loaf top and then the flakes, it also keeps the exposed dough moist when going into the oven allowing further  expansion  in the oven spring time. A very little goes along way 1/4 teaspoon in 1/2 a cup bought to the boil will give you more than enough.


Regards Yozza

girlswear's picture
girlswear

Hi Judy!


That looks awesome! Yeah, I agree with Yozza that the loaf looks like it could use more colour. Crumb looks good. I did took on Mini's advise on the thermometer. 


Think that's really good effort on your first loaf Judy! Breadmaking needs lots of trial and error and you gain more experience as you go along. My 2nd loaf was 100 times better than my first! It can only get better!


As for the falling oats topping... I've only brush on water on mine, but i press them in a little before the rise. One or two fell off during cutting but most of them were still intact.


Spend today at my bf's family in Kent, they threw me a surprised Thanksgiving lunch, which was very unexpected.


ps. How did the suckling pig turned out?

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

The raisins def. benefitted from the port wine and water soak.  I thnk I may use this same recipe and replace the raisins with a tbsp each of sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds/black sesame  or flaxseeds the next time.  I hope this will not make any significant change to the original recipe. 


I should have sprinkled the oatmeal on top when the dough was ready for the second proof in the loaf tin rather than wait until it was fully proved.  I brushed the top with a bit of melted butter for the oatmeal to stick and misted the loaf half lway through baking.  I didn't use butter for the veg. oil but used walnut oil instead.  Maybe it would have tasted tasted even better with butter.


It took me just over 3 hrs from 1st rise, to taking the bread  out of the oven.   iI proved it in the kitchen cabinet just above my fridge with cabinet door slightly open so that it does not get too warm.


My suckling pig turned out fine, although  the skin was not as crispy as I would have liked it to be we had to leave as there was another class after us so we had vacate the premises.  Pity I forgot to take pics of it in my haste this time.  


Judy