Troubleshooting

This section covers a range of faults, underlying problems and common causes found when baking bread at home, particularly with a bread machine.

Loaf volume – too much or too little

Faults in the yeast are often blamed for the lack of volume in bread but often it is a lack of water or water quality. For more information go to Start with Quality Ingredients

Bread machines require soft and sticky dough to operate effectively. Add more water than would be possible for “hand made” conditions.

Not enough volume

First check you have the right quantity of dough for your bowl size and the right amount of water in the mix to create the best kneading consistency. Signs of insufficient water include less flexibility in the dough, which makes it harder to knead and leads to insufficient development of the gluten. The end result is the yeast is unable to provide enough gas to properly inflate dry, tight dough.

Small loaves can result from not performing the kneading and rising cycles effectively. To fix, either more yeast or more dough weight (Bread Mix and water) may be required. When adding more Bread Mix, always remember to also adjust the amount of water.

Loss in loaf volume may be caused by machine problems. After a year or two your machine’s seal, on the drive shaft of the kneading blade, may become less flexible and could leak. Dough and water can then pass through and clog up the machine. The shaft may even seize.

Weather can affect your bread, adjust for weather variations.

Too much volume

First check you have the right quantity of dough for your bowl size and the right amount of water in the mix to create the best kneading consistency.

Laucke recipes have been developed to make a loaf that will just touch the lid of most bread machines. If your loaf is consistently rising to hit the lid of your machine, try reducing the yeast by ¼ teaspoon. Progressively reducing the yeast by ¼ teaspoon will help find the perfect measure. Removing ¼ teaspoon of yeast will reduce the loaf height by about 1 ½ cm. Depending on the machine and the environment, yeast may be halved from the recommended.

If the dough has filled the headspace of the machine and overflowed the bowl and the yeast quantity has been reduced unsuccessfully, or the bread is too dense, then reduce the overall dough size. Reduce the amount of Bread Mix, the water and yeast and try again.

If you use fresh yeast rather than dry, you can also end up with a larger loaf volume. This can also happen with a new sachet of dry yeast. If it does, reduce the yeast by ¼ teaspoon.

Weather can affect your bread, adjust for weather variations.

Loaf Goes Stale, Poor crumb Texture

Dough that is not optimally kneaded will be lower in volume and have poorer crumb structure and will stale more quickly, as the flour protein has not been properly “developed”. The greatest compromise in the design of a bread machine is in the kneading process. The kneading blade or paddle needs to mix, incorporate the ingredients into a dough and effectively knead the dough to develop the gas trapping abilities.

Properly developed dough will ensure all potential gas is trapped effectively. For this to occur the dough must remain in contact with the kneading blade and the blade must thoroughly distort the dough during kneading.

Open the lid of the machine within the first 5 to 15 mins of the kneading cycle to check if the blade is actually kneading the dough and the dough is forming. Dough should not bounce around in the bowl on top of the kneading blade. If it is, add extra water to soften the dough. Too much water and the dough will be too soft and pliable to have any mixing resistance.

Shorter cycle times (1 to 3 hours) on many bread machines may also cause these problems due to insufficient kneading.

Weather affects Quality

The weather affects the way the ingredients of bread interact in the processes of fermentation and can therefore be a major contributor to variable quality.

Cold weather

Yeast works best within a narrow temperature range, between 25°C to 30°C.

During cold weather, the dough may not effectively knead, the yeast will not work as expected during the proof
(rising) cycle, and the bread will be smaller than usual. If your bread maker does not have a pre-warming cycle, the
mixing bowl may need to be pre-warmed and warm water used instead of ambient tap water. It is important that the
warm water is only tepid or warm to the touch, as excessively hot water (greater than 50°C) will damage the yeast.

Hot weather

Avoid making bread in an excessively hot part of the day. If the dough gets much over 30°C during kneading and
above 35°C during proofing, quality will be compromised as heat generated by the bread making process will cause
the yeast to work too quickly. A medical thermometer can be used to establish the temperature of the dough.
To reduce or eliminate heat effects, use refrigerated water to create a cold dough (the pre-heat cycle of the machine
will bring the dough to the right temperature), and use the machine in a cooler environment.

Heat can also affect Bread Machine settings. Some machines alter their start and cycle times based on machine
temperatures and these cycle variations will change loaf quality.

Humid weather

In periods of humid weather it is very difficult to retain a crisp crust. The crust will soften up straight after removal
from the bread maker. This is a similar effect to placing warm bread into a plastic container.

Holes in Loaves

Holes can be formed in the crumb of loaves by the action of the kneading blade in the degassing prior to the bread machine's rest and proof cycle, by changes in temperature, by extra water, by extra yeast activity or incorporating extra ingredients. These holes are normally of an acceptable size, if not drop water by 10mls and the yeast by ¼ teaspoon.

Shorter baking cycles may result in holes where the crumb has collapsed. Sometimes larger holes are formed if the structure has not been not strong enough when it is roughly shaken, as it is removed from the Bucket when hot, or if the bread is sliced when still warm.

To minimise collapsing, grasp both the handle and the base of the bucket, and hold the Bucket on its side just above the workbench. Then quickly pull the Bucket backwards and away from the workbench. The loaf should drop on to the bench as the bucket is removed.

“Off” Odours

Any “off” odours indicate a problem with fermentation or degradation due to enzymes associated with other microflora, bacteria or mites. Such degradation also negatively affects processing and baking performance. The bread should not be consumed.

Bread Mix or Bread storage containers should be inspected for mould or other contamination such as Mites. Yeast may also be at fault, as it may have oxidised during storage. If another batch of yeast does not cure the problem, consider that the actual Bread Mix may have become contaminated.

Recipes with Different Size Mixing Bowls & Loaf Sizes

Most bread machines are able to produce ‘medium’ and ‘large’ loaves with some ‘extra large’. The loaf and dough weights for these sizes are approximately 750g, 1kg and 1.2kg. The Laucke standard 600g bread mix recipes provide about one kilogram of dough.

The dough weight for each recipe is the sum of the weights of the Yeast, Bread Mix and water. The weight of a final bread machine loaf is about 12% less than the dough weight, as moisture is lost during the baking.

Laucke 600g Bread Mix pack and the appropriate water can be used in small, medium, and large bowls, with yeast quantity varied for the bowl size. The density of the loaf will be greater in small bowls, and less in large bowls. If the bread density is not suitable, increase or decrease the amount of Bread Mix.

Vary the yeast for your desired volume and product type by reducing the yeast from 1¼ tsp to ¾ tsp, or in ‘small’ bowl from 1¼ tsp to ½ tsp. Suggested yeast quantities vary for individual machines.

The best baking results for your preferences come with experimentation.

Loaf too heavy or too light

The three variables affecting loaf density are the quantities of the bread mix, water and yeast. Changes in any of these will affect the loaf density.

Bread mix

The quantity of bread mix has a bigger impact on the size, rather than the density but with experimentation you can produce a “heavier” loaf by increasing the bread mix quantity by 20% or more and recalculating the water required.

Yeast

An increase or decrease in yeast of ¼ teaspoon w ill produce a lighter or heavier loaf.

Water

Water has the biggest impact on the density of a loaf but care needs to be taken not to create a dough that is either too dry (tight) or moist. The weather and the amount of grain in your bread mix will determine how much water can be absorbed into the dough.

To check if the optimum amount of water has been added, open the bread machine lid at the start of the kneading cycle to see the dough forming. The time the dough takes to pick up all the wet dough from the bottom of the bowl is the best indication of potential loaf quality. The dough ball should be sticky, soft and smooth.

Standard Water Ratios

Product

Water Ratio

Barossa S/Dough RYE

.80

Super Soft White

.67

Crusty White

.69

Crusty White 2.4kg

.70

Fibre White

.74

Multigrain

.67

Multi Soy & Linseed

.72

German Grain

.66

German Grain 2.4kg

.77

PhytoSoy

.75

Bio-Fort Golden WM

.74

Rye

.80

Wholemeal

.74

 

Bread Underbaked on top of the Loaf

If the top of the loaf is not an appetising golden tan, or in severe cases it is white with no crust, the flavour, aroma and mouth feel will be compromised.

The dough may have hit the lid and collapsed, try reducing the yeast by 1/4 teaspoon. It may also be due to radiant heat being lost through an inspection window in the lid, affecting the baking and browning process. The larger the glass area, the more likely this is the problem. This heat loss may be reduced by ‘blanking out’ the window with aluminium foil, applied to the inside of the lid.

Mould Formation

The formation of mould is not characteristic to any specific feature of bread making. The baking process effectively kills any normal mould spores, so any mould formation is caused by mould spores that arrive after the loaf has cooled. Contact with mould spores occurs with utensils such as a knife, or the storage within a container that has spores. A vinegar wash will disinfect the affected area.

Overly Sticky or Moist Crumb

Where bread is produced and stored in a warm and moist environment, the internal crumb of the bread may become sticky during storage. It may develop an increasingly distinctive aroma similar to over-ripe fruit and a progressively darker crumb colour.

This sticky crumb is caused by a strain of bacteria called Bacillus mesentericus, creating a condition known to professional bakers as “rope”. A severely degraded crumb may produce slimy strands with the appearance of string. Unlike moulds, the spores of this specific micro-organism can tolerate and may survive the baking process. The micro-organism secretes similar enzymes to yeast and given enough time the normal internal structure of the loaf will break down completely.

It is practically impossible to eliminate the spores completely; under normal conditions they do not cause problems. To control occurrences of “rope”:

  • Prevent contamination by washing, with vinegar, surfaces that may contact the ingredients, dough or bread
  • It is likely that the air may contain a high level of spores that originate from degraded food ingredients and products; an evaporative air conditioner may transmit or harbour an “infection”. The sources need to be identified, eliminated or cleaned.
  • Reduce excess heat and humidity from the storage and bread making environment.
  • Select a longer, hotter baking cycle rather than a short, cool cycle.
  • Do not store bread in a plastic bag.
  • Vinegar may be included as an ingredient. Substitute 20mL of vinegar for 20mL of water in the dough. The slight increase of the dough's acidity may control activity of bacteria in the bread.