The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Basic bread - same problem every time

Fermenter's picture

Basic bread - same problem every time

Hi everyone, I'm new to bread baking and I really need some help. Every loaf I make has the same problem - it is heavy, dense and often a bit doughy.

I've used Laucke bread mix and supermarket flour (plain and wholemeal). I've tried 3 different types of yeast. I've tried a number of kneading techniques. I've tried wet dough and I've tried dry dough.

The breadmix instructions say to knead for 10 minutes solid then prove for an hour, punch down and prove for another hour. A recent expert on TV says to knead lightly every 20 mins for the first hour then shape and prove for another hour. I'm proving in a humid, temp controlled environment at 40C (104F).

The only common thread is the oven - it is wood fired so I'm not totally sure what temperatures I'm hitting, but the loaf "looks" done in about half an hour.

What causes a dense loaf? Should I be proving for longer? Should my dough be soft and moist and easy to knead or dry and stiff and prone to tearing? I've baked about 10 loaves so far and I just can't seem to nail it.



Yerffej's picture

In order to prpoerly answer your question,  many more details on your recipe would be necessary but I think that I can give you some general direction that will help.

Get an oven thermometer so that you have an idea of what you are dealing with in your oven.  Then bake your bread at a minimum temperature of 375° F and a maximum of about 440° F.  Without "knowing" your oven it is hard me to to know the ideal temperature.  Get an instant read thermometer and check the temperature of the middle of your loaf after 35-40 minutes of baking and it should be between 195-205° F.  If it is not up to that temperature, put it back in the oven for 15 minutes more.

Do these steps and things will improve greatly,


Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

WOW! that is a very high temp, how long are you proofing it for? My guess with your given information is that you are simply overproofing the dough.  At that temperature the dough will not need much time to proof.  As i personally do try and avoid knocking dough down, i like to recommend to beginners to proof dough till it is  double in size before they shape it, then use the finger poke method to check readiness.(just search it in the search, others explain it much better than me) 

You could be under developing the dough during the kneading process, many threads on here about mixing the dough, no way is "wrong" but some ways do work better or more consistently.

Lastly i recommend when starting out to stick to one recipe or formula until you get it down, switching around tends to just confuse the heck out of most of us when we are beginners.

Last thing to remember is to ENJOY THE FINAL PRODCUT!  It is after all why most of us bake :)


ssor's picture

I think that you are trying too hard. This is how I make most of my bread:

Flour measured and blended. Water and yeast added. Whisked to combine water yeast and some flour. Mixed by hand to wet all of the flour. Covered for twenty minute to autolayse.The dough after twenty minutes and ready for first kneading.The dough after that first full five minute kneading in the bowl by hand with almost no added flour. The dough after a two hour rise at room temperature( about 70 degrees).after 3 hours.I thumped the bowl on the table and blew a bubble under the plastic.. I then shaped the loaves.and let them prove at room temperature.and then baked them.


aloomis's picture

. . . and where do I get one?  I've been baking 3 1.5 lb loaves each Thursday, but I could do 6 if my mixing bowl were bigger.

ssor's picture

13 quart! Any restaurant supply house will have them. I guess the biggest batches I have done have been 6 to 7 pounds of flour. I think that batch was about 64 ounces of ap and about 21 ounces of Hodsons mill stone ground WW.