The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Poor Rising

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sandstone's picture
sandstone

Poor Rising

I need help! Ongoingly I am having difficulty getting my bread to rise nicely. What are common problems leading to an underwhelming rising of my bread? I get NO spring when I put it in the oven. And, over-all, the loaves just don't rise like they are supposed to. Am I deflating too much? (I've tried the stretch and fold) What are common solutions to try for this problem. I'm getting ready to give up on Bread baking. Help!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

And there's no devilry in your post! Or details, for that matter.

 

Not knowing what you've done, what recipe you are trying, it's hard to make suggestions.

 

Oven spring is over rated. The French feel that big oven spring is an indication that the bread wasn't allowed to rise long enough and was robbed of taste. Still, that doesn't get into what's going on with your bread.

 

Since you are a beginner, I'll suggest my (hopefully) painless introduction to baking. While my site is largely devoted to sourdough bread, I had many new bakers trying to make sourdough bread when they weren't ready. So, I encouraged those visitors to get a handle on yeasted baking through the introduction before moving to sourdough. I think it's a good intro, and I have gotten a lot of very favorable feedback on it.

 

The most common problem facing beginners is being afraid of sticky dough and adding too much flour. Dough would rather be a bit too wet than a bit too dry. Lifting a heavy dough is a hard thing for yeast or sourdough to do. Many recipes have a range of flour, such as 4 to 6 cups. In those recipes, I suggest starting at the bottom of the range. Other recipes suggest a certain amount of flour, such as 6 cups. With those recipes, I suggest starting at about 1/2 to 3/4 the amount called for. Stir the dough by hand, adding flour until the dough becomes hard to stir. Then turn it out into a lightly flour surface.

 

I then suggest adding additional flour grudgingly. Pretend you're Ebeneezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol" and that flour costs as much as saffron ("the most expensive spice in the world!"). Add just a bit at a time. I think you'll get a better rise out of a wetter dough. You're not trying for a satiny smooth dough that feels like a baby's bottom. You're trying for a well developed dough that is still a bit tacky and would rather stick to itself than to you or the counter.

 

Effective kneading is a big thing, and having taught many baking classes I have learned that kneading is a lot like sex. People are so sure they already know how to do it, and they are so sure that they are good at it, that they don't like to accept advice on how to do it better. Still, effective kneading makes the difference in 5 minutes of kneading that gets the job done and 40 minutes of kneading that leaves you exhausted and the dough unsatisfied. I have some [u]kneading videos on-line,[/iu] however I only suggest them to people with a high speed connection. While I need to redo the videos for a number of reasons, the information in them is very solid.

 

If that advice misses the mark, you might share a recipe you are using and what you did with it.

 

Mike

 

bnb's picture
bnb

"Oven spring is over rated."

Wow! Thats the first time I've heard that. Its very liberating to hear that actually. Especially for a green horn like me. Another lesson learnt.

sandstone's picture
sandstone

Well, I'm glad to hear about the spring-thing. I can let that go. I will check out the video etc. - Thank you. Just for additional information -- I have been baking bread on and off for maybe 5 years. Sometimes things come out well ... other times, not. Just yesterday I made the cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread that is on this site. Made it before and it came out splendidly. This time ... low on the rise. (I'd split the whole recipe into only two larger loaves like I did the first time ... yumola) I did hold back a cup of the flour and didn't add much of it in. I did heat the liquids slightly to get to the instant yeast desired temp of beween 120 and 130 degrees F to activate. Is it possible to over knead?? I'll try to shoot for a stickier dough and see how that goes. I'm a bit demoralized b/c I feel (with two small kids) this takes a lot of effort and sometimes it's great and sometimes it's a brick and very upsetting. Any other input is welcome. Thanks all.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

and good bread.

 

Instant yeast doesn't need to be proofed and it is somewhat sensitive to temperatures. If you are making dough with very hot, or very cold, water the yeast companies suggest adding instant yeast to the dry ingredients which buffer the instant yeast against the thermal shock.

 

Active dry yeast, according to the manufacturers, does need to be proofed. The yeast companies warn against using water that is too hot. And too hot is around 100 to 105F. Interestingly, in the mid 70's a baker suggested that active dry yeast was so reliable it didn't need to be proofed. I stopped proofing yeast at that time and have never gone back to doing that. The yeast companies still suggest proofing active dry yeast, but I haven't found it necessary.

 

In short, I just add the yeast I am using to the dry ingredients and make my bread. If the recipe called for proofing the yeast in 1/2 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of sugar (for example), I add the 1/2 cup of water to the dough and just ignore the sugar. Yeast does not need to add sugar to the dough. It can bread down starches into sugar quite well.

 

Putting the yeast into the hot water could lead to some inconsistencies.

 

Controlling inconsistencies is a big step forward for bakers in reaching the next level of results. The two biggest areas are temperatures and measurements.

 

I use a chef's thermometer to measure the temperature of the room, the flour, and the water I use to make the dough. I shoot for a dough temperature of about 78F. The why's and wherefores of that are covered at the rule of 240 on my web page. You can get a chef's thermometer for $5 or so at most grocery stores. I use an oven thermometer to make sure the oven is really at the temperature I think it's at. Many thermostats are off, often significantly off and that has a big impact on one's results.

 

Finally, measuring ingredients is really important. A few years back in a usenet baking oriented news group a number of people weighed a cup of flour the way they usually weighed flour. The results were shocking. A cup of flour varied from less than 100 to more than 200 grams. The 100 gram and under group sifted their flour twice. The 180 gram and up bunch tended to scoop the flour out of the bag using a measuring cup, and not leveling the cup. This compacted the flour in the cup so the cup had more flour in it than one might expect. Worse, there was as much as a 25% cup to cup variation for the scoopers.

 

Using a set of scales eliminates the cup variables. The inaccuracies of cups dwarf all other sources of errors in baking. If you don't want to give up on cups, or your budget won't stretch to buying scales, the next best thing is to use cups in a way consistent with most flour companies and cook book author's recomendations. Sift the flour once. Use a spoon to spoon the flour into a cup taking care not to compact or compress the flour. Use a knive edge or straight edge to scrape off the excess flour. You'll almost always wind up with a cup that weighs around 120 grams - plus or minus 5 grams. Personally, I think life is too short to do all that stuff, so I weigh ingredients. It's faster, easier and more accurate. You can get a good set of scales (I like the My Weigh candle making scales KD-7000 I think) for less than $25.00 on eBay.

 

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

Mike,

Do you use 120 grams as standard for all flours?  AP, bread, WW, etc ?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

All the sacks of flour I looked at use the same weight.  Whole wheat, all purpose, bread, rye.  I didn't look at coarsely ground flours such as pumpernickel rye, but suspect they'd be lighter.

 

Mike

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

For cakes and pastries, and when working with foreign cookbooks, yes, weigh the ingredients, but bread?  I don't even measure anymore for bread dough.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A few people have accused me of saying that you HAVE to use scales to make good bread.

 

I have not said that, nor do I believe it.

 

People can make good bread measuring with cups.  Or just by using a handful of this and a splash of that.

 

However, it is a lot easier and faster to weigh ingredients.  And more consistent too.

 

I find scales shorten the learning curve for bakers and make it easier to share recipes with a reasonable expectation that the person who receives the recipe will make a bread that resembles what the person who created the recipe had in mind.

 

And I do strongly encourage people to use scales.  But if people don't want to, that's their lookout.

 

Mike

 

 

 

mcs's picture
mcs

Mike,
Having some baking experience and being very opinionated myself (not that I'm implying that you're opinionated), I often find it informative to read your posts. I appreciate your straightforward approach and often learn something from your methods.

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Thanks for the kind words.

 

Best wishes,

Mike

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I don't think you have a problem of overkneading, but as Mike has noted, your hot water affected the yeast. Yeast dies at temps of 138-140F (per Hammelman) Liquids at 130F drastically reduce the activity of the yeast. You can get a pound of SAF active yeast for about $2.50, which is much cheaper than the stuff they sell in envelopes plus it is a much better yeast. Put a quarter of that in an airtight container (keep it in the refrigerator) and freeze the rest. You don't need to proof active yeast.

Don't feel demoralized; it wasn't you - your yeasties just about passed out they were so warm.

With a couple small kids to chase after, you might want to look into the Artisan bread in five minutes a day concept. You just toss all the ingredients into a container then put it in the fridge. The next day (and the days after), hack off a pound of dough and bake it. It is very workable solution for those with limited time, but still wish freshly baked bread. I use it for midweek baking after work, and save the weekends for the more technical stuff. Of late I've been adding a cup of sourdough starter to the mix with some nice results.

Do a search here and you'll find more information on this concept.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I was learning to bake with Mike and his advice on Sourdough Home a while before I found The Fresh Loaf. I had been trying to get consistent results and was just starting to think about giving my bread machine away. When I bought an inexpensive set of digital scales and started checking and making changes in the water temp to gain control, that's when I started to bake real bread. Mike convinced me to start thinking in grams and being careful about measurements. Those things gave me a base of confidence so I could begin to make small changes that will change the bread to my liking.

For me, limiting as many of the variables as possible so I could see consistent results was the key to advancing my skills. I know lots of people are great bakers who don't weigh but for me it has been a huge help. In fact I finding myself pleased with my ability to whip a small batch and be reasonably close with out using a scale. That has taken a while to be good at but that's what experience teaches us.

Thanks Mike for leading me to metrics and spoon feeding me a few basic recipes that I really enjoy today. Your Gunnison River and Bohemian are favorites here.

Eric

sandstone's picture
sandstone

The yeast thing confuses me ... I understand about the regular active dry yeast ... that this should be proofed in warm water no higher than 100 to 110 (from the label). However, the "instant" yeast that I've used some since reading Reinhart's book should be added to the dry ingredients (which is what I did) -- the liquids heated to btwn 120 to 130 (from the label) should be added then to the dry ... to "activate" the yeast. I did this with a thermomitor and everything. I don't know where to get the other yeast you were talking about that doesn't require activating or proofing. (dairy section??) Interesting about skipping that part (proofing / activating) all together with active dry yeast. Hmmmmmm. I think the liquid / flour ratio may be a big part of my problem. I'll try weighing to see if I'm way off base. The good news is, even though my cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread isn't as lofty as it has been ... my two boys and husband have almost polished off two loaves in two days. So, I guess it's not THAT bad. (but I know it can be better!! :) ) Thanks guys for the help. I'll try again weighing my flour and let you know. ps.... sometimes when just adding warm water to active dry yeast (no sugar at all) I don't get a decent amount of "foam" on top. should this concern me? (I usually measure the temp of water) Is a good test for rising "doneness" 1st and 2nd pressing dough w/ your finger and the indentation doesn't spring back fully? Thanks again for the help.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

When you use water that is above 100F you are really speeding things up. My advice would be to get used to being able to feel the temperature and adjust for how it feels to the touch. If you adjust the flow to feel just slightly cool to the touch and check with your quick read thermometer you will be below 98F and hopefully near 80F. Set the water stream to 80F and feel how cool it is on your finger or wrist. I know there are specific recipes that call for warmer water but you are asking for trouble in most cases and your bread will taste better if you slow things down to "normal" ranges. Mixing will add heat depending on how you do it (machine or by hand). Mikes reference of the rule of 240 is worth reading.

As far as the yeast types and how to handle them. I tossed all my Active Dry Yeast and now when I need commercial yeast I use SAF Red or Gold Instant yeast. Red for normal or lean dough and Gold for sweet or Sourdough based formulas. Add it to the water or add it to the flour, it won't matter for all practical purposes. Try to keep the dough in the 78-82F range by using water of the appropriate temperature. It's a lot easier to control the fermentation and rising if you start with the target temperature you know works (78F).

Eric

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

There are three kinds of yeast available to home bakers. Fresh, active dry yeast and instant dry yeast. However, before we get into them, it is worth noting all of these yeasts come from the same vats, the only difference is how they are prepared for market. Which suggests that there shouldn't be much difference between the results you get with the different kinds of yeasts.

This isn't to say that Red Star, SAF and Fleischman's are all the same, but that all the varieties of SAF are the same within a product line. There are other forms of these yeasts available to commercial bakeries, but the usual order size for these specialized yeasts are railroad car quantities.

Yeast is grown in a molasses medium. It is a lot like what distillers make rum out of, however the yeast companies are looking for yeast growth, not flavor or alcohol. When the yeast concentration is optimum, they package the yeast.

Fresh, cake or compressed yeast. The names vary by brand. This is made by removing a fair amount of the liquid and leaving a firm moist cake of yeast. It is a live product and has a very limited shelf life. It is usually refrigerated. Many bakers feel that this is the best yeast, the one to use. We used it in our bakery until we got a second case that looked and smelled like someting you'd expect to find in a diaper (or nappy for our English friends). If your supplier doesn't have good turnover and stock handling procedures, this yeast can be very inconsistent because it is the most perishable variety.

 

Active dry yeast was introduced around the time of the second world war. It was a big step forward in that it has a long shelf life. The yeast is produced by drying the yeast at moderately high temperatures. This leaves the dormant yeast cells covered by a layer of dead yeast cells. The dead yeast cells contain enzymes that help relax dough and some bakers feel doughs made with active dry yeast are more extensible than doughs made with other yeasts. The yeast companies suggest that active dry yeast be proofed in 110 to 115 F water with a bit of sugar. The sugar provides food for the proofing yeast and helps it get going better.  Some cookbook authors have suggested this is not necessary. Other cookbook authors say it might be necessary but skipping this step reduces the flavor of the bread. When I use active dry yeast, I don't proof it.   I handle the same way I handle instant dry yeast.  Active dry yeast is largely being displaced by

 

Instant dry yeast was introduced in the 1970's. The molasses base is dried at much more gently at lower temperatures so the dormant yeast cells are not covered by dead yeast cells. As a result, they hydrate and revive much more quickly than active dry yeast. This yeast is sold under the name of bread machine yeast also. (Quick rising yeast is a separate faster acting strain of yeast that has been processed as an instant dry yeast. In general, I don't like anything that makes bread making go faster. Haste is the enemy of good bread.) The yeast companies say that instant dry yeast may be mixed with the dry ingredients or mixed with warm liquids. Instant dry yeast is somewhat temperature sensitive and is killed by low temperature liquids. Adding the yeast to the dry ingredients is the most reliable way of handling the yeast. The role of warm water is open to discussion. In general, dough works best at around 78F. If it is too cold it won't develop or rise very well. If it is too warm, it will rise too fast and off-tastes are very likely. 78 is pretty much optimum. You can adjust the temperature of the water you use to make your dough so the dough will have the correct temperature. I talk about this in the rule of 240. My prefered approach is to add the yeast to the dry ingredients. When it proved impossible to get a reliable supply of fresh yeast, we switched to instant dry yeast. No one noticed any difference in our products.

 

There are different lines of yeast. SAF has their gold and red lines. The red line is for regular bread making. If you make sweet doughs with a regular yeast, you have to use extra yeast to compensate for the sugar. While sigar speeds yeast up to a point, after a certian point is reached sugar slows the yeast. SAF's gold line is a osmo-tolerant yeast, which means it can tolerate high amounts of sugar and is a great yeast for making sweet doughs. The red and gold lines are separate srains of yeast, but both strains are available in fresh, active dry and instant dry versions.

 

Which to use?  Last summer I was a Camp Bread and took a course with Didier Rosada and another with Jeff Hammelman.  Both are well known world class bakers.  Didier said it doesn't matter which you use, if you use the appropriate amount of yeast.  Jeff said he only uses fresh yeast and has no use for any other sort.  When bakers such as these guys argue the matter, I suspect there really isn't that much difference.  If I'd had a good source of fresh yeast, I probably never would have tried instant dry and I'd be in Jeff's camp.

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

Sandstone, it might help us help you if you told us what type of yeast you have been using. I'd suggest you look at the package and tell us the brand name, as well as any other descriptive words on the label. I'm not especially interested in what the instructions say, though that would help, but the brand name and type of yeast, as they describe it exactly, might help.

One of the problems here is that yeast companies use a lot of terms, and in some cases, the different companies appear to use the same terms to describe different things. As Mike Avery points out in his most recent post on this thread, there are only three basic types of yeast available for home bakers. We just need to know what you have, and to be sure of that, we need to know what the package says. Sort of a "start at the very beginning" type of thing, if you will.

Other than that, I will echo ehanner's advice, and actually emphasize it. I know you are frustrated and willing to try anything to make this work. However, it's a really poor idea to change a lot of things at once, when trying to solve a problem. Right now, let's concentrate on the yeast/water aspect, and let other things remain as you have done them in the past. "Limiting the variables" is what it's called, and it's the best route to take in problem solving.

I understand your frustration, we have all been at this point in the past. I'm glad your family is happier with the bread than you are. And remember one thing, even though you are not excited with the results, you are feeding those two youngsters bread that is much better for them than store bought. So you have no-where to go but up, because you are already in a pretty good place. Don't give up -- it's solveable -- but one step at a time.

So -- brand name and descriptive words, please. 

Mary

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

Fleischmann apparently does not have a product labeled "Instant Yeast",  and according to:

 http://www.breadworld.com/products.aspx

their RapidRise is the same as Instant and Bread Machine yeast.  So if you are looking for instant yeast, you can buy either their RapidRise or their Bread Machine yeast.

Colin 

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

At the risk of contradicting the advice of others, I can only speak from my own experience when I say that active yeast (at least some brands) require activation (mix up in warm water preferably with a tsp of sugar and let sit for 15 minutes or so until it starts frothing).

In fact it was this very thing that brought me to TFL in the first place.  I was having similar problems getting little or no rise from the yeast I was using.  It wasn't until I realised I had to activate it that things started happening. 

I have since switched to using instant yeast (when I'm not using a sourdough leaven) which can and should be mixed straight into the flour of the dough or preferment you are making.  I strongly recommend instant yeast over active yeast for this reason and also because it allows me to keep the dough temperature lower during the initial mix (important for those long slow ferments etc.)

 

sandstone's picture
sandstone

Wow ... I'm so thankful to all of you for your help. First: Fleischmanns is the brand I've been using. Yes, technically it was the Bread Machine type that can also be used in place of their Rapid Rise yeast. This is their "instant" yeast. Really at Stop and Shop and even Whole Foods, this is the only brand available here in the Northeast that I've seen. But, I'll keep my eyes open for these others. Second: I currently have the Moosewood Restaurant's Whole Wheat bread rising. I measured the flour by weight after measuring as usual in the measuring cup. Sadly, (since I'm looking for my "problem") I was pretty dead on. After watching -- I think it was Mike's -- video clip on kneading and watching carefully that my dough remained a bit sticky -- the end result was a much softer -- less dense and thick ball of dough. We'll see how it goes. This time I used Active Dry Yeast with 100 degree water. I will try a lower temp next time. Thank you for that info. Also, is a good test after first and second rise for doneness pressing your finger into the dough and getting little to no spring?? Thanks again for everyone's help. Thanks to you all I haven't given up yet. :)

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

Hi, Sandstone:

Ok -- now I can make a recommendation (or two, actually) based on what you just wrote.

Look in Your Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, at the bottom of page 58, where he discusses yeast types. There is a list of alternate names for instant yeast. Yours is among them. So are all the others Mike referred to under instant yeast in his post this morning. As he points out, there are 3 types of yeast, (1) cake yeast, (2) active dry, and (3) instant, which goes by a lot of names. You have been using instant. There isn't another type of yeast you need to look for -- you have it right on hand.

It doesn't need to be activated in water. I would stick with it. I wouldn't change a thing. (I know, you used active today, but you handled it correctly and I am betting that this bread will be fine.) But you need a new way to handle instant yeast, if you want to continue using it.

As everyone else has suggested, and in spite of the yeast package's temperature recommendations, I would strongly suggest dropping the temperature of the liquid you are using. I think you are overheating the yeast, just as Mike, LindyD, and ehanner think.

Next time you bake, try an experiment using instant yeast. Use your thermometer to get a reading for the temperature of the room. Also take the temperature of the flour. Add these two numbers together. Add 10 as a "fudge factor" because you will be increasing the temperature of the dough as you knead it. Take the total of those three numbers and subtract it from the number 240. The result is what the temperature of your water should be. This is the Rule of 240 Mike mentioned in his e-mail yesterday afternoon.

As an example, my kitchen today is 73 degrees. My flour is 70. those two numbers, plus 10 equal 153. Subtract that from 240 and you get 87. My water temperature today for using instant yeast should be 87, not somewhere between 120 and 130. (This is different from what I should use for active dry; there I would use 100 degree.) I know -- the yeast's maker wants you to use a higher temperature with instant, and it makes sense to follow their directions. On the other hand, that's not working, and a lot of people blame that hottish water. So just this one time, try the rule of 240.

If this works, and you get a good rise, make the next batch of bread the same way. See if the improvement continues. If it doesn't, then let us know, and someone will have other suggestions. It's just that that water temperature struck all of us as way hot, and the first thing to adjust. And remember, adjust one thing at a time, as much as possible. It's the only way to discover what will work consistantly.

A note: Your bread will take longer than the package says to rise, because of the lower temperature. If you are in a hurry, run some very hot water into a bowl, and place the dough next to it under a cardboard box. The added heat will make the dough rise faster, but at a sacrifice in flavor.

Yes, using the "poke" test to evaluate the amount of rise is fine. And good for you, weighing the flour and other ingredients. Mike has made a convert out of me, for sure.

Hope your current baking turns out well. 

Mary 

 

 

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I've been buying it in vacuum-sealed lb. packages for a couple of years now, but I think it's a European type.  It has to be kept in the fridge after opening, you have to be very careful not to let any moisture into the package, and you shouldn't add it to anything very cold.  I mix it with a cup of my flour, and add it to the liquid ingredients, followed by as much more flour as I need.  And I make sure it has dissolved before adding salt to the mix.

sandstone's picture
sandstone

Thanks for the additional help. I will try the 240 temp thing next time. Interesting info. The exciting thing is that my whole wheat bread came out wonderfully. I think this was b/c I was frugal with the flour. That was very helpful. Thank you. Also used the kneading technique -- which is a lot less "violent" than what I was doing. The one complaint I would make ... or critique ... is that the crumb isn't as firm together as it should be. When you cut a slice, it is too delicate and wants to come apart -- the top crust part wants to rip off. Does this mean that I let the last rise in the bread pan go on too long? Or I didn't knead long enough?? Thank you thank you thank you. (ps- we already ate half of the loaf that I pulled out of the oven yesterday afternoon.)

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

There are so many things that can cause problems that it can be hard to nail them down.  And sometimes things come in groups.

The top crust coming off is called "flying crust" and there are a number of possible causes.  The most common is poor loafing technique.  English bakers call that space, "the place where the lazy baker sleeps."  A soft dough usually needs fairly firm loafing techniques.  Also, if your oven is too hot, the crust can spring off as it gets oven spring.  This is even more likely to be the case if your crust is getting too brown.

How soon after the bread came out of the oven did you try to slice it?  Some breads are very fragile when warm.  Beyond that, I'd really need to see the recipe to make suggestions.

At risk of seeming to plug my website (again), I have a fairly decent troubleshooting guide on my web site that you might find helpful. 

 Mike

sandstone's picture
sandstone

Thanks for the help. I think you might be right about the brown crust. I wanted a crusty exterior so I started the oven hotter, then reduced. But, by the end, the crust was getting too brown and I even had to reduce the oven temp a bit. That was helpful info. Thank you. I posted your site on my blog sandstone-sandstone.blogspot.com  in thanks. And will soon give sourdough a try -- never tried it before. Thanks for all the help! Happy Bread Baking!