Tips, Tricks & Troubles!

This is the help section for your troubled loaves of bread.  Read this section before you start and you’ll be ahead of the game!  Bread baking tips, tricks & troubles give you the “how to” techniques so that your bread making efforts turn out tasty!

Add the salt, beaten eggs, or butter after some of the flour has already been mixed into the bread dough to avoid killing the yeast.

Any recipe calling for all-purpose flour may use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

If you want the baked loaf to be 100% whole wheat, take one tablespoon of the whole wheat flour out of each cup of whole wheat flour for every cup of all-purpose or bread flour.

To create a less dense whole-wheat loaf, add one tablespoon of gluten flour and one tablespoon of liquid for each cup of whole-wheat flour.

Smell any oil before using it in case it is spoiling.  Just a teaspoon of spoiling or rancid oil will make your finished bread taste nasty.

Another bread baking technique is that you can directly add rapid rise yeast to your dough.  I recommend and prefer proofing all yeast. There’s nothing more disappointing than making a loaf of bread and not having it rise. It just takes 5 – 7 minutes of your time. I have accidentaly killed my yeast . . . and I’ve been baking bread over 30 years. It happens.

Slash about every 3″ along the tops of the loaves with a serrated knife 1/4″ deep before they proof (rise) to aid in them rising evenly.  Slashing the loaf is something most bakers do after the bread rises, but before it bakes.  I find it easier to do this step before the bread rises.

Always cover your bread dough when it is resting or rising so that it doesn’t dry out.

To help dough rise:

  1. Place your loaves on an electric heating pad set on low and cover the loaves with a clean, damp linen tea towel; or, turn the oven on as low as possible. Once it has heated, turn it off, open the door and place the loaves on the open door with a large towel to cover the open oven (again, cover the loaves with a clean tea towel); or,
  2. Turn on the oven light and place the loaves in the room temperature oven with the light on. Remember to cover the loaves with a tea towel. The light itself will generate heat. Be careful it doesn’t generate too much heat and kill your yeast.

Don’t let bread dough rise beyond the time called for in a recipe. It will collapse. This also happens if the bread dough rises in too warm a temperature.
When dough has doubled its size, it will look puffed and soft. If touched with a finger, it should make an indentation and that stays where you touched it. The dough has not risen enough if it bounces back out or is really springy to the touch and the indentation pops out of shape instead of staying indented.

Baking Multiple Loaves — When you are baking multiple loaves, leave space between the pans for proper air circulation. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up with very lopsided bread.

Some recipes call for a very hot oven (400°F. – 500°F. degrees), but other than Naan or Pita breads, I’ve never baked a loaf of bread in an oven over 375°F. degrees, and I’ve been bread baking over thirty years. If you bake it longer, but at this temperature, the loaf gets a nicer crust and the interior bakes better. As you get bread baking experience, you’ll find your own way of doing things.
Do invest in an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is accurate. Ovens can easily be off 25 degrees. That will create havoc with your baking. Knowledge is power!
This being said, please note that some bread  (such as the pita or naan breads), does need the much higher temperature! These are usually the flat breads.
Here’s my bread baking tip for great crumb structure and fabulous flavor — use a pre-ferment stage.

This is a  starter dough that matures overnight. Bread starter is mixed with the other ingredients the following day. It is called many things — poolish, sponge, biga, or levain. They are all similar, but made from different amounts of the same ingredients: flour, yeast, sugar and water.
For a sourdough starter try this one. It’s easy to make. Once it’s ready to go, you’ll get great results when you make your bread with it.

To get nice bread color

  • Use enough sugar in the dough.
  • Brush an egg wash on top before baking (1 egg mixed with 1 T. water)

Bread Baking Tips for Great Crusts –

Before baking:

  • Normal crust — leave the loaf plain or use an egg wash for shine
  • Chewier crust — brush the loaf with milk prior to baking
  • Chewiest crust — brush the loaf with water before baking and again during baking

After baking:

  • Immediately remove the loaf from the pan
  • Cool bread on a cooling rack to keep it from getting soggy

Freezing Dough –

Bread dough can be mixed, kneaded, wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen. Let it thaw and come to room temperature. Unwrap it from the plastic wrap and put it in the prepared pans. Cover and let rise until double in size and then bake!

Fully Baked Bread–

How do you know when bread is baked fully? The crust should be golden brown. The bread should feel firm, but not too hard. If the bread is spongy, it is not baked enough. If you tap the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow. If it sounds dull, it needs more baking.  If you use a thermometer inserted a couple of inches, it should read 190ºF.

Proofing Loaves –

If the rise was too slow:

  • make sure starter is fully active before using it,
  • use more starter,
  • or let the bread rise at a higher temperature.

If the rise was too fast use less starter:

  • let the bread rise at a lower temperature,
  • consider letting the bread rise (proof) in the refrigerator.

Loaf didn’t rise, though the dough did in an earlier rise — make sure you knead the dough before forming the loaf.

Sourdough Taste

  • is missing or too weak — extend rising time or add rye flour to recipe.
  • is too strong — reduce rising time or reduce rye flour content of recipe.


The loaf spread too much as it proofed — the bread dough does not have enough flour in it (it is too soft).

The top crust separates from the rest of the loaf — too much flour in the bread dough (making for a very stiff dough) or it proofed too long.

Bread splits while baking — it proofed too long, too much yeast was used, loaf was formed with a large air pocket in the middle.

Your loaf of bread falls (collapses) while it is baking — the oven temperature is too low. It happens because the bread dough rises to its maximum and then collapses before it gets hot enough to set.

The bread is sticky inside after baking:

  • It is under-baked (should have a 190 F. internal temperature and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom)
  • It baked at too high a temperature (bread set before it finished rising)

If your loaf has large holes in it, the bread dough was probably kneaded too much.  It’s a great trait for Italian ciabatta bread!

The bread dough doesn’t rise much –

  • Not enough yeast was used.
  • Too much salt was used.
  • Salt was added to yeast mixture before flour.
  • The starter needed refreshing (feeding) before use.

Bread tastes really yeasty

  • Use less yeast next time.
  • Bread proofed too long.

Keeping bread from getting too crispy while baking –
Use steam.  Put a pan of ice cubes or water in the bottom of the oven while it preheats. The moisture causes the bread to form a thin crust but keeps the insides soft and moist.

Bread is getting stale –

  • Freshen slightly stale (but not moldy) bread by putting it in a damp brown paper bag and microwaving for one minute.
  • Make croutons –  cut the bread into slices and cut the slices into cubes.  Spray pieces with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings  (garlic, onion, basil, parmesan cheese, etc.).  Bake at 325 F. degrees for 15 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes.
  • Make bread crumbs — dry the bread at 300 F. degrees for ten minutes. Break bread into small pieces. Use grind setting on blender to make crumbs.  Use the croutons for seasoned bread crumbs!

Haste is the enemy of good bread.


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