The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Making Failures

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gprice157's picture
gprice157

Bread Making Failures

Looking for someone to hold my hand and show me how to make bread dough that doesn't collapse in the oven, or bread machine, supposedly from too much liquid; or fails to rise, supposedly from too little liquid.

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

Weigh your ingredients, don't measure them.

Colin 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

After you've obtained a scale, visit the lesson section at TFL's home page. You'll find excellent help there.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

If it is collapsing in the oven, I'd guess it isn't too much liquid, it is that you are over-proofing it. You loaf is going to try to expand when it gets into the hot oven. If it is already at maximum rise, it is going to collapse then. You want to get it in the oven before it hits that point so that it can handle that final growth spurt gracefully.

gprice157's picture
gprice157

Thanks for your imput - Floydm, Lindyd, and Colinwhipple. After I posted my initial message, came across the "Primer for the New Baker," which had me decide to try to go back to basics; so am now in the process of following it's basic instructions as exact as I can. Don't know the outcome yet, but found myself in familiar territory, with the dough too sticky, added flour, still doesn't seem right. You know the way they say - "smooth and silky." Never in my kitchen.

Am 83, retired for twenty years. No longer able to play tennis. Need a hobby to keep from vegetating entirely. Tried bread making for years, with more frustrations, than satisfactions. Sense things are not going to be any different this time, unless you nice folks out there can rescue me. 

  

edh's picture
edh

I'd echo LindyD's advice; follow Floyd's lessons and you'll see some amazing changes really quickly. This site has done more for my bread making skills in one year than the previous 10 years of muddling about on my own.

Keep at it!

edh

indxmann's picture
indxmann

This is Floyd's mom posting.  I used to bake bread years ago, but had totally gotten out of the habit.  Seeing the beautiful and yummy loaves Floyd bakes, I decided it's about time I tried baking bread again.  Floyd very kindly gave me some sourdough starter the last time we visited him, and I've been baking sourdough loaves every few days since then.

 Floyd is great inspiration, and a source of good advice, based on his experience.  I've learned a lot from him, and continue to learn with every loaf I bake (and we eat!).

 It's definitely true that you learn with each loaf you make.  They do get better and better.

 Thanks, Floyd.

 

 

 

 

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Teaching your son to read and write--$a million bucks
Inspiring him to bake and help thousands of people learn the craft of life--PRICELESS!

Thanks Floyd's Mom, you did well with little Floyd.

Eric

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

What better endorsement! Thanks for saying HI! We appreciate all his hard work!
Without him..we wouldn't be here..I love irony!

gprice157's picture
gprice157

The first test loaf is out of the oven -it's edible, barely. First rise was phenomenal. Second rise - so so. Rise in loafpan, took seven hours to barely double in size. "Spring rise" never happened. So much for basics being simple for me. Nothing changes. Suggestions?

barneyl's picture
barneyl

In what way is it barely edible? If the dough has doubled in siz before it goes in the oven it should have a reasonable texture regardless of oven spring.

What yeast are you using and how have you been storing it, perhaps it's past its best.

Lauria's picture
Lauria

Ummm.... you said "first rise" "Second rise" and "Rise in loafpan"

  Is that two or three rises total? More details and everyone can help you troubleshoot this more. :-) 

gprice157's picture
gprice157

That was three - however, have been scanning through site, and have come across several interesting subjects that may shed some light on my "problems" - those that have hounded me for years. Checked my yeast. Have had it for some time, Flieshmann's Bread Machine Yeast. Always in the refrigerator, and not past date stamped on lid, but may be suspect. Plan to get new supply.

Always use tap water. Could be trouble. Will try other sources.

Beyond that, problem always seems to be that the yeast, while active at the start, sppears to die from my handling. Any suggestions there? 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

How many rises you can get out of a dough depends on a lot of things. However, a recurring issue is failure to knead between rises. You don't need to knead a lot, and you certainly shouldn't knead in more flour, but a bit of gentle kneading - just a few seconds worth, no more than a minute - puts the yeast in contact with food again and lets it rise again.

 

In a liquid medium like beer wort or wine must the yeast can move and come in contact with food. Convection currents move the yeast and nutrients. In a thick medium, even a fairly liquid dough, that's not going to happen, so we need to move the yeast around a bit.

 

Another set of baking classes can be found on my website at A (Hopefully) Painless Introduction To Baking.

 

Mike

 

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Gprice....

I am a beginner too (baking about a year in earnest), and would implore you not to give up! :-).

 

Instead of tossing the yeast, try proofing it to see if it is vigorous.  With many of my bread recipes, I mix the water (warm but NOT hot!!  better to be cool and wait then to use too hot of water and kill the yeast), the yeast, and the sugar.  Then I let it sit for about 15 minutes or so.  There should be a fair amount of froth or bubbles.  That let's me know that the yeast is good.  Then I add the rest of the ingredients, with the salt one of the last things to go in.

Floyd is def right--a collapsing loaf is probably due to overproofing.  I used to do that A LOT.

 

I never get oven spring AT ALL, except with very wet doughs (like a ciabatta) and a very hot oven.  Even then, I have found that oven spring is nice but not necessary for really delicious bread.

 

I would agree that weighing the ingredients is better than measuring, but I still measure (I do not have a scale) and make some fairly tasty bread.

 

Probably the VERY best thing is to go step by step through what you do.  I mean, spare NO detail, no matter how minor it might seem.  A few questions to get you going...

What is the recipe you are using?

What sort of flour are you using (EXACT brand)?

What are the ingredients that actually end up in your bread and how much? (I am BAD about "adjusting" a recipe on the fly, even if I have never baked it before! *OR* I do not measure, I just TLAR it "that looks about right" :) )

What is the temp of your house? 

What is the oven temp?  Have you measured it with a thermometer?

Are you hand kneading or using a mixer or bread machine?

How long are you kneading the dough the first time? 

How long are you rising the dough the first time?  The second time?  The third time (as mentioned, I would not do the third rising, but rather put the dough in the pan the second time and let it rise there)

When you let it rise, are you covering the dough with a towel, with saran wrap, etc?

Where do you let it rise?

How stiff is the dough you make?  A moister dough means a moister bread, in my experience.  I am learning to be more comfortable with a fairly wet dough (not always "ciabatta" wet, but not nearly as dry as I had been making).  I would sort of forget about the whole "soft and smooth as a baby's bottom" stuff.  Not only will not every dough get to that stage due to ingredients, but it also seems a bit difficult for new people to judge sometimes.

 

These are just a few things that I offer, not as an expert (which I am NOT!), but rather as an older newbie to bread making who has made a lot of these mistakes or overlooked these points.

 

The main thing is that you WILL get this and when you do, it will be so rewarding!  But it takes a bit of practice sometimes, just like anything :-)

 

 

gprice157's picture
gprice157

That was a great reply - thanks. Even if it fails to solve my particular problem - really hope it will - it's the kind of encouragement an easily discouraged "Baker" like me needs to keep trying. Unlike you, I've been at this off, and on - more off than on - for at least 20 years, since retiring. Had hoped it would make a good hobby - keep me from vegetating. When I get discouraged I lay off for months, then something piques my interest, and I make another try, only to meet with more frustration. It's frustrating!!!

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

This is the place to be if you want to improve your bread baking.  Lessons, advice, recipes....  As several others have said, Don't Give Up!  Failures are also lessons.  (My brother, who was a Chess Master, once commented that he learned more from the games that he lost than the ones he won.)  Every loaf is always an experiment anyway.

Rosalie

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I like what you said about failures also being lessons.  When I have a failure, I remind myself that we learn more from failures than successes.  I think I did the bulk of my learning from failures!  In regards to bread, it might be a good idea to keep a little notebook with observations, or make 2 or 3 batches of very similar dough at one time with each just having slight variations, in order to be able to hone your skills.  You might make 3 batches of Floyd's pain sur poolish with slightly different amounts of flour, or slightly different kneading times (only one variable at a time, of course) and critique the finished loaves in order to be able to understand correct flour content, kneading time, or whatever else you're having difficulty with.  When I was having trouble finding that exact time a loaf was ready to enter the oven, I might have 3 loaves from the same batch that I put in the oven at slightly different times.  I would also examine each before I put it in the oven--how long did it take for the dent from my finger poking the dough to spring back, how loose did the dough feel when I placed my palm on it, etc.  In no time I learned how to judge when a loaf was fully proofed. 

Good Luck!

 SOL

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Gprice, posting the recipe you are using would be helpful but even if you don't, the next time you make bread, measure out all the ingredients first and get them to room temperature before you start mixing. Something as subtle as that can make a difference.

Tap water is fine, but if yours is cholorinated, measure out the water you need the night before and set it out on your counter so that the chlorine can dissipate. And don't be discouraged from trying again. The only way we learn is through experience and investigation, so don't hesitate to go over to your library and see if they have any good bread books, such as Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, or the others listed here.

While the gorgeous photos of bread shown here can be intimdating, I'm pretty sure there have been some failures as well. They're just not posted. I baked a ciabatta yesterday that I wound up calling my Shar Pei ciabatta. It was the most dreadful looking loaf I've seen and was embedded with dry flour (was fed to the local wildlife). Tried it again today, doing things a bit differently, and it tasted as great as it looked.

And yes, if your undated yeast packets have been in your refrigerator for a while, getting a fresher supply may prove beneficial. Check your recipe to see what it calls for and please keep us posted.

 

 

Atropine's picture
Atropine

I completely understand!  I have very low patience for failures generally. lol  I have a LOT more ambition than ability as well. For my whole life, I will have seen something and think "Oh, I can do that", even if I have never tried it.  So when I try something and fail, it really gets under my skin.  I have very little patience for "learning curve".   :) 

 

What has helped me is to change from "this is going to be a great loaf" to "every loaf is a practice, every one is an experiment".    

With bread, the more I do, the more I perfect.  It is like being an artist:  you have to get a "feel" for the medium before you can be instinctive in putting together great bread.  I have made a lot of bricks, and thrown away actually inedible bread, but am at the point where I am, again, full of "Oh I can do that" about everything bread related.  (for example, sourdough....which I have failed again at....and am considering laying off of it for a while because it bugs me that I cannot make it work lolol)

 

Another thing to consider is trying one characteristic of bread at a time.  Work ONLY on getting, say, un-crumbly texture in white bread, or go ONLY for taste or ONLY for the color of crust.  Bread is actually very complex, and great bread utilizes ALL five senses.  So try to work on ONE part at a time.  Kinda like working on a beater car.....first work on brakes, then transmission, then body, etc, instead of trying to "fix the car" in one marathon session :)

 

Also, take some of the pressure off!  Do not consider any loaf an "eating" loaf but an "experimental" loaf.  Actually choose a loaf where you say "I have No intention of using this for supper....this is only to test different kneading techniques (or temps or whatever)".  Then you can divide that loaf into three pieces, for example, and experiment on each one. :)

 

I also found that, with bread, constant practice helps because each time I can tweak something and it is fresh in my mind what changed that made (so do not take breaks in bread making :) ).  AND I have made really great bread and learned a lot by mistakes I have made reading a recipe or when I decided to just throw something in because I thought it would be "healthier" or something.  For example, I learned that milk powder in the dough makes the crumb absolutely creamy!  I just threw some in one day to get a little nutrition in the bread so I did not feel as guilty about my butter-ridden white loaf!  But the effect on the mouth feel was incredible.

 

Now if you have been trying bread off and on for 20 years and are still not at all pleased, then there is "something" that is blocking your efforts.  It is either something (maybe technique or ingredient or perhaps, like me, not knowing that one can overproof a loaf, and that wetter dough is sometimes better) that is probably one of those smack your forehead and "OH!  THAT is what it was!" type of things *OR* perhaps an expectation of what results you are looking for.

 

So it might be a good idea, if you are interested, to take EACH STEP of your bread baking process and post it.  That way we can figure it out. 

Maybe the first step is saying what EXACTLY you are looking for in bread.  When you mix that dough, what is the desire that you have, the picture in your head?  Is it a specific flavor, look, crumb texture?   When you say your loaves do not turn out, is it because they are actually INEDIBLE, doorstops, or whatever?  Or is it more of "I wanted it more fluffy, soft, dense, chewy, brown, tender, pretty, nutty, sour, sweet, etc"? 

 

I hope these ideas help!  We're here for you :)

gprice157's picture
gprice157

You do sound as if you do. Thanks again. The last was literally, "A doorstop." The one now in process looks the same, so far. It's been "proofing" for almost an hour, and appears dead, yet on the first "rise" looked perfect. Tried not to mess with the ingredients after original mixing. No added water. No added flour. Just mix, kneed, and let go. It rose beautifully. Turned out very sticky. Stuck to everything - figers, utensils. Simply placed it in oiled loaf pan. Did some smoothing with spatuala, and set it to rise again covered with a towel. Going to wish it a goodnight now. It's late. I'm frustrated once more. I must have the equivilant of a gardeners "Brown Thumb." A Bakers "Brown Thumb." 

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Ok, I am a "work the problem" kind of a person...so forgive me on this....but I am now neck deep in curiosity!

Here is a thought--in the dough rose perfectly on the first rise two thoughts come to mind (actually several thoughts are now jostling for position!):  how long was the first rise?  and  Are you keeping the dough over a stove or other hot place for the second rise?

Also, here is a thought...since you get reliably good first rises (it seems) how about just putting the dough right into the pan as soon as it is kneaded and only doing one rise?  I have done that before (when I was too late in the day to have two rises) and, unless you are dealing with a twitchy recipe or are REALLY paying attention, the bread turns out fine!  Maybe start with that to build up a bit of confidence.

Seriously I think there must be something we are missing--yeast should have enough umph for two rises easily.  Here are some trouble shooting that I can think of, though other people should have more educated guesses:

Bread pan is too hot (or is placed in a hot area)

Proofing time is not long enough in the pan

Proofing area is too hot in the pan (I sometimes placed my pan over the burner on the stove with the oven turned on, but my new stove gets too hot like that)

WAIT!!  I just reread your post and thought of something--you said that you did some smoothing with a spatula....that is SERIOUSLY wet dough if you can smooth it like icing on a cake.  Do you mean that the bread is that wet?  If so then yes, that would be very wet.  Your first proof might be more of a.....risen poolish (a very wet starter).  When you knead it, does it "clean the bowl" (if using a mixer)?  Is it possible to hold in your hand or is it like holding cake or cookie batter or something similar?

If the dough is that wet, then the towel might be too heavy....what kind of towel is it?  Is it a tea towel, a kitchen towel?  Is it moist?  Does the dough develop a hard crust while rising in the loaf pan?  When proofing the first time, do you cover the bowl with a towel too and does the dough ever touch the towel?

So many questions!  But we will figure this out ;-) 

Eli's picture
Eli

As a new bread baker ( I have been baking other things for years) I have learned a great deal here. Get a scale, read, read and re-read as much material as you can here and any of the books listed here. You will be surprised with about two weeks of trying and learning what you have picked up and the new techniques.

I am learning so much from everyone's help here. I am also the anal rententive, perfectionist, rather have the horses pushing my cart and not pulling it type. If I can do it anyone can!

Good luck and let us know how it is going.

Eli

Marni's picture
Marni

gprice,

Sorry you're having a tough time getting this bread baking thing to work, but once you do, you'll have so much fun.

My thought is to choose a simple recipe, one that has just basic ingredients and just two risings, for example.  Sometimes they are called direct or straight methods. You can even post it here and get feedback before you start.  I would also get fresh ingredients, especially yeast.  Having tips before you start might help.

Good Luck!

Marni