Why is my bread dense? It’s frustrating isn’t it?
You've spent days on a loaf of bread, expectations building with each step of the recipe. You pull that loaf out of the oven, slice into it when it’s cool, and stop dead in your tracks.It looks perfect on the outside but the crumb is very dense or there is an almost rubbery layer along the bottom crust. It’s still edible but not what you were going for.
Bread can be dense for a number of reasons. Let's chat about the adjustments you can make or things you can avoid to help achieve that lofty loaf of your dreams.
Proofing: Proofing takes time. It’s a patience tester, and it doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you get a rise quickly and sometimes it takes hours upon hours. But it’s important. Proofing can’t be skipped and it can’t be rushed. If your bread is under proofed, it means there’s not enough air in the dough. The yeast/sourdough in your dough has not had an adequate amount of time to produce the carbon dioxide that creates a rise in your bread. This results in bread that is dense and less airy.
Over proofing can be just as detrimental to the density of your bread as under proofing. Over proofed bread means that the carbon dioxide has escaped the structure. The gluten structure caved and the air in your loaf has escaped. This results in a denser loaf.
Finding that sweet spot in proofing will help create less dense loaves. When your dough has nearly doubled in size it’s proofed for the optimal amount of time. The more bread you bake the easier it will be to identify when your dough is ready to bake.
Here is an article listing six tips or tricks for a successful proof
Underhydrated Dough- Hydration refers to the amount of water in your dough. Dough that is too wet has a hard time rising and often spreads out. Underhydrated dough is from too little water. This will make a dry dense loaf. Don’t just start adding in more water. Add about a tablespoon at a time and knead or do a few stretch and folds. Let it rest and repeat if necessary. Or instead of adding a tablespoon of water at a time, run your hands under the tap and then knead or do some stretch and folds. This might be all the water you need.
Using the Wrong Flour- If you’re using modern wheat to make bread, this may be contributing to dense loaf. Oftentimes modern wheat is highly processed and the wheat is stripped of its micro nutrients. Darrold often says the life has been processed out of flour. The yeast or sourdough in your bread relies on the micro nutrients to nourish it. It gobbles up the sugars and nutrients of the flour and excretes carbon dioxide resulting in your bread rising. If there’s nothing for your yeast to eat in your flour due to over processing, it can’t produce that carbon dioxide that makes your bread rise.
Our Heritage Wheat is minimally processed, retaining as much flavor, micronutrients, sugars, etc. as possible. This provides the yeast in your bread with an abundance of nutrients for it to gobble up to create that carbon dioxide that results in your bread rising. It’s important to use quality flour if you expect a quality loaf of bread.
Using Too Much Salt - Salt is necessary for dough to rise properly and for flavor. Sometimes, especially if you’re new to bread baking, it might not taste salty enough. Resist the temptation to add more salt. This can toughen the dough. “If some is good, more must be better” does not apply here.
Let us know if you have any tricks to avoid a dense loaf of bread!
All for now,