The Fresh Loaf

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Peasant bread fell flat

Possum-Pie's picture

Peasant bread fell flat

Hi all, Yesterday I was making peasant bread with 25% whole wheat flour 75% AP flour. I've made it before and had success. I used instant dry yeast, first proof was fine, the second took longer than expected. It was evening so I got the not-so-bright idea of draping the loaves in plastic wrap and putting in the fridge overnight to bake the next day. This morning they were completely flat like Naan. The plastic wrap failed to prevent dehydration. I took them out, spritzed them top and bottom with water, tucked the ends under and brought the sides under, and pinched to re-form loaves. They are currently in the oven with the light on and a half gallon of boiling water to humidify the dough again...Is there any hope? 


I'm relatively new to bread/roll baking and ALWAYS have trouble with my second rise not being right. I keep my house at 67 degrees F. so always have to put the dough in the oven or microwave with hot water to get a decent rise, but whatever I do, rolls/bread never puff up to anticipated hights and the bread/roll is always a bit on the dense side. 

If a recipe says rise 45 min or until doubled, It takes closer to 1 1/2 hours, and the final rise after shaping is never done in under 3 hours.  I used to use Active Dry yeast but recently switched to instant/breadmaker yeast to see if that helps (it doesn't). 

rondayvous's picture

Did your temperature change, it’s winter in my neck of the woods. 

Possum-Pie's picture

Update: It's winter here in south-central Pennsylvania also...I keep my house at 67 degrees F. so I do all my proofs in the oven with hot water.

The bread is a train wreck. I re-second-proofed it as I mentioned this morning and as of 3 1/2 hours, it barely puffed up to double so I decided to go for it. The problem is the bottom of the loaf was still wet from spritzing, and when I went to get it on the peel and then on the pizza stone it stuck, deflated, and stretched out into a baguette shape. Took it out, put it in a paper bag but the outer crust is still cement. the thicker parts are edible--the 24 hour total time it took to make seems to have imparted a good flavor!  The ends are so hard that my serrated bread knife barely could cut through...Guess I'll eat the fatter pieces and put the rest into the food processor to make bread crumbs.


Here is what it was supposed to look like:


Here is what it turned out like: (It's ok to laugh--after I cried I laughed --You see I cut a piece off and buttered brave!!!!


phaz's picture

If it doesn't rise as expected, wait till it does - however long it takes. More yeast, less yeast - whatever it takes to fit in the time frame. You'll have to play around a bit to get it right for the ingredients. Enjoy!

Possum-Pie's picture

Thanks for the tip...Part of the problem may be that as I kneaded it I noticed that stretch produced tearing dough rather than stretching dough. It may have needed a bit more hydration at the start. 

As I said, it did rise moderately but deflated far too easily with manipulation.  The gluten structure was my negligence in transferring the dough to the stone...

mariana's picture


You seem to be using ABin5 recipe for peasant bread.


 all-purpose flour : 3 c.

 rye flour : 1 1/2 c.

 whole wheat flour : 2 c.

 sea salt : 1 1/2 tbsp.

 water, warm : 3 c.

 yeast : 1 1/2 tbsp.


1. Mix yeast, salt, and water in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.

2. Mix in the flour. (Don't knead.)

3. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

4. Keep covered and refrigerate overnight, up to 2 weeks.

5. Dust surface of dough with flour and cut off a quarter to a half of the dough. Dust with more flour and pull the four sides of the ball underneath itself. Lightly form loaf and place on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel (or cutting board) for 40 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 400°F.

7. Dust dough and use a serrated knife to slash an "H" (or something) on the top.

8. Bake in oven for 50 minutes.

Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day


Well, what you describe in your story is what is supposed to happen. The recipe in ABin5  is designed to rise to the max only once and never, Zoe stresses it out, never rise as tall (or as quickly) again.

This recipe never develops strong and stretchy gluten (no kneading, no punching down as the dough rises) nor protects it from destruction, from degradation (it lets the dough collapse, gluten broken, so it will never rise tall again), and it has no sugar and a lot of yeast, so each consecutive rise will be slower and lower. There is no food for yeast in that dough.

In this recipe, you take the cold dough out, shape it and let it rest only for 40min at room temperature (67F is fine, no especially warm place is needed, nor wanted), for the dough to relax after shaping it (mostly relax and spread out a bit, it will not rise that much), slash and bake.

Essentially, what you saw was supposed to happen, this recipe is designed like that. This time, you let the dough rise and collapse three times and each rise was lower and slower, more gluten was destroyed and less sugar was left in the dough for the yeast to work fast.

This recipe works if you follow it. Additional rises, refrigerator proof, or very warm proof, or proofing until tall and fluffy won't work with that recipe.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'd just let the dense loaf dry out and let one of our four legged friends have a tasty bread bone to knaw on. You are more apt to break equipment trying to make crumbs out of it.  And this comes from my experience both with woofies and kitchen equipment. 

If you still want to try eating it and can manage to cut it up (please wear protective hand gear)  try soaking the chunks in soup or a broth.  Kinda like dumplngs.

When completely dry and no woofies, think of it as wood and toss it into the wood stove to get some heat out of it.

 If you've got someone around with time on their hands, let them mush up any soft parts of the loaf into modeling clay and make some tree ornaments.  A squirt of white glue into the stuff does wonders.  

No wood stove or fireplace, thin soup or screaming kids? Chuck the darn thing and don't worry about it, the next loaf will be better.:)

Possum-Pie's picture

Thanks everyone for the comments. Firstly, I NEVER pay attention to how long to allow the dough to rise (double). For whatever reasons (temp of my house, quality of my yeast, etc. it always takes twice as long as the recipe says. I made rolls for Thanksgiving dinner which took 3 hours for the second rise after I put them in the pan. They were in an unlit oven with a half gallon of boiling water covered with cling wrap at about 98 degrees F. so temp wasn't the issue. I've noticed that the last 6 packets of yeast I purchased from Walmart were only 1 week from the expiration date. My wife bought them and didn't look at the dates so that may be part of the issue.  I proof ADY and instant yeast b/c of the inconsistencies in each packet. Last night I made homemade ravioli and baked a loaf of Italian bread to go with dinner and that loaf turned out wonderfully. 

I have kitties who are WAY pickier than dogs, so the failed peasant bread will be soaked in some water and fet to my chickens...they eat anything.

rondayvous's picture

I split the dough in half and try again, putting half in the fridge and half for the reattempted loaf. Once it's cooked ( I try not to bake dough that didn't rise properly) there are always things you can do with soaked bread

justkeepswimming's picture

That could be part of the problem. You might consider getting some SAF yeast. I thought a pound of yeast would be way too much, especially since I tend to bake sourdough more than yeast breads. I froze half of it and refrigerated the rest in  sealed glass jars. After a little over a year, I finished the refrigerated jar and am currently working on the previously frozen batch. It's still extremely active! I usually use a little less than what recipes call for, or the dough rises way too fast and too much. You can get it from King Arthur, Amazon, or multiple other online vendors. I have never seen it in grocery stores. 

Possum-Pie's picture

Thanks for the suggestion. I considered purchasing SAF yeast but other people warned me that it would go bad even if frozen...I would hate to spend $11 on yeast only to make a few items and find that it is dead. I'm glad to hear that your batch survived in the freezer for a year!!! 

I've tried Red Star, Fleishmann's, and Walmart brand generic yeast. It was hit-and-miss with all of them--some packets were foamy and wonderful, and others never bubbled at all. I'm pretty exact with water temp now that someone told me that that may be a problem...

One frustration with learning to bake is that one gets many (often contradictory) suggestions. Someone said never proof yeast in milk (though recipes say to do so) others tell me it's ok if the milk is scalded first (though others say that that is a myth.) I watched a respected YouTuber John Kirkwood demonstrate that a tin of ADY he purchased 4 months previously and opened then was dead after 3 months yet a tin he purchased at the same time but unopened was fine. Both were well before expiration.

I know from experience that envelope ADY does go bad even if in the refrigerator rather quickly--it is kept on a store shelf at room temp for weeks/months...and I've had packets still a month away from expiration which never proved in water/sugar.


rondayvous's picture

Part in the freezer, other in the fridge. If you’re worried sbout it, mix it with some of your water and a bit of flour to verify that it is alive before adding it to your dough.

Possum-Pie's picture


I've had difficulty with dense bread since I began baking bread. I bought "instant yeast" Walmart brand, and Bread four (13% protein) also Walmart brand. Up until now, I was using all-purpose flour and ADY. 

I baked a loaf of sandwich bread today and it was incredible. Don't know if it was b/c of the change to instant yeast (still proofed it) or bread flour, but it turned out great. 

I used this recipe:

430g  /  15.2 oz of  Strong White Bread Flour

245g  /  8½ oz  of  Warm Water  40°C / 104°F

  20g  /  1½ tbls  of  Vegetable or  Olive Oil

    7g  /  1 heaped tsp of Active Dried Yeast (I USED INSTANT YEAST)

    10g  /  1½ tsp of Kosher Salt or 8g / 1 tsp of Table Salt

    6g  /  1 tsp of Granulated Sugar


phaz's picture

With adjudstments (I'll leave that up to you) that should work just fine. Enjoy!