Troubleshooting and Baking the Perfect Loaf
The quality and the taste of the bread you bake will never be better than the quality and taste of the ingredients you use.
The key to great bread baking is great ingredients, correct proportioning and sound technique. You don't need to mortgage the farm for high tech ovens and equipment. Ingredients, proportioning and technique will get you there even with the most basic equipment.
The best quality flour will not produce a good loaf if you do not use the correct amount of water. Correct proportioning of yeast and water will not overcome the problem caused by a poor quality or unsuitable flour.
The use of great ingredients applies to the yeast, the flour or bread mix and other ingredients you may add such as fruit.
The difference between a good loaf and a disappointment can be as little as a single tablespoon of water too much or too little.
Flours ain't Flours on this web site tells you about differences in the quality and type of flours. At All About Bread, we pride ourselves on selecting only the finest ingredients.
Flours and Bread mix
You can't make a silk purse from a sows ear (even if you were that way inclined)
We select flours that will do the job every time. They have the taste and performance to produce gourmet quality that stand out amongst other breads and supermarket mixes.
Our bread mixes are preservative free and low in sugar and have no added fats. Most of our blends have no added sugars. The vast majority are dairy free.
We leave out all those listed and unlisted additives that are used as mould inhibitors and aids to high speed kneading. We use enzymes that are cereal enzymes rather than those from pork pancreatic acid that are found in many breads.
None of our bread mixes carry preservative 282 (Calcium Proprionate). A search of the web will identify many reports that cast a serious doubt on this ingredient and link it to triggering ADD behavious in children and the triggering or onset of migraine.
The absence of these additives and chemicals enables breads to deliver a better taste. When it comes to quality we expect to be able to taste it as well.
Having selected the right flour or bread mix the next item is the yeast. Instant yeast is ideal for bread machines and it is also easier to store and use in the home.
It is ideally used at the rate of 1% of the flour weight. This is 5 grams (approx 1 ½ teaspoon) per 500 grams of flour.
Yeast is a living organism and it has a limited life expectance. Similar in that respect to fruit and vegetable. It is best stored in the fridge. Store it cool and dry. Instant yeast loses its efficacy with time. It is not like milk which has a habit of going bad overnight or just after you have poured it into your coffee. (maybe its only me that happens to)
Yeast will progressively deteriorate and often bakers increase the amount to compensate.
Remember that for those people with a yeast intolerance we have other rising agents available.
Measuring water by volume (in jugs) can be unreliable. Even some of the more expensive glass jugs can prove inaccurate.
As little as a single tablespoon of water can make a very significant difference to a finished loaf. The best way of measuring water is by weight.
1ml of water weighs 1 gram.
320ml of water will weigh 320 grams.
Good quality electronic (battery) scales ensures your weights and dough textures are where they need to be. Properly proportioned.
The most common problem in home bread making, (especially in bread machines) is caused by disproportioning liquids and flour thus affecting dough texture.
There is a difference in water quality. Our labels reflect the use of Perth metropolitan scheme water. Rain water and filtered are soft water and generally require a little less than our labels indicate. A reduction of 15 ml to 20ml may be required. Hard water and bore water is generally harder and requires a slightly greater amount. Again the difference may be as much as 15 ml to 20 ml. The texture of dough is the tell tale sign.
There are several factors which play a part in baking the perfect loaf. Apart from the ingredients the technique is critical. When we test our bread mixes in the various machines and establish the quantities necessary to obtain the best result we are quite pedantic in our measurements.
Our labels provide the flour quantity in weight (grams) rather than cups because it is far more accurate and reliable a measurement. If you measure your flour or bread-mix by the "cup" instead of by true weight you will only achieve an approximation of the required quantity.
Three and a third cups of flour or bread-mix is often regarded as being the amount required for 500grams. A number of the Bread Machine manuals assert this and it is incorrect. Measuring by cup is is not always accurate and is certainly not the most reliable measurement.
Cupping from unsettled flour will give you less flour weight in a cupful than a cup of settled flour. This difference will significantly affect the result of the loaf. A cupful of some flours will weigh considerably more than a cupful of others. A cupful of wholemeal (not as fine a texture as white flour, will generally weigh less than white flour.
Grained bread-mixes will generally have a greater weight per cup than a white bread-mix. Consequently it is common to mis-proportion grained bread-mixes by adding insufficient water to the amount of flour.
A difference of only 10 to 15 grams per cup (weighing approx 160g) by three cups, will make a very substantial difference to your loaf.
The use of quality scales will eliminate the vast majority of proportioning problems in bread making. All About Bread carry a range of scales that are extremely cost competitive and are selected for suitability of their features and reliability.
They measure in 1 gram intervals with an excellent total weight capacity.
|Uneven top on loaf – Higher at one end, split crust, cracks on upper crust.||Too little water|
|Collapsed/sunken loaf, spiky lumpy or flat top to loaf|
|Soggy Crust||The loaf has been left in the bread making pan too long after the baking cycle has finished|
|Coarse Texture with holes|
|Undercooked loaf.||Too much water.|
|Damp, moist crumb of loaf||Too much water. Dough too wet|
In machines it is best to check the dough after 10 minutes kneading to ensure dough is soft and silky. Adjust with either flour or water if necessary. If using filtered or rain water reduce water quantities by 20ml from those recommended on label. Bore water may require increased water.
Test the yeast
It is best to test the yeast if you are in any doubt. This saves time and money as well as the frustration of a dead loaf after a three hour wait.
To test the yeast simply place a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar in half a glass of warm water. Stir briskly and you should see a great deal of activity taking place in the glass. Time it over 10 minutes.
If there is a very frothy result that builds toward the top of the glass over that time, the yeast is fine.
If the yeast only produces a small froth, less than a head of a beer, the yeast should be discarded.