Why Is My Bread Crumbly?

Bread that is crumbly or dry is very frustrating, unfortunately, one of my local bakeries bread is always crumbly, but I keep going back, hoping they just had an “off day”. But it’s always the same! So if you are asking the question, “why is my bread crumbly”, you’re not in a minority. It’s an issue many bakers have, even the professionals (in some cases)!

Crumbly bread is caused by the gluten was not properly hydrated, an underdeveloped crumb, baking for too long or improper cooling. There are many reasons that these issues might occur, so let’s break down each one in detail to discover why your bread is crumbly!

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The gluten was not properly hydrated:

The most likely cause of a crumbly crumb is where some or all of the flour in the dough is too dry. Protein needs to soak up water to form long stretchy gluten bonds. If protein is not hydrated the dough has little strength and crumbles like a dry, flaky pastry. This could be due to:

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– Not enough water

Flour absorbs water at varying rates. In general, higher protein flour prefers more water to hydrate the extra protein. Yet there can still be anomalies between flour brands. If your dough was particularly dry and dense, try increasing the amount of water in the recipe.

– Too much flour – weighing scales

The reason for your dough being too dry might not be down to the recipe or the type of flour you use. It could be due to improper measuring! If you’ve read any bread baking tips on this site or many others they all say the same “weigh your ingredients in grams”. So if you’ve not already joined the Scales Club, maybe now is the time!

Weighing the flour provides accurate measurements every time so you can follow a recipe precisely and have a higher chance of flawless bread! I use the MyWeigh KD7000 scales as they are perfect for home bread baking. 

– Adding dry flour when kneading

There is no need to add flour to the table when kneading, not even a little bit. The flour just gets absorbed into the dough to become part of the recipe. This will just absorb the water to make a dryer dough and the possibility of under-hydrated and under-developed protein is increased.

– Incorporation stage too short / Dough mixed fast too early

Flour needs a little bit of time to soak up the water before it is kneaded aggressively. You don’t have to autolyse every time you make bread but the principle of autolysis and a slow incorporation mix is similar.

The dough should be gently combined for at least 3 minutes before the speed of the mixer is increased. Some mixers don’t have a slow enough setting so you might want to consider hand kneading to start with, or using a Danish whisk.

– Too much whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour can be incredibly dry and harsh, especially if it’s stone ground. It often requires a lot more water than white flour. Whole wheat flour does contain plenty of protein, but it needs time to become hydrated in order to make quality bread. A whole-wheat soaker is a great way to ready the flour in order to make great bread. You can also trade some of the whole wheat flour for white flour. 

– Adding dry flour when shaping

One of the most common reasons that dry flour is found in bread dough is because it is folded in as the bread is shaped. Try to keep flour on the table to a minimum when working with the dough. I often prefer to make an oil slick for overly sticky doughs.

An under developed crumb

– Not kneaded enough

When researching this topic I see others mentioning that a lack of kneading causes bread to be crumbly. I find that a lack of kneading is unlikely to be the cause of crumbly bread. Providing the ingredients are combined then this shouldn’t be the cause of crumbly bread.

Kneading can be vital to making great bread, but a no-knead recipe can equally provide you with baking delights.

– Bread rose too quickly as there was too much yeast

If you have added too much yeast to your dough then the bread will rise before it can develop a structure. If this happens you are also likely to see large holes throughout the crumb as well as a crumb that crumbles.

– Not enough salt was added

Salt strengthens the gluten bonds and slows the activity of the yeast. If you add too little salt the dough will rise as if there was too much yeast and have a weak crumb when baked. This can lead to the crumb crumbling away and falling apart.

Baking for too long creates a dry crumbly crumb

If you are baking your bread at a temperature that is too cool for bread it is likely that you will take it for longer to colour the crust. Whilst this can produce a nice even crumb, it can also cause too much moisture to exit the dough causing the bread to be dry. This will intensify any type of crumbly texture making the crumbly sensation even worse!

See my best temperature to bake bread guide to learn more on how to bake bread correctly!

Properly cool bread before slicing

Bread needs to cool down after baking as the gelatinized starch needs to harden. Not allowing the bread to cool down to at least body temperature can damage the structure of the crumb so that it falls apart easily.

A top tip to prevent crumbly bread

One of the best ways to stop bread from being crumbly that I have not mentioned is to add fat or eggs to the dough. They contain help to glue the gluten together and many of them such as vegetable oil and eggs are lecithin rich. Lecithin, also found in soy flour, strengthens the crumb structure. Using one of these natural bread improvers will enhance the dough network to make better bread.

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