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Bread Trouble

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Old 04-28-2007, 08:00 PM   #1
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Default Bread Trouble

I'm having trouble getting a bread recipe to work. The bread seems dry-ish, and it doesn't want to rise. I'm following the recipe exactly, so I'm not sure what I am doing wrong. Although the recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I'm using almonds since I couldn't find hazelnuts. Could that be part of the problem? Or maybe the bread isn't suppose to rise up too much? I'll post the ingredients, but if you all need the rest of the recipe, I'll post that too.

1 envelope active dry yeast
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup shortening

Should we just omit the nuts entirely? Or was the water not hot enough? The recipe says it's a very crusty bread. We couldn't even put all the flour in, cause it just seemed dry and crumbly. Please help. I want to make this so bad.

Update: It didn't turn out good at all. It was lumpy, crumbly, and the center didn't even bake at all. I'm not sure if it was suppose to be a flat oval or what. Books never get specific like that. Using sea salt instead of table salt wouldn't have ruined it, would it?
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Last edited by BlessedBe : 04-28-2007 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 04-28-2007, 09:50 PM   #2
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That's nowhere near enough water for that much flour. The quarter cup was probably just for the yeast! So your recipe is probably wrong.

Don't feel bad, I bought James Beard's classic "Beard on Bread" and the first recipe I tried was a disaster! I was pretty surprised. I work at a fishing lodge in the summer months and make all the bread there so I'd had an inkling the recipe was wrong, should've trusted my judgement.

Water needs also vary with climate - if you live in a very dry climate like I do, you'll need a little more water.

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Old 04-28-2007, 10:05 PM   #3
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How much more water would you suggest I add, minus the water for the yeast? And I live in Indiana, if that helps.
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Old 04-28-2007, 10:56 PM   #4
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Bread baking is something you just have to get a feel for. The only thing I always stick to is to keep the water you proof the yeast in between 100 - 115 degrees F. Less than 110 and the yeast won't "wake up" and over 115 and the hot water might kill the yeast. You need a thermometer to make sure until you have baked enough to do so by feel (which is something I never do~why risk it?.)

I would play with the recipe and add more water. It may take some trial and error before you get it right. Another thing to keep in consideration is that flour can differ in level of moisture depending on the weather and humidity (flour is not just "dry".) I've made the same recipes several times and have had to add varying amounts of flour each time. Sometimes it'll take less, sometimes more.

It is possible that hazelnuts contain more moisture than almonds, but adjusting the water should counter act that. Also, I don't think that sea salt would be the problem. If anything it might rise more due to sea salts lower sodium content (sodium helps to slow down the yeast so it doesn't go too crazy.)

In my opinion bread baking is more art than science. Good Luck!
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Old 05-30-2007, 12:19 AM   #5
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My bread recipes call for liquid that is around 40% to 50% of the amount of flour added (so a recipe that calls for 3 cups of flour, would call for 1.25 to 1.5 cups liquid). Remember that the maple syrup is a liquid, so be sure to count that when you figure out how much water to add. You might increase the water to anywhere from 2/3 cup to a little over 1 cup. Also, a lot of my bread recipes call for milk in place of a portion of the water, so you might try keeping the water at 1/4 cup and adding enough milk to equal 1.25 to 1.5 cups liquid. I would err on the conservative side, although if the dough ends up too sticky you can always just add some more flour.

A few other tips:

1. Always start the yeast before adding it to the dough. Place the hot water in a bowl with the yeast. The water should be hot to the touch, about the temperature that you would use to wash dishes by hand. Also add something for the yeast to eat; one of the tbsps of brown sugar should work well. Let it sit for five minutes or so. If it starts to froth, the yeast is good. If it doesn't froth, toss that batch out and start over with a new packet of yeast (see tip #2).

2. Always have a spare packet of yeast on hand. If you have it, you'll never need it. If you don't have it, I can guarantee you'll be making a run to the grocery store for more yeast before you finish your bread.

3. Kneading the dough with your bare hands is very important. The chemicals on your skin react with the yeast and help it to rise. Also, you cannot get all of the flour worked into the dough with a mixer. At most, you'll probably only be able to get 2 cups of the flour worked in with a mixer. That last cup will be worked in as you need the dough. You'll know when the dough is kneaded enough because you will have worked in all the flour and because it will be smooth and elastic in texture.

4. I wouldn't bake with sea salt. For one thing, it's a waste of expensive salt; save your sea salt for finishing, when you can really taste the difference between it and table salt. Also, sea salt can't be substituted on a 1 for 1 basis with table salt because it is a much courser grain, so you aren't getting as much salt. This means that your recipe will turn out bland because it doesn't have enough salt. Also, table salt performs better in baked goods than sea salt. Stick with table salt for baking.

5. If you have a gas oven with a continously lit pilot, in the oven (with the oven turned off) is the perfect place to let the bread rise. The pilot light provides just enough heat to make the oven the perfect temperature for the yeast. All my best loaves of bread rose in a gas oven. If you don't have a gas oven, then a sunny window is the second best place. The yeast needs to be warm enough for it to rise. Sometimes on warm days, I put my dough outside in the sun on my patio table. The heat rising from the cement is also good for helping the dough rise.

Substituting almonds for hazelnuts or leaving the nuts out altogether shouldn't make any difference. That's just a matter of preference.
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