The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


peppermintpatte's picture


Hi Everone

I really hope that there is someone out there who can help. I am at my wit’s end and needless to say it seems hopeless at making bread.

I have tried to make bread on and off for several years. I make bread every couple of days for about 6 months and only get heavy bread, then give a break, and start again. I have even done a 9 month commercial bread baking course and still get the same results. Heavy bread!

I have addressed the flour, too much or too little, the same for water, salt, yeast (dry and fresh) and sugar.  As well as the kneading, by hand, by Kenwood mixer and by bread machine. I have put the dough under plastic, in a plastic bag, in a warm over, in a warm microwave oven, and still the results are always the same. Heavy bread!

I taught my daughter to make bread and her bread comes out light, we use the same oven, flour, water, salt, sugar and yeast. The bread is also put in the same place to rise and I get a totally different result to my daughter.

I did notice that the other day while making bread on a 32 degree C day that my bread was cold and damp, despite using warm water, the dough had doubled in size was cold even though it was a hot sunny day.

I have several good books, been onto YouTube and even have a videos even with all this I still dismal results.

Does anyone have any suggestions or am I one of those people that just cannot make a good loaf of bread.

Thanks in advance

MisterTT's picture

As I understand you're no beginner at bread, but there's just something missing. My suggestion is to keep is as simple as you can and see what you'll get - try the "Lesson 1" loaf at the top of the page.

Also, maybe you could upload some pictures, if you have any, of your bread attempts? Everyone can make good bread at home, believe me!

pmccool's picture

That has to be frustrating!  Especially to see someone else do the same thing with the same ingredients and have a better result.  If nothing else, you are apparently a good teacher.  ;)

There are hints in your tale of woe that might point toward an understanding of your problems.  The first hint is that it isn't a matter of equipment or ingredients--your daughter uses the same things and gets a different result.  The good news is that that hint eliminates a huge list of possible problems.  The not-so-good news is that it leaves two areas to investigate: process and technique.  Problems in these areas are sometimes more subtle and challenging to diagnose.

Let me divert for a moment.  I assume that your use of the word "heavy" to describe your bread is to indicate a bread that doesn't rise to full height, is perhaps coarse-textured, perhaps crumbly when sliced.  Similarly, I assume that the word "light" to describe your daughter's bread indicates a tall loaf with an even-textured crumb.  Is that close to what you see in the breads?  Or something different?  If you can post a picture, that would be very helpful.

On the process front, it may be that some adjustments are needed in how the bread is mixed or kneaded, or in how long it is allowed to ferment, whether in bulk or after shaping.

On the technique front, it may be that some adjustments are needed in how the loaf is shaped, or in how much force you apply as you handle the dough.

I can't diagnose any of those from where I sit, so I offer this suggestion: do a side-by-side bake with your daughter.  Compare everything: dough texture at each stage, how the dough is handled (both method and forcefulness), dough temperature, fermentation time, shaping technique, everything.  Take notes so that you can repeat her process with a subsequent bake.  Ask her what she looks for when she does each step.  The answer may be something like "I don't know, it just feels "right"."  And that's a good answer; just be sure that both of you wind up understanding how "right" looks and feels.

Best wishes for your next steps.


peppermintpatte's picture

My daughter will be back this weekend, will do some baking and picture taking over the weekend



dabrownman's picture

thing I would do is to get my money back from the 9 month commercial bread making course.  It has to be something simplee and thy should have been able to easily identified it.  If a bread machine doesn't work to make bread, i would get my money back from them too.  That takes no human interaction except measure and dump.

It has to be something simple or the bread gods have cursed you and no one can fix that :-)

Seriously,  I would get simple.  Do a simple 66% hydration white bread with new ingredients and bottled water, 

Good luck and welcome

peppermintpatte's picture

At the moment I am using only filtered water, with high grade commercial flour and butter. I know it is good flour because it was bought from the class ingredient supplier and the teacher uses only good quality flours, we also used it in the course with great results.

I has been suggested that I am heavy handed, but does not explain the same results with the bread machine and a mixer. However, I will give it another go this weekend, just feeling very depressed after another failure, at least the dogs don't complain!

clazar123's picture

....With biscuits. My mother' bisuitss were light and delicious-mine were rocks-even when we did a side by side bake to try to change the outcome. Interestingly enough, she could NOT make a consistent loaf of bread. If it turned out, it was a big surprise. Well, I have learned a LOT since then and I believe PMcCool nailed it. Back then,I believe it was subtle things like having warmer hands and handling the dough more aggressively that did my biscuits in. Now I can make some darn good biscuits-just wish she was around to see it! But before I made good bread, I had to UNlearn everything she tried to teach me about breadmaking-she did not have a clue..

That is where I think you need to start-from the beginning, just like PMcCool suggested.  Try to see things from a new perspective-after all, you want to learn how to make good bread, not practice how to make dense bread.

One of the things I suspect may be happening is you are rising and proofing your dough by the clock and not by how the dough reacts. Esp the proofing. Search "finger poke test" and see if it might be helpful.


lazybaker's picture

32 C is hot. I made bread once during a hot day. The bread came out badly because I allowed the dough to rise and proof for too long. The yeast multiplied too quickly. The bread was dense and heavy.

I suspect that maybe the rising time was too long and the temperature was too warm? Maybe the yeast exhausted by the time the dough is baked. Hence, the result is heavy dense bread.

I agree about trying the finger poke test. Also try deflating the dough after the first rise and then folding the dough and letting it rise again. This way, the yeast will get re-distributed and find food. I find that I get lighter texture if I have a total of 3 rises instead of 2 rises. Just make sure not to let the rising time go for too long if the temperature is too warm.

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

Overlooking one detail because it doesn't seem important can make all the difference.

Disregard the clock, and develop a visceral feel for the process, the texture of the dough, whether it is stiff or light, is it lively or inert, how it feels in your hands. The dough tells you how it's developing, and you have to interpret it. Recipes rarely do a good job of sharing this information, perhaps because it's hard to describe.

The process is very sensitive to temperature, so prepare for much shorter development when it's hot. The dough will tell you, not the clock.

peppermintpatte's picture

Hi All

This is the result I get every time; you would of thought that I would have got 1 loaf right, even by accident. I have been trying to get the 1st rise to expand to what I see on the TV, books, video and the web. I have also spent many hours on this site trying to find and answer to what I was doing wrong and how to rectify it.  I have spent a fortune of appliances, equipment and ingredients, only for most of it going to the dogs or been thrown away.

The dough does expand to 2 x it’s size, but the air pockets are constantly small and the dough is always cold despite using warm water and putting the dough to rise in a warm oven. With being on this bread course, I would have thought I would have got it right by now, got the kneading down pat, as well as shaping, and baking, but for some reason I cannot get the dough to warm-up and build up a good amount of carbon dioxide, it always seems flat and lifeless no matter what I do.  I did check to make sure that the yeast was viable, and that was ok.

500g Flour

330ml water

10g salt

10g sugar

7g yeast

I followed the instructions for lesson 1, using a bowl and a wooden spoon and more or less 15 min for kneading, and put it into a warm oven to rise for about 1 hour and 45 min. The bread tin is 4inch x 9.5inch, pre heated the oven to 230° C turned the oven down to 220° C put the bread in the oven and baked for 45 min.

I did add steam to the 220° C oven

I am seriously thinking that the comment from dabrownman about the bread gods is not for off, however, on the other hand something strange might happen like the Glycerin Crystallization Experiment!



MisterTT's picture

your effort. This is a good starting point to try and diagnose your bread problem. A few pointers:

  • Don't sweat it about the air pockets! The lesson one loaf doesn't really get a chance to develop big pockets, you can nail that later.
  • How did you knead using the spoon? I suppose even just stirring the dough with the spoon for 15 minutes would be OK, but try kneading on a work surface for a shorter amount of time. There are numerous good kneading techniques, for example try the "slap and fold".
  • The most iffy part for me is the "warm" water and "warm" oven. How warm exactly were they? You wouldn't want to get to more than 40 C, though I believe even 35 C is a bit too warm. If you are unsure about the temperature or don't have a probe thermometer to verify, just use room temperature (by the way, what is your room temperature this time of year?) water and bulk rise the dough not in the oven, but on the counter.
  • 220 C for 45 minutes is a bit too much. Try preheating the oven to about 225 C, baking the loaf at that temperature with steam for about 10 minutes, then finish off at 180 C for 30 minutes.
peppermintpatte's picture

And to everyone that has given me their 2 penny’s worth - Thank you for taking the time to send me you suggestions it is appreciated.

I did intend to do a side by side bake with my daughter but as clazar123 pointed out, it would be a waste of time as it would not solve the problem.

I did start the mixing process, and got the dough to the point I could not use the spoon any more, so I started to gently move the dough with my hands, then decided that I would put the dough on the counter top to knead, got 2 knead movements and noticed the dough was getting cold, so put it back into the bowl and basically rolled the dough around, I also think the dough was a bit soft.

The house we are in is either too hot or too cold. On one of the questions about heavy bread somebody suggested a bread bucket (tried that and did not like it), then some one else said that he puts the bread to rise in a warm oven all year round, then he has better control of the rising temp.

As we had warm temps about 24 C, we also had a storm brewing for a few days, so decided it may be prudent to warm the oven to 50C, turn it off and by the time the bread was ready for rising the oven would have cooled and by opening the oven door, the temp would have dropped some more. I believe the optimum temp for rising bread dough is 26 C, well that is what they say in this part of the world.

I will give your oven temps a try, just waiting for my new oven thermometer; my old one is a bit knackered.

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

I'm a bit mystified about the kneading process you're using... it seems to be warm (weather) where you are, so I'm having trouble understanding that your dough is getting cold while you're kneading it. I'm wondering if your tactile thermometer needs calibrating. Anyway, even if it actually is cooling off during kneading... it should spend the next hour or two fermenting in a warm environment, so the temp loss during kneading shouldn't be a problem. But it could be a problem to compromise the amount of kneading.

You mention using a spoon (I think that's mixing rather than kneading), then gentle manipulation, then "rolling the dough around". The techniques I'm familiar with are "stretch and fold" for high-hydration doughs (it's a 'no-knead' technique) and a much more vigorous technique used for lower hydration dough.

S&F is normally done about 4 times at 1/2 hour intervals during proofing, so this doesn't seem to be your method. Vigorous kneading is done once before the proofing... but your description seems to indicate something much less vigorous.

I'm thinking you're not getting enough gluten development in your dough, and that's why it's dense. I'm thinking that your kneading technique might be the source of the problem. When I make yeasted breads with kneading (these days I mostly use S&F), the kneading is somewhat athletic in energy, and the dough evolves to be smooth after 10-12 minutes.

clazar123's picture

The loaf in this picture looks like a really nice sandwich loaf. It looks like you proofed it well and it achieved some nice oven spring. The crust looks golden and the crumb is pretty creamy white.

Did you want it to be more like this:

One question I do have is "What kind of flour are you using?" Is it AP? Bleached/unbleached? Bread flour? My recommendation is unbleached AP flour. I am not fond of high gluten flour as I don't like the chewiness it imparts. A good AP flour (I use Ceresota,Dakota Maid,Pillsbury, Gold Meadow.) has adequate gluten to develop a tender crumb. King Arthur comes highly recommended but is too expensive for my budget. I'm sure there are others. Roundy's (local store brand) was awful for bread.

If you are trying for a "holy-er" loaf, then one observation I would make is that I believe the problem is in the handling . My French bread started out looking very much like your loaf with a fine crumb and over time/experience is getting closer to this picture of a crumb with larger holes. I tend to handle the dough too assertively and still do but I'm getting better. After the bulk rise, I don't de-gas the dough much. I gently tip it onto the work surface and handle as little as possible to cut and shape the loaf for final proofing. Whatever it degases in that process is enough for me. My intent with shaping is to form a loaf that has the gas bubbles distributed evenly.

I learned a LOT from watching YouTube videos of different bakers shaping loaves of different kinds. It is amazing what small details can make a large difference.

Good luck!

peppermintpatte's picture

Hi Clazar123

Yes, yes, that’s more or less what I would like to bake.

This is about the best loaf I have ever made, but I think it should have risen more, I did not try and knead the bread (as I normally would) but just mix and form a dough very gently. I have very hard hands and have been told that I am very heavy handed when kneading the dough, so thought would follow the instructions in Lesson 1. If someone else makes the dough, then I can work with the dough and get out a fine well-risen, beautiful shaped loaf. However, the problem is when I make the dough, it just seems to go pear shaped.

I use bread flour with between 10 – 12% protein that is about all that is available here.  The yeast I would normally use is 15g fresh, the yeast used in the bread in the photo was 7g dry active yeast. We have pre-mixed bread here, I though I giving it a try to see what happens. I think the key is gentle kneading

Thanks for your input.

pmccool's picture

Let's start with the knowns:

1. The 857g total dough weight is enough to fill a 9x4.5 inch pan and produce a loaf that domes above the pan rim.  Your bread hasn't quite achieved this expansion.

2. The 66% hydration level (330g water / 500g flour) will more likely produce a fine, even-textured crumb than one with a random distribution of large and small cells.  The 10-minute kneading time will further contribute to a fine crumb.  Your bread is exactly in line with what the hydration and kneading would lead me to expect.

3. The baking times and temperatures are very much in line with what I would expect for this kind of bread (sorry for the disagreement, MisterTT).

4. Assuming that you are using dry yeast, the yeast quantity is within expected ranges.  If you are using fresh yeast, you might want to bump that quantity up to 15-22g.

5. The salt, at 2%, is slightly higher than the 1.5-1.8% that I might expect, but not so much that it is likely to hamper yeast growth.

Next, the wild cards:

1. The 'warm' water.  How warm is warm, insofar as a thermometer is concerned? 

2. The 'warm' oven.  How warm is warm, insofar as a thermometer is concerned?

3. The 'cold' dough.  How cold is cold, insofar as a thermometer is concerned?

4. The techniques for degassing and shaping the dough.

5. The time for the final fermentation

My expectation is that a dough made with warm water, in a kitchen with summertime temperatures, then bulk fermented in a warm oven, would be seriously over-fermented after an hour and 45 minutes.  If it hadn't collapsed in that time, I would expect it to have at least trebled in volume, not just doubled.  The coloring of the baked bread doesn't indicate that the dough was entirely over-proofed, so apparently the final fermentation after shaping didn't run too long.

How do you degas the dough at the end of the bulk ferment?  With a vigorous "punching" motion?  Something else? Does the dough return to its pre-fermentation volume after degassing, or is there still some evidence of inflation?

How do you shape the loaf before putting the dough in the pan?  How much gas is left in it?  A lot?  Hardly any?  About how much of the pan volume does it occupy?

How long do you allow the shaped loaf to ferment?  At what temperatures?  How do you gauge that it is ready to bake?

Here are some thoughts:

1. Excessively warm temperatures might be killing a portion of the yeast, leading to longer than expected fermentation times as the yeasts reestablish their populations.

2. Warmer than necessary temperatures may be spurring rapid fermentation so that what you interpret as slow fermentation is actually the dough settling back from its maximum expansion, instead failing to reach maximum expansion.

3. Estimating dough volumes is extremely difficult in unmarked containers, especially if they have curved sides and variable cross-sections (like a bowl) instead of straight sides and constant cross-sections (like a jar or canister or bin).  You might want to select a different container for the bulk fermentation that will allow you to mark the dough's initial volume and its intended volume after fermentation. (Note that in a container with straight sides, a doubling of height equals a doubling of volume; not so in containers with curved sides.) Clear or translucent containers that let you see the dough inside will be easier to work with than others with opaque walls.

4. Dough handling after bulk fermentation and during shaping should be gentle.  There is no need to expel all of the gas from the dough.  Indeed, the dough should be handled in such a way as to minimize gas loss.  Some loss is inevitable but you don't aim to knock the dough back to flat again, since you want to retain a substantial amount of the structure that developed during the bulk ferment.

5. The final fermentation in the pan is as important as the bulk fermentation.  One wants to see the dough nearly, but not quite, double in volume.  There should still be potential for further expansion as the bread bakes.  Since expansion in the pan can also be hard to gauge, many bakers resort to feeling the dough to sense how much gas it contains and whether it is retaining its strength.  Others use the finger poke test as a way to determine readiness for baking.

Which of these might apply to your situation, I don't know.  I suspect that one or more may be at play.  Just remember that the bread is ready when it is ready, not when the clock says so.  If it needs less time because temperatures are warmer, take it when it is ready.  If it needs more time because temperatures are cooler, wait for it.

Best of luck.


peppermintpatte's picture

Hi Everyone



Thank you for your advice. I checked my oven temp and it was about 40º C lower than expected. I also checked the temp of the water and other ingredients and found that that was high, so made sure that temp was about 32º C. I went onto YouTube and found some interesting methods of making bread and kneading dough. I did not knead the dough as hard or as long as I would usually do. Taking all the suggestions and info I managed to get a reasonably good loaf of bread. I was able to (1st time ever) get the 1st rising to more than double in size and have it full of carbon dioxide. No the prettiest loaf, but I am really pleased with this outcome of this loaf, this is the 1st step to many more successful breads.


dabrownman's picture

just beautiful - no worries and well done.

pmccool's picture

That's a very pretty loaf of bread.  Your detective work certainly paid off!  


peppermintpatte's picture

Thanks to everyone for their help and encouragement. 

Skibum's picture

I discovered this one today and learned a great deal from watching a true master handle dough.  Please take the time and observe both the French slap and fold and stretch and fold.  The first is a most vigorous technique used to tame a pretty slack, (wet) dough.  The stretch and folds can be used to replace kneading, with 2 S&F's separated by 10 minutes rest done 4 times AKA Peter Reinhart a noted baker and teacher of baking.

Have fun!  It does get easier.  Brian