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Baking Bread: Knead Help

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Is there a cooking post-mortems thread? ;)

My no-knead bread came out a flat, heavy, and dense disc. I'd like to figure out what happened so I can get this right in the future. The only things I can think of are that either my yeast was old/dead, or my house was too cold for it to rise properly (for about half the rising time the thermostat was set at 69, for the other half it was set at 66). Does one of these sound more reasonable than the other? Any other ideas?

Thanks...

Dan

I agree with cheezepowder below that bad yeast is the likely culprit. My house is never warmer than your settings (the thermostat reads 59 degrees at 6:30am as I type this). Do you store the yeast in the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature before you use it?

Edited by dcs

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Is there a cooking post-mortems thread? ;)

My no-knead bread came out a flat, heavy, and dense disc. I'd like to figure out what happened so I can get this right in the future. The only things I can think of are that either my yeast was old/dead, or my house was too cold for it to rise properly (for about half the rising time the thermostat was set at 69, for the other half it was set at 66). Does one of these sound more reasonable than the other? Any other ideas?

I would think it's more likely your yeast was dead. I don't think the temperature was the culprit. How long did you leave the dough for the first rise and was the dough bubbly at the end of it?

eta: (I see above that you left it for 15 hours. Did it have bubbles all over the top of the dough at the end of that time?)

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I agree that bad yeast is the culprit. Take some and put it in a bowl/cup with some sugar and warm water and see if it springs into action.

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Thanks guys...yeah, my yeast was dead. Found it sitting in a cabinet, not even sure how long it was there. I won't make that mistake again.

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The last two times I've made pain a l'ancienne (from Bread Baker's Apprentice - if memory serves, 79% hydration), it's come out undercooked.

21976_710971799704_5317785_40695718_657340_n.jpg

At least, I assume undercooked. The bread felt heavy, and the insides were more "reflective" (think wet-looking) and, well, gummier then I'm used to. Is there anything that might have caused this other then insufficient time in the oven? Under-performing yeast?

If I'm right, and I did take the bread out too early, how can I tell if bread is done? I know that seems like a basic question, but it seems like a good basic to know.

So many recipes and books tell me the bread should have an internal temperature of, for example, 200 degrees. Now, with meat, I'm used to cooking to temperature. When a steak is at 125 degrees, that's it. It's perfect. There's no ambiguity there. In this case, the bread in question was 200. It seems that unlike with steak, bread that's at the "target temperature" could be woefully undercooked or baked perfectly. So why use temperature at all if it can't be used to assess quality/doneness? If not temperature, what can I use? As a last resort, you can cut a steak open, but that would ruin bread.

Help!

And yes, I know my loaves are shaped unevenly. I'm still learning. ;)

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The last two times I've made pain a l'ancienne (from Bread Baker's Apprentice - if memory serves, 79% hydration), it's come out undercooked.

21976_710971799704_5317785_40695718_657340_n.jpg

At least, I assume undercooked. The bread felt heavy, and the insides were more "reflective" (think wet-looking) and, well, gummier then I'm used to. Is there anything that might have caused this other then insufficient time in the oven? Under-performing yeast?

If I'm right, and I did take the bread out too early, how can I tell if bread is done? I know that seems like a basic question, but it seems like a good basic to know.

So many recipes and books tell me the bread should have an internal temperature of, for example, 200 degrees. Now, with meat, I'm used to cooking to temperature. When a steak is at 125 degrees, that's it. It's perfect. There's no ambiguity there. In this case, the bread in question was 200. It seems that unlike with steak, bread that's at the "target temperature" could be woefully undercooked or baked perfectly. So why use temperature at all if it can't be used to assess quality/doneness? If not temperature, what can I use? As a last resort, you can cut a steak open, but that would ruin bread.

Help!

And yes, I know my loaves are shaped unevenly. I'm still learning. ;)

It sounds like the bread is undercooked. It looks like you got good oven spring as the slashes spread nicely. Have you made this before with no problems?

What does the crumb look like? Can you cut a loaf in half and post a picture?

As to the yeast, did the dough rise as expected? It is possible that it did not have enough time out of the fridge. I have found that in a 'cool' winter house the time to warm is a bit longer than what is in the various recipes. A good thing to do with baking bread is to put the dough in a straight sided container and put a mark the point where the dough should be when it doubles. This way there is no ambiguity and you don't really have to worry about the time. This helped my bread baking tremendously as I was relying on time too much.

I have not had too much trouble with temperature signaling properly baked bread, but it really depends on the crumb. A bread with a large open crumb will not let the thermometer rest against enough bread to give you an accurate reading. You can also thump the bread and listen for a good hollow sound. This takes practice and frequently testing loaves until you can tell the difference.

As for this recipe, the dough as I am sure you noticed is very delicate and it is very easy to degas it when you are removing it from the container.

Bread can be a finicky thing and you have to get used to your ingredients and kitchen conditions. The best thing to do is bake frequently and keep track of what you are doing until the results are what you want.

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The last two times I've made pain a l'ancienne (from Bread Baker's Apprentice - if memory serves, 79% hydration), it's come out undercooked.

I've found that Pain a l'Ancienne is a tricky bread that does not always play by the rules, so you have to trust your senses more than the recipe. I usually end up letting it rise 6-8 hours at room temperature. And cook it for a longer period and at a bit lower temperature than called for (so the crust does not burn).

If you've not already seen it, a book you might enjoy reading is "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman. He really gets into the how's and why's of bread baking without being ridiculously technical.

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He really gets into the how's and why's of bread baking without being ridiculously technical.

I like technical. ;)

Right now the only baking books I have are The Bread Bible and The Bread Baker's Apprentice (and the Bread chapter in McGee). I may have to pick this one up.

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If I'm right, and I did take the bread out too early, how can I tell if bread is done?

You can also thump the bread and listen for a good hollow sound. This takes practice and frequently testing loaves until you can tell the difference.

In my experience the 'thump" is the best method to determine if the bread is done - sort of like the "poke' method for protein. But, like mdt says, you have to bake a fair number of loaves (all of the same type), before you can recognize the right sound. Different types of bread with different crumbs and different shapes will sound different.

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I like technical. ;)

Right now the only baking books I have are The Bread Bible and The Bread Baker's Apprentice (and the Bread chapter in McGee). I may have to pick this one up.

Another good book to get is Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday. Well written and has come very good photos that compliment the descriptions.

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I like technical. ;)

Right now the only baking books I have are The Bread Bible and The Bread Baker's Apprentice (and the Bread chapter in McGee). I may have to pick this one up.

I suspect you'll enjoy the Hamelman book. It has not the breadth of bread recipes as BBA and some of his scaled-down recipes are not without issues, but his discussion of flour, leavenings and methods make the book well worth the price.

And here is a discussion on Pain a l'Ancienne that might also be of interest.

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Given the fact that the NYT will be charging Web readers next year and how annoying it is to fix broken links, I merely will cite an article of probable interest that is currently accessible online:

Harold McGee, "Better Bread with Less Kneading," in The Curious Cook, The New York Times, February 24, 2010.

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I just finished the 2nd rise of my Almost No-Knead bread from Cooks Illustrated and realized that I used the wrong kind of yeast. The recipe calls for instant yeast, and I used active-dry yeast, but did not proof it. As a result, the bread did not double in size. Should I proof some active-dry yeast and mix it into the dough now or just go ahead and bake it as is?

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I just finished the 2nd rise of my Almost No-Knead bread from Cooks Illustrated and realized that I used the wrong kind of yeast. The recipe calls for instant yeast, and I used active-dry yeast, but did not proof it. As a result, the bread did not double in size. Should I proof some active-dry yeast and mix it into the dough now or just go ahead and bake it as is?

I think you're going to be ok! I used ADY the two times I made the bread; excellent results (for an amateur like me!). My dough did not double, and IIRC, the instructions do not call for it to double, per se. Go ahead and bake, enjoy!

(in fact, I came here to DR to ask specifically about using ADY vs IY, and it was OK)

ets: however....the second time I made the ANKB, I did the second proof in the oven with just the light on, and I liked the results. The second rise was a bit larger....

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I just finished the 2nd rise of my Almost No-Knead bread from Cooks Illustrated and realized that I used the wrong kind of yeast. The recipe calls for instant yeast, and I used active-dry yeast, but did not proof it. As a result, the bread did not double in size. Should I proof some active-dry yeast and mix it into the dough now or just go ahead and bake it as is?

I always use active-dry yeast in this recipe, if only for some reason it always seems to be the only kind available when I go to the store. It has always worked fine for me. I always use warm water when I mix the dough to give it a little help. I do not know if this has any postive effects, it is just what I do. Perhaps it is just another in a long line of self-delusions under which I seem to suffer.

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Just let it take its time. I try to keep up with the different reasons for the various types of yeast, but given enough time, it usually works out.

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Dumb question alert: Pool Boy's post made me wonder if this is how most people knead their bread?

Thanks. Kneading is what Kitchenaid mixers with dough hooks are for.

I am a lazy kneader and have always thought one does it by hand if one doesn't have a bread machine. (Which is why 1. my bread bakes funny and 2. I don't bake bread much.)

How long does the dough hook knead for?

Thanks.

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Dumb question alert: Pool Boy's post made me wonder if this is how most people knead their bread?

I am a lazy kneader and have always thought one does it by hand if one doesn't have a bread machine. (Which is why 1. my bread bakes funny and 2. I don't bake bread much.)

How long does the dough hook knead for?

Thanks.

I certainly use my KA most of the time. The time really depends on the type of bread. The idea is to get good gluten formation that will provide the supporting structure of the bread. Most recipes provide kneading times for mixers and you can always do the windowpane test.

Windowpane%20test.jpg

You can always do the no-knead recipes which takes much less effort.

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Dumb question alert: Pool Boy's post made me wonder if this is how most people knead their bread?

I am a lazy kneader and have always thought one does it by hand if one doesn't have a bread machine. (Which is why 1. my bread bakes funny and 2. I don't bake bread much.)

How long does the dough hook knead for?

Thanks.

Yeah, most recipes indicate how long to knead. It's possible that hand-kneaded bread, especially for some bread recipes out there, might be best, but I am too lazy for that (unless it was a really special event where I'd pull the stops out, of course).

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Yeah, most recipes indicate how long to knead. It's possible that hand-kneaded bread, especially for some bread recipes out there, might be best, but I am too lazy for that (unless it was a really special event where I'd pull the stops out, of course).

I am trying to think of a type that would be better hand-kneaded, but cannot. Maybe I am just rationalizing my laziness.

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I am trying to think of a type that would be better hand-kneaded, but cannot. Maybe I am just rationalizing my laziness.

And mine!

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My first successful batch of sandwich toast! (except that I forgot to put some sort of sweetener, though.) :/

Thanks so much guys for walking me through stuff!

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The only thing not local in this bread is the salt.

You got a recipe for that thing? It looks good.

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