The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Basic bread problems

Rupert's picture

Basic bread problems


I've been baking bread for a while now with about a 70% success rate. My sourdough efforts had about a 90% failure rate so I've given that up for a while.

The basic white bread recipe I use is as follows:

500g strong white bread flour

10g salt

7g fast action yeast

40ml olive oil

320ml water

Usually this turns out fine but sometimes I have the following problems:

Bread comes out rather dense and oven spring is not too good.

Baking in a tin I find that often the bottom of the loaf isn't fully baked (doesn't sound hollow when tapped) but the top is nicely browned.

I place a baking tray with water in the bottom of the oven for steam/crust. I usually get a good crust but I'm not sure the tray of water helps as I've forgotten it on occasions & there was no appreciable difference. The problem is that after the loaf has cooled the crust goes soft.

I check for the window pane test every time I bake. More often than not it fails but seems to make no difference to the bread quality.

I use a plastic cylindrical tub for rising as I find it impossible to tell if the volume of the dough has doubled in a bowl.

The finger poke test seems seems so inconsistent. I always go by the volume of the proving dough to check when it's ready to bake. Using the finger poke test at this stage I find that the indentation either stays or springs back. I've baked perfectly fine loaves in either case.

Yesterday I achieved the window pane after kneading for over ten minutes! During proving the finger indentation slowly sprung back.

However, the loaf had little or no oven spring & turned out rather dense and the crust softened upon cooling.

I have learned that you can use the exact same methods on different days and the results differ. Whether this is due to humidity, temperature, weather, luck or the phase of the moon is difficult to determine.

Is there no foolproof method of baking bread?

Ford's picture

I wonder whether you are letting the oven really come to temperature.  I preheat the oven, and allow the oven to be at the set point for at least a half hour, longer when I have a baking stone in the oven.

An instant read thermometer is a fool-proof means of determining whether the loaf is done. The sensor part is inserted into the middle of the loaf.  If the temperature reads between 195° and 205°F (91° and 96°C) the bread is done.

I preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C) and bake at that temperature with steam for 15 minutes, misting the loaves with water about 3 times during the first five minutes, then remove the steam pan and reduce the temperature to 350°F (177°C) and bake for an additional 40 minutes.  I usually bake in 5" X 8" aluminum pans, and the raw dough weighs about 36 ounces (1020g).  The high initial temperature gives better oven spring.


Rupert's picture

Hi Ford

The recommended temperature for this recipe is 220°C for 25 minutes then 200°C for a further 10 - 15 minutes.

Yes, I do pre-heat the oven as it loses 10 to 20°C when opening the door to fill the steam pan and putting in the dough. It's likely that the oven is hotter than 220°C at the start of the bake but not for long.

I tried placing the tin on a pre-heated baking stone but it seemed to make little difference. The bottom is often yellowish and bouncy so I return the loaf upside down for a further 4 or 5 minutes. I tried removing the steam tray after 15 minutes to no effect.

Maybe I should use lower temperatures & bake for longer.

As your loaf is twice as large as mine I guess it need a longer bake.

I've been promising myself an instant read thermometer for a while. I'll check it out.

Sliss4's picture



I have the same problem with my crust and am interested hear what others have to say.  Any advice will be appreciated. 

PetraR's picture

I knead all my bread by hand and with the yeasted basic white I knead for about 20 minutes in this way: Kneading 5 minutes, resting 5 minutes, kneading 5 minutes resting 5 minutes... until you done your 20 minutes of kneading.

The resting times do help.


My basic white loaf is

500g bread flour

   2 tsp fast acting yeast

   1tsp sugar

 15ml oil or 15g butter

300ml Water, 1 part boiling and 2 parts cold

Mix, first rise 1 hour, shape and put in loaf pan and let rise for 30 minutes  * making sure it wont go higher than 1inch over the sides of the loaf pan.

Bake at 220C for 15 minutes , reduce the heat to 200C and bake for a furter 30 minutes while turning the loaf pan to ensure even browning.

Let the loaf sit in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, remove from loaf pan and let cool down for 2 hours.

I only ever get a crusty crust when I bake my basic white in my Dutch Oven, so the family prefers those breads in the loaf pan shape.

Rupert's picture

That seems like a very long kneading method & one I've never heard of before.

I hear that crust-softening upon cooling is due to excess moisture in the crumb seeping through. Whether this is correct or not I don't know. That's the problem with baking bread - there are so many recommendations and tips, some of which oppose each other.

I guess as Ford mentioned, experience is everything. I'm gonna try baking for longer at a lower temperature & see what happens.