I intended to post a recipe I found for some French bread bowls, but they turned out poorly. I believe the recipe itself was flawed, something I should have noticed. A quick search revealed that a lot of people have had similar problems.
When baking bread, it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with a rather finicky living creature — yeast. Like any living creature, yeast has it’s own likes and dislikes. It can also die.
Problem 1: Yeast and water mixture fails to foam after 10 minutes.
Here are a few common causes and their solutions:
- Yeast is dead. Check the expiration date on the package. Yeast has a limited shelf life. You’ll have to start over with new yeast.
- Water was too hot. You roasted the yeast alive. Start over with cooler water (105 degrees Fahrenheit) and new yeast.
- Water was too cool. The yeast isn’t comfortable enough to reproduce. Set the mood by adding warm water.
Problem 2: Bread fails to rise.
- The yeast is dead. See above.
- The room is too cold. Make sure the bread sits in a comfortably warm place.
- You used too little flour. Add more. Make sure that you’re using the same kind of flour that the recipe calls for. Generally you need less bread-makers flour than you would all-purpose flour.
Problem 3: The resulting bread is too dense and hard.
- It’s been overcooked. Next time remove it from the oven sooner.
- It’s been over-kneaded or under-kneaded. A well kneaded loaf of bread is still sticky to the touch but will cohere to itself as a ball. Electric mixers usually over-knead. Doing it by hand usually results in under-kneading.
- You’ve used too much flour. The amount of flour necessary for a loaf can vary based on elevation, humidity, and other factors. Some bakers suggest using oil instead of flour to keep the bread from sticking while kneading.
The thing to remember when making bread is that baking has a bit of art to it. Formulas don’t always cut it because living things can be a mite unpredictable. Here are some other discussions of why your bread didn’t turn out quite right: