The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Once-Perfect Recipe Now is Failing Me - Could it be the Machine?

  • Pin It
Whole Wheat Guy's picture
Whole Wheat Guy

Once-Perfect Recipe Now is Failing Me - Could it be the Machine?

Very simply, here's the recipe for whole wheat bread that I've been making for years:

1.25 cups water

1/4 cup honey

1.5 tsp salt

2 tbsp canola oil

3 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 tsp yeast

1 tbsp vital wheat gluten

I've produced dozens of 1.5 lb loaves from this recipe, using my Williams-Sonam bread machine that's now 3 or 4 years old.  The bread is wonderful.

But the last six loaves have all been half-height, making them dense and not so tasty.  I've bought new yeast/honey/gluten/dough with no change.  Could it be the machine isn't generating enough heat?  How could I tell if this were so?  Any other suggestions on how to track down the problem?

Many thanks!

Whole Wheat Guy

leemid's picture

Is my first question. Sounds like old/bad yeast. You could prove that theory by mixing it in the machine and baking it in the oven.


Whole Wheat Guy's picture
Whole Wheat Guy

If my yeast was bad, wouldn't I just change the yeast and try again?  :)

In any case, I did this, to no avail, so bad yeast isn't the answer.


LindyD's picture

Well, WWG, if your yeast is fine, your bread machine could very well be the culprit.

Have you tried removing the dough after it has been proofed and baking it in the oven?

If you get great results in the oven, then you've found the problem.

Hope you solve the issue soon.

Whole Wheat Guy's picture
Whole Wheat Guy

The reason I ask is that if the oven isn't generating heat like it used to, would that really have an effect on the height of the loaf?  It seems like the height comes during the risings, not the baking.

Do bread machines heat up the dough for the risings?  If so, maybe I should make the bread, same exact ingredients, using a "real" oven for both the risings (low heat, I assume) and the baking - and then I'll have given the dough a chance to really attain its maximum height?



Windischgirl's picture

with my Zojirushi.  The Z. did heat up during the risings, but the timing just seemed to be off...not nearly enough time to get a nice rise.  I did use it for mixing and bulk rise, and then reshaped, proofed on the counter, and baked in the oven.  Now you have me wondering...I had always thought it was my recipes causing the dense bread, and all along it could have been the machine!


LindyD's picture

When bread is placed in a hot oven, after it has gone through the final proof, the yeasts undergo their final and quite intense fermentation, producing carbion dioxide and other gases which expand and result in what's known as oven spring.  All this  yeast activity is short lived, however, as the yeasties kick the bucket at about 140F.

There is still a lot going on in the bread, however, as the gases contained in the dough will continue to expand and raise the loaf during the oven bake.

While bread machines do use gentle heat for proofing the dough, I don't think it is a good idea to turn on your stove oven to low and place your dough inside. "Low" is probably too hot and could kill the yeast.  Why not try placing the dough (covered) on the top of your refrigerator or some other warm (75F) spot in your house?

Or, why don't you just let the bread machine cycle through the proofing then take the dough out before the machine moves to the bake cycle, and use your stove's oven to finish it?  After you've preheated the oven, of course.  If the bread turns out well, then you'll know your bread machine needs repair.

Whole Wheat Guy's picture
Whole Wheat Guy

I was just talking with colleagues about this; someone mentioned bread machine yeast versus regular yeast.

Could it be that I need bread machine yeast?  That might be what I was using earlier, and I'm definitely not using it now.

What's the difference?  (I guess I assumed it was just marketing and there was none.)


davec's picture

From comments on this board and others, I believe bread machine yeast is the same as instant yeast.  Whether there is any real difference or not, I don't know, but I use active dry yeast in my machine, and my recipe is very similar to yours, except that it is for a 2-lb loaf, so there is 1/3 more of everything.  I do use more gluten--1 heaping tsp per cup of flour.  You might try that, in case there is something different in the flour compared to what you were using before the failures started.