How to Improve Bread For Beginners – 10 Baking Issues Fixed!

Have a recipe that’s not coming off as well as you expected? Well, one of these fixes will help you to improve bread so that 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 quick 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.

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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.

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Crumb not soft enough

The best way to create a soft crumb at home is to include lecithin, tenderizers 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 tenderize 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. 

This could also be a baking issue. If the bread retains more moisture after baking it will produce a softer texture when eaten. Bake for a shorter time in higher temperatures. For example, soft rolls should be baked in 12-15 minutes with the shelf raised in the oven and the use of the broiler or top heater to brown the rolls near the end of the bake.

Further reading: Best oven set up

Why is my bread crumb holey

If your bread is missing a close-knit crumb of store-bought bread you should try a higher protein flour. A longer knead and an increased bulk fermentation time will help also. Firm hands when you shape the bread and effective preshaping can also be a gamechanger if you are a bread baking beginner.

If you’ve tried this and are still not happy with the results, try adjusting the amount of water used in the dough. Lowering the amount of water can produce a tighter, more even crumb.

The use of an emulsifier such as L-cysteine or lecithin will offer big improvements here. It’s a shame that they are not easily accessible for home bakers, but hey, it forces us down the “artisan” route and the use of eggs and vegetable oil can be utilised.

Further reading: Dough hydration

Why can’t I get an open crumb?

If the crust is irregular it’s most likely down to poor shaping. Though it can be a manner of things. Over kneading in a long first rise can cause the gluten structure to collapse. To increase the size of the air pockets in your crumb follow these 5 simple steps:

  • Use high-quality bakers flour to make your dough
  • Increase the amount of water used in the recipe
  • Use sourdough or a prefermented levain that’s fully ripe
  • Gently knead and allow plenty of time for the gluten to mature during bulk fermentation
  • Retain more gas when shaping the dough
  • Use a preheated baking stone to maximise the rise in the oven

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. Short fermentation and proofing times can also cause the 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. Can also be caused when a dough doesn’t contain enough water or a lack of salt.

Further reading: How to get a crusty crustImprove your kneading

How to fix a crust that is too thick?

This is usually caused by too much oil in the bread, or a 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 can be 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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2 Comments

  1. Hi iv’e made the basic loaf twice and both times it didn’t rise in the oven

  2. Did it rise during the second rise? It’s a bit warmer where you are so the yeast may have run out of food and the rise ended. If this is the case, reduce the first rise until it reaches 50% (instead of doubling). You could also try cooling the water or using less yeast.

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