Fairly new @ bread, and pulling my hair out already!
I'm totally new to this site and loving it so far; it is by far the most logical, educational, and user friendly I've found to date.
I have to admit however, as someone who is used to being 'good at everything he does' by default, it is infuriating to me that I have baked about 8 times in the past week, experimenting with all sorts of variables and yet.. I STILL cannot get a loaf to turn out with a fluffy & soft crumb. My loaves are more dense, look moist (kinda like Ciabatta). Don’t get me wrong, the bread tastes great, I just cant seem to get that lovely fine crumb.
I've been reading this site front to back [even the more advanced stuff, I have a geeky mind and I love to know WHY things happen the way they do] and I found that no recipe or person seems to agree with another on rules/methods I thought would be mostly cardinal.
Someone says dissolve the yeast; the next person says don’t dissolve the yeast it doesn’t like it.
Someone says add sugar; the next page says don’t add sugar for various reasons.
Less yeast longer prove, more yeast less prove, little bit of yeast & a bit of sugar over-night prove.
One recipe adds salt initially; another says the yeast doesn’t like it so always knead it in the second time.
60% recommend autolyse but no one can seem to agree on proportions, which ingredients, how long for, and whether to knead after.
Too much Kneading = bad bread; not enough kneading = bad bread. ( :S ?)
The slower the prove, the better the crumb. Prove too long - bread tastes beery and won’t Oven Spring.
Create closed surface tension when making loaf or it won’t spring / Score the top of the loaf open or it won’t spring.
Wetter, dryer, salt/not, autolyse with/without yeast, water, milk, oil/no oil.
Bake @180c for a softer crumb, bake @220c for a better crust
I’ve followed this recipe to the letter
and it was heavy.
I’ve followed the lesson 1 on this site to the letter and had the same result, only far less tasty.
I’ve followed lesson 2 on this site, [mix,knead(10),rise(90),punchdown,knead(8),shape,prove(60),bake(220c/430f), This tasted better but was still heavy and moist-ish.
I’ve tried a few variations of each recipe. Baking longer. Baking @ a higher heat for the first 5 mins, scoring the surface of the bread, kneading harder/softer, rising more/less, letting it rise outside in the tropical 33c heat of Nth Australia, letting it rise in a 21c air-conned room. I’ve tried a fairly logical procession of variables and still I cant get fluffy white bread.
I remember that back in 1994 [the last time I baked a lot] I once accidentally made the perfect loaf of bread. And I was never able to figure out how/why and replicate it!
I’m using really high quality organic baker’s flour [11.4%p], ‘fresh’ granulated instant yeast, organic panella[evaporated pure cane sugar], and aluminium free seas salt.. With the weekend upon me im going to bake another time tonight [although I’m at a loss to what I could do differently] and at the same time create a water+flour autolyse to leave in the fridge all night and bake with in the morning. I’m going to use bottled water tonight [in spite of my gut feeling that my yeast is fine with it as the dough rises robustly with the tap water I’m using], cos it’s about the ONLY other thing I can think of.
Anyone have any ideas or troubleshooting to suggest?? My lack of success is starting to dishearten me.