Why Did My Bread Fail? How to Troubleshoot Bread

Breakfast, Cooking How-To, How-To, Recipes
on May 14, 2015
Why Did My Bread Fail?: How to Troubleshoot Bread
The Larousse Book of Bread
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All right, so you followed a trusted baking recipe to a tee, but somehow, it still turned out a flop. We’ve all been there—and if you’re dealing with bread, you’ve been there again and again. Next time your homemade bread turns out too dense, disastrously wet or just plain ugly, turn your failure into a positive and pinpoint exactly where you when wrong.

Larousse Book of BreadFor expert advice, we’re pulling advice straight from the pages of The Larousse Book of Bread (Phaidon, 2015) by Eric Kayser, excerpted below. Kayser is celebrated as one of France’s best bakers, and fittingly so—there are over 80 bakeries worldwide bearing his name. His new book is filled with gorgeous visual step-by-steps and is constructed to be a go-to among home bakers and professionals alike. For a bread recipe you’ll want to make again and again, check out his Daisy Loaf (and hey, you may not need this article after all!).

Learning from Mistakes by Eric Kayser

You may experience a few setbacks when you embark on the great bread-making adventure. Remember that it is less a question of following recipes than of listening to your instincts and observing how the dough evolves. The potential for error will be different every time you bake, since the dough itself is never exactly the same. It’s up to you to analyze each challenge that arises. However, you should always view mistakes positively: each one gives you a better understanding of what happens at the different stages of baking, and so helps your progress. To help you along, here are a few of the problems you might encounter at different stages of baking, along with their likely causes.

The Dough is Too Wet

  • There was too much water in the dough
  • The water was too hot
  • The kneading was insufficient

The Loaves are Rather Flat

  • There was a problem with the flour
  • The starter was not sufficiently “active”
  • The dough was too cold
  • The dough was either too stiff or too soft
  • The dough was proofed for too long
  • The oven temperature was too low or too high

The Loaves Lack Volume

  • The flour was too “strong”
  • The starter was not sufficiently “active”
  • The dough was too cold
  • The dough was proofed for too long
  • The dough was over-worked (with too much force)

The Dough Developed a Crust

  • The scoring was inadequate
  • The oven temperature was too low or too high
  • There wasn’t enough steam when putting the dough in the oven

The Bread has a Dense, Unaerated Crumb

  • The first rise or proofing was insufficient
  • The dough was over-worked during the shaping (was too firm)
  • The scoring was inadequate
  • The oven temperature was too high
  • There wasn’t enough steam when putting the dough in the oven

The Baguettes are Curved or Bent

  • The dough was over-kneaded (was too firm)
  • The dough was over-worked during the shaping (was too firm; too tight)
  • The oven temperature was too high

The Scorings do Not “Catch” (They Disappear During Baking)

  • The kneading was insufficient
  • The dough was over-worked (with too much force)
  • The dough wasn’t properly shaped
  • The dough was over-proofed
  • The scoring was too shallow
  • The oven temperature was too high
  • There was too much steam when putting the dough in the oven

The Crust is Too Pale

  • The flour was poor quality
  • The dough was over-proved
  • The dough was worked too much during the kneading and/or shaping
  • The oven temperature too low
  • The bread wasn’t baked for long enough
  • There wasn’t enough steam when putting the dough in the oven

The Crust is Dull

  • There wasn’t enough salt
  • The dough was over-worked
  • The dough was too warm
  • There wasn’t enough steam when putting the dough in the oven

The Crust is Soft

  • The dough was too cold
  • The dough wasn’t properly shaped
  • There was too much steam when putting the dough in the oven
  • The bread was undercooked
  • The bread wasn’t cooled properly

The Base of the Bread is Somewhat Burnt

  • The oven temperature was too high
  • The baking sheet was placed too low in the oven

Try Eric’s Daisy Loaf Bread

Daisy Loaf Bread | Relish.com

The Larousse Book of Bread