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Troubleshooting Bread Baking Failures

In days past, a person wanting a loaf of freshly baked bread had to go through an excruciatingly long process. This process of bread baking included mixing, kneading, rising and baking which took several hours of careful monitoring and execution. After all of the hours of prep aration, inadequate attention to detail could result in a failed loaf of bread. With the advent of the invention and mainstreaming of bread machines, the fuss of bread preparation was reduced dramatically. No longer did one have to do the manual labor that was required of bread making. A well-designed bread machine allowed the bread to now be mixed and baked with no further assistance from the baker than putting the ingredients in the pan. Even with all the technological advances in the bread-baking process, instances in which the bread that is baked in a bread machine is not successful will arise. Also note that these suggestions below can be applied to baking bread by hand as well. Baking the perfect loaf of bread can be challenging. Bread can be tricky to bake at the best of times. While it is some ways a very simple food, it actually takes quite a bit of practice to turn out a great looking and tasting loaf. Along the way to gaining that experience most bread makers will encounter their share of failures and disappointments.



While failure is the a natural part of the bread making learning experience, we want to help you keep those to a minimum. Here we will be troubleshooting bread baking failures that most commonly occur. No matter whether your loaf is over-proofed, un-scored or just plain misshapen we have the answer for you.

Loaf is Too Dense

If the bread loaf is too dense or heavy, this could be a result of not using enough water. Not having enough liquid in the bread mixture can result in a texture that is dense and thick like a pound cake. On the other hand, too much flour could have been used as well. Using too much flour or using heavier textured flours like whole-grain flowers can make the bread loaf too dense. Substituting a bit of bread flour, which is flour made for optimum functioning in a bread machine, can make the difference.

Loaf Does Not Rise

So you have baked your loaf but the end result was less than spectacular. If your loaf didn’t rise properly here are few possible reasons why.

If the bread loaf refuses to rise whatsoever, the first thing to check is the amount of yeast used in the recipe. The yeast is the primary agent in promoting the expansion of the bread during the rising process. Not using an adequate amount of yeast will result in a flat loaf. If the proper amount of yeast was used, then the issue could be old or expired yeast. Yeast is a living organism and should be as fresh as possible for the best results. Always be sure to check the expiration date on the yeast package and remember to store your yeast in a dark cool place. One other possibility is that the yeast were killed from the liquid being to hot. Alternatively the yeast many not have grown is the temperature was to cool. Ideally, eggs and any liquid’s  should have a temperature between 70-90 degrees F. Although it does not happen very often, a bad batch of flour can also be the culprit!

Having the right amount yeast is one of the most common problems. You should also check that the yeast isn’t too old or weak. This is sometimes the case if you are using yeast which has been stored incorrectly. This problem might also occur if the water temperature was too hot and thus killed off the yeast.

Yeast needs to water to work it’s magic. If there is too much sugar in the dough it can use up the water, not leaving enough left over for the yeast. Having too much salt in the recipe can slow down the yeast or in some cases destroy it all together. Make sure to check carefully that you are using the correct amount of salt in your recipe.

In some cases you may left the dough for too long. In this case the yeast will have run of energy. The end result is a loaf which rises up slightly but not to the level you would expect. When baking bread you want to avoid having the loaf rise for too long. If you have left the dough to rise for too long then you should knead the dough once again. This can give the yeast the ability to find new nutritional sources and allow the gases to build up once again.

During the few minutes of baking the yeast will go through a period of intense activity. But if the temperature in the oven is too hot then this interval may be too shot. This reduces the amount of time the yeast is active and the gases that are released. In essences the yeast dies off before it is able to provide the gas need to have the loaf rise.

Top Of Loaf Is Sunken Or Collapsed

If the bread rises and looks fine except for a sunken dent at the top, too much liquid in the recipe could be the problem. However, if the appropriate amount of water was used in the recipe, it could be a physical issue such as the bread pan being too small for the amount of dough. If the dough reaches the lid, then it can often result in the bread collapsing before the baking process. Opening the lid can also result in a sunken loaf similar to a cake that falls when the oven door is opened.

Loaf Is Shorter Than Usual

Using heavier flours like whole-grain and all-purpose flour often results in a shorter loaf than normal. These flours are naturally denser and therefore created denser bread textures. Another reason for a shorter loaf could be from not enough yeast in the recipe. As well, not enough sugar in the recipe can also cause this problem.

Bread Has Risen Too High

This can happen if too much yeast is used . Salt helps to prevent the yeast from being too active.

You can have too much of a good thing, and baking bread is no exception. When a loaf expands too much it can change the texture of the crust or cause it to overflow the pan. The end result is a loaf that is misshapen and doesn’t taste as good as it could.

One of the most common causes of this problem is starting to baking the dough before it had finished punching properly. You need to make sure that the yeast has almost run its course before the dough is baked Another cause of this problem is that the there is too little salt in the recipe. Salt controls the activity yeast. Not enough salt in the recipe and the loaf can quickly get out of control.

Bread Is Gooey Or Undercooked on the Inside

This can happen if the dough is too wet. To correct this add a few tablespoons of flour during the kneading process.

Bread Has Too Many Air Holes

Either too much water or too much yeast will cause this type of problem.

The Crust Of The Loaf Is Too Dark

A dark loaf is one of the most common problems when baking bread. You will also notice that the crust is too thick as well. While some people prefer a darker and thicker crust, you don’t want to be producing one by accident. This one can’t be fixed once the damage is done, but at least you will know better for next time.

The most important factor is how long you leave the loaf in the bread machine. Removing the bread as soon as it is done should cure this problem. If not, try using bread flour as it contains more gluten and this should give your dough more rise and a thinner crust. Unfortunately, some bread machines are more prone to this problem so you may want to try a different bread machine.

Also, try a lower crust color setting. Many bread machines allow you to pick between light, medium, and dark crust. If your machine lacks this setting, try selecting the “Sweet Bread” setting which should reduce the bake time slightly. Reducing the amount of sugar in your bread will help as well. If all else fails, you can remove your bread three to six minutes before the bake cycle finishes.

Another typical cause of a crust which too dark and too thick, is baking at too high a temperature. Make sure that you carefully check the temperature of the oven before you start baking. If you continue to have problems you may need to recalibrate the oven.

In some cases you may find that the crust is dark but only on the bottom of the loaf. In this case you may have placed the rack too close to the bottom of the oven. Next time you are baking don’t forget to move the rack up a little higher.

Some of these problems can be avoided with a little intervention during the baking process. If you notice that the loaf is turning dark on top, then place a sheet of aluminium over the loaf. If on the other hand, you notice that it is the bottom of the loaf which is darkening, then move the loaf to a higher rack and place a new sheet under it.


The Crust Is Too Light

The reverse of the problem of a crust which is too dark, is of course a loaf which ends up with too light a crust. Here is how you can go about remedying that problem.

The first thing to look at if you have a crust which is too light is the temperature inside of the oven. If the temperature is too low, the end result can be a loaf which is a little light of appearance. If that’s not your problem, then consider the age of the dough. If the dough is too old then the crust won’t brown properly.

Sugar plays its part in the reaction which leads to browning. Recheck the recipe and make sure that you are adding the requisite amount of sugar.Adding more sugar to your recipe will make your bread brown more on top. If you are using a bread mix, start by adding one-fourth teaspoon of sugar to the mix. You can add a little more the next time if this doesn’t work. You should start with about two teaspoons of sugar per two cups of flour and increase in small increments from here. You can also try adding molasses instead of granulated sugar. Small loaves will tend to brown better than larger loaves. On glass-topped bread machines, covering the top with aluminum foil can help the bread brown more as well. Using milk instead of water will usually produce a slightly darker crust.

Flour On Side of Finished Bread Loaf

This is simple to fix by temporarily stopping the kneading cycle and scraping the flour off the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Take a close look at the sides of the pan toward the very end of the kneading cycle. If there is still flour on the sides, you’ll need to scrape the sides again. You could also try pre-mixing your ingredients so the flour would already be wet before you add it to the bread machine.

Bread Has a Rancid Taste

Whole grain flours, such as wheat germ, will sometimes turn rancid if stored at room temperature, particularly if you live in a hot climate and allow your home to warm up. Trying storing your whole wheat flours in airtight containers in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. Likewise, try to buy your whole grains at stores that keep them refrigerated. Refined white flour can be stored at room temperature without turning rancid.

That should help you trouble shoot some of the most common problems you are likely to encounter when baking bread. But don’t worry if your bread doesn’t turn out perfect the first – or second, or third – time. It’s all part of the process of becoming a master baker.


“By Allan Phinney”