The Fresh Loaf

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Analysis of my first few breads or Why o why don´t you rise already?

Simisu's picture

Analysis of my first few breads or Why o why don´t you rise already?

Ok, so i got struck with the baking bug about a week ago and since then i´m obsessing about figuring out how to bake my own bread...

so far i produced together with my wife 4 lovely, tasty bricks of bread, what went wrong?

story goes as such...

first bread was made utilizing the formula from lesson one on this here website, measurements were way off since i don´t have proper measuring tools (ie cups and spoons) so this was very much freestyle bread you might say. i stuck some sesame and flex seeds in there also.

now... the process is quite probably were i failed (in the same way that we failed the other two loaves) that is to say, failing to realize just how much more time i need to account for cold weather and cold temps (just so happened that my adventure starts at the coldest time of year with temps close to 0ºC !!!)

i used old expired yeast mixed first in hot water, i either killed of what was left of the yeast and if not it was meant to go inside the flour anyway and not the kind mixed into water. next i kneaded on the cold marble and set aside to rise in a warmer room... which wasn´t quite warm enough.. after about three hours of just standing there without doing nothing i decided it was too late stuck it in the fridge and decided to consult this forum to see what can be done the next morning.

next morning i took it out and figured i should put more yeast, thinking the reason was the hot water that killed of the yeast i mixed the yeast again with a little tepid water and kneaded that into the dough... it was left for about 3 more hours until i attempted to fold it (again on the cold marble ·"$&"·%$") even though it wasn´t showing signs of rising and then set it aside for a few hours more and finally gave up after about 5 hours of no activity, stuck it in the oven (my stinky gas oven that goes up to gas level 6 (before knowing anything about gas levels i might add) i thought it should go on maximum... managed to burn the bread on top of everything...

it did show a little oven rise and the taste was too salty but otherwise good (inside...) i munched on it a little before throwing it away.

next day i went and bought fresh ingredients and tried the basic lesson one recipe with only slight changes (a little less salt and a little less water) again nothing was happening after about 3 hours and then we gave it one hour more in the mold before  sticking it in the small electric oven for about 50 minuets on 190º C it came out a lovely brick, edible but ummm.... not quite there yet...

i spent the next few days reading more and more about bread, starting to garner a little more respect for what seemed something indeed very simple.

for our next try i came up with the following formula:

375g white wheat flour (100%)

with 65% hydration makes 244 grams water

7.5 g salt 2% 

7.5 g instant yeast 2%

and 4%/8% flex and sesame seeds which are 15/30 grams respectively

we made two separate loaves,  mixed stuff together using an electronic scale (which is very precise but only goes up to 200 grams) and let it rest for a few minuets before kneading. this time adding the yeast into the mix before the water. the 2% salt was a big difference from 2 teaspoons salt, it turned out about a 1/4 of the amount i put the first time! this dough looked more promising and felt better, but again we were kneading it on the cold cold marble and the ambient temps in the house weren´t hot enough to do anything much... and so we waited 3 hours again (all the time thinking according to the lesson that 2 hours would be the maximum... he fails to mention anything about cold temperature!!!) nothing much was happening and we put it in the mold and waited a couple hours more... nada... even the second loaf which enjoyed an extra hour and a half on top of that (total 7.5 hours!) didn´t seem impressed and simply sat there... i avoided making stretch and folds since i assumed it has to double at least before starting with that.

these two showed more oven rise however (from which i gather that the yeast was indeed active, but too cold) and have a few big holes in them... still... they turned out heavy lumps of bread (what i imagine Terry Pratchett might call Dwarf Bread)

that day i got a few privet massages from MiniOven who´s been a great help and with her aid i am finally convinced that what is wrong are indeed simply the cold temps, i have to say that a simple mention of that in the lesson might have saved me a lot of time though on the other hand it forced me to research more and more, to the point that i read all the relevant parts in the book ¨Baking Artisan Bread 10 Expert Formulas for Baking Better Bread at Home¨ by Ciril Hints and much more over here... the book has been a great help to put a few things straight.

so conclusions thus far are:

  • find a way to correctly proof the dough in higher temps (maybe a warmed container)
  • change the formula to promote rise times (ie up the hydration and add a bit of extra yeast)
  • use tepid water instead of cold water
  • knead on warmer surface (ie not on freezing cold marble!!!)
  • patience is key!
  • utilize preferments (maybe a biga or at least leave to rest about 30m before kneading)

now i wish i could eat all this bread TODAY so i´d have to make the next one already :O)

***PATIENCE*** yes.....

so my revised recipe and method is linked here and i will keep updating until i get it (it´s just under there in the comments so the link is really for convinience sake :O)





pmccool's picture

Most recipes are written with a specific audience in mind.  Therefore, "minor" things like ambient temperatures tend not be mentioned since the audience already shares the same information and environmental conditions as the recipe writer.  I would guess that when Floyd was writing Lesson 1 for his (then-)embryonic web site, he didn't imagine that people around the world would be trying to bake from that lesson.  So, he wrote from an American perspective for an audience that would presumably consist mostly of other Americans.  I would have done exactly the same thing before I spent a couple of years abroad and learned just how different houses and indoor temperatures can be in other parts of the world. 

It is now several years later and The Fresh Loaf is truly a global community, not just an American community.  That is a good thing.  It also means that something like Lesson 1 may need to be updated to include metric mass/weight quantities and some additional discussion about temperatures.  I'll try to remember to include that kind of information in any future formula postings that I might make, rather than assuming that everyone knows that yeasts thrive in the same range of temperatures that we humans prefer, roughly 22-32C or 72-90F.

I had to chuckle at your mention of marble counters.  Mine are soapstone, which I very much like and which are also not a good place to park fermenting dough in the winter.  Too cold!  They do work well to help slow fermentation in warm weather, though.


Simisu's picture

i knew that probably it was something to do with the temperature but what i didn´t know was to what extent! since i didn´t know to what extent i didn´t try to rectify... i thought, ok... it will take an hour or two longer...

The loaf must rise until it is approximately double in size. This typically takes from 45 minutes to a couple of hours, all depending on how much yeast the recipe called for. Temperature too is a factor: the warmer the room is the quicker the yeast will rise.

sadly that´s the only mention about temperature vs time but i certainly agree that just a small comment about the ranges of temp vs time would help, certainly not necessary in every post you make but yes when you´re giving basic information! not even in lesson three where he talks about temperature and time does he mention the RANGES... it´s a little over simplified or simply negligent in the sense that it´s SO basic he forgot to mention it *shrug* 

but now i´m happy that i know better and i´m looking forward for the next try.

i´ll keep in mind your comment for summer haha... funny how i´d probably search for an answer about how to slow down fermentation once summer hits :O)



Simisu's picture


  • 300g white wheat flour (80% the other 20% will be in the Spelt poolish)
  • with 72% hydration makes 270 grams water
  • 7.5 g salt 2% 
  • 7.5 g instant yeast 2%
  • 22.5 g flex and sesame seeds 6% (after a night´s soak in about 40 gram water, i´m not too worried about this since i´m hoping to make rather a high hydration dough so if the seed take up a bit more water i don´t mind)

utilizing a poolish at 20% both to give the yeast a chance to rise and to soak the whole Spelt... using whole Spelt for the poolish will probably change the recipe but i´d like to give it a go anyway. will be keeping it outside with rather cold temps (i figure between refrigerated poolish to room temp poolish... i´m not sure how that will work but probably better then not using a poolish no?) so... we get a poolish of...

  • 75g spelt (20%)
  • 75 g water
  • 1.5 g yeast (20%)

so that leaves for the final dough

  • 300 g white flour (the remaining 80%)
  • 195 g water (the remainder of the water) leaving a bit out to see if i need to account for the seeds...
  • 7.5 g salt (the remaining 100%)
  • 6 g yeast (the remaining 80%)
  • 22.5 flex and sesame seeds with around 200% hydration (the remaining 100%

so tomorrow i´ll start the poolish around noon so the next morning i can start with the final dough, i still haven´t figured how i´d keep the dough warm but we´ll see... i have more patience and considering ill be keeping the process all together hotter (no kneading on frozen marble and such) i have a good feeling!

any comments would be welcome!




Simisu's picture

the poolish was mixed last night (at double figures to make twice as much bread) it might have been under mixed (i knew i should have checked the book before :o/   )  and the flex seeds been put to soak... so far the poolish is looking great though (15-16 hours outside) i opened it just now for the first time to take a whiff, it smelled very fruity and alcoholic, with a touch of lactic too... i´m about to go out to buy flour (i hope i´ll make it before the poolish over ferments... maybe i´ll move it somewhere colder too) 

also i´m thinking to use 70% hydration instead of 72% after all i´m a novice and i found it very hard to deal with the last few loaves we tried so even though i wanted to make it as high as i can i think it´s better to go on the safe side for now... plus i´ll be keeping out some of the water to account for the flex soak... (which hasn´t taken all the water yet anyway...)

to be updated...

ok... i went to buy some flour and i bought different kinds, for this time i made one more change which was to substitute half of the remaining flour to whole white (BIO) it had some kind of measure which i don´t know what it stands for W240 (i was told it´s the amount of gluten or ¨strength¨ of the flour) i also bought white flour with the measure of 380! (and i was told between 60-70% extraction... i´m not sure what that meant) and whole rye (BIO)

So, i was in a little hurry (bad start) and when mixing everything up accidentally spilled all the water i had intended to put inside all at once, so much for holding on on the water... i first mixed the poolish with some water and slowly added the rest of the ingredients except the seeds, which resulted in a very nice feeling mix, but when i tried to mix in the gelatinous seeds the dough became fragmented and with lots of strands... i had to put it back into the bowl so i could mix it properly and in the end it became too sticky for me to handle... got my hands all covered and made a big mess... but ok... i continued to knead with the method of slapping the dough on the table and folding it, the dough was just too sticky even for that so i gradually added some more flour in the attempt to be able to manage it...

i´m not sure i kneaded enough but during the three hour bulk fermentation i folded the dough 4 times (using my home made dough scraper and pulling from under the bowl...) this time i could definitely see it growing (although not as much as i was hoping for, though i was degassing it with my folding so i dunno...)  after that i decided it had enough (i was seeing quite big bubbles on the sides of the bowl and i didn´t have too much time anyway, it was starting to get late) and cut the dough in half, one half i tried to shape and failed miserably, the dough is simply too wet... i put it into the bread pan as best as i could, the other half was left to keep rising (which it did) after about an hour and half the dough was ready to be baked (it raised about 50% more and that was enough for now...) i think i under baked it...

the second one i didn´t even try to shape too much... i just dumped it into the pan and straight into the oven.

the result wasn´t too bad, only not baked enough and i certainly need to practice the shaping part as it gave me a few problems with the end result...


  • a little less water
  • mix the seeds in with all the ingredients
  • maybe knead more as i´m not sure i had it developed enough...
  • bake on 240 for 20 minuets and then go down to 190.
  • split the dough into 1/4 and 3/4 so that they fit into the small and big molds and i could bake them together!

all in all i´m very pleased i could get something resembling bread this time, it tastes great and looks ok, i would like to make larger loaves although i´m not sure if it´s a function of quantity or rise and spring...

next time looks promising!