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The problem

After ten years of baking bread, I have a new problem with my bread rising—it seems to fall when baking in the oven.

I've used the recipe below with good results, yielding nice 1–1/2 lb loaves with good flavor and texture. I've varied little from this process, but my last two bakings have left me puzzled.

The first and second restings have met expectations—a good rise and development of yeast smell. The rested loaves did not quite meet expectations but at least doubled in size. After baking, however, the loaves shrank somewhat and came out barely bigger than what I placed in the pans.

I could really use some help here. My family loves my bread, and I do too—until now.

Things I've tried/considered

My method has not changed, but my brand of bread flour has due to stock availability during the COVID-19 lockdown:

My yeast is an instant yeast I buy by the pound from Gordon's Food Services and is apparently the same as sold in King Arthur's catalog. All other ingredients are off-the-shelf brands and have not changed.

Thinking the yeast may be old, I replaced it with 4 packets of ordinary instant-rise yeast this last time. The same thing happened: all appeared well, smelled well, felt well during kneading, but the loaves failed to rise and even shrank somewhat in the baking.

I tested the oven and found nothing wrong or out-of-order. The only major change was the flour, and I find it difficult to accept that minor difference in the flours would produce such a change. All ingredients are weighed.

Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 70g brown sugar
  • 85g molasses
  • 30g butter
  • 150g rolled oats
  • 1 cup near-boiling water
  • 3 cups room-temperature water
  • 210g whole wheat (Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur)
  • 24g yeast (4 packets)
  • 1150g bread flour (see note above on substitution)
  • 90g wheat germ
  • 10g salt

Method

  1. Mix sugar, brown sugar, molasses, butter and oatmeal with the near-boiling water (to partially cook the oatmeal) in a stand mixer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cool the mix with 2 cups room-temperature water, bringing the mix to skin temperature.
  3. Add whole wheat and yeast.
  4. Incorporate the bread flour, wheat germ, 1 cup room-temperature water and salt, mixing until the dough begins to pull away and form a ball. (I use the wheat germ for higher gluten, believing that this reduces the crumbling of the finished bread.)
  5. Remove the dough and let it rest, covered, about 20 minutes.
  6. Hand knead the dough for about another five minutes, cover it and let it rest about 45 minutes in a protected spot—usually the oven, warmed depending upon the season and kitchen conditions. (I pre-warm the oven by setting the temperature at 190F and turning it on for 1 minute.) The four pottery loaf pans I use sit in the oven with the rising dough.
  7. When the resting dough has doubled or more, remove it from the oven, knead it for not more than 3 minutes and return it to the oven for another 45-minute rest.
  8. After the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the oven and portion it into four equally sized loaves, place them in the pans and return them to the oven for another rest until they double, about 30-40 minutes, covered with a towel.
  9. If satisfied with the rise, remove the towel and set the oven for 365℉ or 375℉ and let the oven achieve temperature. The whole baking process from cold to completion is usually 33–37 minutes. The bread will rise further until the loaves are three times the size when I first introduced them into the pans.
  10. When the loaves are done and have achieved an internal temperature of 195℉, remove them from the oven, place them on a cooling rack ( I usually leave them on their sides) and cover them snugly for cooling.
  • 1
    Did you notice any change in the texture of the dough? Could you post the protein content of your old and new flours? – Mark Wildon May 25 at 15:28
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    Is this toasted wheat germ or raw wheat germ? Raw wheat germ contains a protein called glutathione which can greatly weaken gluten, depending on the amount used. You might consider toasting it (to denature the protein), or eliminating it temporarily to see if that makes a difference. – NSGod May 25 at 21:44
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    Your question is very hard to read. Please consider putting more effort into it, editing it to reduce the number of words, as well as to include paragraph breaks in appropriate places. – Peter Duniho May 25 at 22:55
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    So you're saying that you switched to King Arthur flour, or that's what you previously had used? Because there was an article last week that mentioned a bakery that had an antecdote about a bakery having problems when they tried to switch away from King Arthur : “We tried switching once to save money,” says Ozarow. “But our head baker started complaining right away that he wasn’t getting a consistent rise, and the color was off. []" – Joe May 26 at 19:12
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    Also, if you don't mind giving quantities for the other ingredients (sugar, brown sugar, molasses, butter, bread flour, wheat germ and salt), this could be a nice recipe to try during lockdown! 🙂 Also, I'm a little confused by something; you say you measure all ingredients in metric on a scale, but refer to US cup measures throughout the recipe. Did you weigh them the first time you baked the recipe, or are you converting cups to grams when you bake? – Jordan Gray May 27 at 1:23
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The answer is indeed that you have unbleached flour now - I faced exactly the same problem moving from the USA (bleached) to NZ (unbleached, by law), where the same recipe I had used in my breadmaker in the USA failed in NZ.

Edited to add: as pointed out in a comment from @JordanGray, King Arthur flour is never bleached - so my answer above is obviously incorrect. However, there is one option - which may be a little hard to find out whether this is the case or not: Perhaps the King Arthur flour is aged, while the Ceresota is not.

Bleaching of the flour speeds up the, normally naturally occurring, aging process by oxidizing the grains and thereby improving gluten (by means unknown to me). Unbleached flour can be aged too, to improve the gluten, but this takes time and hence $$$ for the company.

The solution is to use a bread improver - for the home baker this consists of vitamins (C usually), soy lecithins for bulk, and sometimes some enzymes such as amylases. I believe you can get away with just vitamin C/Ascorbic acid, but have not tested this.

Also edited to add: We also struck a similar problem with lock-down, when we were only able to get flour from our local Indian supply shop - and brought some Pillsbury Chakki Atta (Translates to Mill Flour), while unbleached and having a suitably high protein content, it was impossible to make anything other than an, admittedly tasty, brick. It turns out that this flour doesn't develop gluten properly, so while it is really excellent for flatbreads (highly recommend getting some for this purpose), it is useless for leavened breads. I was unable to overcome this problem other than mixing about 1:3; Atta:regular bread flour.

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    This is a really great suggestion, but when checking the King Arthur product catalogue I could only find unbleached bread flour, and their website proudly states that they produce only unbleached flours—implying he was using unbleached flour already. (I was actually checking to see if there was a significant difference in protein/ash content.) However, I'm not personally familiar with their range, so perhaps I'm missing something! :) – Jordan Gray May 26 at 18:46
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    @JordanGray - interesting. I can't recall which flour I was using in the USA, but I think it was a 50lb sack from Costco usually. Perhaps King Arthur ages their flour, whereas Ceresota doesn't. – bob1 May 26 at 20:40
  • For me, ratio of 2:1::atta:high grade white flour - works too! – raga May 29 at 10:33

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