The Fresh Loaf

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Troubleshoot my bread (newbie). Gelatin crumb vs. cooking times vs. inside temps = 'untasty loafs'.

mikeofaustin's picture

Troubleshoot my bread (newbie). Gelatin crumb vs. cooking times vs. inside temps = 'untasty loafs'.

So, last night, I tried another french loaf, but this time, incorporating some thoughts of how to fix my bread [proof longer, bake longer]. Here's the storyline...

-Bread flour (~500 grams)

-Water @ ~65%

-Salt @ 2% (table)

-Yeast @ 1% (active dry)

Hand kneaded for about 20 minutes by hand, (couldn't get a window pane). first proof at room temp ( ~75 degrees) for 45 minutes, punched and kneaded for 30 seconds. Let rise again for 1h 15min (total of 2 hours where it was a little more than doubled). Then shaped into french loaf being careful not to degas. Rise again for 1 hour (where it almost doubled). Now, when I talk about temps, let me say that I use some electronic equipment not ment for baking, so temperature is 'exactly' this temp. Loaf was then placed in oven on stone (with egg wash) at 375 for 50 minutes. At around 30-40 minutes into baking, the center was at 205 degrees. I kept baking until the 50 minutes were up (final inside temp was 209). Why? - in the next paragraph. This loaf was 'just o.k.'. Upon cutting into it, when the center cooled to 110 degrees, there were some minor 'wet spots' (again, in next paragraph).

Now, previous to this loaf, my dough would double in 45 minutes. I would shape, proof again for 45 minutes and toss in oven. When the center reaches 200, I remove and cool. This has always lead me to a what looks like a crumb that has not finished cooking, or, evaporating it's water, or even still in a 'gelatin' phase. It's a crumb alright, but it's a 'transaparant' or 'see through' crumb, and almost tastes like plane dough. Most good bread that I know of, is NOT transparant. SO my question is, since I left my [above paragraph] loaf in for 50 minutes, and the crumb came out ~almost completely dry (and tasted allot better than previous screw ups), why do documents show that the bread is done when the center is so-n-so degrees. I think the above loaf could have been even better if I left it in for another 10 minutes.

I can remember the very first loaf I baked. It was perfect! It has a very rich, buttery flavor without any butter... like a real good french loaf right out of the oven. It was probably a 2.5 hour TOTAL proof before bake. Taste was outstanding!!! But, that was before I started "learning" how to bake bread the right way [sheesh]. (I wish I could remember where that recipe was).


Is the 'gelatin' there because it need more cooking time? Or, just what the heck am I doing wrong.

pmccool's picture


Some questions and ideas that might lead to a diagnosis:

1. You mention that the dough did not windowpane after 20 minutes of hand kneading.  Had you been checking for a windowpane at intervals during the 20 minutes, or did you do a 20-minute knead and then check for windowpane?  If the former, then I'm really puzzled; especially since your formula specifically mentions bread flour.  If the latter, then maybe (although it seems unlikely) the gluten had gone beyond normal development and started to break down.

2. The 375 degree baking temperature seems very low for a hearth-style bread.  Many formulas start at 500, then drop to 450; or start at 450 and drop to 400.  It may simply be that even the prolonged baking time wasn't enough to offset the low temperature.  How much pre-heat time did you allow before placing the dough in the oven?

3. The 65% (compared to weight of flour, yes?) hydration also seems a bit low for a hearth-style bread utilizing bread flour.  Not sure why it would lead to a "gelatin" crumb.

4. While I don't suspect a connection between fermentation time and crumb moisture in your case, did you proof the active dry yeast in water prior to making the dough?  Are your kitchen temperatures lower now than when you made bread previously?

5. A lean bread like you describe should be done baking when the internal temp is between 200 and 210, so there doesn't seem to be any problem with you taking it out of the oven when it hit 209.  However, cutting into it when the internal temp was still 110 may have been premature.  I would expect the crumb to be softer and moister than it would be if fully cooled to room temperature.  Um, totally random thought: how far above sea level are you?

From where I sit, I'd guess that oven temperature is the largest contributor to the symptoms you describe.  You may want to look into the other variables to see if/how they might be affecting your outcome, too.  Best of luck.


demegrad's picture

It sounds like your pretty much doing everything right, with strange results.  I would suggest though baking at higher temperatures.  Pre-heat at 475F for 1 hour, lower to 450F after you have loading in the bread for 15 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 425F for the rest of the time the bread is in the oven usually about 30 more minutes for normal 1.5-2 pound loaves.  Baking time really depends on size and shape so these are just sort of guidelines.  Higher temps are good for creating a thick crust, I believe (not quoting) Alan Scott descibes bread that hasn't been baked at high enough temperatures as 'insipid'.  I would reserve the egg wash for non-artisan style loaves.  Also I admire your quest for perfection in that it sounds like you check temperature very often, but I have to recommend against this.  Poking holes in the bread will let out steam and the crumb suffers.  So try to hold back as much as possible.  Hope this helps and good luck


mikeofaustin's picture

My elavation is 600 Ft. (Austin, Texas).

Actually, the temp probe is a long 'wire' like sensor that is placed inside the bread and left there the whole time while baking, with very minimal intrusion (one toothpick size hole), and this alows me to keep the oven door closed. I also take another sensor 'wire' and have the sensor floating about 1 inch above the stone. This way, I can measure outside and inside bread temp. I was suprised to learn that my oven was 50 degrees hotter than the knob, and it cycles in a 50 degree window.

In case your wondering or have money to throw around, this is kind-of what I have.

The 'wires' are maybe 4 feet long with the 'tip' being the sensor. You can place them and leave them inside the bread, or whereever. I have no experience with the 'brands' on this page. Mine is actually much more expensive. These look like they would work fine though.

As far as the windowpane, yes, I was monitoring it every so often, this is what lead to the 20 minute knead before I gave up. The photo of the 'windowpane' in the BBA looks sooo very thin. I'm puzzled too. I'll keep trying.

I did preheat the oven and the stone was fully heated too (more electronic equipment). I will try to bake again at a higher temp AND a higher hydration and report back next week (leaving town for turkey day).

Thanks. -M


p.s. Yes, same kitchen temp.   and yes, yeast was developed in warm water first.

demegrad's picture

well mike I impressed, I myself am a MechE and appreciate having data even if its not absolutely necessary.  Anyway, I feel your troubles with the window pane test, though the window pane test works very well (only for dough made primarily of wheat flour), it does require the person to be comfortable performing it.  When I started baking I couldn't figure out this whole window pane thing.  I can't tell you exactly the problem your having, but I can share what mine was.  Basically when I would attempt to perform the window pane test, I would stretch the dough quickly and it would become thin, but would rip and tear, so I thought it wasn't good enough and continued kneading.  Here is my process.

1. Cut off a small golf ball sized piece of dough

2. Shape into a ball

3. Flatten the ball into a disc

4. Stretch the disc gently as if it were a tiny pizza crust, rotating it continuously in your fingers over the period of about 1 minute.

 For me, the window pane test became obvious and simple once I saw it done on a video on the internet.  It sounds like your kneading to long.  Not that to long is bad, just unnecessary.


JERSK's picture


    By French loaf do you mean baguette? A baguette doesn't need to cook that long though 209 degrees isn't too bad. A higher temp and shorter cooking time would do it fine say 450 for 20-25 minutes. Also, did you slash the dough? This is essential. No slashing and an egg wash might be trapping steam in the bread.I'd can the egg wash. It gives a glossy appearance, but with a delicate loaf you risk ruining it.Letting it cool to say 70 degrees would be better. 66% hydration is pretty much the standard for baguettes, so 65% isn't far off. I think bread flour may be a little too high protein for this and has a higher absorbtion rate so more hydration might help. I just use A.P. flour for baguettes. As far as no windowpaning. it seems unlikely you could knead too much by hand, though it's possible. Try kneading for a shorter period, 5 mins. Let it rest for 10-15 mins then knead for 5 or so more minutes. Relaxing the dough like this really helps gluten development. Also, instead of punching it down and kneading for 30 seconds or so, just deflate, stretch it out and give it the envelope fold. this will help the structure a lot. Have you tried doing a pre-ferment like a poolish? This helps flavor and structure a lot. I don't think 600 ft. altitude should effect things too much, but I'm not sure.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Lots of odd things going on here....

If you haven't gotten a windowpane in 20 minutes using bread flour, I have wonder about your kneading technique. At risk of tooting my own horn, you might check out the videos I put together at

One of the biggest issues I've seen with baking is not having an accurate thermostat, so the oven temperature was not what was expected. I suggest buying an oven thermometer at your local grocery store. Yes, I know you are using sophisticated electronics and I'm suggesting you use a $5.00 oven thermometer. That's OK... try a tool designed for the job at hand.

As to the translucent crumb, many people look for that in a bread and work hard for it. If you don't want it, that's OK, if you do, that's OK too.

On the taste front, I find that bread flour tends to produce breads with less taste than all-purpose flour. While the rise is not as exteme, the taste is often better.

As to altitude, I have lived in Austin, now I live in the mountains at 7,703 feet above sea level. Trust me, altitude is NOT an issue with your bread.

Your rise is a bit too fast. Your first, perfect, loaf rose a lot longer. I think 1% yeast is more appropriate for a fresh or compressed yeast than a dry yeast. I'd drop the yeast to around .4% and go for longer rises. Also, the second rise is usually around 1/2 the time of the first. which makes me wonder if it wasn't severely over risen.

A final suggestion... this is a baking lesson I have suggested to a number of people in the past, and those who have followed it have had excellent results.


There are a number of excellent bakeries in Austin. Pick a favorite loaf from one of them. Pick a loaf that is a bread you can get there regularly. I suggest a plain bread, not an olive fougasse or a jalapeno cheddar loaf - pick something simple. Take it home.

Once home, open a notebook to a new page and take careful notes.

Smell the bread. Feel the crust. Look at the color of the crust. Look at how the bread separates at the slashes. Look at how the color of the crust changes through the slashes. How many different colors do you see in the crust? Break off some bread. Smell the crumb. Feel the crumb. Taste the bread. Slice the other end of the bread and look at the crumb in a slice. Take careful notes.

Now, find a recipe for such a bread It doesn't much matter which recipe, it's just a starting point. Then make the bread. Once it has cooled completely (110 is NOT cool enough, the bread is still losing water vapor through evaporation), open your note book to a new page and take careful notes, asking questions like those above.

What is the most glaring difference between the two loaves? What could cause that difference? Make ONE change to your procedure and try again.

Repeat the process until you think you have the bread nailed. The goal is not to make a better bread than the bakery. You may do that several times in this process. Since you've taken careful notes, you can later replicate those loaves. The purpose of this exercise is to learn what different changes in your process make on the outcome of the process by duplicating the reference loaf of bread.

Now, go and buy another loaf of your reference bread. Repeat the dissection. Compare it to your latest loaf. Did you nail it? Or do you need a few more iterations of the exercise?

Through this exercise, you will learn what changes produce what results. Do you want more buttery taste? When you did THIS you got it. Do you want a more open crumb? That happened when you did THAT.


Mike of the Mountains