The Fresh Loaf

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From the UK - First mixer-kneaded loaf is a disaster... What have I done wrong?

breadpiglet's picture

From the UK - First mixer-kneaded loaf is a disaster... What have I done wrong?

Hello there,

I'm not completely new to bread making, as a couple of years ago I bought a copy of the River Cottage Bread handbook (I'm in the UK) and made most of my own bread for a period of about 6 months. It was mainly a wholemeal/white flour mix, and it was pretty good (though by no means brilliant).

However, I've just bought a Kenwood Chef with a dough hook, in the hope that it will do most of the kneading for me, and I used it for the first time yesterday. I used a recipe from the River Cottage book, so it's not a recipe I haven't used before. However, the bread was a disaster--heavy like a brick--and now I'm wondering what I did wrong.

I used: (i) 500g (weighed) of Gilchesters Organics Stoneground Organic Unbleached White Strong Wheat flour (what a mouthful!) (ii) 1 level teaspoon of Doves Farm Quick Yeast (iii) 1 level teaspoon of salt (iv) half a teaspoon of olive oil, and (v) a little over 300ml of mixed water and semi-skimmed milk (about 75% water). I've just checked, and neither the flour nor the yeast are anywhere near their expiry dates (both some time in 2012). It's possible that the liquid was not quite as warm as it should have been.

I tipped the dry ingredients and oil into the Kenwood bowl and then added the liquid with the dough hook moving on the slowest setting. When all the liquid was in I thought the dough looked rather dry, and so I tipped in a good slosh more milk. After that I allowed it to knead on setting 1 for 10 minutes. The Kenwood book said 5, but I thought a bit longer might help. Could be that was one of my mistakes...

I found that the dough soon wrapped itself round the hook in the bowl, and would be greatful for any advice on whether that should happen because I wonder whether it didn't get a proper kneading as a result. It could be that I will need to calibrate my Kenwood (have heard tell of such things with the whisk) to ensure that it's sitting low enough in the bowl.

After 10 minutes I switched off the Kenwood and lifted up the dough hook. I felt the dough, and to my non-expert fingers it still seemed a little dry. However, not so dry that I could say that it was clearly wrong. I pulled off a very small piece and tried to stretch it out to make a window, but it was nothing like elastic enough to do that. I decided to press on, though, and see what happened.

I left the dough to rise in the Kenwood bowl (covered with clingfilm) for what was in the end about 7 hours. It was quite a cold day here and so after a few hours I even turned the heating on to try to perk it up. It really didn't rise in the way that my dough normally does, though. Eventually I concluded that it wasn't going to rise any further (I'd guess it was approximately 70% larger than immediately post-kneading) and so I followed the Kenwood instructions to knock it back by using the dough hook on minimum setting for about 45 seconds. I then turned it out onto a lightly floured surface, gave it a couple of little kneads to get a feel for it (it was very cold), shaped it, placed it in a proving basket and left it to prove.

This time it did rise noticeably, and about 90 minutes later I baked it. I've recently moved house and haven't yet replaced the oven. The oven is not reliable on temperatures and so I use a hanging temperature gauge. I put it into the oven at about 220 degrees for 10 minutes and then turned the oven down and left the bread for another 35 minutes.

When it came out it was very heavy. This morning it's like the proverbial brick. The texture is very dense. I've cut it in half through the middle and I think it is cooked all the way through. It just doesn't seem to have risen properly, though.

I'd be very grateful for help on what I've done wrong. I suspect my liquid wasn't warm enough, but presumably the fact that I left it for about 7 hours to rise should have got round that (if I'm right in thinking that the warmth is just to give the yeast a head start). I still think there wasn't enough liquid, but I'm not sure why that should be given that I've used that quantity of liquid with that amount of flour before. This is a new flour to me, though, so perhaps that could have been part of the problem...? Also, how long should I have kneaded with the dough hook? The Kenwood book suggested just 5 minutes with the dough hook, but I did 10. What is correct? Could I have over-kneaded? Or under-kneaded? And those of you who use dough hooks--do you then continue the kneading by hand before leaving the bread to rise?

As mentioned above, most of my bread has been a mix of white and wholemeal flour in the past. I did once make a 100% white loaf, though, with stellar results. Clearly it was a fluke! I had to leave it to rise for ages and ages, but when I got it out of the oven it was perfect: crispy crunchy crust with soft white inside. So I know it can be done, even by me :)

Please advise if you can, and thanks in advance for any help. Sorry for the very long post, but I didn't want to leave info out in case it was important.

Edited to add: Doh... I was thinking that the flour I used was strong white bread flour. Now that I re-read the name (Gilchesters Organics Stoneground Organic Unbleached White Strong Wheat flour) it occurs to me that perhaps it's actually wholemeal. I have to say that I sometimes find flour descriptions rather confusing. If it's not actually strong white bread flour, could that have contributed to the heaviness of the loaf?

Edited to provide photo links: I've tried to post photos but failed. However, there are two (one of the crumb, and the other of the whole loaf) on these Photobucket links.

Mebake's picture

It is strong white flour alright, BreadPiglet! A high protein flour that needs more water, as it contains more protein, and more kneading to develop the gluten within.

I wouldn't blame the yeasts, nor the temperature of fermentation, nor any other factor for this matter. The pictures you posted do suggest a dry, underdeveloped dough. Persevere, though, and try with more water next time. The final dough consistency should be quite on the wet side. Water to flour ratio should be 68 - 75% for such strong flours.

Finally, you shaping skills need practice. You need to form a smooth silky film of dough, and make that your loaf top, tucking all the seams under it. here is a link to a blog of mine illustrating boule (ball shaping).

What type of oven do you own? Do you steam your oven?


breadpiglet's picture

Hi there, and thanks for helping :)

Ahaa! I understand now about the dryness of the dough. Next time I'll use half the quantity of flour (in case of further disaster) and experiment with liquid to aim for quite a wet dough. Part of the reason I'm hoping the dough hook will help is that it's meant to be good for wetter doughs.

Thanks for  posting the link to your blog on how to shape properly: I'll definitely have a go at following the instructions. Yesterday I used an oval proving basket (the first time I've used a basket), and I didn't slash the loaf as I  normally would. It was already clear to me that things weren't going well, so I was really just keen to get the dough into the oven and see what came out.

My oven is just an electric oven which is part of an old range cooker (i.e. a gas hob with an electric oven). It came with the house and I'm going to replace it in the course of the next few months with something reliable for temperatures. I have to live with it at the moment, though, which isn't easy! If you think that bread looks dodgy, you should have seen my roast pork! *g* Incinerated...

I do normally steam the oven for bread but I didn't yesterday.

Thanks again for helping.

Chuck's picture

... I've recently moved house ... a gas hob with an electric oven ...

It sounds to me like you're very lucky. A gas cooktop is nicer than electric because it can get hotter, can get hot faster, and especially because it responds instantly (rather than only a couple minutes later) to turning the knob down. Gas home ovens though tend to not be so good at broiling, and tend toward larger temperature swings, so an electric oven is thought nicer. The combination of gas cooktop and electric oven seems the very best for the home   ...unfortunately they tend to cost a lot both to buy and to install. Most of us have to choose either all-gas or all-electric, and so have to live with either a good-but-not-great oven or a good-but-not-great cooktop. But you currently don't; it may be worth trying fairly hard to save your stove rather than just replacing it.

... The oven is not reliable on temperatures ...

"Not reliable" as in a) pre-heats to "some" temperature  ...but often nowhere near the one you set? or b) takes forever to pre-heat? or c) the "oven pre-heat is now ready" indicator is so far off it can't be used? or d) the oven cools back off so quickly it's on most of the time? or e) the temperature is fine at 175C, but the temperature varies up and down wildly at 250C? The oven may need either its temperature control or its vent insulation replaced. A repair may cost only hundreds of dollars (still not cheap, I know:-) rather than the thousands a new stove would cost. Maybe it's worth letting a good appliance repairman check it out before deciding the only reasonable course of action is to "replace it".


(BTW, "baking stones" generally screw up the "pre-heat is done" indicator. If that's the issue, it has very little to do with your oven, and replacing the oven probably won't fix the problem. The only kludge I've heard is to start a timer when turning on the pre-heat, note the time when the oven indicator says the pre-heat is done, turn on the timer for that long a second time, then treat the timer going off as the real "pre-heat is done" indicator.)

lumos's picture

Another thing. Try using instant active dry yeast; A sort that comes in small foil suchets in a cardboard box, like this) . Some manufacturers call it 'Easy Blend Yeast' or 'Easy Bake Yeast' these days.  It's much easier to use (no need for pre-fermentation before you mix with flour) and so much more reliable.  Also it has less of that distinctive, sharp yeasty smell. 

rocketbike's picture

Dove Farm Quick Yeast is instant active dry yeast.  It's generally sold in a 125g pack and is a cheap, convenient way of buying the stuff.

The Dove Farm product is of good quality;   kept in its packaging in an airtight container in the fridge, it will last at least 6 months.


breadpiglet's picture

Hi there, and thanks for clarifying re: the yeast.

I may have made a mistake, though, because it's probably more than 6 months since I opened the packet and I haven't kept it in the fridge (although I did re-seal it). Perhaps I'll buy a new packet of yeast before trying again.

Chuck's picture

> ... the yeast [isn't] anywhere near [it's] expiry date ...

If you're trying to pinpoint a problem, "prove" your yeast rather than paying attention to the "expiry date".

"expiry date" is an awfully simple-minded concept that yeast thoroughly befuddles; that date on yeast packets is little more than a feel-good exercise.

I've had unopened refrigerator-stored yeast packets still work just fine _years_ after the expiry date had passed. On the other hand, yeast that gets either hot or moist will go kaput _long_ before the expiry date.

An opened packet that wasn't stored in the refrigerator is _highly_ suspect.

Whenever I open a package of yeast, I transfer the whole thing to a screwtop (i.e. airtight) jar, and then keep that jar in my refrigerator. (At least here in the U.S., those little yeast "packets"/"sachets" are much much more expensive than buying yeast in larger quantities [_ten_times_ the cost:-], so finding a good way to buy yeast in larger quantities yet also store it well is a priority. Transferring it to a jar [I use an old peanut-butter jar] in my refrigerator is what has worked for me.)

breadpiglet's picture

Thanks for this. I'll buy a new packet of yeast and keep it in a jar in the fridge, as you suggest. I had a second go with the same flour and yeast but more water yesterday, and I had the same rising problem. At that stage I concluded that there's very probably a problem with the yeast.

Salilah's picture

I'm not an expert by any means (!) (see my cowpats on the blogs)

I do use the Kenwood Chef with a dough hook - but usually for the more liquid doughs e.g. ciabatta.  Otherwise I tend to handmix and then use a low-knead / mix of stretch and folds.  However 10 mins in the chef does sound like quite a long time, even on 1?  On the other hand, you say you were not getting the windowpane which is usually an indicator of needing more kneading...

The only other thoughts I had were

a) it's quite a low hydration recipe, so I would expect it to have quite an even crumb

b) the photo looks very pale - which might be overproofing?

No ideas otherwise, sorry!


breadpiglet's picture

Hello, and thanks for helping.

Interesting that 10 minutes in the Chef sounds like too much to you. I'll go for 5 minutes next time.

I'm pretty sure that lumos's first comment got to the heart of the problem, though i.e. I think I didn't add enough liquid.

It could also have been overproofed. I noticed just as I was sitting down to my supper that it seemed to have filled the prooving basket, but I waited another hour (supper plus something on television) before I put it in the oven. Having said that, my camera skills are not good enough for the picture to be a reliable representation of the colour of the crumb.

I said this was my first Kenwood-kneaded loaf, but in fact that's not quite true. I tried one of those packets of ciabatta mix available at All Good Supermarkets two days ago (on the recommendation of a friend) and kneaded it with the Kenwood. I made rolls, which came out quite well. I said this was my first Kenwood loaf because using the packet felt like cheating, so this was the first 'real' loaf.

May I ask whether your dough tends to cling in a ball to the dough hook when you use your Kenwood for kneading? Because mine clung to the hook yesterday I'm a bit concerned that it may not have been kneaded properly. I don't think that happened with the ciabatta mix, which was much looser.

Salilah's picture

I don't use the Kenwood very often - usually only with a pretty wet dough - as I find it easier to mix in a plastic tub then do the "stretch and fold" a few times (you can see loads of advise on stretch & fold, just search)

When I do use the mixer, then yes quite often it is a lump on the hook; softer doughs will sometimes stick to the bottom with a lump on the hook; if you read the thread about Jason's Cocodrillo Ciabatta you'll see that sometimes the dough makes a bid for freedom up the hook and into the mechanics (!!)

How did it work for a different yeast?

lumos's picture

Trying to judge the level of fermentation by the size of the dough can be sometimes misleading.

With the bulk fermentation (=the first fermentation), if a few large(-ish)  air pockets appear on the surface, that's usually when your dough is fermented enough. If you use a transparent container (like a glass bowl or a plastic container you can see through inside), you can see a lot of bubbles in the dough, all through to the top.  That's when those largish air pockets start appearing to the surface AND that's when the dough is ready to go the next stage.

With the final proof (=the second fermentaion), I find a finger-poke test is the most reliable way to judge the readiness of the dough to be baked.  You either sprinkle some flour (semolina is the best, if you have,  because it doesn't stick) on top of the dough or wet your finger so that the dough won't stick when you poke it, and you make a 1 - 1.5 cm dent with your finger tip.  If the dough bounce back immediately the dough needs more time to proof. If it slowly recovers up to a half of the depth, it is ready to be baked. If it doesn't recover at all, sorry, you've over-proofed. 

Also, by going through many posts on this forum, I think you'll find a lot of people here prefer gentle "stretch & fold by hand in the bowl " to more conventional kneading method (either by hand or machine).  It's partly because it's easy way to develop the gluten, but also less oxidation will give you better flavoured bread. 

breadpiglet's picture

Many thanks: lots of useful advice there. I'll buy a large Pyrex bowl, I think, so that I can keep an eye on what's happening during the bulk fermentation.

Thanks in particular for the tip on how to test the final proof for readiness. I've never had any real idea of how to know whether it's ready or not, and will definitely try your finger-poke test.

What you say about 'stretch and fold by hand in the bowl' is very interesting. Can you tell me what you mean by that? I saw a friend make a sourdough loaf last year when I stayed for a weekend, and he did the kneading in a bowl as we were talking. I was fascinated, as I thought the traditional kneading on a table top was the only way. His loaf was great, though. Is his method what you're referring to?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think your problems, as you already explained, is with dough moisture.   Yeast needs moisture to work and if the dough is too stiff and dry, the yeast will take a long time.  I actually use this concept to store and slow down sourdough starters for months.  It will slow a normal 8 hour fementation to about 2 days at room temp of 23°C.    :)    

breadpiglet's picture

Thank you :) Sounds like moisture was definitely part of the problem.

Graid's picture

Hrmm.. I'm from the UK, and I've never used anything BUT strong flour, and yet I have not found that my dough is ever dry- in fact it's more often that I find the opposite. Nowadays I'm sometimes even using 'very strong flour' and I don't have that issue. . If I use the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes recipe, my dough turns out like a puddle more often than not (still tastes decent but refuses to be shaped!). Presumably the brand of flour you're using has something to do with it. 300ml for 500g of wholemeal flour sounds exactly right to me, and in fact, I would expect the dough to be tacky and moist at that ratio, not dry. 


However, obviously if your dough does seem over dry then there is something up. You will get to know after a while by the feel whether or not a dough is too dry.


Was it a new load of Dove's yeast though? Even though as someone else mentioned, it's supposed to be storeable in the fridge for a long time, it was my experience that the potency of the yeast decreased over time- I once ruined a loaf by using it, and since then, I've used those tiny little sachets instead, as at least then I know they're always going to be at the same level of strength. 


When baking bread using the sort of methods you read about in ordinary bread books as opposed to the more artisan long fermentation way, baking the bread the same day, I use 1 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and use a rising time of 1 hour 40 minutes, though I usually put it in a slightly warmed oven to do the proofing.  


breadpiglet's picture

Many thanks. I think the yeast may no longer be active, so I'm going to buy a new packet and try again.

What you say about using a slightly warmed oven for proofing is interesting, as it's so cold here during the winter that it's difficult (or impossible) to find a warm spot in the house without putting the heating on, which seems a little OTT for bread-making. How warm do you make the oven? Can the same method be used for the first rising?

Graid's picture

A shame about the yeast but hopefully next time round there will be better results. You can indeed use the oven for both stages of rising. You don't want the temperature in the oven to exceed 40C as it will kill the yeast, and since most ovens start at a temperature higher than that (mine starts at about 90C), what you do is basically put it on at its lowest setting for a short time only. I can't be precise about the time and it would depend on your oven, but you want the metal of the oven racks to be slightly warm but not hot. I typically insulate the bread from the rack of the oven with a cork table mat (I assume any sort of pot rest/insulating mat thing would do the trick for this) , because even though I turn the oven off before it gets hot, a certain amount of heat builds up over time and this can make the dough get rather too warm. 


This of course is bread making the quick way rather than necessarily the best tasting way, and people round this forum tend to be of the opinion a longer rise- for example via refrigeration, improves it. I have generally found it so myself that there's more flavour to bread dough kept in the fridge for a few days.  

jak's picture

Just to confuse matters and to keep this thread going I would comment that I have used a Kenwood Chef Major for about 9 months now to knead my bread.  I initially had similar results to those mentioned aboved using it on the minimum speed settings as advised by Kenwood. I then came across a thread on another forum which advised cranking the machine up until it the dough is spinning free of the dough hook slapping the sides of the bowl such that the machine is virtually walking across the counter top.  I tried this, with some trepidation, and was so impressed with the results I now use it as my principal means of kneading.  My sourdoughs are typically in the 75% range so quite sloppy but 3 minutes on nos  1 followed by two minutes on or near to nos 2 yields a well worked dough with plenty of spring.  Still needs careful handling and I tend to bench fold for another 1 to 2 hours on an oiled surface to get strength into dough.

I very rarely bother to hand knead now and use the Kenwood in this manner for all manner of breads as shown in attached pics - first shows the result of a busy session producing plain white sourdough, olive bread and rye with fennel.  The other pics are of a sourdough loaf finished half an hour ago and the remnants of a three day old sourdough showing the typical crumb (this was a particularly wet mix nearer 80% and accidently kneaded for approximately 15 minutes).  The last pic is today's loaf partially devoured for breakfst.  These are all sourdoughs.  I never utilise commercial yeast as there seems, in general, little need and it allows a more relaxed baking process with 5 to 48 hours rises suit me fine - although I admit it could assist in lightening the rye.

With respect to kneading times I have experimented in extending the knead using two 4 minute sessions at the speeds mentioned above with no significant variation in rise or crumb.  I am using a Kenwood Chef Major and restrict the mix to just over 1 Kg.  I tried mixing the maximum weight Kenwood quote using their speeds but found the dough tended to climb up the central drive making a total mess of the machine and the drive mechanism.  I found it is possible to mix larger quantities of dough if you physically control the dough from rising up the shaft but based on experience now prefer to undertake kneading in 1 kg batches as it is so fast - tend to do make two 1 kg batches retarding one in fridge for 48 hours to form into a loaf when the other is virtually finished.

I would be interested to hear what other's experience have been using the Kenwood Chef.

jak's picture

Interesting video Andy.  Took me a while to get around to view it as my daughter in law has just had twins and I am on a 24 hour support rota.  I am new to the Kenwood and my main concern is avoiding over-kneading.  If I recall correctly Kenwoods advise limiting machine speed to minimum setting but I wasn't convinced it was adequate.  Hence my web search and subsequent use of higher speed.  Limit my speed to 2 max and only use that briefly.  I would be very wary about using 4 and certainly not for such a long period as shown on the video.  Having said that the pizza dough does look good.

My everyday loaf is a 75% sourdough using a mix of Bacheldre organic white flours purchased via Amazon.  I was using Shipton Mills but have not been in their locality for a while and delivery costs are not insignficant.  I intend to do a test using Dan Leppard's no-knead technique when I get time  and will compare that with the Kenwood product.  Doubt this will happen this side of Xmas as  my other daughter in law is about to deliver in the next few hours.  Three young grand children will eat into my bread-making time in a big way.