Baking Problems?

Apr 22, 2015

No Knead Bread Questions

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Questions about your no knead bread or rolls? These notes should help…

My dough didn’t rise.

  • No knead dough doesn’t rise like standard yeast breads, it only puffs up and gets bubbly. It will be a little bigger after the resting time but don’t look for a much larger volume.
  • Your yeast may not be fresh. Yeast has a short shelf life once a package is opened. Even with the small packets, once it’s opened, yeast should be tightly sealed and kept in the freezer, not refrigerated.
  • Your water may have been the wrong temperature. For the faster method, hot tap water is usually around 125 to 130°F. Anything hotter than that is too hot. And boiling water is definitely out. For the overnight method, cold to room temperature water works.
  • You changed the recipe. It’s best to follow the recipe exactly for the first time. That way you know it works. Don’t change the recipe the first time, paying attention to every detail. You can get creative later on.

My dough was too dry.

  •  You did not aerate your flour before measuring. Flour always settles in the bag or container and must be aerated before measuring; otherwise, you will be using too much flour. To aerate flour, using a large spoon or spatula, stir the flour around to incorporate some air.
  • You measured the flour incorrectly. To measure flour, use a flat-topped measuring cup, gently spoon the aerated flour into the cup until it’s mounded above the rim and level off the excess with the back of a knife. Do not tap the cup or the container of flour.
  • You changed the recipe.

My dough was too runny.

  • You used too much liquid or not enough flour. Use a cup specific for measuring liquids, have it on a flat surface and view it at eye level to make sure your liquid is at the correct line.
  • You sifted the flour before measuring, which would cause you to use less flour than required.
  • You changed the recipe.

My bread wasn’t cooked inside.

  • Your oven (and pot) were not preheated long enough. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven has reached 450°F. It can take over half an hour.
  • You sliced it too soon. After bread is removed from the oven, it will continue to cook inside. It’s best to let it cool completely before slicing (I know it’s hard to wait!)

My bottom crust was too hard.

  • Your pot was too close to the heat. Try raising the oven rack so the bottom is not as close to the heat.
  • Your oven may be hotter than you think. Use an oven thermometer to assure your oven is the proper temperature.
  • Try a slightly lower temperature by preheating to 450°F but lowering the temperature to 425°F to bake.
  • If using a black cast iron pot, try another one that is not black.
  • Do not bake any longer than indicated.

Don’t  you need sugar to feed the yeast?

  • No. You do not need sugar to activate the yeast. This is a half-true old wives tale left over from when yeast wasn’t preserved as well as it is today.

Doesn’t hot water kill the yeast?

  • No. Hot water does not kill yeast. Today’s yeast is more sturdy and accommodating than years ago and can tolerate water or liquid up to 130°F. The killing point for yeast is 140°F. (average tap water comes out at about 120-125°F – my tap water is 127°F)

I don’t have a Dutch oven.

  • I have only made my bread in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven (Le Creuset) so I can not recommend something I have not tried.  But I have researched online and other people claim to have success using: a glass pyrex dish with a lid, a stainless steel pot with a lid, a clay baker, and a pizza stone with a stainless steel bowl as a cover. Several people posted here that they used a black cast iron pot with a lid. With a little research, you may be able to find more options and you can also look through the comments below the recipe for other ideas. Keep in mind that any lid must be tight fitting because you need to create steam inside the pot and the lid should have an oven-proof handle (not plastic). Your pot will need to hold at least 3 quarts but 5 to 6 quarts is most common.

A Final Note: If you have followed my recipe exactly with no changes at all and it doesn’t look right before baking, don’t make adjustments to try to “fix” it. Trust the recipe, don’t change anything and continue as directed. You may be surprised that it turns out after all.

Apr 21, 2015

Problems with Yeast Baking?

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WITH BAKING, IT’S IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW THE RECIPE EXACTLY, RIGHT DOWN TO THE SIZE OF THE PAN.  EVEN THE SMALLEST CHANGE CAN CAUSE A RECIPE TO FAIL.

Dough Didn’t Rise

  1. Your liquid may have been the wrong temperature. Using an instant read thermometer is the best way to know it’s correct.
  2. Your yeast may not be fresh. Yeast has a short shelf life once a package is opened. Even with the small packets, once it’s opened, yeast should be tightly sealed and kept in the freezer, not refrigerated.
  3. You used the wrong size pan. Using a larger pan than is noted lets the dough spread sideways instead of rising upwards.
  4. You changed the recipe. It’s important to follow the recipe exactly, paying attention to every detail.

Dough Too Dry

  1. You did not aerate your flour before measuring. Flour always settles in the bag or container and must be aerated before measuring; otherwise, you will be using too much flour. To aerate flour, using a large spoon or spatula, stir the flour around to incorporate some air.
  2. You measured the flour incorrectly. To measure flour, use a flat-topped measuring cup, gently spoon the aerated flour into the cup until it’s mounded above the rim and level off the excess with the back of a knife. Do not tap the cup or the container of flour.
  3. You used a different flour than stated in the recipe.

Dough Too Sticky

  1. You used too much liquid or not enough flour. Use a cup specific for measuring liquids, have it on a flat surface and view it at eye level to make sure your liquid is at the correct line.
  2. You sifted the flour before measuring, which would cause you to use less flour than required.
  3. You used a different flour than stated in the recipe.

Don’t  you need sugar to feed the yeast?

  • No. You do not need sugar to activate the yeast. This is a half-true old wives tale left over from when yeast wasn’t preserved as well as it is today.

Doesn’t hot water kill the yeast?

  • No. Hot water does not kill yeast. Today’s yeast is more sturdy and accommodating than years ago and can tolerate water or liquid up to 130 degrees F. The killing point for yeast is 140 degrees F. (average tap water comes out at about 120-125 degrees F – my tap water is 127 degrees F)

Click here for my Flour Basics.

Click here for ideas on where to rise dough.

Click here for the difference between baking powder & baking soda.