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How To Improve Your Bread – 11 Home Baking Issues Fixed! 

 March 22, 2021

By  Gareth Busby

This article explains how to improve an existing bread recipe to make it a little more special. If you have a recipe that’s not quite coming off as well as you expected one of these, find out how to fix your bread problem with these solutions. I've been baking for years and still have recipes I've not quite mastered, it's a fun challenge to get everything perfectly right, taste, smell, touch, symmetry... I keep making changes until I get to a point where it's "good enough". Then, a few months later I'll give it another go! It's what I love about bread baking, you can always improve your recipes and skills to make better bread!

Here's 11 common bread issues:

1) Crust too irregular 

If the curst is irregular it’s most likely down to poor shaping. Though it can also be down to over kneading/fermentation causing the gluten structure to collapse. If neither of these resolves the issue, reduce the water in the recipe.

Resources: 

2) How to prevent a crust that’s crumbly

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 or mixer for a more effective one. A weak and crumbly crust can also be created when the dough didn’t contain enough water.

Resources:

3) 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 the why is my bread so dense post for a detailed explanation.

4) Crumb not soft enough

The best way to create a soft crumb at home is to add an egg to the dough. The combination of protein and fat lubricates and soften the crumb. Alternatively, any form of fat or sweetener will help to develop a softer crumb texture.

5) Crumb still not soft?

This could be a baking issue. Retaining moisture in the bread after baking softens the crumb. Bake for a shorter time using higher temperatures next time. Soft rolls should be baked in 12-15 minute 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.

6) Crumb structure not defined

If your bread is missing a close-knit crumb of store bought bread you should try a higher protein flour that’s high quality grade. A longer slow mixing time and increased fermentation time will help also.

The use of an emulsifier such as DATEM or L-cysteine offer big improvements but are not easily accessible for home bakers. 

7) Crumb not open enough

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
  • Allow plenty of time to mature during bulk fermentation
  • Retain some of the gas in the dough when shaping

8) Tunnelling/ large holes in the crumb

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.

9) Crust too dark/ burnt

This often happens when sweeteners and fats are used in the recipe. The common solution is to reduce the temperature of the oven. If you’re struggling to get results you could be overdoing it during the bake so get in the habit of probing the core of the bread with a temperature probe. The temperature should reach 200F.

10) Crust too thick

Improve gluten development through a longer bulk rise or increasing the amount of kneading undertaken. When shaping, ensure a strong membrane is stretched around the outside of the dough. Allow to bench rest after preshaping for longer. Increase the amount of oven spring using tips shared on the oven spring article (this one for sourdough oven spring).

11) Lacking flavour

This can be many things so I’ve written an entire article on the topic. You can find it here: How to get more flavour in bread.

Conclusion

There are many issues that can arise from home-made bread. A common one that I've not mentioned is the bread not rising. If this is your problem, try the why won't my bread rise article.

When troubleshooting a recipe it's best to start with a reliable recipe, and then keep trying, making small changes each time to see if they make a positive difference. Keep going until you get there and don't be afraid to subscribe to the mailing list below or ask for help in the comments!

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