28 May 2011

Dead Bread

This is a slice of my latest attempt to make bread. I've always had success with the family recipe, but lately I've been turning to my new favorite cookbook for some variety. Unfortunately, every time I have tried, the bread has failed to rise. The photo shows my fourth or fifth attempt, and I am just not sure what to do. I know the yeast is good, and this last time I added vital wheat gluten to help it out, but it did no good. I have two theories:

1. My house is too cold. It is usually around the mid to upper 60s indoors, and though I try to create warm spots for the bread to rise, it may not be enough. Perhaps I'll have more success in the summer?

2. Insufficient kneading. Due to a chronic pain issue, my arms get sore pretty quickly, so I usually take a couple of breaks while kneading and give up all together before I should. A stand mixer with a dough hook may solve my problems, but I am too poor for one of those.

So. Has anyone else had bread problems like this? How did you cope? Right now it is making me feel like this:


  1. regarding warm spots, how about the area above the refrigerator? or turn the oven on to its lowest setting, then once it's heated start making the dough. turn it off and plop the dough in to rise.

    also, hit Goodwill for a bread machine. we use ours mostly for the batter part of the process - if it's a specialty style loaf, i'll pull the dough out and form it by hand. it saves time and wrists doing it that way, and bread machines are usually easier to find for cheaps.

    the only thing i don't like about it is it's a bit of a unitasker. if you're definitely interested in getting a mixer instead, i know Amazon sells steeply discounted (like half off refurb) Kitchen Aid mixers around Black Friday.

  2. I definitely agree with Laura on all counts. My old house was always cold (we didn't have a heater) and I made bread in the winter and would let it rise in a warmed oven. A bread machine is even better because they control the temperature and the kneading. You can set it to just dough so you don't get that annoying bread machine shape. I got mine for $15 on craigslist. They are always on there pretty cheap. It's exactly the kind of thing people like to buy (or get for their wedding) and then never use.

    I know you said yeast wasn't your problem, but I like to use the kind of yeast that comes in a jar as opposed to the kind in the packets. If you close it tightly each time, it'll last in the fridge for months.

    Good luck!

  3. One more thing about yeast... you probably know this already, but at the beginning, do you treat it with water and sugar to make sure it's bubbly/alive?

  4. one of these years i'm going to bite the bullet and buy a jar of yeast.

  5. I use jarred yeast, and I always proof it in warm water with sugar first - it's nice and bubbly every time! I sometimes use the warm oven thing, but then I worry about it getting too warm and turn it off.

    Laura, I think you're right about the bread machine. It's a pretty bulky appliance that would only get used for one thing, but if I'm serious about making bread regularly it would be worth it. Thanks for the tips, guys!