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
7g fast action yeast
40ml olive oil
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?