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Solutions to Common Baking Problems at Home, Part 4: Badly Behaved Bread

Solutions to Common Baking Problems at Home, Part 4: Badly Behaved Bread

    Baking homemade bread is a lost art. These days, it is easy to go to the store and pick up a loaf of Wonder Bread for a few bucks. Still, nothing replaces the smell of fresh-baked bread in your home. Baking bread has been passed down generations through numerous cultures and religions, but that does not mean that it is not a challenge for the home bread baker. Learn some tips for achieving the perfect loaf of bread with these simple solutions to common baking problems. 


A baker kneading a ball of doughProblem: Bread crust splits on top.
Some bread is supposed to split and crack a bit on top as it bakes. However, if the dough it over-mixed, or the oven is too hot, the crust can burst when it is not supposed to.

Solution:
Allow your bread dough sufficient time to proof. If blisters form and burst on the crust, the dough may not have been properly fermented, meaning the yeast may not have been able to rise properly and at the right temperature. Also be sure the oven is set to the proper temperature and not overly hot.

Problem: Bread is too dense and heavy. Bread gets its light and fluffy texture from air bubbles created during the rising process. If bread is too dense and heavy, it may lack liquid or lack yeast, or the dough may contain too much salt.

Solution:
Without enough moisture and yeast, the dough will not rise properly as it bakes or turn out as light and airy inside. Be sure the dough recipe is followed correctly, and allow the dough adequate time to proof at the right temperature and for a sufficient amount of time before baking.


Problem: Bread is too doughy or gooey.
A common mistake in home bread-baking is undercooking the bread. Bread should look lightly browned and slightly separated from the sides of the pan when it is done baking.

Solution:
Be sure the bread is finished baking before removing it from the oven. Before you can be sure it is finished, try tapping the top to see if it sounds hollow. If so, tip it out of the bread pan and do the same to the bottom. If it sounds hollow too, the bread is fully baked. Another way to test bread is by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf, as you would a cake. If it comes out clean, the bread is finished.


A close-up of bread crustProblem: Bread crust is too dark.
A dark bread crust is usually a result of improper cooking temperature.

Solution:
Be sure the oven is properly preheated, and that it is baking the bread at the prescribed temperature.


Problem: Bread crust is too light.
Light bread crust is typically a sign of under-baking.

Solution:
Try spraying your bread loaves lightly with a mist of water to get a darker color and better texture to their crust. You may also need to check that your oven temperature is hot enough.

These tips provide simple solutions to common home baking problems regarding baking bread. Be sure to account for the time and conditions in which your bread dough is allowed to rise. This is also known as fermentation or proofing. You may need to experiment with baking bread, but with repetition you will find the best practices for baking in your home kitchen.

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