The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

in a bread funk

  • Pin It
bakercyclist's picture
bakercyclist

in a bread funk

For the past few months I've been baking my family's bread--all of it. I love it and am happy to do it but lately I've noticed that the fo caccia that I've been making has been dense and rather flat. This trend has spilled over into my other breads that I make too, like my "toast" bread for the mornings and I'm starting to get bummed out! I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong. The bread I make seems to rise a bit but not much, it's dense and heavy and kind of tough. The other day I made two loaves of focaccia: one with olive oil IN the mix and one without. The one WITH the olive oil was dense and tough. The one without was not; it was fluffy and perfect. So the next time I went to make focaccia I didn't add in the olive oil but then the same thing happened--it was dense and tough! What am I doing wrong?! 

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

I haven't baked bread once this week due to the failures of two consecutive weeks.  My starter is quite active and my bread flour is the same brand.  I'm beginning to wonder if I need a crash course in the sciences of meterology, astronomy, or, am I just in need of a therapists couch until this dark mass of nothing moves beyond this doorstep? 

 bakercyclist, my sympathies are with you.  Come for a visit, we'll do Valentine's Day cookies until this thing blows over.  (wink).

holds99's picture
holds99

Bakercyclist,

It's hard to tell without knowing more of the details.  Are you using a recipe?  Sounds like either a levening problem or your dough isn't slack enough or maybe a combination.  Don't know how you measure your ingredients but if you're not using a scale to measure (flour in particular) that may also be part of your problem.  There can be as much as a 15-20% differential in the volume of flour depending on whether you're weighing it or using a measuring cup.  The extra flour can make your dough too dense and inhibit the rise.  If you don't have a scale you might consider using the British method of sprinkling it into the measuring cup with a spoon to keep it from tightly packing into your measuring cup, e.g. when you dip it straight from the flour bag and level the top with a knife or whatever.  Not that I'm an expert baker but I scale almost all my ingredients, especially flour and it helps in terms of consistency.  Another thought is to make sure you aren't using outdated yeast and/or your starter is alive and well.  Hope you get back on track soon.

HO

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I certainly have plenty of disappointments, but since yours all center on a poor rise, I wonder if you just need to allow more rising time in the winter.  I don't quite understand why, but I think rising times can be slowed by colder outside weather as well as a cooler inside temperature.  Even a few degrees cooler inside can require substantially more rising time.

Are you timing your rises or waiting until the breads are adequately risen to bake them? 

ejm's picture
ejm

I too have been having a devil of a time with bread not rising properly this winter. If kippercat hadn't already mentioned checking your rising temperature, I would have suggested that it might have something to do with that.

The other thing to look at is your flour. Have you just recently started a new bag of flour? Or are you nearing the end of a bag of flour? (Wondering if the flour is old)  I'm assuming you've checked that your yeast is viable?

-Elizabeth 

holds99's picture
holds99

Bakercyclist,

This is a P.S. to my previous post.  Let me begin by saying that I really enjoy reading bread books AND baking.  I find bread books facinating and for me, a means to an end; they help me become a better baker by trying to continually absorb and try new ideas and techniques. I still have a long way to go but as they say "Rome wasn't built in a day".  I purchased the book Bread by Jeffery Hamelman a while back and read from it again last night.  I have a couple of dozen bread books including most of the very good ones; Julia Child, both of Reinharts books as well as books by Silverton, Levy Berenbaum, Clayton, etc. Make no mistake about it, they're all great books but I must say Jeffrey Hamelman is the one I read and reread.  He is a terrific teacher.  So, you may ask, what's your point?  My point is that if you haven't read this book you really need to take a look, especially beginning on page 3 THE BREAD MAKING PROCESS from MIXING through BAKING.  Hamelman points out a fact that it took me years of frustration to find out: "Extra flour added early on has ruined many a dough.  Only by feeling the dough throughout the mixing process can we understand---through our hands---the considerable change from loose and shaggy to firm, elastic, and developed."  He also goes into a fail amount of detail about the hydration concept and how important it is to success.  Anyway for what it's worth, just thought I would pass this on and say that I hope you find El Dorado, I'm still searching for it but I think/hope I'm getting closer all the time.

HO

 

proth5's picture
proth5

I went into one of those last year in the summer months. I had to take a moment and remind myself of the incredible importance of proper dough temperature (that is, using water temperature to compensate for the temperature of the ingredients and the air) and proper fermentation temperature.  For me, it was an issue of both being too high as the summer warmed up.  I am much more careful about his now and (knock wood) have been getting more consitent results.

This seems to echo other posts, but just to add another voice saying temperature matters.

Hope this is helpful to you.

Happy Baking.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

You bring up something I'd forgotten.  We can use slightly warmer water to make up for ambient temperatures.  I think Bill W. has a spreadsheet somewhere that will help you figure it - or if you're watching your bread anyway, you can just start with warmer water, and bake your bread when it's ready.