What makes bread chewy? Bread can be chewy for a variety of reasons. Do you love soft and fluffy bread? Some people prefer the chewiness because it feels like you are getting more food in your mouth. Other people don’t like the chewiness because they feel like it is tough on their teeth and jaw muscles. This post will show you how to make bread less chewy for softer, more enjoyable bread!
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What do we mean by chewy bread?
When we eat something that we describe as chewy, we mean something that is dense or overly moist. Chewy bread doesn’t easily slide straight down the throat, it requires a lot of jaw action before it can be swallowed. If you eat bread that is very chewy you will often find that you have a sore jaw afterwards!
The dictionary.com definition of chewy is:
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adjective, chew·i·er, chew·i·est.
What sort of bread is supposed to be chewy?
There are some types of bread that have varieties that are supposed to be chewy. Breads such as baguettes, focaccia, bagels and ciabatta can be chewy. Being more of a challenge to eat isn’t a problem for these breads as they are to be eaten with wet accompaniments such as soup, pasta or sandwich fillings.
The general consensus is that chewy breads are made from lean dough. These are recipes that don’t contain sugars, fats or dairy. They are simply made from flour, water, salt and yeast.
Why is my bread chewy?
The most common reason for chewy bread is the flour. Using flour that is hard wheat, or that’s high in gluten can make bread chewy. Another possibility is a lack of kneading and proofing. These errors lead to a lack of gas in the dough, making bread dense and chewy.
How to make my bread less chewy
It is often easy to blame a recipe when we’re not happy with the results. I definitely experienced this when I first started baking. I even threw my first artisan baking book in the bin because it didn’t match my professional experience. I regret it now, it was probably a very good book!
Anyway, I digress… Sometimes the recipe is absolutely fine, it’s just a few minor tweaks that need to occur in order to achieve the same result as the author. It could be as simple as switching the flour or warming the proofing temperature. I’m going to cover many of the solutions to prevent your bread from being chewy. Let’s start with the basics to getting perfect bread:
Check your levain activity
You’re either going to be using a yeast based levain, or sourdough to make your bread rise and there can be issues with them which impact how much your bread dough rises.
How to test if yeast is active?
Yeast does go out of date. If you have an old tin of dried yeast in your cupboard, it’s best to test it before using it. Add a teaspoon of yeast in some warm water and a little sugar. If it blooms, you’re all set!
Baking with yeast
If you’re using active dried yeast, you’ll have to activate it in some warm water beforehand. Simply follow the instructions on the packet and deduct the water used from the recipe. For instant dried and fresh yeast, they can go straight into the dough.
Baking with sourdough
With sourdough baking, the end result relies heavily on the quality of the starter. This is why it’s a bit more challenging! The starter should be nice and bubbly and have a nice, fragrant smell before it is ready to use.
View my sourdough starter troubleshooting guide to find out more.
Accurate measuring with scales
There is no way anyone can say using cups and measures is an accurate way to weigh flour. I’d even frown if pounds and ounces was suggested! To weigh the ingredients for a bread recipe you need to weigh every ingredient in grams.
To do this an accurate set of reliable scales is handy. I prefer a set that will go to 0.1 of a gram, whilst also being able to weigh a couple of kilos of flour. These are very expensive so I use a set of heavy duty my-weigh scales for the flour, and a cheap set of jewellery scales for the lighter ingredients.
You may already have a set you trust, and that’s great. But if you don’t, a small investment will be worth it 100%!
Work the dough harder
Kneading gluten makes it more stretchy so that it can trap gas produced by the yeast better. This makes it more airry and less chewy. If you’ve not got a light crumb, try kneading more.
Here’s a guide on efficient kneading techniques.
Change the hydration of the recipe
Bread can be dry and horrible to eat if there isn’t enough water in the recipe. Different flours absorb water at varying rates. So, to replicate a recipe you should think about the dough’s hydration level. Adding more water to dough hydrates the gluten and improves the structure’s extensibility. This allows the structure to retain more gas to be lighter.
If the gluten structure is currently strong and full of air, you might find reducing the amount of water keeps the crumb compact. This can make the bread’s texture more soft, like a bread roll.
Work on your shaping
The strength in the outer perimeter of your bread affects how moisture leaves the crumb during baking and cooling. Perfecting your shaping technique adds strength to the crust thus improving the quality of your crumb.
If you want a guide on shaping, no fear, you can find my shaping and preshaping guide here!
Adjust the proofing time & temp
To fill the bread with air to make it light and fluffy the bread needs to rise sufficiently. Yeast works faster when it’s warmer, so if it’s warmer or cooler in your area, your dough might take longer, or less to rise.
I would also challenge some photos as finished bread images on some sites look too good to be made in the time suggested – (my opinion).
Use the poke test to ensure it’s ready and proof your bread between 25-30C unless otherwise specified.
To control the temperature of your dough I recommend that you invest in a proofing box. This eliminates the variable of temperature and will give you better, and importantly more consistent bread.
Here’s the proofing box I recommend by Brod & Taylor:
Don’t over bake!
To bake soft, delicious bread you need to bake it quickly at a high temperature. The bread shouldn’t take longer than 40 minutes to bake. Baking for longer than this causes the crumb to dry and chewy. I recommend adding water to the oven to make steam and baking at a high temperature (230C (450F) recommended). This will improve the oven spring which lightens the crumb and crispens the crust.
If these don’t work, try changing the ingredients
The previous examples offer some insight into making great bread. But if you’ve already mastered the basics, what can be done to change a recipe in order to make the bread less chewy? Well, again, don’t despair, I’ve got you covered with some more top tips to stop chewy bread!
Switch the flour
Too much gluten can cause a bread that’s overly strong and chewy. If you are using bread flour, try switching your brand to an all-purpose version or try another brand completely.
The protein level of the flour is a good indication, although selecting flour is not all about the percentage. I have types of flour from the same mill with roughly the same protein percentage. Switching between them completely changes the texture of the bread. So experiment a little.
Use natural tenderizers into the dough
There are plenty of bread recipes that use ingredients like eggs, milk, or fats. These recipes are rarely dense and chewy. This is because these ingredients tenderize the flour to make a lighter texture.
If you’re looking for a simple fix to your existing bread recipe, add a small amount of sugar and a tablespoon of butter.
Use a Tangzhong
If you’ve never tried a tangzhong paste, maybe today is the day! Tangzhong is Japanese method of mixing flour and water in a warm saucepan to make a roux. Add the roux to your dough and see how the bread becomes so much softer!
Ending thoughts on making bread less chewy
Making bread can be a fun and tasty activity for the whole family. We’ve walked you through all of the steps needed to create your own delicious loaf to suit everyone’s preferences! Let me know if this was helpful by leaving a comment below.