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Mixed results from 3 attempts (beginner)

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gargoyle60's picture
gargoyle60

Mixed results from 3 attempts (beginner)

UK-based, electric oven, degrees Celsius temps.

Three attempts listed below, each with observations and results...

I reduced all the measurements because currently I only have a single small Pyrex dish. I also read somewhere that Pyrex can get too hot during the baking process and can scorch the dough and consequently oven temperatures should be reduced by about 20 degrees C, which is what I have done.


--- ATTEMPT #1 ---
100ml of warm water.
One miserly (less then level) tony teaspoon of treacle dissolved in the warm water.
100ml of cold milk.
Added approx. 8 grams of dried active yeast (Allinson).
Yeast mixture allowed to settle for 10 mins to activate the yeast and develop a head of froth (less than 1cm).
Sieved 250 grams of wholemeal bread flour (Sainsbury's own brand) into a warmed mixing bowl.
Two small pinches of salt added and mixed into the flour.
Left the bowl to warm the flour for a few mins.
6 grams of butter added that to the warm flour and mixed in by hand.
Added the frothy yeast liquid to the flour and mixed in using a wooden spoon to clump into one large ball of dough. This was then left to stand for a few mins to allow the flour to absorb the moisture.
Dough hand-kneaded for 10 mins.
OBSERVATION: the dough was heavy and VERY sticky.
Dough covered and left to rise for 30 mins (in a warm place).
The dough roughly doubled in size.
Knocked down and then kneaded the dough the second time for 10-12 mins.
Dough covered and left to rise for an hour (30 mins in a warm place, 30 mins at room temperature).
Dough placed in a Pyrex dish.
Dish placed in oven pre-heated to 210 degrees C for 15 mins.
Reduced the over temperature to 180 degrees C and baked the dough for 30 mins.
RESULT: loaf flat with a thick and heavy crust. The inside was softish but more like a crisp-bread such as Ryvita. It was tasty enough. Edible, but only just. Very hard to slice with a bread-knife, although slices did stay intact. Obviously over-cooked. Possibly "broken dough" syndrome from excessive kneading. Possibly insufficient water. Possibly insufficient yeast.

--- ATTEMPT #2 ---
50ml of warm water.
Added one level little teaspoon of treacle and stirred well until it had completely dissolved. Added 50ml of cold water. This made a total of 100ml of water.
Added approx. 4 grams of dried yeast (Allinson).
Stirred the mixture well and allowed to settle for 15 mins to activate the yeast and develop a head of froth (approx. 1.5cm).
100 grams of wholemeal bread flour (Sainsbury's).
Approx. 30 grams of slightly lighter Rye wholemeal flour (Dove's Farm Organic).
Sieved the combined flour into a lightly warmed mixing bowl.
One small pinch of salt mixed into the flour.
Left the bowl to warm the flour for a few mins.
Added 2 grams of butter to the flour along with a small slice of margarine and mixed in.
Added the frothy yeast liquid to the flour and mixed in using a wooden spoon.
OBSERVATION: dough VERY sticky again and I had to add a lot of flour to my hands. This made the dough quite "dry".
After a few mins the mix started to clump into one large ball of dough. This was then left to stand for a few mins to allow the flour to absorb the moisture.
Kneaded the dough for about 4 mins.
Dough left to rise for an hour in a warm place. The dough hardly rose at all.
Dough knocked down and shaped into two small clumps/balls.
Placed both dough balls side-by-side into a Pyrex dish lightly dusted with flour and baked for about 20 mins at 180 degrees C and then turned off the oven and left the bread in the oven for another 30 mins to cook in its own heat.
From an online source: I placed 5 ice cubes into a metal tray at the bottom of the oven when I first put the bread in to generate steam and help prevent a hard crust.
RESULT: much softer bread (more like soft bread rolls), although still a little flat but incredibly tasty. Thin and soft crust. Easy to slice with a bread-knife. Slices remained intact.

--- ATTEMPT #3 ---
One miserly (less then level) little teaspoon of treacle added to 50ml of warm water and stirred well until it had completely dissolved.
12 grams of dried yeast (Allinson) stirred in.
Yeast allowed to activate for 15 mins (head of froth 3cm).
110 grams of wholemeal bread flour (Sainsbury's).
60 grams of Rye wholemeal flour (Dove's Farm Organic).
Sieved the two flours together into a lightly warmed mixing bowl.
One miserly (less then level) little teaspoon of salt added to the flour.
Left the bowl to warm the flour for a few mins.
Added the frothy yeast liquid to the centre of the flour and lightly covered with flour, then left to sit for 10 mins ("Setting The Sponge" technique).
Added slice of margarine (equivalent to about one large teaspoon) to the flour and mixed in.
Mixed the ingredients using a wooden spoon.
OBSERVATION: the dough was VERY sticky again.
This was then left to stand for 5 mins to allow the flour to absorb the moisture.
Kneaded the dough for about 8 mins (the window-pane test didn't work properly because the dough was too heavy - I think?).
Left the dough to rise for an hour in a warm place (didn't rise much).
Punched down the dough.
Shaped the dough as before and placed the into a Pyrex dish lightly dusted with flour.
Baked for 25 mins at 180 degrees C and then turned off the oven and left the bread in the oven for another 30 mins to cook in its own heat.
As previously, I placed 5 ice cubes at the bottom of the oven for steam when I put the bread in.
RESULT: bread soft but barely rose at all. Tasty. Crust soft. Easy to slice with a bread-knife. Slices remained intact.

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POSSIBLE MISTAKES
I wonder if adding treacle (even a tiny teaspoon) is having the following effects:
- it initially makes the yeast clump together, which then separates before frothing
- it may be causing the dough to be particularly sticky and difficult to work with
- it may be causing the yeast to exhaust itself before it has time to work on the dough and hence the dough doesn't rise much


My attempts are based on a number of sources:
- a very basic recipe for white bread that was taken (and adapted) from the video at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zf9vd (by the chef Michel Roux Jr, broadcast on BBC2 at 19:00 on Monday 14 November 2011. See also - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/food/2011/03/great-british-revival-the-lost.shtml)
- http://www.allotment.org.uk/allotment_foods/bread-making/baking-bread-home.php
- http://www.bakingmad.com/recipes/grainsandseedbreads/traditional-handbaked-wholemeal-loaf-
- http://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/bread/how-to-make-white-bread.html
- http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/bakers-techniques-how-to-do-the-windowpane-test-when-kneading-bread-070784

I would appreciate any comments of where I might obviously be going wrong.

(NB. I shall be getting proper metal loaf tins this weekend)


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

before baking?  

These are three very different recipes.  My suggestion would be to stick to one until it works for you, then apply that knowledge to other recipes carefully.  Do not wait until your yeast is frothy before adding to your mix, all the yeast has to do is be dissolved.   Another suggestion would be to let the dough stand longer before starting to knead, say 20 minutes to absorb water, then half the kneading is done for you and it will be less sticky.  When watching the first rise or bulk rise, let the dough double, watch the dough not the clock.    

I am carefully looking over your write up as it took you quite some time to be detailed.  I will get back to you.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I suggest you select a known author and buy the book. There are  many in the UK to choose from. Leader comes to mind. You could also look at the lessons found here at the top of every page. What ever you do, pick one and work on that as mini said until you understand the important steps and get good results.

Eric

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Mini and Eric have given excellent suggestions, which I strongly support.  Working with a known formula and understanding it is much easier than bashing together bits and pieces of several other formulae.

But, since you asked...

Attempt 1 has, as close as matters, 200g of water to 250g of whole-meal flour.  In baker's percentages, that's an 80% hydration level.  Even allowing for the extra absorption of a whole-meal flour, that will be a sticky and difficult to manage dough.  Working the butter into the flour before incorporating the liquids, as if you were making scones, interferes with the flour's ability to form long gluten chains.  Between the bran in the whole-grain flour and the effects of the butter shortening (both literally and nominally) the gluten in the flour, it would be difficult to achieve anything but a dense loaf.  If you aren't accustomed to baking with whole-meal flours, you will find doughs made with them to be "heavier" than the dough for the same bread made with entirely white flour.  And stickier, too.  Suggestion: combine the milk, water, treacle and flour and let them have a good long soak; an hour or two, say.  Then mix in the salt, yeast and butter and give it a good knead.  Moving on: I'm not sure I fully understand what you did for the second rise.  My read is that the dough was left to ferment, unshaped, for an hour in the same container used for the first ferment, then placed in your baking dish and straight into the oven.  Have I understood correctly?  If so, the dough may have more than doubled (I don't see mention of that in your write-up) before being baked.  That could also lead to a flat loaf, since much of the gas could be lost while handling the transfer from one dish to the other.  It looks to me that the problem lies more with your process than with your ingredients.  Eight grams of dry yeast is quite a bit for a bread made with 250g of flour, so the bread wasn't under-leavened.  You had plenty of water.  The dough did not suffer from excessive kneading.  As a matter of fact, some authors would have you knead a whole-meal dough 20-30 minutes by hand to achieve a smooth, light crumb in the finished bread. [Edit: When I first read your account, I missed that you introduced a second kneading at the end of the first ferment.  The total kneading time isn't bad, but the timing of a second kneading after the first ferment isn't necessarily helpful.] I agree that it may have been baked too long, considering the size of the loaf.  All  the more so if your oven has a fan.

Attemps 2 and 3 are variations on the same theme, except that you added rye flour which will make the dough even stickier and the bread more likely to be flat, since rye doesn't contribute gluten in the same way as the wheat flour that it replaces.  I am surprised that you were able to achieve a dough with Attempt 3, since you mention using 50g of water and 170g of flour.  That equates to a 29% hydration, which would make nothing but crumbs for me.  It also sounds as though you are only allowing the dough to ferment once in the second and third attempts, then baking it immediately after having knocked back the dough and shaping it.  If I have understood you correctly, then those doughs never had an opportunity to reinflate during a second fermentation, leading to dense breads.

Would I be right to surmise that you have only recently begun baking yeasted bread?  I ask because it sounds as though you are doing things that you have read about in the various sources you referenced but don't yet have an understanding of why those things are done or how they affect the outcome.  Please forgive me if that sounds disparaging in any way.  That is not my intent.  What I hope is that you to develop an understanding of how ingredients and techniques work together to result in the breads that you want.  With that in mind, please click on the Handbook link at the top of the page.  You will find that it gives a very good introduction to how bread works.  After reading it and thinking about it (and maybe even experimenting with some of it), ask all of the questions that you want.  Everybody here started out knowing nothing about baking bread and are working toward getting better at it.  You will find lots of people who are willing to share their learning with you, just as some already have.

Best regards,

Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I hope you don't mind.  I copied and commented in the recipe.    Thoughts and ideas  in bold.  I understand you want to keep small loaves.  Is the oven also small?

--- ATTEMPT #1 ---
100 ml water                                    Hydration: 80%     Low salt: 2 pinches = 0.2g   1%=2.5g  Use more salt helps                                                       protein bonding in gluten. 
1 teaspoon of treacle                       treacle  -no relative influence-
100 ml cold milk                           More than enough yeast and left too long to froth, would reduce to half the                                                         amount or even a pinch.  Would scald the milk to reduce enzymes.
8 g dried active yeast                       (Allinson). Yeast mixture allowed to settle for 10 mins to activate the yeast and                                                                                    develop a head of froth (less than 1cm).
250 g wholemeal bread flour          (Sainsbury's own brand) into a warmed mixing bowl.  Suggest cold bowl for                                                                longer  fermenting time.   Soaking wholemeal flour with flecks always a                                                          good idea.
2 small pinches of salt                      added and mixed into the flour.    Left the bowl to warm the flour for a few mins.
6 g butter                                                added that to the warm flour and mixed in by hand.   Oops, butter should be                                                              added with wet ingredients.  Could use more oil or butter.

469.2 g  total dough weight (small loaf)        

Added the frothy yeast liquid to the flour and mixed in using a wooden spoon to clump into one large ball of dough. This was then left to stand for a few mins to allow the flour to absorb the moisture.  Let stand longer… at least 20 to 30 min. covered.  It saves you kneading time and will feel less sticky.
Dough hand-kneaded for 10 mins.
OBSERVATION: the dough was heavy and VERY sticky.  Wet dough.  Should use some folding to build gluten during the bulk rise.
Dough covered and left to rise for 30 mins (in a warm place).
The dough roughly doubled in size.    Very Good!

Knocked down and then kneaded the dough the second time for 10-12 mins.  Kneaded?  Possibly overworked and too much flour added.  Simple envelope folds would have helped more.

Dough covered and left to rise for an hour (30 mins in a warm place, 30 mins at room temperature).  Why not shape and rise directly into pyrex dish?
Dough placed in a Pyrex dish.    Not sure what is going on.   Did it degas or was reshaped?   How long was dough in pyrex dish before baking?  Did it pass a poke test?

Dish placed in oven pre-heated to 210 degrees C for 15 mins.    Reduced the over temperature to 180 degrees C and baked the dough for 30 mins.  Too long.  Dried out the loaf.  Shorten baking time.

RESULT: loaf flat with a thick and heavy crust. The inside was softish but more like a crisp-bread such as Ryvita. It was tasty enough. Edible, but only just. Very hard to slice with a bread-knife, although slices did stay intact. Obviously over-cooked. More than likely.  Possibly "broken dough" syndrome from excessive kneading. Hard to do by hand. Possibly insufficient water. Only if a lot of flour was added with the second knead.  Possibly insufficient yeast. Not likely.


gargoyle60's picture
gargoyle60

Thanks to everyone for honest and helpful replies (no offence taken from any comments, all welcomed).

In hindsight, I realise that combining different recipes was only going to confuse me more, but I have never baked bread, so who knew? I do now!

In reply, attempt 3 did involve more water (I forgot to mention I added roughly another 100ml of cold water only).

At this stage I only wanted a small loaf due to not yet having a proper baking container (getting some tomorrow).  My oven (not fan-assisted) should be able to accommodate 4 or perhaps 5 1lb loaf tins or perhaps 3 tins of the 2lb size.

I started with wholemeal flour because that’s the type of bread I prefer. I suspected it would make a heavier dough. I have now bought some white bread flour, so perhaps if I start with that lighter flour to begin with and come back to using the wholemeal flour once I’ve got the hang of things with white bread.

So far it’s all been edible and tasty, even if rather flat, so nothing’s been wasted. I think that experimenting is all the more fun, so I shall persevere (after reading up more as suggested).

Thanks again.


gargoyle60's picture
gargoyle60

I another attempt at the weekend, this time making white bread rather than wholemeal.
It helped now that I have proper loaf tins.

The recipe, for those interested...
 - 10 grams of dried yeast.
 - 450 grams of white bread flour.
 - 360ml of water (final amount used, initially less).
 - 100ml of semi-skimmed milk.
 - 10 grams of butter.
 - One level teaspoon of treacle.
 - 4 grams of salt (a shallow teaspoon).
 - note: kitchen temperature 15°C / 59°F.
(slightly modified from the recipe at -  http://www.bakingmad.com/recipes/grainsandseedbreads/traditional-handbaked-wholemeal-loaf-)

Milk heated until almost (but not) boiling. One level teaspoon of treacle melted in the milk, followed by the butter. Stirred until all dissolved.
Sieved the flour into a lightly warmed mixing bowl. Salt added to the flour and mixed in.
Added 200ml of water to the flour, followed by 100ml of warm milk. Mixed until even.
Added a further 100ml of water because the flour mix seemed quite "dryish".
Added the yeast liquid, which made the mix a little "sloppy".
Bowl covered with cling-film and left to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flour to absorb the moisture.
Kneaded the dough for 20 minutes (the window-pane test worked okay) - built up quite a sweat!
Observation: the dough was very sticky at first but it gradually began to become more stretchy and easier to handle, with a definite stringy quality towards the end of the first kneading.
Dough placed into a clean bowl, covered with a clean damp tea-towel and left at room temperature until the dough had more than doubled in size (this took about 1 hour) and had risen to the very top of the bowl and was touching the tea-towel (but it didn't stick to it).


Punched/knocked down the dough and kneaded a second time for 12 minutes.
Shaped the dough into two balls and placed them into a 1lb non-stick loaf tin that had been very lightly dusted with flour.

This was covered with a damp tea-towel and left at room temperature until the dough balls had come together and had risen to well above the top of the sides of the tin (this also took about 1 hour).

Oven pre-heated to 230°C (gas mark 8). Note: oven takes about 20 minutes to reach 230°C.
Bread placed into the oven and baked for 15 minutes at 230°C then oven reduced to 200°C (gas mark 6) for an additional 15 minutes. Added 5 ice cubes at bottom of the oven for steam.
The loaf was turned out of the tin and turned upside down, then placed back into the oven for about 5 minutes to finish baking a light crust to the underside (the oven had been turned off and allowed to cool a little first).

Result: the loaf rose well above the top of the tin, with a golden brown top crust. It came out of the tin without sticking at all. The crust was soft and flaky and easy to cut. The bread was soft and light with just a hint of a doughy texture at the very centre. Delicious!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That one comes out to 102% and would even challenge me!   A little doughy in the center means it didn't quite finish baking.  Either use less water in the dough or lengthen the baking time.  The fact that you removed it from the tin leads me to believe that the pan did not sit low enough in the oven during the bake.  

Hydration is determined by adding up the water & milk weights and divide by the flour weight.  You could go down to 65% without any problems and still turn out a decent loaf.  That would be roughly a total of 300g of milk & water.  Did you manage to work in more flour during the kneading?  There is plenty of room between 300g and 460g to experiment without having to worry about too dry a dough.  When mixing dough by hand, often the term shaggy dough is referred to lower hydrated doughs because it looks dryer (no pockets of flour) but is still moistened, not smooth but shaggy.  Letting it stand covered for 30 min to absorb the water does wonders for that dough texture and the dough works just fine.  With a high hydration dough, I'd be more tempted to use a mixer, letting the machine work up the sweat for the initial kneading.  Try reading more on high hydration dough or 100% hydration to compare.    

Glad to see you turned out a much improved loaf!   Your learning journey is well on the way!

Mini

gargoyle60's picture
gargoyle60

Thanks Mini

I don't have a mixer but I'm quite happy to hand-knead, it's part of the experience.

I did manage to work in more flour during the kneading but probably not more than another 50g. Actually towards the end I thought the dough was starting to look dry so I added a few tiny splashes of water and folded it into the dough to keep it moist during baking. I didn't notice any problems doing that but I wondered if it might undo the gluten strands. Anyway, the loaf came out quite reasonably.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Your welcome.  I'm a hand kneader myself but a very lazy one.  Lol! 

An alternative to a second knead would be to do a several sets of  stretch and folds with the dough for more dough strength.  Put some rest pauses between sets so the gluten doesn't tear.  It would be important to flip the top side of the dough upside down before stretching and folding, and then flip the dough to return the top back up to rest, tuck under any stray corners (shape) and rest.  It is a fun process to experience.  If you feel like the dough will tear with the next set of  S & F's,  shape and place in loaf pan and let rise before baking.