The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Small Kitchen in Tokyo

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ahstarter's picture

Small Kitchen in Tokyo

Hello happy bakers,

I joined this community because I enjoy cooking very much and as time goes by I find more interest and enjoyement in the making of bread. I am a cook by profession, with a little experience making bread in my last job. Although I work as a cook, I must admit that I have very little understanding of bread, or more specifically, I hardly understand how to read my dough.

I have recently moved to Tokyo, I have no bread mixer, so I am kneading by hand. My last few attempts have produced a increasingly worse outcome each time. This evening I made a dough using fresh live yeast plus a tablespoon of a natural yeast that I have been trying to make at home following some guidelines from this forum.

The biggest problem for me is getting my dough to be elastic. I knead by hand from 12 minutes. The dough seems smooth and I can stretch it quite far before it rips. I allowed for a 6 hour fermentation at 30 decress Celsius, after kneading as the recipe for using the natural yeast said. The dough had become very weak. No elasticity at all. I tried kneading again fro another 6-8 minutes but could not bring it back.

I am losing hope, but dont want to give up. I could produce decent breads at my last job. However I used a ready made crusty bread mix, and a Hobart mixer, and instant yeast plus sugar. So the proofing time was always short.

Can someone please help? Perhaps my natural yeast is too aggressive too active and the dough is decomposing because of it? Is the gluten being broken down? or am I not kneading it enough?I'm following a recipe, besides adding a bit of my home brew. But I can't get good results.

I am kneading the dough with a very amateur technique which I call turn and squash. I have a very small toaster oven in Tokyo, so I am making small doughs. So using the fold and stretch technique shown by Richard Bertinnet isnt possible. Or maybe my recipe is to dry since if I try to flip the dough down on to the counter it just flings back around without stretching... I get frustrated with wet doughs while hand kneading, the dough never seems to stop sticking mostly to my hands and never comes together as one soft whole and healthy dough.

I have been able to make breads in this oven using instant yeast and a different recipe, but it never produced a good taste, so I wanted to follow a more artisan approach which has only made things worse for me.

I am clueless. If someone can point me in the right direction I would be very, very grateful.




breadforfun's picture

Hi, I think your diagnosis is on the right track.  It sounds like 6 hours at 30˚C or 86˚F could likely be too long a rise, depending on your recipe, and it could cause breakdown of the gluten.  Perhaps you can post your formula and method so that we can give you better feedback. 

For tastier bread, you are right that a longer fermentation is better.  But to accomplish it, you need very little yeast and usually a much lower temperature, maybe around 70-75˚F (21-23˚C).  Search on this site for some recipes using either biga, poolish, sponge or preferment.    These are made using a long (typically overnight) fermentation of flour, water and a small amount of yeast, and all accomplish roughly the same thing.  The yeast will multiply and flavors are developed.  You then use this to mix the dough, sometimes adding more yeast and sometimes not.  Commercial baker's yeast, even fresh, is much much more active than natural so you are probably overwhelming your natural culture with the yeast.  Here is just one of many examples of the method.


ahstarter's picture

Thanks Brad for your speedy reply.

I halved the recipe, my quantities:

250 gm hard flour

130 ml water + 1 tbsp of my homebrew starter

20 gm natural yeast

4gm salt

I warmed the water and added my starter and yeast before mixing with flower. Mixed together then kneaded by hand straight away for 12 minutes adding a drop of oil as I knead to keep my hands from sticking. I turn the dough and press (stretch it away from me). The dough seems quite smooth by this stage but quite soft. I thought maybe I could knead it more but am afraid of over kneading. Should I try a different technique? very wet doughs confuse and frustrate me, I wonder how they can stop sticking all over my hands, they seem impossible to knead.

I then lightly coat with oil and shape into flat round shape before putting in my toaster oven on a proofing cycle (30 C)for 6 hours. It didn't grow much for the first 3 or more hours, but after that I could find some growth and the dough reached double size around the six hour mark. I figured it needed the long proof, because it hadn't grown much at all until near the end of the six hour period.

After 6 hours however the dough was very weak and chunks could easily be pulled of without any resistance. I figured it had failed. I kneaded again for around 6-8 minutes, but the gluten did not strengthen.

I will try again without my homebrew.

I have tried to find information via the fresh loaf about knowing wether the bacteria in a starter is yeast or some other sort that might not work well with dough. My homebrew is a mixture of whole grains, Japanese koji (a bacteria used in brewing sake, and fermenting soy beans, which some amateur bakers claim to use in Japan) flour and water. This brew is very active at this stage. Strong sweet alcohol smell and plenty of bubbles.

Perhaps my brew contains a bacteria that will eat my dough, causing it to decompose quickly?

I'll try agin without my starter,  just follow the recipe I have here. Also I had a look at the Poolish Baguette, looks great. Thanks.

I am in the process of getting my life together here in Japan, looking to buy an oven and a mixer this year, I will also try to follow a recipe or two from the fresh loaf. Thanks for your help. Hope I can have better results soon.

breadforfun's picture

The recipe you are using has a lot of yeast.  When you say "natural" yeast, I am assuming that you are referring to fresh commercial yeast sold in cakes.  In Baker's percentage (the amount of an ingredient relative to the total amount of flour) you are using 8% yeast (20/250).  Most formulae that I have worked with without a preferment contain between 0.5% - 2% and very rarely up to 2.5%.  With 6 hours proof at the high temperatures you are using, the yeast is probably running out of food.  That's why you don't see much rising.  Also, your dough should not seem very wet.  The percent hydration or bakers % of water is 130/250 or 52%.  This is quite dry.  Wet doughs are usually considered 65% hydration or more.  If it feels sticky and wet, that is more evidence that the glutens may be breaking down.

I'd be interested in your experiment to see if the home brew is affecting the dough.  But in general, with the recipe you are using, try cutting back the yeast to 5 gm or less, and use touch and visual clues to determine when your dough is proofed.  The rule of thumb is when the volume of the dough is doubled, it is ready to shape.  Second kneading is not necessary, just fold the dough over onto itself a couple of times, wait 10 minutes for it to relax, then shape it for the final fermentation.  If you haven't yet, look at the great lessons here on TFL.  They will answer many questions.  Good luck.



ahstarter's picture

yes, must have been too much yeast.

I will try again very soon. As for now, I feel the need to have some success, so I'm planning for a simple bread made with instant yeast tonight.

The natural yeast is called Tennen Koubo, can be found in bakery supplies shops and some health food shops in Tokyo.

I'll be too busy from this Friday through the weekend so I'll be playing with the natural yeast recipe again starting next Monday.

Thanks for you interest and advice. Tonight's bread, will use a poolish.

breadforfun's picture

I found a thread from a few years ago that mentions the natural yeast you use:

You may find some of the discussion helpful.


dabrownman's picture

who maintain and bake with Yeast Water regularly.  Mine is a mandarin, minneola, apple YW,  teketeke's is a raisin yeast water and I think ronray uses apple YW among others.  Many others have tried it for bread too.  It is a fine wild yeast that works well when SD an is not needed or wanted.  Welcome again to TFL. Just type yeast water in the search box and click seaarch, you will see all the breads and YW topics.

dabrownman's picture

did 2 hrs at 76 -78 F for bulk ferment and 2 hours at 82-84 F for proof.  It was about 20 minutes too long on the proof by poke test.  Didn't get the oven cranked up in time so it was slightly over proofed.  6 hours at 85 F is pretty long.  6 hour at 64 - 68 F might work better.  What temperature is Tokyo this time of year?

ahstarter's picture

The temp here varies from 2-12 degrees Celsius. Inside our kitchen however we have a varying temp of 12-20 degrees Celsius.


RobynNZ's picture

Hello there

Unlike cooking in which one can 'wing it' according to his/her own inspiration, until one has grasped the basic skills, baking is not so forgiving. I'm sure as a professional cook you are very skilled at putting your signature on the food you make. I would however encourage you to follow exactly the instructions you have received with your Tennen Koubo. No adding home brew  or home made sourdough starter etc etc until you are successful with the basic recipe. I suspect that you added too many active bugs to your dough and they exhausted all the food available in the flour, the by-products of all that fermentation then damaged the gluten.

I took a look at the Hoshino Tennen Koubo site (in Japanese, couldn't find an English version) and as some of the instructions are similar to those you relate, I imagine you are using the popular in Japan, Hoshino Natural Leaven. [For other readers of this thread, Hoshino sell starter in dry form,  it is activated by feeding with warm water and left to ferment for 24 hours, then a small portion of this is used to make bread. The formula given on the Hoshino site for a basic white panned loaf  is: strong flour: 100; ripe starter: 8; salt: 1.5; sugar: 6; water: 54~58]

I assume you have activated the Tennen Koubo? 

Which type of bread are you making?  Depending on which type of bread, panned bread, hearth bread etc etc that you would like to make, we can suggest a tried and true formula for you to try.  Because the Hoshino product is activated at a 200% hydration level you will have to make some adjustments to the overall hydration of any formula you try,  most of us keep starters roughly in the 60~100% hydration range, so the formula on this site reflect that, but that is not a major problem and we can help.

Meantime what stage is the starter you have been making following instructions from this site at? How many days since you started it off? If you have an established starter we can offer suggestions on how to use it too. So what type of natural leavened bread do you want to be able to make? I assume long term you would rather use your own starter than purchase the powdered Tennen Koubo....?

Gambatte ne.


 PS I lived in Japan over 20 years and know what you mean about small kitchens!