You can’t bake bread until you’ve mastered the art of the starter, and it’s not always easy! Utilize our tips for making a bread starter (it’s super, super-easy) and troubleshoot it if need be with baking guru Claus Meyer’s new cookbook, Meyer’s Bakery. If you need to ask “what’s wrong with my wheat bread,” Meyer’s there to help you fix it. Your kitchen will fill with the transcendent fragrance of freshly baked bread in no time at all.
My Loaf is Flat
Your dough has not been mixed sufficiently, which means that the gluten strands aren’t strong enough to keep the dough together.
Mix your dough a little longer and conduct the gluten test to make sure you’ve mixed the dough sufficiently before you let it rise.
Your dough has been over-mixed, which has made the gluten strands weak; the structure of the dough has been compromised.
This only happens when you use a stand mixer to mix your dough. Next time around, you should stop the mixer as soon as the dough gathers around the dough hook and slips off the sides of the bowl.
Your dough has been left to rise for too long before going into the oven.
Letting the dough rise for too long means there’s not enough texture or support left in it, so it collapses and spreads (a little like a soufflé). Even though it’s important that dough is given time to rise properly prior to baking, there must be some rising power left in the dough to enable it to rise a little inside the oven during baking. Next time, let the dough rise for a slightly shorter period of time, or it let it rise in a slightly cooler place.
If you sense that your dough is over-risen, you can knock the air out of the dough by punching it down and then placing it in two greased baking pans to be on the safe side. Let the dough rise at room temperature and then bake as described in the Pan-baked Heirloom Wheat Bread recipe.
Your oven was not hot enough when you put the bread dough in it.
If your oven wasn’t preheated long enough, the dough won’t get the heat-shock it needs and it will slowly spread instead of rising.
At least 30 minutes before baking, place a baking stone or upside-down cookie sheet in the oven on the middle shelf and turn the heat up to the highest temperature. Once you have slid the loaf onto the baking stone or cookie sheet shut the oven door as quickly as you can to stop too much heat from escaping.
My Bread Crumb Is Too Dense
Your dough has not risen sufficiently.
Make sure your dough rises to almost double in size before carefully tipping it out of its bowl or container.
You have worked your dough too hard, possibly knocking the air out of it as you chopped and tightened the surface of it.
Be very careful as you tip your dough out of the bowl or container after rising. If it’s difficult to get the dough out, next time try greasing the container or bowl with oil before placing the dough in it. Also make sure you handle your dough with care as you chop it into smaller portions, tighten the surface of it, and slide it onto the nonstick parchment paper. Work the dough as gently as possible to avoid knocking the air out of it.
When you handle dough that doesn’t appear to behave in the way you were expecting, to be on the safe side, place it in two greased baking pans. Let the dough rise at room temperature and then bake as described in the Pan-baked Heirloom Wheat Bread recipe.
Your dough has over-risen.
If you’ve let the dough rise for too long its structure will have become porous and the dough will tend to collapse a little as you chop it into smaller portions or when you slide it into the oven. Next time try letting the dough rise for a shorter period of time.
If you notice the dough is rising more than it should, you can always punch it back and let it rise again, only keep an eye on the time you let it rise.
You haven’t mixed your dough enough.
Mix it some more. Further mixing will strengthen the gluten strands and enable them to hold on to the carbon dioxide generated by the yeast cells, which will leave bigger holes in the crumb. If you’re in doubt as to whether or not your dough needs more mixing, perform the gluten test as described on page 281, before letting the dough rise.
The protein content in your flour is too low.
Try using flour that contains at least 12 percent protein, which will ensure stronger gluten strands and a lighter crumb.
There is too much whole-grain flour in your dough.
The more whole-grain flour you use, the denser your crumb. If you want a more open crumb, try using a little less whole-grain flour.
My Crumb is “Doughy”
Your bread is not entirely baked so the crumb is very wet and sticky.
Check the temperature of the bread using a kitchen thermometer next time you bake to ensure the center of the bread has reached 210°F, at which point the bread will be done.
Your dough has not risen sufficiently.
Let the dough rise for a bit longer next time you bake. If you notice that dough left in the fridge is not rising as much as it should, place it somewhere warm to stimulate the yeast cells into action.
There Are Holes Underneath The Crust And A Dense Crumb At The Bottom Of The Bread
Your dough has been left to rise for too long (in the fridge).
This will make the crust settle quickly after placing the dough in the oven, as the dough immediately beneath the crust will be too porous and drop to the bottom part of the bread during baking. Next time, let the dough rise for a shorter period of time to make it less porous and to leave it with a little power to rise that final bit once it’s in the oven.
High oven temperature combined with dough that’s too cold.
Let the dough stand in its container at room temperature for a short while before tipping it out onto the work surface to avoid baking dough that’s too cold.
Your dough has not risen sufficiently before going into the oven.
Insufficient rising time will cause the top to react to the heat-shock and rise quickly. Let the dough rise a little longer next time you bake.
My Bread Is Too Sour
Your dough has been left to rise for too long.
Reduce the rising time next time you bake.
Your young starter has been left for too long which has made it sour.
Let the young starter stand at room temperature for a short while before mixing it into the dough. If the young starter smells and tastes too sour to add to the dough, add a little less to prevent your finished bread from tasting too sour.
Your bread is not done.
Bread may turn sour if it isn’t quite done by the time it is taken out of the oven. Insert a kitchen thermometer into the center of the loaf and check that the bread has reached 210°F to 212°F before removing it from the oven.