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My bread machine (Panasonic SD-2501) makes good bread. The loaves rise every time and it has a great golden crust. However, the bread is always too soft.

The recipe:

  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 440gm baker's flour. I have also tried 00 pizza flour and 50/50 white/spelt blend
  • 1 tsp bread improver (Wallaby brand)
  • tablespoon honey
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon salt
  • 330ml milk or water (doesn't seem to make much difference)

I am adding the ingredients in that order as Laucke suggests.

The bread machine cycle is 5 hours and includes about 30 minutes of "rest" once the ingredients are in and the cycle kicks off. I don't know why, since it seems like wasted time when nothing has been mixed; it all just sits there.

Anyway, the problem is not just that the bread is too soft right when it comes out of the machine, though of course it is even softer then. The trouble is that the bread stays too soft to butter even a day later, with room temperature butter, so it is very difficult to make sandwiches with. The bread feels very light, and I think it could do with a lot more body - I don't like fluffy white bread from supermarkets and I want to make something with a bit more chew and resistance to tearing. Being too soft also means it doesn't toast well; the toasting seems to take a lot of moisture out of the bread, and when you bite it there's not much there at all.

2

Bread is given structure by gluten strands which stretch out and interlock. This is done mechanically by kneading and through the action of yeast, with yeast action being more important. If gluten is not well developed enough then you get a weak structure which can expand too much, if it is too developed then you get a tough bread.

I think what is happening is that your dough is being proofed too quickly, and therefore you are not getting good gluten development. In my own personal experience this is a very common fault with bread machines as they warm the dough during the proofing cycle to speed it up. Whether you can fix this depends on the machine, you need to 1) stop the machine from heating the dough during rising and 2) extend the rising cycle if it's timed. If it's not timed but uses a height sensor then just turning off the heat will do.

It's also possible that the machine is not kneading the dough enough, this also depends on the sophistication of your machine. Some machines do this on a timer, others sense the dough resistance.

One suggestion I would make in general is to reduce the water in the recipe a bit as I think it's too wet. Try 300ml of water instead. I don't think this is the problem but too wet dough can balloon on you so it's worth a shot.

Other possibilities are that your ingredients are inhibiting the yeast, however you are getting a good rise so I don't think that's particularly likely. You could try adding a bit less salt, and leaving out the oil and honey as an experiment.

  • Reducing water to 300ml has made significant improvement in texture through I am still not completely happy. It comes out more like packaged store bread than bakery bread - I think the kneading should go on longer. When I have a few hours I'm going to try pre-kneading the mix then adding it to the bread machine for the regular cycle. – Adam Eberbach Jun 23 '16 at 23:02
4

I would leave out the bread improver, the olive oil, and the milk (use water) and see what happens. Both the bread improver and the fat make softer bread.

If this is not sufficient and/or you really insist on resilient bread, the next steps are

  • look at the gluten content of your flour and use a higher gluten content if yours is low. American bread uses bread flour with 12-13% for example. If you can't buy such high gluten flour, you can buy gluten powder and mix it in.
  • start with ice cold water
  • add a gram of vitamin C (crystals, not a pill) at the beginning.

All three make stronger gluten, to the point that if you do it all at once, the dough might even be too hard to knead.

Another thing to try is to make darker bread, as whole wheat flours add more body and also have a bit more gluten.

  • how does the vitamin C thing work? being an acid I would have guessed it would inhibit gluten strands formation! – Agos May 5 '16 at 8:57
  • No, first of all, acids enhance gluten formation, don't inhibit it. Second, different acids work with different efficiency, and vitamin C happens to be among the better ones. – rumtscho May 5 '16 at 8:59
  • Do you have a source for the claim about acids in general enhancing gluten formation? Many "short" pastry recipes include some form of acid (usually lemon juice) for the opposite reason, so I'd like to know which is the case. – Agos May 5 '16 at 9:07
  • It's very standard knowledge, you should be able to find it just about everywhere, for example in McGee. But a simple google scholar search already turns up pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf00035a006 as the first result, which is pretty clear even from the abstract. Gluten is a zwitterion in reality, but you never go into the alkali strong area in cooking unless you are making kansui, so acidity always enhances it. I can't remember ever seeing a short pastry recipe including acid, and while there probably are some which do, it can't be for preventing gluten formation. – rumtscho May 5 '16 at 9:13
  • thanks, it appears I was confusing "inhibits gluten formation" with "relaxes / weakens gluten matrix" (many references on this here on cooking.SE) which has a desired effect on pliability. – Agos May 5 '16 at 10:17

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