Scratching my head: what mistake did I make with this bread?

Artisan Bread book sandwich loaf--bust

This was supposed to be a sandwich loaf. Sandwich loaves, however, are typically more than an inch and a half tall. I guess I could make finger sandwiches, though, and call it a day. But instead I think I’ll use this opportunity to ruminate on what might have happened here. This little tiny loaf, incidentally, tastes amazing, so at least it has that going for it.

This loaf was made from a modified recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Instead of using all wheat flour, as the recipe called for, I swapped in half regular, all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour has very little gluten and thus, sometimes, very little rise. In theory, then, this should have certainly risen some more than it did, since I only used half of the wheat flour.

Artisan Bread’s recipes all use a very wet dough. It’s the wetness of the dough that allows it to sit in the fridge for up to two weeks, as the water continually feeds on the yeast, causing it to grow. This loaf was made with dough I put together this morning; it was exceptionally wet. The directions called for shaping the dough into a ball; that certainly didn’t happen, as this stuff was very, very sticky and un-shapable. I ended up just glopping it into a loaf pan. That could have been part of my problem–maybe it needed a little more flour, a little more shapliness. That’s how the peasant loaves I’ve made have been–I could sorta shape them into a ball by draping them in flour, as the recipes called for. This one called for shaping with wet hands which only seemed to make the problem worse. Hmm.

The recipe also called for me to slash the top of the loaf before baking. I had my knife ready, and then forgot, as I was making grilled cheese sandwiches at the same time. This might be our biggest culprit–perhaps the top had nowhere to go. I didn’t have any plastic wrap to cover the dough with during rising time, using instead a barely damp towel. As such, it dried out some. The combination of that dryness plus a lack of a slash might have led to the lack of oven rise here.

It’s also possible that my yeast is wearing out. I bought a 2-pound bag of yeast a long while ago (May 2007); I thought it could store more or less forever in the freezer, but maybe I’m wrong there.

The bread tastes fantastic, however, and has a great crust. I think I might just slice it lengthwise and make sandwiches that way. We’ll get far fewer slices, but they’ll be tall enough for a slice of cheese, and really, that’s what matters. There is enough dough to supposedly make two more loaves in the fridge. I may dump it all into one and hope for the best; if it won’t be tall from rising, at least it’ll be tall from volume!


2 responses »

  1. Did the yeast proof ok? The slashing is about appearance — the bread will expand regardless. In addition, the plastic wrap vs. towel shouldn’t have an effect either. I used to have a problem with making sourdough that was absurdly dense and I finally figured out that the sponge didn’t have enough time to grow and I needed to leave it out for about 12 hours, overnight, and do the adding of the bulk of the flour the next day.

    Also, the best bread book ever, in my opinion, is the King Arthur Flour Cookbook.

    • The yeast proofed fine! When you mix the dough, you just mix it–no kneading–and it sits in a container on the counter until it rises and falls. I started to use it before it had fallen naturally, which might have been part of the problem, but it had definitely expanded considerably. That’s why I’m not sure it’s a yeast problem. Could be that it didn’t sit long enough for the in-pan second rise. I know people like no-knead bread because it’s easy, but I kinda like the old-fashioned way better.

      And yeah, I thought that the loaf should expand regardless, as that’s what’s happened with the boules I forgot to slash. I might take out the rest of the dough and see what happens today. But the idea is that you can take it from the fridge and within 2 hours, throw it in the oven. It should have at least gotten some oven spring. The fact that all the other recipes I’ve used from here turned out fine makes me wonder what I might have done wrong here…

      I’ve heard good things about that book. Mr. Pea got me Local Breads for Christmas last year and while I really like it, I’m way too intimidated by it to try anything.

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