Baking is fun, especially if you happen to be good at it. Tasting your self-prepared bread and having others enjoy it can be fulfilling for the soul as well as the tummy.
But one thing that bothers old and new bakers alike is how uncertain the outcomes of the baking process are every time. You could’ve sworn you followed the same process as last time and ended up with a different bread texture. Don’t worry, as we have all the answers.
We’ll go through troubleshooting, diagnosing, and finding solutions to some of the most common problems in baking bread. Please stick with us so your next baking adventure is successful.
Troubleshooting Problems with Bread
Bread is as simple as the food gets. Neutral flavour, rich taste, the right amount of calories, and strong pairing with innumerable food items make it one of the common edibles globally. But its simplicity doesn’t mean it’s easy to prepare it. It takes practice to perfect the art of baking bread, but once you’ve put in your hours, it’s a treat.
A simple loaf of bread has two main components; gluten-network and yeast. Gluten defines the structure of the bread, whether it’ll be rounded oval or pressed like a giant cookie. The gluten keeps the bread slowly rising during baking while maintaining its original structure.
On the other hand, yeast is what gives the bread its flavour. It releases gases during the baking process that results in the inflation of the dough, causing bubbles in the gluten.
To bake the perfect bread, you need to understand what an adequately proofed bread should look like, so you have a reference for your experiments.
The ideal/properly-proofed bread has the perfect balance between the above two mentioned components; gluten and yeast. Your loaf will turn out full, structured, and inflated to the max. Similarly, the flavour would be ideal and not too sharp or yeasty. Of course, some physical characteristics define the differences much clearly. Take a look at them below:
Crust: The crust of a properly proofed bread is slightly oval (almost dome-like) and is relatively darker. The bottom curves a little bit but not too much to make it look circular. The scoring marks should look open where the crust burst through during oven time. Additionally, the ideal bread stays crunchy for hours as it has porous blisters (plenty of them).
Crumb: The loaf’s insides (the crumb) are airy and have open pores evenly distributed along the surface. The bread receives enough aeration throughout the baking process if the pores are even. You’ll find no unincorporated flour, and the taste will be flavorful instead of yeasty.
Now that you know what adequately proofed bread needs let’s discuss the abnormalities. There are two main types:
Under proofed bread:
Looking at an under-proofed bread, you’ll find it more spherical, like half of a ball. This result is a common occurrence when you don’t score your bread before putting it in the oven. Additionally, you’ll find the crust burst open from the top, in most cases forming a webbed structure.
If you cut it open, you’ll see that the crumb part close to the crust is aerated enough and has pores. But the centre part seems dense and doesn’t feel well-baked, even after a considerable time of being inside a scorching oven.
Over proofed bread:
Over-proofed bread is flatter than the ideal one, expanding wider than it rose. The sides would seem almost perfectly aligned with the tray, suggesting the dough expanded across its surface. You won’t see burst scores on the surface of the loaf. Instead, you’ll find the fine lines diminished without a defined structure. The crust will also lose its crispiness soon after taking it out of the oven.
Diagnosing the Issues
Diagnosing these issues is easy, but you need a keen eye. Take a look at the details below:
In the case of under-proofed bread: If you bake under-proofed bread, you haven’t allowed the structural component of the bread to settle fully. The gluten network isn’t stable enough to effectively hold and expand with the gases. Instead, it’ll crumble, and gases will find an outlet from the weakest points. This burst of air is irregular and doesn’t conform to the ideal practices. As there’s not enough aeration, the centre of the loaf will stay soggy even after enough time in the oven.
Finding yourself in this situation is expected if you don’t or forget to score your bread. Since there is no passage for air bubbles to come out, they accumulate and burst through the surface.
In the case of over-proofed bread: If you bake over-proof bread, it may not hold up to high temperatures and lose its defining components. The gluten will over-relax and alter the size of the bread, while the dough will aerate more than needed. As there’s gas inside the loaf, the pressure will cause the bread to dampen and flatten out.
Additionally, the enzymes react and weaken the gluten structure at high temperatures while allowing yeast to lose its food supply. All these factors combine to affect the quality of your final product.
How to solve the most common problems?
Many characteristics define the authenticity of your bread, and identifying them is key to the diagnosing process. Luckily the texture, size, and other bread features can let you know what went wrong during the process. You’ll be able to tell if the temperature wasn’t right or your dough didn’t have enough aeration by studying the crust and crumb of your baked product. Once you have this information, you can improve your method next time.
We will discuss the two abnormalities separately to understand the solutions better.
In the case of under-proofed bread: If your loaf turned out to be under-proofed, you could try multiple fixes to get the right results. Here they are:
1. Strictly Follow Baking Instructions:
Suppose you’re baking bread that requires an hour of oven time for the bread to prepare. You have to ensure that you give it exactly the right amount of time and not any less. If you don’t rush, you’ll end up with a better result.
2. Manual Tests:
Although following instructions is key to making this process a success, your intuition counts significantly too. Examine the dough and let it proof for longer if you see it hasn’t risen enough. You can also move it to a warmer place or poke your finger in it to get a feel. If your finger leaves an imprint, you can immediately bake the dough. It is better to let the dough proof for a little longer if it doesn’t.
3. Score The Bread:
Scoring brings a sense of aesthetic to the baked bread and so much more. Even an under-proofed bread will have significant improvements if you score it appropriately. It won’t be perfect, but better still.
In the case of over-proofed bread: Don’t worry if you’re ending up with over-proofed bread. There are several solutions you can try to get ideal results.
1. Less scoring:
In the event of over-proofing, the bread already has a weak structure, unable to contain the gas pressure. If you score it excessively, it’ll weaken further and result in less than ideal bread. So make sure that you cut not so deep and slice as little as you can. If the dough has a significantly over-proofed texture, you can put it in the oven without scoring too.
2. Less Proofing:
If your attempt to proof bread is more often than not resulting in over-proofing, it is best to change your dough preparing time and temperatures. A good practice can be moving the dough to a colder place to prepare the mixture.
3. Use Cold Water For Mixing Dough:
Finally, you can mix your dough using cold water if the bread turns out over-proofed. This practice can come in handy when you don’t have solid control over the baking schedule and temperature.
If you’ve come this far in this article, you know the necessary details surrounding the troubleshooting of bread and fixing the many common problems. However, you still may have some critical queries that need answers. So we are listing some common FAQs to answer many of your doubts. Take a look:
How do I fix over-proofing bread?
Over-proofing the bread results from letting the dough proof for too long, resulting in air bubbles popping. The gluten loses its slightly rigid structure and collapses under the weight of internal air pressure. If you poke such a bread, it’ll not recover from the deformity and stay deflated. We suggested some valuable points in the above text on dealing with over-proofed bread that can help you out.
Is over-proofed dough bad?
The over-proofed dough has a lot more air pockets than regular dough. So when you put it in the oven, it becomes even more porous, compromising the structural integrity of the bread. Such structure will deflate quickly, and in the worst case, you can end up with an ill-shaped mess.
What happens when you under-proof bread?
Under proofed bread doesn’t have the optimum air passages, and since the gluten hasn’t become flexible enough yet, it will accumulate the air. Once there is enough pressure inside, the air bursts out from the weakest points making the texture irregular and unaesthetic. Scoring under-proofed bread excessively can aid you through the baking process.
How long should you proof bread?
Of course, many cultures have different rules, but ideally, a large batch of dough requires three hours to proof. Any longer than this time, and you’re stepping into dangerous territory. Two hours may be enough at times if you have a small batch. In any case, remember to proof your bread in a cool place.
Why did my bread turn out dense?
Dense bread is often a result of less kneading than necessary. If you weren’t able to knead for enough time, there wouldn’t be tension between the molecules of the dough mixture, causing it to become dense upon baking.
Can you let the bread rise three times?
Yes. You can let your bread rise three times if the loaf has enough yeast supply left. The sugars and starches in the yeast act as the rising agents, but they are usually low in quantity after the first two rises. However, you can add yeast to the bread in an optimum amount, so it doesn’t run out of food supply.
What is the best temperature to proof bread?
The ideal temperature for the dough is 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C, and the perfect temperature for peak yeast activity is between 75 to 95 degrees F or 23 to 35 degree C. If you’re getting a proofing box, make sure that you set the temperature as mentioned on the package or in the manual. Regardless, you can also use your intuition to determine when the bread is ready for baking. Poke and feel methods have been effective for centuries and have proven to be foolproof to check if the bread is proofed enough.
What happens if you don't let bread dough rise long enough?
The more you let the dough rise, the more it’ll lose its unique, aerated flavour that we all enjoy. If you let it grow long enough, you’ll end up with a dense mixture with little to no bubbles inside (almost cake-like).
Trying is the name of the game in baking. The more you try to achieve perfection in your baked good and how much you’ll practice, the many methods will make you better than you are right now. So don’t give up if your first few loaves don’t find the desired approval. It’s simple, yet complex and that’s the beauty of baking bread. You either see it as mundane and typical or become obsessed with baking the perfect loaf ever.
All in all, we wish you good luck in your baking adventures and hope this article helped you understand the necessary information you were searching for on the web. Practice, practice, and more practice! Cheerio!
Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.
This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!