The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

General bread machine rising problem - puzzled

virgule's picture

General bread machine rising problem - puzzled


I'm new to bread making, new to bread machines, and generally very analytical, measuring accurately and recording everything I do, to improve the next time.

Despite this, after making 20+ different breads, I am facing a general problem where I can't seem to begin to find the root cause :-(

My issue became more clear recently when trying a “brioche obsession” recipe using a tangzhong method (

Perhaps someone can help figure out what I’m doing wrong?
I use a bread machine to make different kinds of bread. All the breads & brioche come out reasonably OK – but not more. In particular, while they do rise as expected (close to 2x), they NEVER“burst” out of the pan during baking, no matter what the recipe. Absolutely no “oven kick/oven spring” during the initial baking period. It NEVER looks like the photos on the blogs where I find the recipes ;-). I just make rectangular, average bricks!

When trying the above "super-fluffy" brioche recipe, I noticed something really odd (once cooked and sliced): the dough inside expands well, the loaf did rises 2x, but not more – instead it “expanded”.

What I mean by this is the bottom and sides of the loaf become highly compressed, thick (1.5 inch of dense product - generally unpleasant as a bread), surrounded by a normal thin crust, while the core and top of the loaf are perfectly fine and fluffy. It’s as if the dough could not lift itself out of the pan, only exercising radial pressure. It’s less visible on regular white bread because the dough is generally more dense, but on the tangzhong brioche with a very fluffy core, it was very visible to the eye, like a fluffy brioche baked inside a brioche brick ;-)

I’m struggling to identify the root cause. I measure the ingredients by weight using a proper scale, I estimate the humidity to make sure there is enough water in all my recipes, all my ingredients are at room temperature (Bangkok – warm), I use bread flour and recently purchased yeast, etc. Water and/or milk are brought at room temperature, or even warmed up a bit if making enriched dough containing butter/eggs. I've tried regular and inverted sugar (from my sorbet recipes; I read somewhere that professionals prefer that to regular castor sugar for bread making?)

I even go to the point of removing the dough after the first rise/punch down, to remove the bread machine hooks, shape the dough softly/quickly into a nice ball, and put it back for final rise (this has a surprisingly major impact on the outcome – it seems dough in a bread machine has difficulty “moving around” to settle into the pan evenly, because the hooks and knobs interfere with the dough expansion. After shaping the dough evenly, it rises much better – but still absolutely no oven kick)

This leaves me with A) the question of bread machine temperature – but the bread comes out with a normal crust thickness, normal crust color, baked inside not more/less, etc. I can’t fault the temperature in any obvious way.

Or B) the question of proofing duration. Perhaps the machine starts baking too early? I don’t believe so – the 2nd rise is holding steady and not rising much anymore by the time the baking starts. It’s the oven kick that is not happening in my opinion (dough doesn’t visibly collapse during 2nd rise or baking phase). I've tried spraying a mist of water on the top of the dough halfway through 2nd rise. It helped a bit to make the upper half rise...inside a bottom brick! I can't imagine adding more water to my recipes - dough tends to collapse during 2nd rise if I do that.

I’m really puzzled and frustrated after seeing many beautiful photos of appetizing bread and trying the associate recipes. No matter what type of recipe I try, all I get is basic home-made bread(s), eatable, but nothing to be proud of. I don't mind doing a series of tests varying one particular ingredient, but I really need some help to figure out which one.

PS: I forgot to mention, this happens both with regular and with bread-machine recipes, not much apparent difference so far.

Any suggestions most welcome!

Antilope's picture

All I can think of is, in a sweet dough, sugar robs the yeast of some moisture, causing a longer rise. Is there a sweet bread cycle on your bread machine? A Sweet bread cycle adjusts for this by allowing longer rising times. Sweet doughs can take longer to rise. If the machine bakes too soon it can result in a dense loaf.

I'm also wondering if the bread machine warming cycle is getting a little too warm, affecting the dough near the bread machine walls, but not the center of the loaf. Maybe causing yeast near the walls of the pan to not rise as much. If you have an instant read or infrared thermometer, take the outside bread pan temperature at the end of the first rise. The optimal range for yeast during fermentation is 80° F–90° F (27° C–32° C). If it is much above this, it might be causing the symptoms you are seeing.


virgule's picture

Hello Antilope, and thanks for the comment. I have read that sugar absorbs moisture : one of my planned tests was to try reducing sugar content, but then I figured it would also rob the yeast of nutrient - not the idea!

I've been using a "milk bread" cycle. I do have a sweet bread cycle, and will try today! My last-resort plan is to take the dough out of the machine, do the final rise outside & longer, and bake in my regular oven. Defeats the idea of the bread machine, but I will do that if that's what it takes to get to the end of my frustration ;-)

I don't have clever thermometers, but I do take note of your point. It's possible. I've been concerned about draughts around the bread machine (windy kitchen) in my early attempts. I now work with closed windows. I noticed the temperature around the bread machine is noticeably warm - not "hot", but certainly warm to the touch. The heating element is definitely ON (light power during rise). 32 degrees is the ambient temperature in Bangkok, so it should not feel warm if your temperature range is correct.

I will try the sweet cycle, and measure the temperature near the bread machine during rise. Sounds like a plan, thanks!

Antilope's picture

Bread machines normally warm the bread during rising. My concern is, due to some malfunction, the bread machine may be warming too much.

As for sugar, a regular loaf of bread may use only 15 gm. A brioche loaf may use 60 gm of sugar, and this is a sweet dough.

virgule's picture

Antilope, thank you for the great tip - sometimes it's easy to miss the forest for the trees... Switching to "sweet bread" cycle had a dramatic impact: first rise shorter (slightly warm, roughly 40 degrees). Second rise MUCH longer (definitely no heat, just room temp), giving rise to a beautiful dough finally popping its head out of the pan ;-)

Unfortunately the dough collapsed back to the pan top (not too bad) when baking started.

I changed another parameter at the same time: I was comparing the water content of my recipe (55%) with that of other brioche recipes (65 to 80%) and decided that perhaps I didn't have enough liquids, so I added 20 ml of milk to reach 61% theoretical. Dough was much softer, but still holding and not sticky after 1st rise (unlike in earlier tests). Perhaps this helped the much better rise - but caused the final mild collapse?

I re-examined my procedure and noticed one possible source of constant errors: I use the measuring device that came with the bread maker, to measure salt and yeast. I have no idea if its accurate, and whether it's really a tsp or not. I never use the machine's measuring cup - only the spooning device, weighing everything else. I tried to check if the volume of my device matches the average weight of yeast, and found another possible problem: there seems to be at least 3 types of yeast described on the internet, and the descriptions are very confusing (fresh yeast, active yeast, instant yeast, dry yeast, active dry yeast, instant active dry yeast, etc.) The specific weight of each is different - and my yeast is labelled in Thai language, so I cannot figure out **exactly** what type it is. I believe its instant. It's definitely dry granules. No idea if it's active or not.

1) Can you point me to a site that explains things in a way that makes more sense than:  or ? Both sites look very comprehensive...until you put the info side by side and realize it doesn't match :-(

2) I've tested my yeast in warn sugary water - it's alive and OK. Based on the symptoms described above, would you rather increase or decrease whatever yeast I'm using?

To close my analysis, I also realized I use salted butter (nothing else at home), and 80g of butter definitely adds to the salt content. I'll try unsalted next time.

The net result is that my dough is much better, not quite popping out and super-fluffy as the tangzhong recipes I am testing, but a marked improvement in the core texture and the sides (still compressed, but only over 1cm, and less noticeable to the palate when biting. Thanks for your critical input!!!

Antilope's picture

I've found two things that cause the top of the bread to collapse in my bread machine. First, if the dough is too wet and sticky my bread tends to fall. I try to have a hydration of about 66%. The dough is just slightly sticky, but will hold its shape. Include all liquids used, in the hydration calculation, including eggs (Whole eggs - 35 g to 55 g each depending on size. Yolks alone are about 18 g each.). Do not include cooking oils or sugary syrups (such as honey, treacle, etc) in the calculation.

The other reason for falling is over proofing (over rising). If it is allowed to rise too long the yeast eats too much into the structure of the dough and it will collapse when baked. Try decreasing the yeast by maybe 1/3 and see if this improves the situation.

The first link you posted does not connect for me. The second links yeast information is correct. Basically, one type of yeast must be activated in warm water first, and the other type may be added directly to the dry ingredients.

Instant Active Dry Yeast  is a dry granular yeast that can be added to dry ingredients directly, and wet ingredients added later, such as a bread machine, without activating in liquid first. It works well in a bread machine.

Active Dry Yeast is a dry granular yeast that usually requires it being proofed to activate (soaked in a small amount of liquid usually 60 ml of warm water [41-C to 45-C] to 7 gm of yeast and 2 gm of sugar), for 10 or 15 minutes, until it is foamy, before being added to the dough ingredients. It is usually used in manual baking and not bread machines. Some people do use Active Dry Yeast in bread machines, without proofing, with success. But I would recommend Instant Active Dry Yeast for bread machines.

The actual dry yeasts look very similar out of the package, so you must rely on the label.

virgule's picture

Thank you again Antilope, really helpful and generous of you!

The bad link works better here: (an orgy of yeast conversion data!). My yeast label is in Thai language, with only the word "instant" spelled in english ;-)

I do use all the wet ingredients to estimate hydration. I also add the brioche butter in the calculations (@25% water). At 61% it's still a dough, and I can still take it out of the pan to shape the brioche loaf, but it tends to fall out my hands if I keep it in the air for more than 10 seconds. I'm puzzled because I've read recipes with up to 75-80%. I really wonder how these hold up.

I've seen a number of photos of thick milk or egg glaze just before baking. I've been wondering if this helps to loosen the top for the final oven kick - or if instead it introduces a risk of collapse at the last minute? Any thoughts? (I'm scared to try if/when I get a nice second rise ;-)

Here is my recipe, in case you spot anything suspicious:

440 g bread flour160 ml warm milk
2 large eggs
45 g inverted sugar
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp instant (?!) yeast
80 g butter (salted - will try unsalted)

Thank you again. Hopefully next time I can post a nice photo!

Antilope's picture

The added topping should not affect the collapse one way or the other. It would just affect crust texture and appearance.

The recipe looks like a standard recipe to me. Nothing unusual that should cause a problem. It is a sweet dough. The hydration looks good, it is not too wet.

If overproofing is a problem, it could cause the collapse. I would try this experiment. Run a manual DOUGH CYCLE. At the end of the first rise, run a manual BAKE CYCLE. We are only allowing one rise to prevent overproofing. Try that and see if it prevents a collapse during baking.

So we are running a manual DOUGH CYCLE, allowing a first rise until the dough rises to a height when it is normally baked, and then running a manual BAKE CYCLE.