5 Reasons Your Bread Didn’t Turn Out
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There is nothing like a loaf of homemade bread to make you feel like the boss of the kitchen. But sometimes that bread you’re working so hard on turns out to be a flop. It doesn’t rise, it’s heavy as a brick, its consistency isn’t what it should be. Here are five common reasons that your bread didn’t turn out.
(Don’t want to read all the words? This blog post is also a podcast—just press the triangle play button on the little black bar at the top of this post!)
1. Your bread didn’t turn out because the yeast you’re using is old/bad/expired.
Clearly, you need decent yeast to make a decent loaf of yeast bread. Without decent yeast, your dough will not rise and instead of a fluffy loaf of bread, you will have a brick of bread dough.
And if you end up with brick of bread dough, that sorta means your bread didn’t turn out.
There is some argument in the baking community about how long yeast will actually last. You can join in the argument, or you can just learn to check to see if the yeast you have is still good.
How to know if yeast is still good:
- Dissolve a tsp of sugar in a cup of warm water (110 degrees).
- Sprinkle some yeast over the water; it can be a whole envelope—2 1/4 tsp bulk yeast—but certainly doesn’t need to be that much.
- Stir the yeast into the water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
Your yeast should be foamy or bubbly after this amount of time. If the yeast isn’t foamy or bubbly or the water doesn’t look any different than when you first stirred it in, I’m sorry to say that your yeasties are, um…no longer with us.
Yeast can be kept in the freezer. I buy mine in bulk—because it is a huge cost savings over buying yeast in the little envelopes in the store—which means I usually have a few pounds of it in my freezer. Then when I run low, I pull another pound out of the freezer and put it in the yeast container I keep in the fridge.
2. The temperature of the water is wrong.
The water used in your bread recipe has to be the right temperature. When I started baking bread, I had a book that would state what the temperature of the water should be before sprinkling the yeast in it.
Yeah. Well. I would normally run my hand under the faucet until the water got warmish and say, yeah, that’s probably the right temperature.
Friends, what I didn’t realize was that it was always too cold. That’s why that bread didn’t turn out.
Truth is, unless you’ve been baking for a really long time, you generally can’t tell by feel if the water temperature is right. And even if you have been baking bread a long time, if your hands are cold, the water is going to seem much hotter than it actually is.
Use a thermometer. It only takes two seconds to find out the temperarture of the water, which is way more awesome than going through a whole recipe’s process, start to finish, to end up pulling a loaf out of the oven that is a flop.
On the other hand, water that is too hot isn’t good either. Take care of those little yeasties. If the water is too cold, they won’t wake up. Too hot, it’s like shoving them in a sauna.
Most bread recipes I’ve worked with want the water anywhere from 95-120 degrees. If the recipe doesn’t state the temperature, I usually shoot for a nice even 110 degrees.
Did I mention using a thermometer?
Hey. Use a thermometer.
3. You used the wrong amount of flour. That’s why your bread didn’t turn out.
Here is the thing about the flour measurements written in a recipe: they’re always just an estimate.
Bread baking is as much an art as it is a science. Hear me now when I tell you that when a recipe says it takes 8 cups of flour, it might take 5 cups and it might take 13.
Now there are terms tossed around like soft dough, moderately soft dough, stiff dough—which all have to do with the feel of the dough and the resulting consistency of the bread. Clearly, a soft dough is going to take much less flour than a stiff dough.
If you’re baking on a really humid day, for instance, it’s going to take more flour to get the same intended results as if you’re baking on a drier day.
The more you loaves of bread you bake and the more practice you get, you will learn to feel when the dough is ready for raising. And that’s not something you can really explain in a blog post or show on a YouTube video. You’ve just got to get in there, be willing to mess up a few loaves, and get lots of practice!
4 .You didn’t knead the dough long enough.
Another reason that your bread didn’t turn out could be that you didn’t work the dough for enough time before you let it sit to rise.
I remember the first time a recipe actually spelled out to me that kneading the dough should take no less than 8-10 minutes.
Y’all. Do you know how long ten minutes of kneading is?
Ten. minutes. of. kneading.
The dough needs to be worked in order to work. And while not all recipes require ten minutes of kneading—and will generally state if they only require minimal kneading—I find that most people don’t knead the dough long enough.
Set the timer on the stove, or put your earbuds in and knead through a song or two. Work the dough so it can work for you.
Let’s be clear here—Ma Ingalls was no wimp. Kneading dough is a workout.
5. It’s just bad luck.
Sometimes the bread just doesn’t turn out. There are recipes I’ve made for years that sometimes just absolutely flop. It could be kitchen gremlins. It could be a misalignment of the sun and moon. I don’t know.
Additionally, everyone seems to have a recipe (or two) that just won’t work for them. I can make bagels and breadsticks and pan rolls and bread bowls, but ask me to make anything that uses rye flour, and you’ll get nothing but a rock.
I can make crusty round loaves and baguette loaves and honey wheat sandwich bread, but challenge me to make my grandma’s overnight buns and I will burst into tears of frustration. I have the recipe. I’ve been over the recipe several times. And they never. turn. out.
Take comfort in the fact that we all have a recipe that just doesn’t work for us. That we’re always trying…and then tossing to the chickens or the pigs in frustration because it didn’t turn out. Again.
Also, take comfort that this means that just because one recipe hasn’t worked for you doesn’t mean that you are a failure at making bread. Try a different recipe.
Hopefully these tips will give you an idea of what to look at if you’re frustrated that your bread didn’t turn out. Do you have more bread baking questions? Post them in the comments!
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