Bread Baking Questions and Answers
Why does my bread split on the top?
There could be number of reasons for this:
Oven too hot
Your oven could be too hot for the type of bread you are baking
No bread slashing
Inadequate or lack of bread slashing. When you slash bread, you direct where you want your bread to 'open up' and it allows the excess air from bread to escape and it won't burst on the top or where you don't want it to.
Bread is overproofed
It could also be caused by overproofing your bread and leaving the bread for far too long then it needs to be. It's a balance between letting your bread to expand to the right point, without letting it go beyond the point where the bread won't have any more strengh to rise in the oven. If your bread is underproofed, it will generate gas, which might cause it to bulge. If your bread is overproofed, it pretty much means that the gluten has expanded beyond it's ability to hold it's shape and it will collapse.
Why is my homemade bread dry?
Probably the most common reasons for this is that there wasn't enough of water in your bread to start off with you've possibly baked the bread on far too high temperature and for far too long.
Not enough water
With most bread recipes the water content (hydration) should be between 60-70% of the flour content. Some breads, such as focaccia, sourdough bread or ciabatta have even higher water ratio with sourdough easily going up to 80%. That's a lot of water!
So, no matter what the recipe says, your dough needs to be soft and elastic, when you are needing it. If it feels very tough or it's difficult to move around it means that it needs more water. This is because depending on what type of flour you use each might need slightly different amount of water. As you knead your bread the water carries on soaking into the wheat grain and if the wheat grain - flour is too dry (like a flour that you had for a long time) or very corse (locally stonemilled wholemeal flour) and you just need to add more water until the dough feels soft again.
Too high temperature when baking
You can start baking your bread on fairly high temperature, but you need to turn the oven heat down after 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your bread and how quickly it browns. For instance for large white loaf, you can start on the highest setting (say 250C) but after 7-10 min, turn the oven down to about 220C or even less if the bread is browning too quickly.
Baking for too long
Bread takes relatively short time to bake. Even large bread loaf (800g when baked) is not going to take more than about 30-40min. With small bread rolls you are only looking at 7-10 minutes.
It's better to check your bread after 20-25 min and then putt it back to the oven than leave it for 40 minutes when it's definitelly going to be too over done.
Add a little oil to prevent the bread from drying to much
You can also add anything up to 50ml of vegetable or sunflower oil to the bread to help to keep it soft. This won't change the flavour much, but it will make it slightly less dry.
Help! I forgot to add the yeast to my bread!
This happends to the best of us and fortunatelly there is a simple solution. Just mix the yeast, that you forgot to add in with a couple of teaspoons of warm water, and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the yeast has activated, fold it into your dough, re-knead your dough and allow it to rise.
You can also make another batch of bread with double the amount of yeast, then add the dough without the yeast and knead the whole amount together to incorporate both types of dough.
How long should I let my bread to rise?
This is tricky question to answer, because time is fairly irelevant here. You need to make sure that your bread dough is about double the size than the original amount. This is for the first rising. The second rising (when you shape your loaf into the final shape) should be just under double the size. This is because the bread needs a bit of energy to rise once it goes into the oven.
The speed (if you can called it that!) in which your dough is going to rise pretty much depends on your room temperature. In kitchen that's about 20C this could be about 45 min - 60 min for large loaf, but small rolls can take only 30 minutes. The second rising is usually quicker, than the first one.
If you leave your bread to rise in the fridge (with temperature about 5-8C) large loaf will take about 8 hrs.