What’s wrong with my bread?

Image of a loaf of bread on a cooling rack

Bread making faults. There are a few. However, there is one that really stands out as a common bread making fault.

This April I saw a lot of hot cross buns on Facebook which is fabulous.  I saw loads of people that were really happy with their results, and some that weren’t so happy….

Tips for making yeasted bread.

If your bread (or buns) were heavy and hard, it may not have been the recipe, it might have been because you were a little too impatient.

When I was teaching at college we’d have 16 students in a class, each making their own version of a single recipe.  If a recipe stipulated every single move of a technique they’d be many pages long.

Bahn Mi

So we shorten our method steps to something like “set in a warm place for 30 minutes”  

This is not very specific, and not always ideal if don’t understand what outcome we’re trying to achieve. What’s a warm place and exactly 30 minutes? What does it really mean?

The question of proving

Quite often it’s not the recipe thats wrong, but more a misinterpretation of its meaning given that it may use a degree of shorthand.  For yeasted bread, when your bread has turned out heavy, it’s more than likely you’ve just been a little too impatient and didn’t allow your buns (or bread) to prove enough before you popped them in the oven.

It’s the combination of time and temperature that provides the opportunity for yeast to grow, and ultimately for the dough to increase in volume. It’s this expansion in size (volume) that is essential to avoid a heavy, unappealing loaf of bread. The required increase in volume varies depending on the style, but a doubling of volume might be a general target.

Now lets look at some other factors that impact proving.

  • Was it warm where you put them to prove? 20 – 25 c
  • Was the dough in a draft?
  • Is your yeast in date?
  • Did you have it covered? if the surface dries it’s not ideal.
  • Have you been storing your yeast in the freezer?  (don’t do that it’s a myth, the fridge is OK, freezer no good)
  • When a recipe tells you to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place it means a warm place.  Don’t have a warm spot? I have loads of ideas that are shared in our classes, but you only need one or two don’t you.  Here are a couple of my favourites.

Is 30 minutes always the right amount of time?

No. Its a guide. Yeast is sensitive to temperature, and proving times will need to be varied at different temperatures. The type of yeast used also has an impact on proving time. This is especially important for sourdough, where the yeast used will require longer proving times.

What do we mean by yeasted bread?

We mean bread that has been made with the addition of commercial bread yeast (ie. bakers yeast fresh or dried that we buy from a supermarket), or sourdough from a yeast-based starter.


For small loaves:

Just about everyone has a microwave whether you use it much or not.  Take a shallow heatproof bowl (I use the top of a pyrex dish), pop it in the microwave with about ½ cup of water. 

Set the water to boil. It usually takes about 3 minutes for mine. Then sit a cooling rack or plate on top (cooling rack works better if you have one small enough), pop your dough inside on top of the cooling rack and close the door.  The atmosphere will be warm and moist. Perfect for dough proving.  

For larger trays:

The second method is just as easy but I tend to use this for trays of dough rather than a loaf because of the surface area we need to cover and my larger trays don’t fit in my microwave. 

Cover your tin with clingfilm.  ¼ – ½ fill your sink with hot water, sit a cooling rack over the sink then place your tray over the cooling rack to keep the warmth and steam in I use a clean tea towel over the top.

When you prove your dough it really does need to almost double in size.  That can be really hard to judge I know. But if you make the same thing over a few times you will learn what that is. 

In my experience, this is where most people go wrong.  Especially with something like Hot Cross Buns because the remainder of the recipe is really very easy.  You don’t have to worry too much about gluten development and other things commonly used in bread making.

Black burger buns sitting in the oven on a rack, showing baked
Black Burger Buns

Want to know more?

Why not have a go at one of these other bread related recipes.

Hot Cross buns in less than an hour

Hot Cross Buns – Patisserie Recipe (for Thermomix)

Black Burger Bun Recipe

Bec’s Burger Buns

Thermomix and Stand mixer French Baguettes

Thermomix Bahn Mi – Vietnamese Bread Rolls

Sweet Custard Filled Pull-Apart

Or, maybe you’d like to know more about Bake Club Online.

What is Bake Club Online?

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