How to make my bread less dense?
April 5, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

How to make my bread less dense?

I just picked up a Breadman bread maker and we've made a few loaves with it. I mostly like the bread that it makes, but is there a way to make it less dense?
We're using Pillsbury's bread flour made for bread machines and Red Star's active dry yeast.
posted by NoMich to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Less flour?
posted by martinrebas at 10:54 AM on April 5, 2008

Don't mix so much. You want to keep the gluten strands long, and by overmixing you are breaking them up. Longer gluten strands will be able to hold larger pockets of air, resulting in bread less dense.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:55 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are a million factors that could be in play here, but I would first weigh my flour instead of scooping it (when a recipe calls for a cup of AP flour, you want it to weigh 4.5 ounces—if you're packing more flour into a cup you will get a dense, dry result; you may have to research weights for bread flour in a scientifically-oriented cookbook like Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible) and second test my yeast by reviving 2 1/4 teaspoons of it in a cup of 110° water (and chuck the rest if it doesn't bubble up into a foamy head).

I'd also look into a bread recipe using oatmeal*—that bread is wonderfully moist although I've not tried it in a bread machine.

A recipe you've used that you didn't quite like might be helpful for people to come up with further advice.

*Hope that link works, most of the CI recipes require a login but that one came up in a Google search so maybe it'll be alright for those who aren't members.
posted by bcwinters at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Recipes that make a wetter, more hydrated dough could help. And not overproofing (is that possible in a bread machine?)
posted by peachfuzz at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2008

Two tricks for fluffier bread: don't let your yeast touch salt and use water that is left over from boiling peeled potatoes.
posted by Theresa at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2008

Add 2 level tablespoons of wheat gluten to the dry mix, before adding the liquids. (Reduce the amount of flour by 2 tbs, too.) Wheat gluten can often be found in grocery stores in the bulk food section and keeps well in the freezer. If you want even more volume, you can add a little more, which I do when I'm using whole grain flours or seeds, since those tend to be denser loaves anyway. Even when using the higher gluten bread flours you will love the volume and lightness this added gluten gives.
posted by mumstheword at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

One of the reasons that my Zojirushi (which I asked about here, is languishing in a cabinet is that I never could just throw the ingredients in the machine and walk away. Depending on the day's climate, I had to always add more water or flour (usually the former), or else I ended up with a loaf that was too dense. Your dough should have that slightly tacky, springy earlobe consistency, and I could never get that without standing over the machine and making small adjustments - which negated the main appeal of the machine. I just use my Kitchenaid mixer now, with much better results.

Otherwise, you might want to try bread flour (King Arthurs makes a good one) and slightly more water.
posted by bibliowench at 1:34 PM on April 5, 2008

Mumstheword has it. Use gluten.

When I use it the diff is remarkable. (I knead my own bread instead of using a machine, but still. I only use half of what the package calls for but ymmv.)
posted by konolia at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2008

You should not be using active dry yeast with a bread machine. You should be using instant, rapid rise or bread machine yeast (the same things).

Active dry yeast requires a proofing stage. Since you are not proofing the yeast in warm water/sugar mixture ahead of time, the yeast may not be fully "awake" by the time the bread machine starts baking. Instant yeast circumvents this problem by not requiring proofing because it contains citric acid. There are also less "dead" yeasts in instant yeast (according to Alton Brown) which basically means more gas and a faster rise, and more bubbles! mmmm yeast farts.

I'm sure you can find many rants and raves about it here, or just from googling "active dry versus instant yeast"

I use SAF Red label yeast, although I found it at the organic co-op store and not at my regular supermarket. (YMMV) Red Star also makes a bread machine or rapid rise yeast that I have had success with in traditional and bread machine baking. Alton Brown uses SAF as well, and it is recommended in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. They also recommend King Arthur flour in that book, which I believe was recommended in this thread as well. I have used King Arthur and love it, but I recently got a great deal on a 50 lbs bag of cheap bread flour, and since I make a lot of bread, I'm giving that a whirl and it seems ok.

Also, are you using a recipe from the bread machine cookbook? Be sure to start with the recipes there and if they suck, you can find like eleven gillion bread machine recipes on the internet. Here's a recent favorite for honey white that I enjoyed, I made it as a practice loaf with my sister and then gave her my bread machine since I am a Bread Baker's Apprentice and No Knead Bread devotee of late :)

I don't personally think you will need to add gluten to white bread because it is not as hard to break down the white flour, but it might be something to look into and definitely might be a consideration if you start making whole wheat breads. I have never used it in any of my wheat or white breads, but I have not made very many whole wheat breads, and they often turn out somewhat more dense than white loaves.

MeMail me if you have any more questions...Good luck!
posted by sararah at 9:16 PM on April 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Theresa noted to not let your yeast touch the salt, but this is another advantage with instant/bread machine yeast -- you can add the two simultaneously and the salt will not affect it.
posted by sararah at 9:21 PM on April 5, 2008

Dude! We just got a breadmaker too and had the same problem. Turns out that the little measuring cup actually holds a cup and a half, not just a cup like we thought, so we were using too much flour. This may be too simplistic a solution for your needs, though. Good luck!
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:37 AM on April 6, 2008

Great minds think alike, Doc.
I just picked up a box of gluten (per mumstheword, who thankfully didn't) this morning, so I'm giving that a try with my next loaf of whole wheat bread. Now I'm off to fulfill sararah's suggestion of the SAF Red label yeast.
Thanks for the input, everybody!
posted by NoMich at 9:51 AM on April 6, 2008

Ever tried using okara?
posted by ikahime at 9:27 PM on April 6, 2008

I just made a batch of French bread dough in my Breadman Ultimate after reading this thread, and adding two tablespoons of gluten to the mix (otherwise white bread flour, salt, yeast and water). It was the best I've made so far, at least the inside--I should have put a pan of boiling water in the oven in order to get the crust right, but I was lazy. Anyway, I had great bread guts: soft, airy crumb, not dense at all. My first experience adding gluten was a pretty smashing success.

FWIW, I have great results with active dry yeast. Sometimes you need to play with the proportions if you're using a recipe written for a bread machine that doesn't specifically call for active dry yeast, but in general it hasn't been a problem for me.

About 90% of the time I use my bread machine as more of a dough machine, then I shape the loaves and bake them in the oven. When it gets warmer I'll probably be experimenting more with baking in the machine itself so as not to heat up the whole house.
posted by padraigin at 9:00 PM on April 8, 2008

I just got a second hand breadmaker and I'm still looking for a reliably delicious recipe. Did you find one yet NoMich?
posted by serazin at 11:28 PM on July 22, 2008

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