The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Beginner's problems

berger's picture
berger

Beginner's problems

Hello all,
I've only very recently started making my own bread.
I've been trying to make some bread at home, but I'm having some problems. So far I've made 3 small breads, but none of them have turned out great and one of them was just horrible. The problems seems to be that the bread doesn't grow on the 2nd rise or in the oven. The last time I even had the impression that it shrunk while in the oven. What I use and do:

I use the yeast in block form, not the one in powder form
I put the yeast with some sugar in lukewarm water, I mix it and stir it and let it rest for about 5 minutes. I use 1 block (15 grams) of yeast for 400 grams of flour.
I mix my flours in a bowl. For the last bread I used 200g of wholewheat and 200g white flour.
I make a small hole in the middle of the flour and sprinkle some salt near the edge of the bowl (about 1 thee spoon or a bit less).
I pour some of the liquid (with yeast and sugar) into the hole and mix it with the flour, I pour a bit more, mix it again, etc. until all the liquid is into the mix. By now the dough makes a ball.
I add a bit of butter and knead for about 10 more minutes.
I let it rise for about 45 minutes in the bowl with a towel over it. I usually put the bowl with towel in the oven to decrease draft. The oven is off, ofcourse.
After about 45 minutes, the ball of dough has about doubled in size.
I knead it a 2nd time. I only kneaded it, I did not punch it. Is this a mistake?
I shape it and put it in a baking form (with butter smeared on the inside)
I let it rise again for about 45 minutes. At this point it does not rise as much as it did the 1st time.
I bake the bread for about 45-50 minutes. The bread does not rise at all while in the oven

When it comes out, the bread is not airy enough inside. Actually it's quite dense. The taste isn't great either: a bit bitter, yeasty, beery. I'm not sure what I'm dong wrong. Can anyone help me or give me some tips, please?

Thank you very much.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Your beery, bitter flavor is likely that your bread is overproofed (overrisen). That said, here are a few other things to do to tighten up your technique. 

1. You measure how much flour you use, you should also measure how much water you use! For 400g of flour, you should expect to use around 260g/260mL water (that's about 65% of the total amount of flour). The amount of water you use is very important to the texture of your finished dough, and the spring of your loaf. Too wet, and you won't get a lot of spring. Too dry, and your loaf will be dense and dry. Especially important when using wholemeal/wholegrain flours, as they require more water. 

2. Kneading: kneading by hand for 10 minutes will probably be insufficient, unless you are very skilled at kneading. A good kneading technique can be watched here: Richard Bertinet's slap and fold technique. If you use some other technique, it may take 20+ minutes to get a good texture. 

3. Make sure the first time your bread rises, it just about doubles. No more, no less. Don't pay attention to the time, pay attention to the dough volume. The time will vary based on your dough temp, air temp, yeast activity, etc. Use a clear container if you can, this will help you measure when it has just about doubled.  

4. Don't knead it  or "punch" it a 2nd time; you want to "degas" it slightly, but not so much that you ruin all of the nice bubbles that have resulted from the 1st fermentation. Slap it a few times hard with the palm of your hand, then shape as desired, and place your loaf pan. (I like to roll my pan loaves up like a jelly roll).

5. Let it rise again in the pan. Again, here you want it to be slightly less than double. If your bread is not rising in the oven, it's likely that it has overproofed (overrisen), so don't wait as long next time. Read more about the "poke test" to determine if your bread is ready. 

6. What temperature are you baking at? You may want to consider baking with a little steam. Many people like to bake their shaped bread in a covered, cast-iron pot; the steam generated in this way helps give loaves just a bit more oomph to their oven spring (i.e, rise while baking).

Posting photos of your finished product will help.  

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

You have gotten good advice already.  I just want to highlight the fact that your primary issue is overproofing  (letting the bread rise for too long).  This is why the loaf would shrink in the oven (it actually rises and then shrinks) and also why you are getting off flavors.  Do not be discouraged as before long proper proofing will become natural for you.

Happy Baking,

Jeff

berger's picture
berger

Thank you both for some great advice, I will surely try it this afternoon.
In answer to your questions, cranbo:
I used about 50mL of water per 100g of water, so I'll use a bit more next time.
I bake at 220C (about 430 Fahrenheit).

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I used about 50mL of water per 100g of water

I assume you meant 50mL of water per 100g of flour, right? ;) 

Yes that is too dry; might work for a bagel, but not much else. You should use about 60-65mL water per 100g flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think not.  I think the dough is simply too dry.  

Once more water is added, the dough will rise more.   A total rise time of 1.5 hours is not very long esp. with only 15g of fresh yeast.  

Another thought, wet your finger and  taste your whole wheat flour to see if it hasn't gone rancid.  Rancid flour could also contribute to low rise and "off" flavours.   It should not have an aftertaste that comes back to haunt you.  :)

cranbo's picture
cranbo

A total rise time of 1.5 hours is not very long esp. with only 15g of fresh yeast.  

Mini, I'm not debating that the dough is too dry, but I think overproofing is entirely possible.

My understanding is 1 cake yeast approximates 1 pkg dry yeast (i.e., 7.1g of dry yeast), which for 400g of flour is 1.78% of flour weight. That's not enormous, but it could very well be causing overproofing, especially if berger isn't careful with other environmental variables or with watching the dough. 

FYI, from Daniel DiMuzio's "Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective", Dan provides approximate instant yeast %s in a lean dough, at 77F, for rising times during bulk fermentation:

  • 0.3% - 3-4 hours
  • 0.4 - 0.5% - 1.5 to 2 hours
  • 0.7% - 1 hour
  • 1% - 30 to 45 min

As I said, other environmental factors apply: we don't know berger's water temp, final dough temp, room temp, humidity, etc. It could also be technique. For example, when I started out baking I would leave my dough for bulk fermentation in a ceramic or metal bowl. It's pretty hard to accurately gauge "doubling" in such a container, because the dough expands outward and upward, not just upward. Now that I use clear Cambro containers for bulk ferment, it's easy to mark with a grease pen the volume at start and volume at finish. Because they have straight sides, it's very clear to measure. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

which would cut calculations by about half.  15g fresh yeast is less than 4.5 g instant yeast (or  1.1% of instant yeast to the flour weight)    link

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Maybe, depends on the size of your cake...A 15g cake is what berger specified, so I can only assume that a 0.6oz cake (17g) is being used. FYI Fleischmann's says "Yeast is available in two different sizes: 0.6 ounces and 2 ounce household cakes". RedStar only sells the 2oz size. Of course 1/2 of a 2oz (56g) cake would be about 28g, so I'm not sure where you're getting "15g is a 1/2 cake"...is the cake yeast you buy 30g? 

Red Star's conversion table clearly shows that for up to 4 cups of flour to use 0.66oz (17g) fresh yeast or 7.1g dry yeast. 

Please correct me if I'm missing something. 

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

1.5 hours is more than sufficient to rise IF your yeast is active and working.  I too agree that over processing is the problem here.  That second knead probably killed off any hope of having a good rise. 

While I would ask the poster to post his recipe for his/her bread, I like more hydration - especially when adding whole wheat, which really needs more water or liquids.  The dough should still be very sticky without sticking to your hands as you knead.  Adding too much flour is a beginners common error.

Finally, if you are measuring your flour using a cup, I highly recommend using a scale to get the most exact amounts.  You'd be surprised how adding too much of any one thing can throw off your entire loaf.

If you are over-rising.. or letting your bread rise in too warm of a spot, that can also have an affect on the end result. 

 

berger's picture
berger

So I tried another bread with a bit more water and let it ferment shorter. It's not as airy as I would like it, but there is definite improvement. It definitely tastes less yeasty (but still a bit), but I think it needs more salt. I'm using a large glass bowl, measuring "doubling" is not easy, because of the round edges.

I live in Brasil, so climate might be an issue. The temperature is about 20-25 C, but it's more humid than in north America or Europe.

I also noticed that after the first fermentation, the bottom of the dough ball (the area that was in contact with the bowl) is slightly moist and sticks a bit to the bowl. Is this a problem? What could it indicate?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

BTW, how much salt are you using? 

You should be using anywhere between 1.8 - 2.2% of your total flour weight. This is typical for most bread. Personally, for breads that use a large percentage of whole wheat, I find using 2-2.2% helps reduce the perception of bitterness. 

So, for 400g of flour, you should use between 7.2g (1.8%) and 8.8g (2.2%) of salt, which should be somewhere around 1.5 - 2 teaspoons of salt. 

 

berger's picture
berger

Sorry for the double post. I've been having some internet problems.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

So I tried another bread with a bit more water and let it ferment shorter. It's not as airy as I would like it, but there is definite improvement.

"Airy" means different things to different people. If you want "big holes" in your bread, you need to increase the water even more. If you want a cotton-ball soft, fluffy, shreddable texture then you need to knead it for quite a long time (as I mentioned in my previous post), or use at least 4 stretch-and-folds to build dough strength. A good test for ensuring your dough is sufficiently developed is the "windowpane" test (search the forums here for more info). 

I also noticed that after the first fermentation, the bottom of the dough ball (the area that was in contact with the bowl) is slightly moist and sticks a bit to the bowl. Is this a problem? What could it indicate?

That's normal, but not unavoidable. To avoid sticking, apply oil to your rising container before placing the dough there. I do recommend using a container that has straight sides, and that is somewhat transparent, much easier to judge doubling. 

One easy way to judge doubling of volume in a glass bowl: take about 500mL of water, add it to the bowl, and mark the top of the water on the bowl, with some tape, a marker, etc. Add another 500mL of water, and mark the water level again. Continue doing this as many times as desired. Each mark on your glass bowl will now represent a "doubling" of volume in your bowl.  

 

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

Can affect the flavor and physical appearance.  Many stores and bakeries achieve that light and fluffy look with commercial chemicals and mixes.. I have found many recipes that come close, but I've never made a loaf of Wonder Bread at home. 

You can add some fats and liquid fats like butter, whole milk, egg or even mashed potatoes to achieve a more fluffy, rich texture.  Try making a poor man's brioche bread or an Asian loaf with Tang Zhong method like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV4MVU4MZQU  in recipes like this: http://loavesandladles.blogspot.com/2011/01/wonder-bread-japanese-style.html from my blog.

There is also a nice soft, white bread recipe from Rose Levy Bernbaum.. which is OK as well.

berger's picture
berger

Would something like this be suitable ro let the dough rise in?
http://www.pastrychef.com/assets/images/large/cambro_measuring_cup_set_large1.jpg

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Yes, that's almost exactly one of the containers that I use, very handy. 

I also use these: https://cool.cambro.com/Translucent_Rounds_Round_Storage_Containers_and_Lids_Storage.ashx

They are nice because they have lids that seal tightly, keeping moisture in. 

phwriter11's picture
phwriter11

I have started baking my own bread and your tips are very helpful. Today I think I must have panicked when I forgot to score the dough before putting it in the oven and slashed my bread in the oven instead of score:( It has deep cuts when it was baked. Should I just have left the dough unscored and let it spring on its own? Tomorrow I try again.