forum: Food & Drink

Subscribe to forums RSS

#1 Wed 16 Dec 09 1:20am

spectre1989

Member
Occupation Game Programmer
From Brighton
Member since Tue 15 Dec 09

Crumbly Bread Problem

Hi all, my first post so please be gentle!

I've been embarking upon a journey to become not so awful at making bread, I've been making some progress (2 weeks ago my "loaves" where just stodgy lumps) but my last 2 have been rather crumbly, so much so it can be tricky to cut a slice without having to cut it really thick.

Here's my procedure:

3 cups of strong white flour
1 cup water (or sometimes 1/2 milk 1/2 water)
1 sachet of fast action yeast (I think it's 7g per sachet)
a pinch of salt
a bigger pinch of sugar

Usually I dissolve the sugar, salt, and yeast in the liquid (which is warm, but not hot) first, and then pour it into a well in the flour. I mix that together with a spoon or fork until it gets to something reasonably solid.

I then knead until I can stretch a piece of dough with my fingers to the point of being translucent ("pulling a window pane" I think it's called?) which I've heard means the dough is ready. Usually this takes about 5 minutes, sometimes a little more, but less than 10.

After sticking it back in the mixing bowl, I cover it with a towel for the first rise. It's a bit cold in the kitchen at this time of year so I stick it in a warm oven for about 40 mins (by warm, I mean I turn it on low for a minute or two, and then off again). I punch the dough down after the first rise, cover it, and let it rise for the second time.

After another 40 mins of rising I bung it in the oven for about 40 mins (my magic number hehe) at about 230.

So, apologies in advance for any head slappingly silly things I'm doing, but can anyone give me any pointers in de-awful-ing my bread making abilities?  smile

Cheers in advance
Spec

    Likes (0)

#2 Wed 16 Dec 09 1:45am

JoyYamDaisy

Forum super champ
From Melbourne Australia
Member since Sun 12 Apr 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Hi Spectre, Welcome here!
I love baking bread!
My best trick is to cut down the amount of yeast and let it have longer to rise. For three cups of flour I use 1/2 tsp yeast. I don't know the science of this, but it gives such a better flavour.
The quality of the flour makes a difference. I buy mine in 10 kg bags from a shop where there is a high turnover and I know it is fresh. If by chance you can buy straight from a good mill you will be amazed by how differently the flour behaves.
Note: check out Madamada's blogs for some fresh flour inspiration!
My recipe is similar to yours, but I usually replace up to a cup of the white flour with cornmeal, semolina, sesame seeds, some oat bran or wheat bran etc. -  to add fibre and taste.
I also like to add about 1/2 a cup of rolled oats or mashed potato/pumpkin/sweet potato/ cooked rice because of the lovely texture it gives the loaf.
I also add about 1 tbsp of oil.

I am completely impressed by your wonderful kneading!

I begin with the oven at 220C or 230C but after 10 minutes I turn it down to 180C and the cooking time is 50 minutes all together. smile

Last edited by JoyYamDaisy (Wed 16 Dec 09 1:46am)

    Likes (0)

#3 Wed 16 Dec 09 1:56am

spectre1989

Member
Occupation Game Programmer
From Brighton
Member since Tue 15 Dec 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Thanks for the info, I did notice that the bread changed a bit between using hovis breadmaking flour, and regular strong white flour..

As for my kneading, I did worry that I might be doing something wrong in that area, if I knead for a full 10 minutes I start losing the ability to pull a window pane, the dough feels nice and smooth, but doesnt stretch much.. I might just be paranoid, but it feels like I might not be doing it properly?

Cheers
Spec

    Likes (0)

#4 Wed 16 Dec 09 2:15am

JoyYamDaisy

Forum super champ
From Melbourne Australia
Member since Sun 12 Apr 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

It might need to rest at that point - or just before that point! Someone else may know better.
Because my health isn't good I don't knead so much, but depend on the yeast itself to help develop the gluten and this works fine. I like the tip that you have kneaded enough when the dough feels like an earlobe! 
I think your instincts are right and you might be pushing it too far. I have never tried to make a window pane - but I have heard of that for making strudel or filo - not bread though.
smile

    Likes (0)

#5 Wed 16 Dec 09 3:50am

trimmer

Member
Member since Thu 15 Oct 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

I bake about 40 loaves of artisan bread a week, and sell at farmer's market through the summer -- I do a LOT of bread.  My suggestions to you:

1) you're not kneading for long enough -- give it a longer knead -- at LEAST ten minutes, but fifteen would be better.

2) you're using too much flour to water -- which is probably why you're not kneading for long enough -- it feels "done" because it's fully incorporated, but you've still got to develop gluten, and that takes a lot of working AND....

3) there is probably very little protein in your bread if you're using a store-bought pre-ground flour and no added protein to help the (I suspect) non-existent protein in the bread to help develop the gluten.  Old flour (I mean OLD, stored in a warehouse somewhere flour) sometimes needs a wee bit of help.  Add an egg to your basic mix and you might see a difference -- if you do, change your flour source.

4) at no point should your dough be dry.  Try using less flour and only adding flour in the kneading process until it's JUST enough -- then continue to knead, DUSTING with flour as needed.  Dusting does not mean a cup or more.... it means a tablespoon or so at a time.

5) between fully incorporating your ingredients into a ball of dough and beginning the kneading, let your dough rest for about ten minutes.  This allows everything to relax (referred to as autolyse) and makes your dough easier to knead, more elastic, more responsive. 

6) let your dough rise for longer than 40 minutes -- this isn't nearly long enough unless you're using more yeast than you really need -- and it sounds like you probably are.  A longer, cooler rise will allow for a more developed flavor, and better development of gluten during your first rise (or proofing) and means a finer crumb and nicer texture to your finished loaf.

Good luck -- bread baking can be addictive -- and when you finally crack the method, it's very, very rewarding.

    Likes (0)

#6 Wed 16 Dec 09 4:00am

spectre1989

Member
Occupation Game Programmer
From Brighton
Member since Tue 15 Dec 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Great reply, thanks very much.

The reason I thought it was done after 5 mins of kneading was because of the window pane method, is that incorrect?

As for the dough being too dry, I've already caught myself making my dough too dry before so I think you're probably on to something. How sticky should the dough be?

Right, so I'll try less yeast, more liquid, an egg to add protein, longer rise, and a lot more kneading. What kind of ballpark should my rising time be in?

Thanks!
Spec

    Likes (0)

#7 Wed 16 Dec 09 4:54pm

trimmer

Member
Member since Thu 15 Oct 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Honestly, it's been years since I used the window pane method.  After a while, you get a feel for when things are "done", and just go with it.  For now, I'd go with TIME, and see if you can feel the difference in the dough.

The dough shouldn't be STICKY unless you're using 100% whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat dough should be a bit wetter than white dough, to get a nice rise.  If you're using all "white" flour, the dough shouldn't be sticky at all -- it should feel satiny and spongey.  The dough shouldn't ever RESIST kneading.  It's a hard feeling to describe, but you should be able to knead it without any sticking to you, but only just.  If it's too dry during the kneading process, wet your hands and continue kneading, repeating until you've added enough moisture to the dough.  Adding liquid in this way works better than trying to add a measure of liquid to overly-dry dough.

As for rising time, it will depend entirely on your kitchen, your climate, and your elevation.  I find rising times at this time of year in my area of Canada are typically in the 1.5 hour range.  Rising times at this time of year when we lived in Alberta (significantly higher elevation) were a lot less.  Experiment.  If you have a loaf that rises too much because you've left it too long, simply punch it down and rework the loaf, allowing for another rise.

I have learned the art of patience with bread making -- waiting is never a bad thing when making bread smile

    Likes (0)

#8 Wed 16 Dec 09 5:26pm

mummza

Forum super champ
Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Welcome to the forum spectre1989  smile

The first thing that I notice about your recipe is that you have no fat of any kind in your dough , most bread recipes have some form of fat in them. It is not totaly nessersary but it does help.
Try adding a tablespoon of sunflower oil and see if this makes a difference.

Good posts trimmer  thumbsup  , but one thing that I would like to say is that almost always I find dough sticky to start with and this stickiness disappears as it is kneaded .

    Likes (0)

#9 Wed 16 Dec 09 5:47pm

trimmer

Member
Member since Thu 15 Oct 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

Correct, mummza -- sorry I was unclear.  All dough will be sticky to begin with, but the process of working it will work out that wetness.  Don't add too much flour too soon, thinking that it shouldn't be wet at any point.  But kneading it JUST until the dough is no longer sticky is not sufficient, that's only about one third of the kneading process, in my experience.

    Likes (0)

#10 Wed 16 Dec 09 8:04pm

spectre1989

Member
Occupation Game Programmer
From Brighton
Member since Tue 15 Dec 09

Re: Crumbly Bread Problem

OK gotcha (I think!), just going out for some eggs and I'll give it a go this evening and see how I get on.

Thanks for the helpful replies everyone, I'll let y'all know how it goes. smile

Cheers!
Spec

    Likes (0)

Powered by PunBB