Friday, February 3, 2012

A Bread Fail. . .ish.

Just when I was about to post my favorite, most reliable bread recipe, I turned out the strange, streaky, and lumpy loaf above. I ran through the trouble-shooting list--accurate recipe? Check. Correct cycle? Check. Change ingredients? Check!

Bread baking is not an exact science, even with a machine--I guess it's still at least partly an art! Different factors can affect the finished product--weather, humidity, accuracy. . .and ingredients.

The only change I could come up with is that I had opened a new bag of flour. Although it's the very same flour I always buy, and the same recipe, results are definitely not the same! But I have to say that 'failure' is relative--this loaf was moist and nicely chewy, and made the best toast ever--think 'large English muffin.'

Now to troubleshoot: big holes and collapsed top say that the loaf couldn't support itself. Either the dough was too wet (or slack), or the protein content of the new flour is too low to build a solid structure.

Since my flour should contain a standard amount of protein and starch from bag to bag, I decided it's probably a difference in the flour's moisture content. Dough too moist = add more flour, so for the next loaf I added 1/3 cup more flour, and it turned out quite nicely--but still just a little different than the bread made from the previous bag of flour!

I always open the door of the machine and check out the dough--nothing bad has happened so far! If there's a ring of dry flour around the edges, I'll poke and scrape it with a rubber spatula at the first of the cycle, so I don't get a streaky loaf like the one above.

When the dough is too soft, I add extra flour as it runs, near the start of the cycle. You should check your machine's manual, but I say be bold--poke and scrape! The dough should be soft and just a little sticky.

**All this brings up another interesting point--I have always made my bread from all-purpose flour, just as my mom and grandmas taught me. Bread machine manufacuters recommend bread flour for best results--bread flour has a slightly higher percentage of protein, for a sturdier loaf structure. Any bread flour experience to share?


  1. I don't use bread flour, but I DO add vital wheat gluten to my all purpose flour to up the protein content like you mentioned. I've never had a loaf fail when I use the gluten. And in this area, it's cheaper to buy vital wheat gluten and all purpose flour than it is to buy bread flour. However, I have had differences in result when reaching the end of a jar of yeast. Even though it's the same jar I used for months, it seems the yeast that collects at the bottom of the jar isn't as potent as it was all the way through. I counter that by using a wee bit more when I'm at the end of the jar.

    1. Thanks, sprpoutingflowers! How much vital wheat gluten would we add per cup of all-purpose flour? Very interesting about your yeast--I'll watch my bread as I reach the bottom of the current container!

    2. I add 1 Tablespoon per cup of flour (which is what the package says to do).

  2. I agree totally with the Wheat Gluten. It also comes as Dough Enhancement. never had a bad loaf with that. Although I seldom if ever need to open the lid and remix my bread dough.
    I grind my own flour using spring wheat, Golden 86. I use to use red winter wheat and had to deal with getting bricks.
    I was on a trip and one of the Fornaca Brothers was traveling with us. They sell bread in San Diego or did at the time. When I asked him what was wrong with my loaves and why they turn out so bad. He asked what flour I was using. When he heard I was using red winter wheat, he laughed and turned to his brother and said, "This woman used RED WINTER WHEAT for her bread?" he said; " Lady, that stuff is only for feeding pigs and farm animals. Please use spring wheat, prairie wheat or Golden 86."
    I love the latter. What beautiful breads I get. The taste is nothing like the flour at the store. Now what to do with my 1,000 lbs of Red Winter Wheat?
    I did not think to buy a second machine at the thrift store. You are right, they are always sitting there. There are just my husband & I but it is nice to give bread away to friends.
    My machine has been sitting alone in the pantry as I am trying to lose some weight.

    P.S. It is nice to see you make doll clothes and acessories like I do from Dollar Tree finds.I also have the 99 cents store to shop at. I have posted some of my items on Facebook reciently.

  3. OR, skip adding the gluten and purchase "unbleached" flour. The gluten content is high, and the bread from it has a moist, but cohesive crumb, while the crust is usually crisper right after baking and chewier the next day. The two brands that I have found to be the most consisted is the Conagra from Costco, or Gold Medal. It is a slightly different color than all purpose, but the real difference is in the bread. I refuse to buy store brand flour, even a more expensive flour is cheaper than store-bought bread and the difference in the end result is very clear. Bake on!

    1. Hmm, typing/thinking errors. Oh well, you get the point!


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