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My Home-baked bread is too dense

I'm just getting into home bread baking. I've been using the basic recipies from Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". I've made many white and whole wheat boules and added olive oil, rosemary, etc, here and there...So far, the breads have been very tasty and I'm pretty happy with my novice results.

However, every loaf I've made so far has been VERY dense, even the ones where I followed the recipe exactly. I would like a crustier, lighter bread. Any advice on how to achieve this? Do I need to let it rise longer? Do a second rise and not deflate before baking? Do I need to up the yeast? Any advice would be appreciated.

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  1. im thinking without your method it would be hard to diagnose. Howver rt away id say yes second rise after shaping without defalte would be place to start. Are you sure your yeast is working - and not being killed by too hot a liquid .... Bread flour helps a lot. I also reccomend getting really comfortable with dough before adding ading oil and stuff that may be out of ratio.

    1. Are you kneading enough? A well-kneaded dough should be extremely elastic and can be stretched to form a thin film without breaking, which can take up to an hour if kneaded by hand.

      1. IMHO if your goal is very light fluffy bread, you should start with an all white flour bread with buttermilk. there's a good recipe for "american sandwich bread" in cooks illustrated.

        knead the dough until it windowpanes. do you know what that looks like?
        and let it rise for longer. one way you will know if you did not let it rise enough is, when you slice the loaf, you will see that the dough appears to be compressed, especially around the edges. knowing when the loaf is ready to make is not about following the recipe, it is about paying attention to your dough. try rising it in a warmer spot if you are feeling determined about the timing. definitely don't deflate the dough before you bake it. IMHO, a second rise makes a more flavorful loaf, but if all you are going after is fluffiness, it is not required.

        more yeast will not help, it will only make a bread that tastes like yeast.

        1. Here's my two cents worth. If you're expecting light Wonder Bread from homemade...ain't never gonna happen. So just let go of that now.

          But to get lighter bread, adding some gluten can help, especially with more whole-grain types. I also find that proofing the yeast with warm water (105-110 degree water, not hotter!) and a pinch of sugar or honey, really helps the yeast get working. Wait a few minutes to see foam appear and you know your yeast is cooking. Also, keeping dough, mixing bowl warm, etc., helps "get your rise on". Over kneading will break down your gluten too much, but smooth and elastic is great. Also, a bit less flour gets a better rise. Dough that is too dry won't rise as much. Sticky dough is sometimes harder to work with, but can rise a bit better. Yeast, I use SAF yeast, I like it. Lastly, proof dough before baking in a nice warm, draft free place.

          Hope some of this helps.

          1. Are you using bread flour? You can substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour, but the bread will not be as light or tender.