The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New and already experiencing massive epic fail. Go me!

kakiphony's picture

New and already experiencing massive epic fail. Go me!

I've wanted to start baking out own bread for a while now, but finally got my husband on board when he heard an NPR special on corn syrup in bread.

Today was my first attempt and I after reading every standard recipe on several websites and watching some videos I embarked on my mission. I used a very basic recipe (although I did add honey and used 1 cup of whole wheat flour with two cups white). My mistake: Buying yeast at my neighborhood grocery store. (I live in a college area of a college town, I'm betting the yeast doesn't fly off the shelves.)

I proofed my yeast and it didn't exactly foam, but there was a layer of kind of scummy stuff on top which i thought was probably foam. The water was lukewarm and comfortable on my wrist. Not knowing any better, I used it. The dough would not rise, but my house is cool. I eventually put the dough over a sink of hot water and made myself believe it rose. I couldn't really tell if the shaped loaf rose or not, but I had two hours invested in it, so I baked it anyway.

It's not quite a doorstop, but it's pretty close.

I then tested the other two packets of yeast in the three pack. One I proofed in slightly warmer water than I used before and one in slightly cooler. Neither foamed, I got grey scum on the warmer water and nothing at all on the cooler water try. with baking!

SourdoLady's picture

Welcome to TFL! I think we've all experienced yeast failure at one time or another. Sorry you had such a bum start. Take some of that whole wheat flour, mix it with some orange juice or pineapple juice and make yourself a wild yeast sourdough starter. It makes way better bread than commercial yeast, too. Contrary to many people's beliefs, sourdough bread is not always 'sour'. Try it--I bet you'll love it.

Here's a link with instructions on how to make the starter:

kakiphony's picture

Hmm.  That looks surprisingly easy.  I'll have to see if we have any juice left...

JIP's picture

Well just try to remember every failuer is a learning experience.  See you already know the first thing you want to do is immediately check the expiration date on every package of yeast you buy.  You know your bread might noy have fialed one thing you should lear from this is sometimes it takes a little longer depending on conditions don't be afrai to give tings a little more time if they are not rising like you think they should.  I hope this has not discouraged you too much the road to making good bread has alot of bumps sometimes but you can almost always still eat the failures and besides AP flour is cheap.

kakiphony's picture

I am not discouraged one bit.  It's more like I've been challenged to a duel.  I've already gone and bought more yeast (this time for the overpriced grocery store and it has an expiration date well into '09).  Thanks for the encouragement!  See what people on this site do with flour makes me REALLY want to master this!

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

and welcome to the Club Of Failed Bread. You don't want to hear this, but it won't be your last brick. So, what went wrong?

I think your yeast was okay. I've never seen yeast "foam" but I have seen it "bloom" with little pods floating to the surface, creating a scummy film.

My number one suspect is always water temperature. I've killed so much yeast using too hot water that they think I'm a mass murder. Remember that your body temperature is about 99 degrees so 100 degrees won't feel very warm and temperatures much over 100 are fatal.

The yeast should have been dated. Always check the date and store yeast in your freezer. It will be viable long after the expiration date. 

What kind of white flour did you use. All Purpose should be okay. Bread flour with the whole wheat would have been better. 

I'm wondering if you developed (kneaded) the dough enough. Kneading is a pain and most folks here use some other method. My favorite is the stretch and fold which can be seen here:

For yeast dough. I mix and let rest for 20 minutes and then do a stretch and fold every 20 minutes. Usually three is enough. Sometimes it takes four. When the dough is springy and resists stretching it's ready.

My two most valuable tools for bread making are a thermometer and a scale. Get a digital meat thermometer and you can use it for testing water temp or the doneness of your Thanksgiving turkey.

I wish you much success in the future and let us know how your next loaf comes out. The satisfaction that you get from your first good loaf is well worth the pursuit.


kakiphony's picture

Thanks for your words of wisdom.  I may try to dig out my candy thermometer tomorrow (which I only use at Christmas) to make sure my water is cool enough.  I'm also a bit afraid that my house is simply too cool for rising at the moment.  I'll have to try the rising over a sink of hot water trick to make sure things are warm enough too.

 I actually already went and bought new yeast.  I will NOT be defeated.  :)

I kneaded for about 15 minutes and was getting a decent 'window pane' in the pull.  But tomorrow my husband will be home and I may enlist him to help with the knead (he's got those big, brawny, piano movin' arms).

I need a good loaf.  I have pounds and pounds of basil butter to start using! 

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, kakiphony.

You clearly have an abundance of the most important ingredient. Attitude!

Welcome to TFL!

I expect great breads coming from your kitchen sooner than you would believe. Spend some time browsing around here. Look over the lessons. Find some breads you really want to make yourself. Experiment. Ask questions.


P.S. I've never baked a brick, myself. Hockey pucks? Well .... That's another story.

kakiphony's picture

Ah.  Thank you.  My husband might say I have too much attitude, but occasionally it's useful!

KosherBaker's picture

Hi Kakiphony.

Welcome to TFL. When I proof my yeast I usually add the same amount of sugar to the water as yeast. It gives the yeast something to munch on, and get started.

You might also post your full recipe and exact steps you followed in preparing your dough. The abundance of experienced eyes around here may see something that wasn't readily apparent before.

I used SourdoLady's method to start my sourdough culture and it is a very good method. Although I did not use juice. Bottled water worked beautifully for me. The first three days I used whole rye flour and after that I went to wheat.

Lastly I started a thread in one of these forums on what to do when a brick happens, so that it can be turned into something edible. If your creation is still around and you feel like saving the ingredients, have a look. :)

Best of luck and I too look forward to seeing some great loaves coming from you shortly.


kakiphony's picture

Thanks!  I used sugar this morning with the new yeast and the results were MUCH improved.  I actually have bread rather than a door stop this time!

Patf's picture

There are so many things to go wrong when making bread, and I had many flops when I first started.Still have a few.

 There is a type of dried yeast which you just mix dry with the flour - I wonder if this is the kind you had? You don't need to put it to prove first with sugar and warm water.

Not yet having made my own starter, I've found the easiest to work with is fresh yeast, if you can get it.

Another possible explanation for no-rise: too much salt. Better luck next time

kakiphony's picture

The yeast I had yesterday didn't actually have instructions on it, so I did the water method to be safe.  I now have some Red Star which worked quite well (I have bread!) and it can be used either way according to the package.  What I did discover was that the ideal water temp for the Red Star for the water method is WAY hotter than I usued yesterday.  100-115 degrees.

fancypantalons's picture

Just a word of advice:  switch to instant yeast.  Seriously.  It'll usually be labelled "instant" or "quick rise" yeast.  It doesn't require any activation at all, so you can just add it straight to your dough... *way* less effort, and removes one more variable that can lead to failure. :)

Oh, and once you have a yeast supply, make sure to store it in an airtight container in the freezer.  Stored that way, it'll last basically forever.

kakiphony's picture

I went ahead and bought a jar of Red Star this morning.  I think part of my issue was that i was afraid of heat in the water.  Once I got a thermometer into it I realized that the ideal temp according to the package (110-115 for proof or 120 for adding to dry ingredients) was WAY hotter than what I used yesterday.  Maybe my wrists are just sensitive because to me those temps feel "hot" not "comfortable".  But today I have actual bread!!!

kakiphony's picture

Just to properly update, my second loaf turned out quite well.  I used the following recipe:

2 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, three tablespoons honey, 1 1/2 teaspoons  sea salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 packet Red Star yeast dissolved in 115 degree water with 1 teaspoon sugar.  I baked at 375 for 45 minutes.

I baked on a cookie sheet with parchment paper in an oval loaf. It was dense with a nice brown crust, and a slightly sweet taste.  Maybe a bit dry.

Last night I baked my second successful loaf and varied the recipe by using:  2 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 handful of flax seeds, and 1 packet of Red Yeast dissolved in 115 degree water with a teaspoon of sugar. 

This time I baked in a loaf pan at 350 for 45 minutes.  The bread is lovely tasting, but slightly crumbly when sliced.  Next time I've been given advice to dissolve my yeast, add it to the wheat flour only, and refrigerate that overnight.  Then add the other ingredients and bake as usual.  This is supposed to give me a smoother and less crumbly loaf.  I may also try molasses rather than honey as my sweetener!

I am having so much fun!  And the best part is that my bread skills should be pretty decent by the time the ten jars of honey from all over the country I have coming from a honey swap arrive!