Yeastcrazy: I have been trying to bake a lot of bread -- but I consistently have two problems -- the dough won't take the amount of flour that is called for, and the dough won't rise as much as it should. I have been using a thermometer to make sure the water is not too warm or too cold. The only way I can get the dough to rise (and it's still not enough) is to set it as close as I can to the stove and to turn on the stove -- it needs way too much heat to rise. Any ideas?
Although I consider myself a student of (rather than an expert in) breadmaking, I'll share a few pointers that have worked for me and lessons learned along the way.
You state that you have been "using a thermometer to make sure the water is not too warm or too cold" -- but what are you using as an acceptable temperature range? Dry yeast is not activated unless the liquid (usually water, sometimes milk) is between 105 and 115 degrees. Then you need to let the yeast foam up, about 10 minutes, and I like to cover the bowl with a towel so the yeast can think.
The other thing to keep in mind with yeast is to check its expiration date. Yeast is a living thing and will not perform past its prime, like the rest of us.
As for your dough resisting the "amount of flour that is called for," my experience has shown that weather and climate on any given day can have a dramatic impact on the amount of flour needed. Always add flour in increments, 1/2 cup at a time, so that dough can absorb. A fairly accurate indication that your dough has enough flour is when it just clears the sides of a bowl and is forming into a shape. When you turn the dough out onto a work surface to begin kneading, you may find that the dough would like more flour, please, and as long as you add it gradually in even smaller amounts, you'll minimize the chances of a tough dough.
As for getting the dough to rise, here are a few points to consider:
Are you greasing the container so that the dough can stretch with ease while it grows? Cooking spray, brushed oil or melted butter are all acceptable lubricants.
Are you using a deep bowl? And is it anything but metal?
How are you covering the dough? I like to use plastic wrap first, which helps keep in the moisture, then I wrap the entire bowl in a towel.
Everybody's house is different -- and yours may be drafty, which may be slowing down the rise. Turning the oven on, as you mention, is perfectly fine. Set it to 250 degrees or even lower, for just a few minutes, then turn off the heat, open the oven door and place dough on oven rack, keeping door ajar.
Beth Hensperger, author of many bread books, including "The Bread Bible," offers two inventive ideas: Placing dough atop a clothes dryer in mid-cycle, or my favorite: "Take the dough for a ride around town in the back of the car. Dough loves the gentle motion and warmth of the automobile."
And now it's your turn; weigh in on these doughy matters in the comments area below, particularly if your tips are tried and true.
Washington readers: I'll be signing copies of my holiday cookbook at the National Press Club's 30th annual book fair. Stop by and introduce yourself! Doors open at 6 p.m. $5 admission.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Anonymous | November 1, 2007 9:22 AM
Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 1, 2007 9:29 AM
Posted by: Juicy | November 1, 2007 10:10 AM
Posted by: Newton Mom | November 1, 2007 11:35 AM
Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 1, 2007 11:49 AM
Posted by: librarylady | November 1, 2007 11:52 AM
Posted by: Fran | November 1, 2007 12:04 PM
Posted by: Upstate NY | November 1, 2007 1:25 PM
Posted by: no pain in the neck | November 1, 2007 1:30 PM
Posted by: Sweetie | November 1, 2007 2:28 PM
Posted by: Aspiring Patisserie | November 1, 2007 2:47 PM
Posted by: CA | November 1, 2007 3:26 PM
Posted by: quark | November 1, 2007 4:47 PM
Posted by: yeastcrazy | November 1, 2007 7:27 PM
Posted by: rmh | November 1, 2007 11:13 PM
Posted by: Pro Baker | November 2, 2007 2:52 PM
Posted by: Pro Baker | November 2, 2007 2:57 PM
Posted by: seattle cooking mom | November 5, 2007 12:59 PM
Posted by: Karen | November 30, 2007 4:30 PM
Posted by: Leslie | December 13, 2007 2:46 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.