Friday, August 6, 2010

Breadmaking - Not a Success Story

A book titled - Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft caught my attention recently. After reading reviews on it from Amazon, I decided to place a reservation for this book from the National Library. Having done some research on the price, I knew that I have to make that the book is worth its heavy price tag before getting it. This book easily costs above a 100 bucks in local bookstores and being an observant bakebook shopper myself, I know cookbooks and bakebooks hardly ever cross this mark.

I could not contain my excitement and eagerly flipped through the book the day I loaned it from the library. 'Wow' was the first thing that came to mind. The book spans over 900 pages and covers almost everything a baker needs to know, including bread, cakes, cookies, tarts, pastries, icings, chocolates even plated desserts, frozen desserts and savoury bakes. At the forefront of the book was an introduction to career opportunites for baking and pastry professionals, followed by introduction to ingredients and equipment, baking principles and food safety.

There are, however, some minor drawbacks. The section of  baking principles could be explained in further details and the recipes need to be scaled down when intended for home use. Overall, the book would make a very comprehensive textbook or homebaking reference for inspiring bakers. So far, I have been impressed by the content  and hopefully it will make its way into my library of bakebooks soon.  

Back to the main intention of this post, I tried my hands at bread-making a second time today: raisins plaited ring bread from I Can Bake by Agnes Chang. The entire kneading process took me like 40 minutes, both using my hands and the dough hook. Compared to baking cakes and cookies, this is certainly a chore for me. I have always been less inclined towards bread making and this provided a good reason as to why I should stay away.

I managed to get the dough to the window pane stage by stretching the dough gently and slowly to reveal a transulent membrane like appearance. The plaiting, however, turned out to be nightmarish. For the first half of the dough, I separated it into two equal portions instead of three as indicated and rolled the portions out to about 35cm long and plaited them.When the plaited ring was proofed a second time, it went out of shape. To make matters worst, I overbaked the dough and ended with a hideous stiff-crust dark brown ring bread. 

The second plaited dough turned out slightly better after baking. To prevent the dough from over-browning, I covered the top with aluminium foil halfway through the required baking time. In all, this bread making experience is not quite a success. I have no complaints regarding the taste but the bread turned out dry with a tough crust when cooled, not fluffy as seen on the pictures on the book. Wonder what went wrong...

Post Baking Analysis:
1) Possibility of underproofing as suggested by Wendy. Will do my 1st  and 2nd proofing longer. Both took me more slightly more than an hour.
2) Baking temperature too high. I used 200 degrees C. Perhaps I will reduce it to 190 degrees C next time.
3) Baking time too long. I baked at 20 minutes at 200 Degrees C. Will reduce it in future.
4) I realised that my second proofing does'nt seem to be effective. Perhaps next time I might omit the second proofing. Need to do some research on this...  
5) (Latest) Just realised that I added more flour than asked for due to a mistake. Oops! This should be the main culprit for the dry and tough texture.


  1. I have no idea cos I'm not really good in breadmaking.
    But to me it seemed like underproofed.

  2. Bakertan, the bread stil looks gd to me :). Jiayou and all the success for your next attempt!

  3. Hi Bakertan,
    You're right about bread recipes being massive!! Definitely have to halve it at least. And perhaps the temperature was too high? Or not enough liquid in your dough? Or baking time too long?

    Don't be discouraged by this attempt. Give it another try; perhaps a recipe from a different book (or blog). I've got a ham & cheese roll recipe which seems to work :) I'm gonna try baking bread in my rice cooker tmrw...

  4. I bet it's still tasty! Don't give up making bread. Try other recipes. I have a nice fruit bread recipe that I don't mind sharing.

  5. Hi Wendy,

    Next time I will let it proof longer. Thanks for the advice =]


    Hi Jess,

    Thanks a lot for the encouragement. Hope things will be alot better next time.


    Hi NEL,

    I baked at 20 minutes for 200 degrees . Next time I will try 190 degrees C. I followed the ingredients listed closely and the liquid should have been enough. Probably add in slightly more next time round.

    I will give it another try but not sometime soon I guess. Thanks for the encouragement and suggestion. Your ham and cheese rolls look really good.


    Hi busygran,

    I wont give up making bread yet. Wont be defeated so easily. Thanks for the kind intention. Will go look around for bread recipes I can use on the blogospphere. I am taking this as a lesson learnt.

  6. Hey! bread making is not a chore ... LOL! It's therapeutic. Good workout for your arms, too. Normally, I'd bake bread and at the same time, one more bake such as cookies/bars/cake on Sundays. It's pretty manageable once you've had things figured out. I baked from the afternoon till 5 a.m. yesterday, after all the cleanup and whatnot. Now, was that a chore? LOL! Of course, that was once in a blue moon. Haha! I'm scared of that ...

    No, no ... Don't run away from bread making! You're getting there! Forty minutes aren't bad ... I usually knead mine for 50 to a lil' over an hour, depending on how the bread dough turns out to be. Here are just my opinions. You need not listen to me.

    1. The dough was too soft and wet; therefore, it went flat, big-time, and sorta out of shape. Docking the plaited bread dough probably helps. Similar problem had occurred to mine (; however, mine still tasted good in terms of texture and taste. I learned my lesson there, but there's more to it when it comes to that problem. Hopefully, I can explain more to you about it this weekend, provided there's sufficient time. LOL!

    2. It's too high of a temperature for Asian-style sweet bread to be baked at 200C. On average, it's usually 180C, though, I sometimes bake mine at 160C t0 170C, too. When the baking temperature varies, so is the length of baking time.

    (And you know, right, that most European bread contains way less sugar than Asian sweet buns and so, European bread won't turn as dark and as fast as Asian ones do even when baked at 200 to 220C? That's why crusty breads like theirs are often baked at 220 to 250C, in great humidity to get that crust.)

    3. I disagree with Wendy that the dough was underproofed. When proofing lasts for over an hour, that's usually not the case, especially you're in Singapore/Malaysia. The weather plays a big part in how long it's gonna take for the dough to be proofed fully. When I was living in a dry winter wonderland, I proofed my bread dough for over 2 hours while I went about with other chores. Sometimes, to save myself from the trouble of waiting, I gave mine low-temperature proofing in the fridge, for up to 72 hours, which yields better-tasting bread.

    4. Different brands of flour vary in terms of water absorbency. (Do you know that yeasts from the different parts of the world impart different tastes to your bread, too? The same goes to flour. From my experience, the flour I used in the States is less fine than ours here.)

    5. After checking up Chang's book, I see that the recipe calls for the direct method in bread making -- plus 1 tsp bread improver! I don't use that thing in mine! Based on my experience, bread made via this method goes stale faster than other breads made with, say, tangzhong, sponge, scalded-flour, low-temperature proofing (the term is "autolyse" if not wrong) and 17-hour method. (Those are the ones I've used.) With bread improver, the bread should be even softer!!?? I remember you told me you use it in your bread?

    6. For Asian soft sweet bread recipes, I personally prefer using Taiwanese, Japanese and sometimes, HK bread books. Local ones aren't my faves. However, there's a good one: Alex Goh's.

    Hope all these help. Hope you've not developed phobia for bread making ... Haha!

  7. Oops, left out one more point! (Was too busy just now when I left you the first comment.) Chang proofed/molded her bread dough in a bundt(?) pan. Did you do that? Which explains the flat dough since the dough was super wet (I suppose)?

  8. Hey Pei-Lin,

    I guess there is still lots of stuff for me to learn in bread making. Just read up some tips on bread making from the book - The art and soul of baking and gained some really useful insights.

    1. The dough was'nt too soft and wet. In fact I realised Chang's recipe has slightly less water content compared to other recipes. I gather that the plaiting was loose, hence the bread went out of shape. Next time I will tension the dough more.

    2. the baking temperature is suggested by Chang. Since it was my 2nd attempt at bread - making, I had no idea it was on the high side.

    3. I dont think I overproofed or underproofed my bread. Next time I will do the thumb test to see if the bread dough spings back slowly on the second proofing. 1st proofing there is no issue. Just need to wait till dough doubles in shape.

    4. The recipe calls for both bread flour and cake flour. I just realised I used 50g extra bread flour this time due to a mistake. Ooops! my fault there. I think this is the main culprit. My 1st attempt was so much better.

    5. I omitted the bread improver this time round and I just realised the bread improver I bought and used previously was the wrong one! It states:'for crusty bread'. I just found another bread improver from phoon huat named 'bread improver super tex' meaning texture improver, lol. I do expect the bread to be less soft using the direct method (without bread improver) but I didnt expect the bread to be coarse and dry ( most likely due to extra flour added)

    6. Thanks for the reccomendations. I will probably get Alex Goh's book and go read up some other asian books.

    7. Chang proofed her bread in a bundt tin. I tried it in a tube tin and there was my overbrowned bread.

    I probably will try out the sweet bun dough recipe one last time from using Chang's book with some modifications.

    1) activate yeast with water and sugar 1st before adding the dry ingredients. Just realised that salt kills yeast when added directly.

    2) Mix in the dry ingredients followed by butter and beat for about 3-5 minutes until they come tog. Allow the dough to relax for 20 minutes (autolyse, to improve elasticity and flavour). Knead with dough hook for about 5 minutes and turn out to work surface to knead by hands until window pane stage is reached.

    3) use slightly more liquid and my newly bought bread improver super tex.

    4) wont be doing plaiting anytime soon until I get my basic buns right in texture.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience =]. I wont give up baking bread just because of a failed kitchen experiment. I will probably hear from what you have to say when we meet up. Out of all the baked goods, I realised I concentrate on cake making most of the time and am now most proficient in it. Hopefully I will make bread as good as I bake cakes in time to come. (not that I am superb or professionl in cake making, haha)

    cheers =]

  9. I have no confident in breadmaking too, but it seems "Practise makes Perfect" Jiayou.

  10. Regarding your reply to Pei Lin's comment, just want to let you know, if you are using INSTANT yeast (also known as Fast Rising, Rapid Rise, Quick Rise, Bread Machine Yeast), you do not need to activate it with water. Instant Yeast can be mixed together with the other dry ingredients. Unless you are using Active Dry Yeast, which has a larger particle size than Instant Yeast, making it necessary to activate it with water before using.

    Like Pei Lin, I prefer to refer to bread making books from Taiwan or Japan. I only look at books from Malaysian authors for ideas on the fillings and shaping.

  11. Hi DG,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I belive practice makes perfect too. Lets jiayou together =]


    Hi HHB,

    Thanks for sharing the tip. Will take note of that. yup I am using instant yeast. I am thinking of adding it with water cos it will lessen the chance of the yeast coming in direct contact with salt, which will kill the yeast. Thats just my conjecture.

  12. Bakertan, actually for homemade bread, I think we don't have to worry too much about the salt killing the yeast, because of the small amount. Unless, you are using a breadmachine, and you are using the delay function (the ingredients sitting in the pan for hours).

    The main thing about yeast is, it has to be 'fresh', as in, once opened, you need to use it asap. Even keeping in the fridge will also affect the performance over time. Sometimes my dough took a long time to proof, inspite of the hot weather. Later, I realised it was because of the yeast, even though it is months before the expiry date. I have since kept mine in the freezer compartment (I am using Bake King's) it helps to prolong its 'life' a little longer.

  13. Hi HHB,

    Thanks for the useful info. I will take note of that =]


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Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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