Keep this guide handy and your bread-baking projects will be a huge success
- Insufficient yeast or expired ‘best before’ date: 1 packet/10g active dry yeast or 20g fresh yeast is needed to allow 500g-1kg flour to rise.
- Too much sugar: if the ratio of sugar to flour is more than 125ml sugar to 600g flour, add another 10g packet of active dry yeast or 20g fresh yeast. Don’t allow fresh yeast to come into direct contact with sugar.
- Too little sugar: use at least 5ml sugar per 500g flour.
- Liquid was too hot: water or milk should be lukewarm when added to yeast. Test the temperature by dripping some on your wrist; it shouldn’t burn.
- Too much salt: don’t allow fresh yeast to come into direct contact with salt.
- Rising temperature was too low or too high: the ideal rising/proving temperature should be between 40°C and 45°C.
Bread rose, but collapsed in oven? It could be one the following:
- Use bread flour when baking with yeast: it contains a higher amount of protein, resulting in better dough/gluten formation, and holds its structure well.
- Dough was over-proved: dough should double in size. Do the ‘ripe test’ to determine whether it’s ready. Gently stick two fingers in the risen dough up to the second knuckle and then remove. If the indentations remain the dough is ‘ripe’ and ready for punch down. If not, cover and let the dough rise longer. Repeat test.
- Oven temperature was too low: always preheat your oven to the temperature stated in the recipe before baking.
Large holes in bread? It might be one of the following:
- Dough was poorly shaped: air needs to be completely pressed out of dough during punching down.
- Dough allowed to rise for too long: use the ‘ripe test’ to determine when your dough has risen enough (see above).
Bread texture problems? It might be one of the following:
- Too dense or doughy: oven temperature is too hot so the crust bakes too soon, not allowing the dough to reach its full volume. Or the bread might have been removed from the oven too soon. Follow the recipe time guide and tap the base of the bread – it should sound hollow if it’s cooked.
- Sticky dough: not enough flour was used.
- Hard crust: use less flour and make sure your oven temperature is not too low.
- Soggy crust: remove from the baking tin immediately after baking and cool on a cooling rack.
- Crumbly: too much flour was used or dough wasn’t kneaded long enough.