What’s Wrong with my Bread!? | A Yeast Bread Troubleshooting Guide

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Here are some of the most common problems people have when making yeast breads, as well as some of the causes/solutions.

People are often very intimidated when it comes to baking yeast breads. I can understand that, because I was one of those people for a very long time. Then, I got a bread machine and it was the first step for me to take the plunge and begin baking my own breads. Since then, I have learned to bake all sorts of breads of all different kinds, even making my own hamburger or hot dog buns.

What’s Wrong with my Bread!? | A Yeast Bread Troubleshooting Guide from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

In that time, I have gathered lots of tips and tricks for bread baking and thought I would share some of those here in the form of a “Bread Troubleshooting Guide.”

My Dough is Sticky!

  • You may have not used enough flour. Double check your recipe for the quantity needed. Additionally, the amount of flour you need can vary plus or minus a half cup, depending on your climate. I always keep a measuring cup with a scoop of flour handy to add a little at a time as needed.
  • Your flour might be too old. Make sure you are using fresh flour.
  • Your flour may not have enough gluten. Did you use bread flour? All-purpose flour (the kind you use for cookies or quick breads) does not contain the amount of gluten needed for most yeast breads. There are some bread recipes out there that take all-purpose flour, but most do not.

My Bread Dough Didn’t Rise (or rise enough)!

The number one problem here is the yeast.

  • Yeast is expired or dead. Your yeast should be fresh, just like any other ingredient. Yeast is a living thing and, if it isn’t fresh, it may be dead.
  • The temperature was wrong. Another way your yeast may have died is if the water or other liquid you used was too hot or too cold. Too hot and the yeast dies, too cold and the yeast can’t “wake up” and grow.
  • Did you use the right amount of yeast? Double check the recipe. If converting from measurements to packets (or vice versa) one packet of yeast = 2 ¼ tsp
  • Too much salt in a recipe can also harm the yeast.

My Bread is a Brick!

  • If your bread is solid, you may have not allowed your dough to rise long enough. Yeast is a living thing and, just like your kids, it grows at different rates. Many things can play a factor in the yeast growth; was the location you had it rising in warm enough? Sometimes your dough will simply take longer to rise. You should wait until it is doubled in size (or whatever it is that the recipe states.) Sometimes it just might take a little patience.
  • Did you use enough yeast? Check your recipe.
  • Did you use the right kind of flour? Gluten is a protein that allows bread dough to stretch. If there isn’t enough gluten, your dough can’t stretch…and rise.

My Bread is Gooey and Heavy!

  • Your oven may be too hot. If the crust bakes too quickly from a hot oven, it doesn’t let the dough reach its full size and encases it.
  • Your bread make not have been baked long enough.

My bread practically exploded!

  • You may have allowed the dough to rise too long. This can affect the size of the loaf, as well as the texture of the bread. Letting the dough rise too long can make your bread like Swiss cheese inside.
  • You may have used too much yeast. Double check your recipe and also remember the packet measurement conversion. (one packet of yeast = 2 ¼ tsp)
  • Your oven may be too cool. If the oven isn’t warm enough, a good crust can’t form and the loaf just grows and grows. Use an oven thermometer if you aren’t positive of the accuracy of your oven temperature.

My Loaf looks like an alien!

  • A poorly shaped dough can lead to an oddly shaped loaf. When forming a standard loaf, I pat my dough into an oblong shape, then roll it into a loaf shape before placing it in the loaf pan for its second rise. This helps the loaf have an even shape.

My Dough Popped!

  • If when you test the dough, or move the bowl of dough, the dough pops and falls, most likely it simply rose for too long. If you are just doing the first rise, no problem. It simply just saved you the trouble of “punching down” the dough. If this happened to your loaf when you were getting ready to bake it, it is not the end of the world. The dough should still be viable. Simply reshape the loaf and let it rise again to the appropriate size.

How do I know if the dough is ready?

Doing a “rise test” is the best way to know if your dough is ready from the first rise. Like I mentioned previously, there are a number of things that can play a role in how quickly or slowly your oven dough rises. Temperature, humidity, and even the recipe itself. So how do you know if the dough is ready?

Gently stick your fingers into the risen dough, up to your middle knuckle (2nd knuckle) and then take your fingers out. If the indentations stay, the dough is ready to be “punched down” and shaped. If they indentations don’t stay, it hasn’t risen enough and should be left to rise a while longer. Repeat the test again.

How do I know when the dough is ready the second time?

When you have done the first rise and formed the loaves, you obviously can’t go sticking your fingers into the loaf to test it again. This time simply touch the side of the dough (gently) with the tip of your finger. If the indentation stays, it is ripe and ready to be baked.

Where should I let the dough rise?

As I have mentioned, the environment plays a big role in the dough rising. There are a few ways to create an environment that is more conducive for the yeast growth. I always cover the dough or pans with a light tea towel or flour sack towel as they rise to help keep the dough from getting dry.

  • Oven Method #1: I turn the light on in my oven as I am making the dough. The light bulb puts off heat and creates a perfectly cozy environment. Place a dish of warm water on one of the racks to keep the air moist. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, you can do the same as above, with no need to turn on the light. The pilot light often creates the perfect temperature.
  • Oven Method #2: If your oven doesn’t have a light, or a pilot light, you can create a warm environment by simply turning the oven on low for a minute or two, then turn it off again. Only open the door when placing or checking the dough.
  • Microwave Method: If you are baking a smaller batch of bread, you can use your microwave to create a warm space as well. Put a cup of water in the microwave (in a micro-safe dish) and heat it on high for 2 minutes. This makes the microwave warm and humid. Place your bowl of covered dough in the microwave and close the door.

I hope that you find the above information to be helpful. Don’t let yeast bread intimidate you. Once you jump in, you’ll love the water.

3 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with my Bread!? | A Yeast Bread Troubleshooting Guide”

  1. I just found your channel on YouTube and have a bread troubleshooting question. My bread “blows out” the sides while baking. It does help to split the top, but I’d love to not have to do it. And sometimes that doesn’t work. The texture is almost always fine after baking. I just have wonky looking loaves. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi Constance,
    Do you still make your bread w/a bread machine? I’ve been tempted to buy a bread machine,but I’m not sure I’d use it enough to justify the purchase and space. Thanks!

    • Hi Sheena! I do still make bread, but I got rid of the bread machine years ago. I found it did a great job if you used the “dough” setting and then baked it in your normal oven. If I baked it in the bread machine, the loaf was often condensed and hard as a brick. I personally think it is better to just have a good, strong mixer with a dough hook. You can do much more with it. I personally use a Bosch Universal (http://amzn.to/2guTdP9) and have had it for years. I also make small batches with my standard artisan Kitchen Aid mixer, but the Bosch has more power behind it, and I can do 8 loaves at a time with it. Hope that helps!


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