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Making bread tougher

After getting laid off a year ago I started making my own bread to save money and because I'm home all day so I can let it rise, punch it down, etc. I love simple peasant breads (tuscan and similar kinds) and I make a basic bread. Per loaf: 450g of bread flour, 1 tsp of yeast, 2 tbsp oil, 1.5 tsp salt, and water.

(I also sometimes make multigrain and specialty breads but that's not relevant)

This makes a basic white bread which smells and tastes great and is good for dipping, eating plain, and toasting and using for bruschetta's, etc.

My wife loves it but I'm not happy with its strength and chewiness. It falls apart too easily when I spread something stiff like peanut butter on it and it's not as tough and chewy as the peasant breads we get at bakeries.

I've tried adding extra gluten (Hogdson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten) and this does make it stronger so it accepts stiff spreads like peanut butter and cream cheese, but oddly it also makes it softer - closer to Wonder Bread. (yecch!)

How do I make my bread tough and strong?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Have you tried increasing the time you kneed the bread? That should develop more gluten. Do you use a stone in your oven? That helps maintain even heat when you open the oven. It is hard to get the same crust at home that commercial bakers with v hot ovens get.

    3 Replies
    1. re: corneygirl

      It's not the crust; it's the inside that I want tougher. I'm pretty strong and I currently knead for about 20 minutes by which time it's very stretchy and elastic and a bit puffy and has lost all its stickiness and makes gluten "windows" . I currently knead it; let it rise, punch it down and knead it again, let it rise again and bake that. I've tried 3 kneadings/3 risings but that didn't make any difference.

      1. re: plnelson

        I saw a similar question on yahoo answers:

        http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/...

        Basically, the answer recommended trying a drier dough. I think that would be hard to do if you're kneading by hand, but if you have a mixer, it might work.

        1. re: jvanderh

          have you tried any of the recipes for italian country breads that have a wet dough and are made with a starter? Most of the chewier breads, that have long keeping quality, are of this type.

    2. Are you using hard (winter) wheat flour or all-purpose? If you're happy with everything else, having a hard wheat with a high protein content might make the difference.

      1. Your formula is a bit vague. ("Per loaf: 450g of bread flour, 1 tsp of yeast, 2 tbsp oil, 1.5 tsp salt, and water.") Salt looks to be about 9 grams and yeast about 3 - 4 grams so they're within the range of a standard peasant bread formula. What's the protein content of your flour? Packages labeled "bread flour" aren't always the well suited for anything but quick breads. "Water" is a critical ingredient and without the percentage of water relative to the flour (hydration percentage) it's difficult to speculate on how that ingredient affected your outcome. If you reduce the oil by 50% (or more) you will get a heavier loaf.

        1. You might try experimenting with different flours.

          1. Have you tried spring water? It is my understanding that chlorine and other chemicals in municipal water can impede the activity of the yeast.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              That's a genuine risk, but the original poster isn't saying that he can't get his bread to rise. If his bread is rising he's got a viable yeast community regardless of whether or not the water he uses is chlorinated.