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Aug 16, 2008 07:17 AM

Help! My Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day won't rise!

Chowhounds, I am made of fail. :-(

Whatever I do, my bread ends up flat, like ciabatta. It tastes good, and has a nice, open texture, but it won't rise and become a boule like it's meant to.

I've used bread flour, I've used AP flour, I've used a fresh batch of yeast, I've tried handling the dough less and more, I've played with the oven temperature (I have a convection oven), I've watched the video umpteen times, I've posted on the Artisan Bread in Five website - but my bread is still flat!

I really don't want to give up, but it's driving me mad!

Any advice gratefully accepted. Thank you.

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  1. don't know this recipe, do you mix the yeast first or include it with the flour?

    1. Are you letting rise enough before baking? Their website (under errors) states that any where from 1/2 hr to 1.5 hrs is best. Mine doesn't appear to rise much but puffs up beautifully once in the oven.

      1 Reply
      1. re: beggsy

        I let it rise for about an hour and a half once the dough has been refridgerated. I'm wondering if my dough is too sticky? I find the "cloaking" quite hard to do because it sticks to my hands so much. And the dough seems to spread rather than rise when it's resting.

      2. never had a problem with the rise. and i cut the yeast amount in half. i let it rise for at least an hour and it has terrific oven spring. i dump everything in one bowl in no particular order.....i let the first rise go for about 5 hours....then i refridgerate and let any baguettes i shape rise for at least an hour.

        1. I'm going to suggest that you add more flour. It's possible that your dough is just tooooo wet and can't hold a boulish shape. Sounds like everything else you're doing is right. When the dough is the right texture, it should be easy enough to cloak and shape - it sounds to me like if it's sticking to your hands it must be too soft.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            I've just made another batch of dough, using two pounds of flour to three cups of water, as per the recipe. If it's seems too sticky again, I'll try adding more flour. I'm also wondering if I'm a bit too afraid of handling the dough, ifyswim. I spent more time cloaking the last loaf I made, and it rose a little bit more. I'm sure I'll get there in the end!

            1. re: greedygirl

              My guess is the problem is the dough is too wet for the boule you want to make. Keep in mind that in humid weather, flour absorbs a lot of water. So if you use the full amount of water a recipe calls for, you end up with a dough that is a few notches up on the softness scale. Two pounds of flour to a pound and a water makes a dough that is hydrated at 75% by baker's percentages, which is a very wet dough already. And in humid weather it may behave more like 78%-80% or so. I would suggest you cut the water back by at least an ounce, maybe two. Secondly, the "gluten cloaking" technique, as far as I understand it, simply imparts tension to the outer skin of the loaf. Try folding it, as in the Lahey no knead loaf. Let it rest for ten or fifteen minutes and then round it. (I simply move the dough in a circle under cupped hands on an unfloured surface--many of the bread books show you how to do it. But you can also pull and pinch the skin under.) And you might find it helps to let it rise in a supported container, as in a floured or cornmealed cloth in a basket or colander. Finally, I suspect part of the problem is that you don't have the dough out of the fridge long enough. Van Over in his book recommends that retarded dough should reach an internal temperature of at least 62 degrees. In my experience, that takes at least two hours, maybe three.

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                I'm in the UK, and it's not really very humid over here, but I think you might be right - the dough is too wet. We don't work in oz when it comes to water over here, but looking at my conversion chart an oz is about 2tbsp, right?

                I was hoping you'd show up, FK. Could you pop over to my sourdough starter thread as well please. :-)

                1. re: greedygirl

                  I'll see if I can find your sourdough starter thread. Listen, I think we need to demystify this whole thing. Yeasted doughs can be retarded for a long time in the fridge, and that allows enzymes to do their thing. And the longer a dough is retarded, the more likely gluten bonds will form without the need for mechanical manipulation, especially if ithe dough is on the wet side. So the authors of that book combined a couple of sensible approaches and came up with a technique that works pretty well. But, if you are like me, after a while you stop becoming a blind follower of a recipe and ask what is going on here. It may help to go back to some basic proportions, and do everything by weight. In a low humidity environment with a medium strength flour, keep in mind the following fractions, which correspond to basic baker's percentages. 5/8 or five parts of water by weight to eight parts of flour will give you a medium dough, as in a French loaf. 2/3 will give you a softer dough, inching toward Italian bread. 3/4 will give you a very wet dough, very Italian, and spreading. You can make a boule, but it is challenging. Anything above that will work best as a ciabatta. I've never tried a no-knead approach with 5/8 proportion (62% hydration). You would have to mix a fair bit just to get the flour completely incorporated. Even at 2/3 you would have to be careful about mixing, but the basic approach ought to work. Now, in the U.K. people don't think of the climate as humid, but it is a great deal more humid that most U.S. continental conditions in much of the year. So it would be wise to back off on the liquid requirement of any U.S. recipe. In U.S. liquid measurements, 2 tablespoons is 1 ounce. But it really is easier to weigh incredients, if you have an accurate electronic scale. Good luck.

                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                    Now I'm really confused! I do have electronic scales but I've never weighed water before. I normally use a measuring jug. My conversion chart tells me that three cups is equivalent to 750ml, or 24 fluid ounces. So that's equivalent to a pound and a half in weight, right. So you're suggesting that I cut that by a couple of ounces, which is a quarter of a cup? This is making my head spin (maths was never my strong point).

                    You make an interesting point about humidity. Looking at the weather forecast for London, it appears that we have nearly 50% humidity, which surprises me. However, I did a search on the same website (BBC weather) for a number of American cities, all of which had significantly higher levels of humidity.

                    Thanks for all your help.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Sorry to have complicated things for you.
                      Bakers prefer to work by weight, since they use huge quantities of ingredients.But their basic formulas for hydration work well for home bakers too. In fact, the system of Baker's percentages lets them expand or shrink a recipe at will. Fortunately, in metric, English, and American systems, the basic volume and weight measures of water are interchangeable. A fluid ounce of water weighs and ounce. A milileter of water weighs a gram. And of course, a liter of water weighs a kilo. So you can measure water by volume if you like. The main thing is to compare like measures of water to like measures of flour. In this case a lb and half of water to 2 lbs of flour, or 24 ounces of water (either fluid or weight) to 32 ounces of flour. Or about 560 ml/grams of water to 750 grams of flour.

                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        I'll get there in the end. I did get an A in my Maths O level, but it didn't come easy! I think the problem may have been because I've mixed my measurements. I weighed the flour, but used cups for the water. I'm going to use the scales for the water next time.

              2. re: greedygirl

                my dough is extremely wet. about 3 times as thick as pancake batter...almost pourable. what i found to be quite helpful was to watch the video of the authors making it. there are several and they're all over youtube. they coat their hands in flour and then dip the grapefruit sized piece of dough in flour during the shaping. i feel like food and dogs can both smell fear!! after i took charge, my bread doughs and pie crusts improved immeasurably. i'm kidding. but only sort of.

                1. re: eLizard

                  I definitely have "the fear" now, lol. I'm just not used to failing when it comes to cooking but this bread may well be my Achilles heel!

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    It's only flour and water! Think of it as an edible mud pie.

                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                      People are too afraid to bake, but they need not be. baking bread is more about a little basic knowledge and confidence than finding a exact recipe.

                      If it seems a bit wet feel free to knead in some flour, but do not make more then 1 change in the recipe at a time, so you can repeat it in the next batch it if it correct.

                      If the entire recipe fails you are only out $.50 cents of flour and yeast, but you have learned what not to do. Please don't be afraid to play with your food.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        I have used this cookbook quite a bit and always weigh the ingredients to get it to consistantly turn out. For the Master Recipe I use: 690 grams water, 14grams yeast, 21 grams salt, and 908 grams white flour.

                        1. re: bakermomof4

                          Do you have weights for the ingredients in the whole wheat sandwich loaf? I don't have the book in front of me, but that's the recipe that is 100% whole wheat flour, equal parts water and milk, honey, yeast, and salt.

                          I've been measuring by volume and have gotten generally good but sometimes inconsistent results.


                          1. re: bakermomof4

                            That is incredibly helpful. Thank you. I'm going to have a go at this weighing water lark.

              3. Success! My second batch of dough (2lb of AP flour by weight, 3 cups of water) is behaving itself much better. It's much less sticky, so my previous batch clearly was too wet, hence the ciabatta problem. I am clearly not cut out for cups!

                Last night's loaf (shaped in the morning, then left in a banneton in the fridge while I was at work) rose much better. I was so proud I took photos, but I can't work out how to get them down to less that 2 megabytes, being a technical imbecile!

                2 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  Congratulations! Welcome to the club. Now you're doomed to repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat.....