The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Long time baker, loaves always dense and heavy

Gardener's picture
Gardener

Long time baker, loaves always dense and heavy

Greetings, new member here. 

I've been baking bread for about 20 years, and have used multiple brands and grades of flour, many different recipes, different yeasts, bake all year round in different weather etc, and I think in all that time I've had perhaps a handful which did what they were supposed to do. As in, resulted in good oven spring and light open crumb. Every loaf comes out as dense and heavy as a brick. I do get oven spring of course, but not as much as others do. I can't give specifics of what I'm doing, because it happens no matter what method or ingredients I use. Have tried everything, as far as I can tell. Even changed ovens!

The bread has good flavour and serves its purpose, so it's not a huge problem. But for 20 years of baking and to only get a few loaves behave as they should, is a little frustrating. 

Kind regards, and hoping for advice!

 

G

 

Edited to add that I mainly make basic white (unbleached) loaves for sandwiches, though also do brioche, Asian style sweet buns, sourdough, high hydration French method, wholemeal, and fruit/vegetable flavoured loaves, croissants, cinnamon rolls, etc. My basic white sandwich loaves use a very good strong flour purchased directly from artisan baker in wholesale paper sacks. My other flours come from a variety of sources. 

Petek's picture
Petek

Is some ingredient common to all your bakes? For example, do you always (or nearly always) use the same source of water? 

Gardener's picture
Gardener

Thanks for your reply. I have tried different water, yes. From rainwater to standard chlorinated mains water. There's  nothing I can identify which has been common throughout the years, other than myself! I've used most of the common kneading methods, overnight fridge proofing, fast proofing, three day processes, warm water, cold water, ceramic bowls, enamel bowls, stainless steel bowls, glass bowls, with steam, without steam, etc etc. 

This is why I've never been able to rectify it, and have basically given up trying - there is no one thing I always use or do. I would say though, that instinct tells me it's gluten development and/or my oven. Since I've tried most methods of gluten development, but not yet tried a multitude of ovens, I'm going with the latter. Having said that, the few decent loaves I've produced came out of the same oven, the same shelf setting, and the same temp. 

It may be that I have some kind of bread curse, because I make a lovely cake, good scones and cookies, and a mean Christmas pudding!

Colin2's picture
Colin2

When you do your bulk rise, does the dough double in volume?

How does your final rise look, before it goes into the oven?

Oven spring is gratifying, but for most breads, most of the rise happens before the loaf goes into the oven.

I realize this has happened for you with a lot of different breads, but you still might get more help from folks if you gave a typical recipe, rise times, and oven temperature, plus maybe a photo of a cut-open loaf.  Some people here are wizards at diagnosis from that. 

Gardener's picture
Gardener

Yes, bulk rise always doubles (sometimes a little more). Final rise is under double, but just prior to complete loss of finger bounce back. On this, I've tried extending and decreasing final proof, and same result. Crust colour and texture isn't indicating overproofing or underproofing, as far as I can tell. 

I should be clear, I do get oven spring but not as much as I should. And I wish I could give you a simple answer as regards recipe .. but I use so many. Though for basic white sandwich loaves I go with the three and half cups of flour, two teaspoons of dry yeast, one teaspoon of salt standard. I adjust hydration according to weather. 

 

Edited to add that crumb is almost bagel-dense. Very even distribution of air, but just much too dense. 

GlennM's picture
GlennM

i changed to a shorter bulk with 50% rise and it has made a big difference. Give it a try and see if it works for you?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

usually translates into low hydration and maybe there is too much added flour while kneading or not enough water to the start.  Hmm perhaps to the 3 1/2 cups....got a scale?  It might help in narrowing down the hydration of the dough.  Try 1 1/4 cup water (300g)  right away ( 68% hydration aprox.) to stir up a shaggy mass and let the flour soak up the water for 10 minutes, covered, before starting to knead. Try to knead without flour or just a super light dusting.  

I second the shorter bulk rise.  With time one tends to let it ferment longer and higher than it should.  I know when I changed my dough container to one more straight sided, I could judge the bulk rise better.  

Gardener's picture
Gardener

Hi Mini Oven. Thanks for your reply. 

I never use flour after the initial mix. For high hydration mixes I might do a light dust on work surface once, but that's it. As for hydration generally, I tend to the higher for standard white sandwich. Definitely isn't a hydration issue, IOW. Interestingly, I also use a straight sided transparent vessel for proofing, for the same reason. 

My bulk rise is almost always a maximum of one hour (and that would be in cooler weather), as sandwich bread is needed within the half day (I do the longer processes on weekends). Not sure I'd want to reduce it too much below that, but certainly willing to give it a try!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

location.  About where are you located and what's the water source, any specs on it?  

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

(deleted)

 

semolina_man's picture
semolina_man

Dense and heavy can mean the opposite of airy and light.  Do you agree with this? 

If you get the same result consistently, you need to do something different. 

Excessive water in the dough, over fermenting, over proofing and underbaking are rampant on this site.  

 

Try:

- less water in the recipe

- shorter bulk ferment time

- shorter proof time

- higher oven temperature

- longer baking time

- rest the loaf after baking until it cools to room temp

Timothy Wilson's picture
Timothy Wilson

I always cook bread according to the same recipe, from the same ingredients, and every time it is different. We bake in the same oven, we cook in the same quantity. But there is still a difference. And in general it is not clear how it turns out that once the bread is excellent, another time it crumbles a lot.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Brainstorming

  • weather
  • water,
  • temperature of ingredients, room,
  • air pressure,
  • time of day,
  • container,
  • mixing time,
  • person mixing or method of mixing.
  • Hydration of flour if open or in paper or plastic bags.  
  • Background music
  • day of week
  • season
  • moon phase
  • number of elves sipping hooch
  • hmmmm.....
  • ....
Tansysmom's picture
Tansysmom

I haven't read through all the comments, so maybe this has been suggested. Have you tried kneading totally by hand? My brother and I both make bread. He kneads his bread dough manually while I use a machine and dough hook. I've noticed that his bread always has a lacier, more open crumb than mine does, although mine tastes just as good.