Bread making question.

So I am trying to teach myself to make French baguette type bread, soft inside, with a crust on the outside.

Found a recipe I liked the look of, gave it a try, but I screwed it up somehow and it failed. Took another try and got it pretty close to right.

But…the bread seems too heavy and dense. It rose nicely, even the crust is pretty close.

So I’m wondering is it worth trying this recipe again and just cutting out some of the flour?

Or should I just start searching for another recipe?

Any input or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


What’s the recipe?

2+1/2 cups flour
Yeast (packet)
1Tbsp sugar
1Tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

Combine, knead, leave to rise in oiled bowl. Punch down, knead, form loaves, let rise.

Bake at 375-400 for approx 30 mins.

What kind of flour are you using? And how are you kneading it?

Punch down and knead?

That seems like too much handling of the risen dough. I would not punch down or knead, but try gently folding the dough into the baguette shape.

For a simple white french bread recipe, you shouldn’t need sugar. You may need a hotter oven and a method to generate steam - that’s how you get the crumb and crust that you’re after.

I can easily drop the kneading after punching down, if you think that will help.

Also I am doing the steam thing with good results!

I keep the sugar, as called for as I half the salt, to a pinch, (due to a low sodium diet.)

But it seems too heavy and dense, instead of fluffy and soft. It’s nice bread, if it was in a bigger loaf you could easily slice it thin and make sandwiches. It would hold up well, I’m sure. And the taste is good!

What will the effect be if I drop 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour?

After rising did it double in volume? If not, proof longer.

I would drop the kneading. If the crust is right but the loaf is too dense, then overworking the dough is a likely culprit.

How’s the crumb? Dropping some of the flour will just make a wetter dough, which will make it harder to shape, or will require the extra kneading to make it shape-able.

I’m not sure what you’re asking about the crumb, sorry.
Can definitely let it proof longer, don’t knead it so much, maybe drop some of the flour, etc.
I can take all of these suggestions under advicement, but back to my question:

Should I abandon this recipe and begin searching for a new one? Or should I continue to tweak this one? Should I make it again? I made it twice yesterday, first time a flop, second time much better but too dense and heavy.

What say? Third time a charm?


Are you sure your oven is up to temp? Do you use a baking stone?

Ovens are frequently wrong when they signal they are up to whatever temp you’ve set them to - especially if you are using a baking stone. Preheating for up to an hour is often necessary to make ensure everything is at the correct temp. Especially for things like home made bread and pizza.

Are you using a baguette pan or some type of water pan? It’s a pretty important part of the baking process.

I would find a new recipe. At the very least, you do not need sugar in your bread. I also don’t understand if your recipe is calling for oil in the dough or just oil in in the bowl.

A baking/pizza stone will also be a great help.

Texcat asked what kind of flour you’re using. If the answer isn’t an all-purposed unbleached flour, make sure it is before you try again.

What you’re looking for in your bread, that light airy inside (the inside is the crumb) is a result of what’s called oven spring. That’s the process by which the bread swells to its final shape when it first goes into the oven.

French bread has an airy crumb and a crackly crust because the bread goes into scorching hot ovens that are made even hotter by injections of steam. The bread springs tremendously. It’s why baguettes have those lovely slash marks all down the tops. Otherwise they’d crack open down the sides during that process.

If you want something similar, you’re going to need a very, very hot oven and you’re going to need steam.

Pan of water in the oven for steam, sprinkle loaves with water two or three times during baking.

I have a gas stove and thermometer so the stove is definitely up to temp, I promise.

I bake at 400 degrees, but could go higher if you think it might help.

I don’t use a stone or a pan. I just use a cookie sheet with parchment and some corn flour to bake on.

Consult the Bible of Bread Making

You can try this:*

Spray the loaves down immediately before baking. Do not spray them down any more after that.

Set the oven to 500. Remember that the presence of all that water in the oven is going to lower the temperature.

Put an empty pan in the oven, beneath where the bread will be.

When the oven is ready, put the bread in the oven. Pour water into the pan. Guard your face because it’s going to steam like crazy. Close the oven as quickly as possible and leave it closed, because you don’t want to lose any steam by opening the the oven.

Cut the oven down to 450.

If you think you got enough steam going in the oven from the pour, just leave it in there for a while. After the crust has formed on the bread, you can open the oven and vent the steam, then finish baking as normal.

*Don’t try this if you think the heavy steam might damage your oven.

edit: My personal bible, from when I did this professionally. As I recall he talks plenty about how to do this stuff at home.

Your ratios are pretty close for standard bread dough (the calculator I have says 7.5 oz water to 2.5 cups of flour, and 3/4 tsp of salt (7 grams))

Kneading isn’t the enemy; it develops gluten which is what captures the gas bubbles in the dough. You need to knead it a fairly good amount for good bread. Kneading, punching down and a second rise isn’t unusual at all for bread.

I think **Johnny Bravo’s ** on the right track- the heat and steam are what makes the crust and interior. Getting the oven spring shouldn’t be that hard, but the steam might be hard to properly duplicate at home.

Let me second the Bread Bakers Apprentice as a resource. Also Artisan Bread every day by the same author. I would guess that since you are measuring your flour by volume you have too much,and that you are under proofing a bit. Steam in the oven is great, but be aware that if you have a gas oven it will be almost impossible. I have used ice cubes thrown onto a hot (preheated with the oven) sheet pan to good effect.

Don’t be afraid of over working the dough as long as you kneed by hand. You want to develop gluten.

Also, get a different recipe. Your bread shouldn’t have sugar or oil in it if you are going for a baguette.

Edit, I have found that there is almost no such thing as too hot an oven for French bread. Hotter is better.

Just so we’re clear, I didn’t say kneading was the enemy. It is kneading a second time after punching down the dough.

I was actually thinking that maybe a switch to bread flour would help, or at least a higher protein AP flour like King Arthur.