The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour temp

Tony C's picture
Tony C

Flour temp

Hi folks. I live in the southeast. I don't use a lot of flour, so I keep it in the fridge to prevent things from getting into it. I am at my wits end trying to figure out why neither my biscuits nor my yeast dough rise. Am I ruining my flour by doing this? If so, how long will my flour be viable, say, in a Tupperware container?

STUinlouisa's picture
STUinlouisa

If it is white flour it has a pretty long shelf life and refrigeration actually extends it. Make sure your yeast is still good by dissolving a little in sugar water if it bubbles it's good. Baking powder and soda usually don't go bad so can't explain why there is no rise.

KathyF's picture
KathyF

Baking powder does eventually lose its effectiveness. Should be replaced after 6 months or so. You can test it by pouring a little boiling water over a teaspoon of baking powder. It should bubble up vigorously.

Tony C's picture
Tony C

What would a good ambient temp be for the yeast dough? I have almost given up trying to figure out why I can't make good biscuits.

 

Grady95's picture
Grady95

Tony,

You state that you don't use much flour.  I am just taking a guess at this but do you find that you only occasionally bake?  Reason I ask is to try and identify why your product doesn't respond as expected.  Leaveners, be they chemical, sourdough cultures or yeasts are the agents of change.  They create the CO2 that causes products to defy gravity.  For all it's wonderful qualities, flour does no more that provide a framework to trap the CO2.  

First guess, your leaveners.  Old yeast doesn't work.  Freshness dates are the key.  Outdated yeast can still fool you by "blooming" a little bit in water.  All you're seeing is the last few survivors giving up their last energy.  Old yeast just doesn't have enough players on the field to win the game.  Check that first.  If your dates appear good, the other variable might be water temp or high salt concentrations in direct contact with the yeast.  Salt and yeast ideally should not touch until the dough is hydrated.  Baking Powder and Baking Soda also have freshness issues.  When they are old, they just don't work.  They look fine, they smell fine, but they don't work!  I would pick up fresh ingredients and repeat your steps.  You can test the flour that way actually.  

It's got to be something simple like this so don't despair.  It's almost always out of date leaveners that give most bakers trouble.  We better get this fixed.  If you live in the South, they'll disown you if you can't make a decent biscuit! 

Tony C's picture
Tony C

Thanks for the reply Grady. Correct, I don't bake all that often as I am cooking for only two of us. I have gotten discouraged with my baking endeavors to the point that I just buy frozen bread dough or biscuits-in-a-bag.  I am self-taught regarding my cooking abilities; meaning that if I can follow a recipe, I should be able to make it. I know what I am trying to achieve, but not sure how to achieve it. For the last attempt at yeast rolls  I mixed 1 pack of fast-rising yeast and a tsp. of sugar in 1/2c of warm water. Now, after 15 minutes, the mixture looked sponge-like (not sure how firm this is supposed to be). I was trying to make yeast rolls like those from a family restaurant. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of "bread" flour (I used all-purpose/bleached/white flour, thinking flour is flour), 1/3c to 1/2c sugar, 1/3c warm milk, 1 large egg. I'll have to try the hot water and baking soda thing to see if the baking soda is viable, (don't know how to check baking powder).

KathyF's picture
KathyF

You can use the boiling water to test baking powder. Basically, baking powder consists of two chemicals that react to each other when wet creating the gas for leavening. This is what it should look like when you test it:

A fresh can of baking powder might solve your problem with biscuits. Or try a different brand. Personally, I like to use Clabber Girl.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

If your flour is cold, you might have to use warmer water to get it to rise in the amount of time called for in a recipe. Also, if it is fast-rising yeast then you don't need to proof it in water first. But the fact that you did shows that the yeast is viable. All purpose flour (depending on the brand) should be able to make rolls, but the bread flour will give a higher rise. I use king arthur AP flour for most things.

How do you mix it, how long do you let it rise before shaping (or giving up)? You could try taking out the 3.5 cups of flour the night before or an hour or two before making the dough and see if that makes a difference.

Grady95's picture
Grady95

Tony,

Here are a few thoughts.  A kitchen is a chemistry lab and ingredients are reagents.  Heat and cold are catalysts.  Time is a variable as is the mechanical act of manipulating dough, a process commonly referred to as kneading.  It sounds like you are very close to getting the result you are after so let's look at some techniques and "little things" that might get you there.

Yeast comes in different forms.  You are probably using the stuff from the grocery store which is either Fleishmann's or Red Ball.  You mentioned mixing a package of fast-rising yeast with sugar and water.  If you have fast rising yeast with a good freshness date, you can eliminate one step already.  That yeast is designed to be added directly to your dry ingredients so you don't even have to bloom it.  (That by the way is what most professional bakers who use dry yeast do).  We can just throw that right in the bowl with the flour.  The blooming technique goes with what is referred to as "Active Dry Yeast."  There's one corner you can cut and probably get a better result!  We all do it.

Flour types are different.  To make a dough rise, the leavener makes CO2 gas and a skeleton forms in the dough that traps the gas.  The skeleton is made of a protein called gluten.  Gluten is like our hair in a way.  Some doughs have a thick head of hair and some unfortunately don't  Gluten forms when you add water to flour.  By mixing everything for a while the gluten grows and very much like using a brush to straighten your hair out, kneading and shaping dough makes the strands of gluten become somewhat organized so they can form a skeleton inside the dough ball.  That framework is very necessary.  Some of us use mixing machines to get this done.  Home bakers knead their doughs on the counter for about 8 - 10 minutes to get the gluten organized.  Either way, it is a step that has to be done or there is no structure in the dough to stop the gas from just escaping.  So, bread flour makes more gluten than all purpose flour does.  Bread flour is usually sold as unbleached which most of us prefer.  King Arthur makes a great bread flour.  It comes in a blue and white bag in the store.

Suggest maybe grabbing some fresh bread flour for a couple bucks, check your date on the yeast and when you use warm ingredients, make them warm but not hot. (no steam or smoke coming up)  Yeast dies at 110F.  Make and then knead your dough, let it rise for a couple hours, then try forming your rolls again.

One more suggestion if I may.  If you want to let Mother Nature do 99% of the heavy lifting for you, consider using what is called the "No Knead" technique.  You will be amazed at how good your bread or rolls can come out with just a bit of learning and a little extra time.  It is SO easy and works so well that a lot of home baking enthusiasts are turning to it as their go-to method.  Look it up on the internet.  It's all over the place!

Hope this helps.  Please keep us posted.  You are very close to getting just what you are after!

Tony C's picture
Tony C

Thanks Maverick and Grady. I'm going to try taking the flour out of the fridge and letting it warm a tad. I am using a Kitchen Aid 5qt. mixer with the dough hook. After kneading for 8-10 min., I let the dough set/rise for an hour, longer if I see it's doing its thing. Thanks for the tip about the yeast. I will be out and about today, so I am going to purchase all new ingredients and try this one more time, using the tips provided. If I am still unsuccessful, well, I'll be back!

BakerBuck's picture
BakerBuck

Tony,

8-10 minutes on a KA sounds like you are overkneading, which is bad.

BakerBuck's picture
BakerBuck

I assume that you are not making your biscuits in the KA, which need very little mixing.  For most yeast bread recipe volumes, 4 minutes on first speed and 2 minutes on second speed are more than enough.  If you fracture all of your gluten by over kneading, you will 'pop' the balloon that is supposed to catch all of the CO2 in order to rise.

Hamelman's equation for making bread is important; most of us use it.  It is:

The temperature of added water = 3 times the Desired dough Temperature (ideally, 78 +/- 2 degrees) minus the kitchen air temperature, minus the flour temperature, minus the mixer friction factor (assumed to be 26, but for my 5 qt. KA it is 18).  The units do not matter.

If you do not have a good digital thermometer, it is a necessary tool for trouble-free baking and for using the above equation.  If you do not have a Thermapen brand, make sure to calibrate yours in ice water and boiling water; an inaccurate digital thermometer is useless.

Check Jeff Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of..." out from your local library and it will open your eyes.  It is not just another 'cookbook' and it is fairly easy to read.  Not at all boring if you love bread.

BB