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Why is my bread so dense and heavy?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'd like to quit buying bread altogether and just make my own always. I can make *ok* bread, but for sandwiches, etc, it's not hte greatest... very filling-really dense and sort of dry. I use a bread machine on the dough setting so it mixes and kneads and rises once, then I take it out and knead it myself again and let it rise in a real bread pan then bake it. Do I need to ditch the breadmachine altogether? Dh is foreign to anything homemade so unless I can make bread light and airy and as close to storebought as possible, he won't eat it. : Anyway.... suggestions anyone?
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

Ooops. OMG how embarrasing. I was just in "nutrition and good eating" then got distracted and totally forgot that I had come over to diapering... how do I move this thread to the correct forum???

post #3 of 15
: I think you have to contact a mod.

About the bread...why not just bake it in the bread machine? Mine makes lovely loaves. It's not as fast as doing a bunch of dough and baking several loaves, but I just try to bake a loaf a day type thing. Throw the ingredients in and walk away.

I had the same problem as you making bread by hand and so I just bought a bread machine. Someone will probably know what we are doing wrong!
post #4 of 15
Umm, maybe because you are washing it with your diapers? :LOL
just kidding
Good luck with the bread
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
he he I originally accidentally posted this in 'diapering'.... so I'm just bumping it since it got moved to the right spot
post #6 of 15
Mixing and kneading in the bread machine should not make the loaf so heavy.

Are you using whole wheat flour? I have been having amazing success lately using a technique from the Peter Reinhart book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, called pre-fermentation. He calls for a sponge or a soak or both. (Sponge=flour water yeast; soak: flour or whole or coarse grains only.)

Of course, whole grain flours also require more kneading than white flour for gluten to develop properly.

If you are using part or all white flour and you are getting really heavy bread, what is happening to your yeast at the proofing stage?
post #7 of 15
Also, how much sugar are you using? Once my husband add 1 cup of sugar to the bread recipe. Or maybe it was two cups.... It was the most dense bread that we have had in a long time! Bread does not need sugar but then it must be needed very well. If you do wish to add sugar, for every day bread, I would add no more then 6 tablespoons per loaf unless you add more yeast.
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
What's the proofing stage for yeast? I'm not exactly a pro at baking so I'm not familiar with all the terms, etc. I use active instant yeast. I really don't like the kind of loaf that comes out of the bread machine if I just let it bake in there. So when I take it out to bake it in a regular bread pan maybe I don't knead it enough. I was using about half white, half whole wheat flour then tried just white to see if I could get it any lighter but the white bread came out pretty much jsut as dense. I didn't know sugar was a factor in the density. Hmm.
post #9 of 15
To me, it sounds like you're kneading it too much. I have noticed that the more I knead, the denser and dryer it gets.
post #10 of 15
Proofing stage for the yeast is when you mix the yeast with water and a bit of sugar of some form. You do not have to use sugar at all. You let it sit and it will become bubbly and know that the yeast is working.

I find the only time I can over knead by hand is if I have a dry dough to begin with and add more flour. When I have a dry dough, I knead with water. It makes the loaf lighter in the end and not as dry. It is an experience the first time you try it though! Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book has a very good description of this technique. Actually, I find there description of the process of baking bread an excellent learning tool. I had been baking bread for years before I read the cookbook and it gave me some new techniques to use.
post #11 of 15
If you are using instant yeast, you don't generally have to proof it in water first, but mix it in with the dry ingredients. I bought some by accident and then by coincidence got a whole book of recipes that call for it. Whew!

If your bread gets too dense from kneading, it might mean that you are adding too much additional flour at the kneading stage. Dough that is adequately kneaded is elastic because the gluten has developed well. If you take a small piece in your hands and stretch it, you should be able to get it thin enough that light will pass through without the dough ripping. This is the windowpane test. Another way to know that you have kneaded enough is that it springs back quickly when you pull away a piece and let go.

When you let the dough rise, does it rise quickly in a warm place, or slowly in a cooler place? In some ways it's better to do a slow cold rise. You can mix and knead the dough the night before you bake, let it rise in the fridge overnight, then let it come to room temperature for an hour or two before making the loaves, proofing the loaves (letting them rise in the pans) and then baking.

I agree with ladywolf about the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, it is excellent. I have also been grooving on The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I have not used it, but there is a bread machine cookbook by Lora Brody. I like Lora Brody so that might be a good book, maybe you can get one or all three of these from your library.
post #12 of 15
Oh one more thing: when you let the dough rise, the way to tell that it has risen enough is to wet your finger and poke it. If it hasn't risen enough, it will fill in quickly. If it has, it won't. If it has risen too much or too warm, it will sigh and collapse! Uh oh.
post #13 of 15
Cap'n O, thanks! I was having issues with that. I think my problem is letting the dough rise in too warm a spot! (on top of the oven vent).
post #14 of 15
I just got an instant-read thermometer for bread baking. They are not expensive, I got mine at the hardware store. Several of my bread books have temp readings. That way you know if the dough is rising at room temperature--as long as they tell you what room temp. actually IS!

It's also a good way to know when the bread is all done. My dh used it today when I put him in charge of taking the bread out, and it made it foolproof. (My dh is no fool, I just have had a bad experience with him taking a cake out too soon because he went by the timer and didn't check the cake.)
post #15 of 15
Are you using bread flour or all-purpose flour? Bread flour is higher in gluten. You can add gluten to regular flour to make a lighter,fluffier bread (you can add it to bread flour too but it's not always needed.)
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