The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First Loaf, first of many I hope

photodegas's picture
photodegas

First Loaf, first of many I hope

Hi all, I baked my first loaf last night and while am I quite proud that after eating it, I have yet to go to the hospital, I am a bit worried about the taste (or lack there of) and its density.

 

I used the following recipe:

Poolish:

1 - cup flour (non-bleached, non-bromated)

1 - cup water

1 - Tbsp. honey

1/4 - tsp. active dry yeast

I proofed the yeast in the honey water and added it to the flour, a quick mix and I let it sit in a metal contaner covered in plastic wrap for about 24 hours.

 

Rest of the loaf:

1.25 - cups water

1 - tsp. active dry yeast

4 - cups flour(non-bleached, non-bromated)

1 - tsp. salt

I proofed the yeast in the water (with a pinch of sugar), and combined everything in a mixer and let it run for about 5 mins.

I put the dough in bowl and let it rise for about 60 mins, punched it down, knead for 5 mins, and let it rise again for 60 mins. Punched it down, and let rise for another 45 mins. Punched it down, shaped the best i could and placed it in my oven. The oven had a pizza stone in it that had been warming in there for about 45 mins at 450. I also had a pan in there with water, which i kept pretty full by adding water to it every so often. Once the dough was on the stone, I sprayed the oven every min or so with water to keep it as moist as I could for the first 5 mins. I let it bake for 45 mins at 450 and it turned the most perfect color of golden-brown I have ever seen (yes, I am gushing it a bit, but it was my first loaf) :-)

After letting it cool on a wire rack over night, I cut a slice and was supided to see what I saw: Very dense at the bottom and getting less dense as you move toward the top. Even at the top, it was too dense, and it lacked all manner of flavor. The crust was just want i was looking for, crunchy-chewy but not so much that my teeth would fall out.

Can someone tell me what I did wrong? The density and lack of flavor was the only dissapointing thing about the whole thing, I enjoyed my time spent doing it and would love to get it right. Please send in any suggestions you have, I am eager to listen and correct my mistakes.

 

Thank you,

Hemen.

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Did you get good rises each time?  Are you sure your yeast was ok?  I've made loaves with not enough salt and they tasted quite blah to me.  As for the texture of your bread, it sounds as if your yeast wasn't quite up to the task, especially after leaving it for 24 hours.  It's also possible you didn't knead it enough.  There will be others who will weigh in on this, you can count on it, and maybe more experienced bakers than I will know what went wrong with your bread.

photodegas's picture
photodegas

Thank you for your input, I need as much as I can get.

I think I kneaded it enough, but who knows.  The rises I got each time made the pile of dough look 50% bigger, but I have no proof of that, it looked like 50%, it could have been far less.

As for the salt, you are correct, I should have added more salt.  Should I use just regular table salt, or should i try some sea salt?

 

Thank you again,

Hemen. 

rainbowbrown's picture
rainbowbrown

Congratulations on your first loaf.  You said that you punched it down, shaped it and then put it in the oven, yeah?  If this is correct then I think that might have been it.  After shaping comes proofing. Next time let it sit for another 30 minutes to an hour after being shaped.  It will rise a bit, perhaps almost double.  I usually shoot for about 50 minutes with a dough like yours.  Poke your finger at it gently and you'll eventually be able to tell when its ready for the indent of your finger will linger a little.  I may have read your post wrong, but if in fact you didn't proof, I'd go ahead and change this next time.  It should make a difference as the dough needs to already have gas in it when it begins to bake to, well to not be dense.  I hope this helps.  Let us know how it goes next time.

photodegas's picture
photodegas

Thank you for that.

I did not let it proof after shaping, I went right from shape to oven.  I will let it proof/rise one more time after shaping and then bake.  Do you think that kneading it too much would cause it to be dense? 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Unless otherwise indicated, I usually use table salt.  I find the kosher salt too expensive and I would only use it occasionally.  I don't think that kneading it too much would be a problem, since there are some breads which call for up to 30 minutes of kneading, though I gather it is possible to over-knead with a standing mixer.  There's an Italian bread that I've made that calls for 20 minutes of hand kneading, and it produces a lovely light loaf.  I didn't notice, when reading your first post, that you hadn't let the bread rise before putting it into the oven; that would give you a denser loaf, for sure.  You could up your salt to a tablespoon, giving you more flavour without being over salty.

photodegas's picture
photodegas

Thanks for that, I will let it proof before the oven, and I will up the salt content.

 

(on a side note, can I use honey in place of salt to make a "sweet" bread? if so, how much honey?) 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

You can add honey to your recipe, but not in place of salt. You should have at least 2 tsp. of salt in that recipe and if you want to add honey, I'd say 2 to 3 Tbsp. The addition of honey will cause your bread to brown more in the oven.

photodegas's picture
photodegas

Great, thanks!

 

I have a sweet tooth and this will only make it worse...:-)

Does adding more than 2-3 Tbsps. of honey harm the bread in any way? Should I increase or decrease the water used or baking time?

Thank you for your help.

Hemen.

 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

No, it won't hurt the bread but it will change the character of the bread. Honey is a liquid so if you increase the amount you may end up with a softer dough. Honey (and any sugars) will slow down the yeast activity so your bread will take longer to rise. The more you use, the longer it takes. Also, you may need to turn down  your oven heat because the more you use, the more your bread will brown. Too much can cause the bread to brown before it bakes completely through unless  you lower the heat.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Congratulations on your first bread! I still remember the first loaf I made and it wasn't that long ago. This is a great hobby and you won't spend a lot of money learning.  I agree with most of what has been written above so I won't repeat but there are a couple things that I could point out.

First, you don't need to proof the yeast with sugar for most breads and also you don't need to add sugar to a poolish. There is plenty of food in the flour.

Second, I would start off with a single Tablespoon of sugar or honey in the dough mix, if any. The first Tablespoon feeds the bacteria and you don't taste much until you get to 2 or 3 Tablespoons. I suggest that you learn to recognise the flavor first and then add sweeteners and other ingredients later.

You can add a small amount of oil or butter to soften up the crumb or substitute milk for some of the water also. Practice makes perfect and as long as you start with basic recipes even the duds will be delicious. Have you found the lessons on the site? If you start with #1 and work your way up, you'll be baking artisan bread in no time. Good luck and post some pictures if you can.

Eric

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

I don't know about other 'active yeasts' but the brand I use requires activation in (preferably warm) water with a teaspoon or so of sugar dissolved in it.

If you can get it, I highly recommend switching to instant yeast  - this is often marked as 'suitable for bread machine use' unlike active dry yeast.

Just saves 10 minutes or so hanging around waiting for yeast to activate...but that says more about my impulsive nature than anything I guess! :)

Anyway, congrats on the first loaf and here's hoping for many more in the future!

  

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When I started baking in the 1970's, I read someone comment that the then new active dry yeasts were very reliable and that proofing the active dry yeast was not needed.

 

So, with a sigh of relief, I stopped proofing the yeast.  I add the water to the main dough and don't add any sugar used in proofing.

 

I never had a failure that I would attribute to not proofing the active dry yeast.

 

Mike