5 Reasons Why Your Bread is So Dense
Question: Why is my bread so dense? Read our guide for 5 reasons for this problem.
The first thing at the back of the mind while baking a loaf of bread is often how the crust will be crispy and golden outside and the inside will be airy and soft. That’s why it can be very frustrating after a well thought out and executed baking process for your bread to come out as hard as a brick.
Why did this occur and what can be done for better results?
An experienced baker will know that the results were caused by either one of the following factors:
A loaf of bread that is heavy or dense might be a result of the dough not being kneaded enough. Sometimes we can lose patience when mixing yeast and salt together or it can also happen while you’re molding the dough but the final result lacks enough tension before the loaf is placed in the oven.
Why Is My Bread So Heavy and Dense?
So, what causes your dough to become dense?
Little Time Spent On Kneading The Yeast Dough
Yeast normally removes gases when it comes in contact with the sugars which are present in flour. The gases will then be trapped in the dough with the mesh that is created by gluten. This is what makes bread fluffy and airy.
The mesh is created when dough is kneaded. Therefore, if your dough isn’t kneaded enough, gluten will not have enough time for the mesh to be built. Note: Over kneading the dough can also cause a negative outcome because it will become overworked meaning that the yeast will no longer as effective as before because it would have lost some power. You have to balance the kneading time properly.
What Is The Solution?
Yeast dough needs to be kneaded for about 10 minutes when using an electric mixer and at least 20 minutes of you’re using your hands – this should be done until the dough becomes flexible and bounces when touched.
A better way of confirming this is by pinching out a small amount of dough with your fingers and stretching it to see how much web fibers are there. If the dough doesn’t rip apart immediately you begin pulling it, which means that it requires more kneading. The dough should stretch and pull apart a little instead of tearing.
Don’t Mix Yeast and Salt Together
Most yeast dough recipes include salt, which is meant to add taste to it. The only issue is that salt usually kills yeast. I bet you’re wondering how the two ingredients can be used in a recipe. Well, all you need to do is ensure that they don’t come into direct contact.
Also, a lot of recipes instruct you to put salt in the dough after the other ingredients have already been mixed to prevent the salt from coming directly into contact with the yeast. On the other hand, yeast and sugar get along well and as a result there will be more growth.
Not Enough Patience To Complete The Last State Of Molding Bread?
If you don’t want your bread to be so heavy and dense, then invest in molding the dough so that you can have the best possible results. If this stage isn’t conducted properly because you assume that it’s not as important thinking that you can just roll out the dough and your loaf of bread will come out perfectly, you’re wrong because it will just become dense and flat.
What’s The Solution?
The most important thing when it comes to kneading dough the proper way is patience. Since bread can be molded in different shapes, the idea behind it all is to put enough tension in the dough during the final stage. The tension arises from tucking and molding the dough, especially at the center.
Once you’ve performed the last rising or proofing stage, ensure that the dough is flattened out so that all the air can come out. You’ll then have to tuck the dough following an inward motion to the center part of the bread. If you’d like the bread to be round, you’ll just have to go around tucking the dough to the center part until you complete the entire circle and have reached the starting point.
If you want the bread to be long, you’ll have to fold the dough like an envelope. Take the right and left sections of the dough, stretching them outward and then folding them inwards, you’ll then need to take the top or bottom part of the dough and fold them in one after the other.
Lastly, take the top half part of the dough and roll it out until it has reached the middle part of the loaf before tucking it using your thumb and then securing it using the palm of your hand. A third of the dough will left to act as a fold over. So, take the already rolled out part and roll it over again before closing the dough using the palm of your hand. This will provide enough tension for your dough.
What Type of Flour? Too Much Flour?
Remember not to use a lot of flour because you don’t want your dough to be very hard. Ensure that you’re using the required amount only so that the dough is workable. If it comes out to be very sticky, well and good because that’s how dough ought to be.
Although working with a sticky lump is not an easy task, it’s actually the right texture for an airy and fluffy loaf of bread. Also, if you want to make airy and light bread, stay away from flour such as rye or whole wheat because they are not the ideal fit.
However, you can include the flours in your mix so that you can have more complex flavors using only a little percentage of around 30% in the mix. Your dough will get that airy texture you want and you’ll also have some complex flavors.
Does Your Dough Have Enough Rising Time?
When you slice your baked bread and the dough looks compressed mostly around the edges it’s probably because it didn’t have enough time to raise properly. The entire process has to do with experience and not just following the recipe, so ensure that the dough is set aside in a warm area so that it can raise accordingly.
Most of the time the dough will require several proofs before it is ready for molding and at least one last proof before it can be baked.
The best tool for a home baker during such situations is a proofing box. This is an enclosure that creates humidity as it contains heating elements and it also has a water chamber.
Home baking isn’t the same experience as industrial baking especially since the tools used in the process differ in a manner of how the dough comes out. Industrial mixers don’t produce the same results as home mixers meaning that there won’t be the same kind of airiness in the dough.
Most of the time, the dough becomes lumpy in some areas and airy in other, so after its put aside to rise you’ll need to knead it once more, set it aside to rise a second time so that the rising level can double and become much easier to handle. It may be a lot of work but the kind of airing the dough will have will be worth all the effort.
Finally, don’t let the dough rise for very long. Although this seems confusing, when dough is set aside for too long to rise it tends to become “OLD” (as referred to in the baking industry) which will then cause it to lose its ability to rise when cooking in the oven. Old dough is known to produce loaves of bread that are airy and dry instead of fluffy.
Conclusion: The mistakes mentioned above are just some of what first-time bakers experience when it comes to dense bread, and when you think about it, no one like dense bread. We all love to eat some airy and fluffy brad. But how can one bake fluffy bread? The secret behind this type of bread is patience and experience.
Tips For Achieving Fluffy Loaves of Bread
#1. Use Bread Flour
Most home bakers get tempted to try using all-purpose flour to bake bread and since it’s already stocked in the kitchen and you’ve been using it to make other things such as cakes and cookies it seem like a good idea.
However, all-purpose flour’s protein content is lower than that of bread flour. As you already know, high protein is necessary for creating more rise and gluten in order to have a fluffier and lighter loaf of bread.
#2. Gluten Can Help
Putting gluten in the flour can be helpful especially when dealing with whole grain variety.
Rye flour contains very little gluten compared to regular flour, meaning the rye bread will be denser, but if you’d like to enjoy both an airy bread and rye bread in one, you can combine the two flours so that there is enough gluten to produce a fluffy and light loaf of bread.
#3. Room Temperature or Warm Water To Activate Yeast?
Yeast tends to react differently depending on the temperature variable. As little as a 10-degree difference I regards to the dough’s temperature will affect the growth rate immensely. Ensure that your yeast is proofed using warm water (not exceeding 110 degrees to avoid killing the yeast) and even better use a warm bowl so that the yeast can rise properly.
Generally, you want all your baking ingredients to be at room temperature. If you store your flour in the refrigerator let it sit on the counter for at least 30 to 45 minutes before using it. The same rule applies to all the other ingredients.
I bet you’re wondering how everything works out. It’s basic biology, since yeast cells are present in living organisms and similar to all organisms, they need to interact with simple sugars so that they can metabolize and release gases to the dough which in turn will cause it to rise. The more time you let your yeast work, the more gas it will produce which is good for making the perfect fluffy and light bread.
#4. The Window Test
This is the technique that is used to confirm whether or not the dough was kneaded properly. If the kneading is conducted insufficiently, then gluten will be underdeveloped resulting in a loaf of bread that is as dense as a brick.
To avoid this, pinch a tiny piece of dough between your two fingers and thumb an stretch it out as you rotate it in circular movements so that it evenly stretched out. Once the stretched dough is transparent, it means that it was kneaded enough and proofing can be done. If it reaps instead, it means that it needs to be kneaded further so that you can have the desired outcome.
#5. Measuring Cups Out, Scale In
Although measuring cups are perceived as the ideal method for putting your ingredients in portions, how accurate are they? Measuring cups provide a lot of possibilities for errors to be made. There might be air pockets in some of the dry ingredients while transferring them into the cup and you don’t want to end up with the wrong amount.
The recommended method of ensuring that your ingredients are of the right quantities is by using a weighing scale.
It’s important to have the right portions because if you don’t get them right your bread will be ruined so get rid of those measuring cup and buy yourself a kitchen scale.