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I made some rolls that came out dense, rather than light and fluffy, and with much thicker crusts than I would have preferred. After the second of 3 rises, the dough was much less sticky that I expected it to be. I didn't need to add the reserved 1 cup of flour; that extra flour that you might or might not need.

It was a very dry day for my area of the country; it didn't get above frozen outside, and we had lots of static electricity in the house. Was the humidity a likely cause for the dry rolls and poor result? If this happens again, how should I adjust my baking procedures?

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Do you weigh your flour? If not, that is the one change that you can make that will make this problem go away. Most of baking, particularly at the commercial level, is based on ratios by weight.

While there will be some minor differences in the amount of moisture in 10 ounces of flour based on the humidity, how much flour packs into a cup can vary a lot on humidity, how much you've fluffed or sifted the flour first, whether you scoop or sprinkle...you get the idea.

If you don't weigh your flour when you bake, then there are lots of possible problems that could have occurred that may or may not have had anything to do with the humidity.

The only other "seat of the pants" solution is to know your recipe so well that if you notice that there is a problem, you'll catch it early. Third rise is a little late to be adding moisture, so you would have had to have noticed the problem at the beginning.

Weighing your flour and water solves many baking problems and makes you look like a pro.

Since you are weighing, then "knowing your recipe and adjusting on the fly" seems to be the only real answer. I checked around and even Rose Levy Beranbaum says if you weigh, only minor adjustments are needed. In the situation you described I might have added a bit of water at the third rise, then let it have another rise.

Another thought is that, possibly, the air being so dry caused the tops of your rolls to dry out some, so they weren't flexible and you didn't get any oven spring. A spritz of warm water across the top of the rolls during final rise and, indeed, in the oven (I do it with my sourdough loaves, for instance) helps the bread skin to be loose enough to not inhibit the initial oven spring.

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Yes, absolutely. For me, weighing the flour is also much easier than using the measuring cups. –  KatieK Nov 26 '10 at 1:14
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I've discovered baking bread is much more a feel than measurements. As Doug stated, weighing makes a huge difference, but even then, the flour can have more or lest moisture depending on the atmosphere. I usually leave my dough a little more tacky to start off with because you can always add more flour. It's my insurance policy as I used to have a problem with mixing in too much flour and making a dense loaf.

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