How to Improve Bread | 11 Common Baking Issues Fixed!

How to improve bread
Published on
08 June 2021
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Are you making a bread recipe that’s not coming off as well as expected? Well, one of these fixes will help you improve bread, so it is just as good as you hoped! This article explains how to improve an existing bread recipe to make it a little more special. This is a short article for you to quickly find, diagnose and fix your bread issues. So go ahead, take a look and view the suggested articles in the links to find out how to improve bread.

Why is my bread too chewy or dense?

This is due to poor gas production, gas retention or poor development of the crust. The topic is quite vast. Check out my why is my bread so dense or how to make bread less chewy posts for detailed explanations.

Crumb is not soft enough

The best way to create a soft crumb at home is to include lecithin, tenderisers and fat in the dough. Lecithin can be bought as an ingredient yet is commonly found in eggs and some vegetable oils. Eggs combine protein and lecithin to produce a denser crumb. Sugar and fats tenderise the gluten structure and reduce the baking time, which means the bread retains more moisture. Fat also lubricates the gluten to form smaller air pockets and a lighter texture in the crumb. 

A dry and hard crumb could also be a baking issue. If the bread retains more moisture after baking, it will have a softer texture. Bake your bread for a shorter time at a higher temperature to remedy this. For example, soft rolls should be baked for 12-15 minutes with the shelf raised in the oven and the broiler or top heater to brown the rolls near the end of baking.

Further reading: Best oven set up

Why is my bread crumb holey?

If your bread is missing a close-knit crumb similar to store-bought bread, you should try a higher protein flour. The extra gluten it contains will form more bonds making the structure more defined. A longer knead and an increased bulk fermentation time can also help, although bulk fermentation leads to the production of acids which repel to produce a more “open crumb structure”. This may, or not be what you are looking to achieve.

Firm hands when you shape the bread, and effective preshaping can also be a gamechanger if you are a bread baking beginner. Successful degassing when shaping pushes the air out of the dough and reforms the gluten structure to create a more even crumb structure.

You can also try adjusting the amount of water used in the dough. Water kinda gets in the way of the gluten structure, so if your dough is overly wet, lowering the amount of water will make a tighter, more even crumb.

Using an emulsifier such as L-cysteine or lecithin offers big improvements here too. It’s a shame that they are not easily accessible for home bakers. Still, hey, it forces us down the “artisan” route where you can use eggs and vegetable oil with similar results.

Further reading: Dough hydration

Why can’t I get an open crumb?

Follow these simple steps to increase the size of the air pockets in your crumb to produce an open crumb in your bread:

  • Use high-quality flour to make your dough
  • Increase the amount of water used in the recipe
  • Use sourdough or prefermented flour when it is fully ripe
  • Increase bulk fermentation time so acids can multiply in the dough, so they repel each other to open up the gluten structure
  • Gently knead and allow plenty of time for the gluten to mature during bulk fermentation
  • Lightly degas when shaping the dough to retain more gas 
  • Use a preheated baking stone to maximise the rise in the oven

Why is my dough collapsing?

Over kneading in a long first rise can cause the gluten structure to collapse. Every flour has different properties. Even high gluten flour can sometimes not withstand a long bulk fermentation duration. To fix this, you’ll have to knead for less and/or reduce the length of bulk fermentation.

Why have I got tunnelling or large holes in my bread?

Tunnelling is when a long air bubble is found going through the majority of a bread crumb. It is often found in bread made with a sourdough starter that wasn’t fully ripe. What tends to happen is the dough is proofed for longer to compensate for a slow rate of gas production, and it becomes too acidic. The acids force a gaping hole through the crumb. Under fermentation and proofing time will also cause this problem.

Why is my crust too dark or burnt?

This often happens when sweeteners and fats are used in the recipe. The usual solution is to reduce the temperature of the oven. If you’re struggling to get results, you could be baking for too long. Get in the habit of probing the core of the bread with a temperature probe. The temperature should pass 90C (195F).

How to prevent a crumbly crust?

A crumbly crust is due to a lack of gluten development. To fix this, increase the length of time the dough is kneaded or swap your kneading technique. A weak and crumbly crust can also be created when there is too much yeast in the bread. It can also be caused when a dough doesn’t contain enough water or a lack of salt. Further reading: How to get a crusty crust – Improve your kneading

How to fix a crust that is too thick?

This is usually caused by too much oil in the bread or poor oven spring. You can also work on shaping. Ensure a strong membrane forms by stretching the outer perimeter when moulding the dough to its final shape. 

Why is my bread tasteless?

Bread can taste bland when the flour quality is poor, too much yeast or when it is masked by other ingredients. One of the best ways to improve the flavour of your bread is to lengthen the bulk rise. Read the How to create more flavour in bread post to learn more. 

Why does my bread go stale quickly?

Bread turns stale due to stale retrogradation and moisture loss. To make your bread last longer, try baking for less time or lengthening the fermentation process to lower the ph of the dough (or add vinegar). There are plenty more tips in the why does bread go stale post. If your bread is stale, read my guide on how to make bread crusty again.

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