Anyone who cooks and bakes very often is likely to have entertaining stories to tell about cooking activities that went wrong. I’m no exception to that rule.

Because baking bread involves a degree of what some call “art,” there’s bound to be some recipe flops here and there. What we want to avoid are regular disappointments with how the dough rises or how our bread tastes.

Like any other skill, each of us will have unique details in our approach to baking bread. Those individual abilities will emerge over time.

However, there is also quite a bit of science behind bread baking. We know for sure that yeast expels carbon dioxide as it feeds off sugars. That’s what makes bread dough increase in volume.

We also know that yeast is more active in a temperature range between 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) and 112 degrees. At temperatures of 115 or higher, the yeast dies.

This information helps us refine bread baking methods to achieve high-rising loaves that look beautiful and taste fantastic!

If your bread-baking efforts aren’t as successful as you’d like, here are four tips that may help you identify what’s hindering your success and giving you more “entertaining” baking stories than you really need!

  1. Dry, dense loaf: this may be caused by using too much flour. In my earliest bread baking days, I thought bread dough should have no hint of stickiness when it was ready for the final rise. The dough shouldn’t be so sticky that you have to scrape it out of the pan. However, it’s okay if it sticks to your hands a bit. You want adequate moisture for the yeast to do its final work and for the bread to be soft. If it seems necessary to add flour during the final kneading, do so sparingly and just a tablespoon or two at a time.
  2. Dry, dense loaf: It’s also possible that you’re packing your measuring cup when you measure flour. Spoon flour into your measuring device and level it off with a knife or other utensil. You can also weigh flour (a skill I have not yet mastered). Keep in mind that different types of flour have different weights when measured. Check out King Arthur Flour’s Ingredient Weight Chart on their website for details.
  3. Dough deflates when it’s time to bake it: This indicates that the dough sat too long, and raised too high before it was placed in the oven. It’s also possible the dough was too wet and didn’t hold its shape when it was moved.
  4. The loaf flattens when it’s sliced: Be sure to use a sharp knife when you slice bread. A serrated edge works best for me. Don’t press down on the loaf as you slice. Let the knife gently cut down into it. Depending on the type of bread you’re baking, the loaf may need to cool a bit longer before slicing it. I know! What a challenge for those of us who love bread straight out of the oven!


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