The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Difficulty baking French bread in the tropics!

Mizu's picture

Difficulty baking French bread in the tropics!

I've been trying in vain to bake french bread here in the Philippines and it has never turned out to be anything worth eating. It always ends up yeasty, hard/rubber-like and small! Would shortening the rising time or decreasing the yeast amount work?

Some details:
-instant yeast was used
-slamming was employed for the kneading
-the dough was given 2-4 hours for the first rise, 1-2 hours for the second, and 1-1/2 hours for the final rise
-the typical temperature around here is 36 C or roughly 97 F
-there was difficulty slashing the loaves because it sticks and it doesn't rise much in the oven

Mizu's picture

I'd gladly answer questions to help diagnose the problem of these poor breads!

patnx2's picture

I do not know how much yeast you are using but at above 90 degrees  f the  yeast will rise quicker. So using less yeast might help. Or some how cooling the dough during the ferment. Or pay attintion to the dough more and time less. If recipe states till doubled that may happen very quickly at 97 d.f. Sounds like quite a challange but with more posts and questions you can get lots of help from this site. Patrick

jaltsc's picture

I live in Thailand and do a lot of baking. I use a modified Peter Reinhart recipe for my Baguettes. I make a pate fermentee the night before and only use 1/2 t of yeast. I also use malt powder, which can be eliminated if you are unable to acquire any. I also use a mixer that handles this amount of dough very well.

 Here is brief description of my recipe. During the hot season, I use ice water to slow the rise. It is important to not let the dough rise too fast. 

Pate Fermentee

560 Gms. Bread Flour

560 Gms AP Flour

720 Gms.Very Cold Water

200 Gms.Sourdough Starter

2 tDiastatic Malt Powder

1 TSalt

1/2 Instant Yeast

  Mix all of the ingredients for 5 minutes.  Pass Window Pane Test.

Let rise in a sealed container until 1 1/4 times its size (3 hours) .

Refrigerate. Degas if necessary.

Finish rising in refrigerator to 1 ½ times original size.

For the final dough: Next Morning

All of Pate Fermentee

660 Gms. Bread Flour

460 Gms AP Flour

720 Gms. Water

2 tDiastatic Malt Powder

1 TSalt

  1  tInstant Yeast 

Take out pre-ferment from fridge two hours before cutting it up. Cut up the pre-ferment into small pieces and leave it at room temperature for about 1 hour to take off the chill.  Autolyze flour, yeast, malt and water for 10  minutes and add pâte fermentée and salt after. Mix at low speed. In a lightly oiled container, proof at room temperature for about 2. 25 hours until double in size.   Divide into 8 pieces of 485 gm boulles each. Let rest 10 minutes.Shape into Batards. Rest 15 minutes, and then Shape baguettes. .Proof in couche for 35-60 minutes. Until 1 1/2 times original size. Time will depend on room temperature.

Transfer to peel or sheet pans and score. 


Bake at 500°F. Spray every 30 seconds for 4 minutes. 


 Lower to 450°F and baked for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees. and bake for another 20 minutes.  
Mizu's picture

I tried again and I had bread that was beautiful and edible but rather uninteresting. (likely because I used a really basic recipe; French bread in 5 hours!) Using less yeast seemed to do the trick, I used around 1/4 teaspoons of yeast for 1 cup of flour in contrast to 1/2 tsp. per cup before. I also added much more water than before: 50% hydration this time.

Next time I'll let the dough rise thrice all in all to develop more flavor.

Chuck's picture

At least for now, use the recipe as-is (same amount of yeast etc.)- just use ice water so your finished dough is 70-80F (average of hot flour and cold water:-).

As to rising times, I've heard the same great advice expressed a couple different ways: "lose the clock" or "watch the dough not the clock". The rising times in cookbooks are estimates that can easily be off either way by a factor of two (or even three) even in temperate climates.

Baguettes are "hard" no matter where you are (one way ace bakers compete is who can bake the better baguette:-), and there are some not-so-good recipes out there. Your issue may have nothing to do with your tropical climate. I suggest trying baking a couple other more basic kinds of bread before returning to baguettes.

Jilrob's picture

Chuck are you still in Thailand and if so where?  I'm in Surat and find your hints great.  I often bake a quick, no rise except in oven bread, which avoids some problems but want to try sourdoughs.  The making of the mother would also be different here I suspect.