Why is my bread dense?

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Is your bread tough and dense rather than light and fluffy? If this article we explain everything you need to know about what makes bread dense – and how to prevent your bread from becoming dense! First we explain the most common reasons that bread turns out dense. After that we describe how to prevent bread from becoming dense.

Why is my bread dense?

Why is my bread dense?

Why is your bread dense? There are a lot of things that can go wrong with bread but if your bread is dense that almost certainly means the bread dough did not rise enough. Bread dough rises when the yeast in the dough consumes sugars and starches and produces carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide produces air bubbles in the dough that allow the dough to rise and increase in size.

If your bread is dense and did not rise properly that means that the yeast is not producing enough carbon dioxide. This might happen if your yeast has not been activated, if it has been killed, or if it is under conditions that are antagonistic to the carbon dioxide production. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, bread can also become dense if you let the dough rise for too long. It is much less common for bread to become dense due to too much rise so you should only assume this happened if your bread dough increases in size dramatically. If your bread is left to rise for too long and too much air is added to the dough then it will eventually collapse back into a tight dough without much air. 

How to prevent bread from becoming dense

If your bread is too dense that likely means that your yeast have not been activated or that they are not under conditions where they can create carbon dioxide bubbles. Here are some tips that you can follow to make sure your yeast are able to do their job. Follow these tips to prevent your next load of bread from becoming dense. 

  • Make sure your yeast is alive and active. The first step of making bread dough should be adding some yeast and some sugar to a bowl of water. When you add the yeast to the water you should see the water start to foam within 5 – 10 minutes. If the water doesn’t not start to foam that means that your yeast are not alive or not active. You should double check your yeast to see if they are nearing their expiration date or they were stored in conditions that might have killed them (ex. next to an oven in an area that gets very hot).  
  • Make sure your water is not too warm. If you add water that is too warm to your yeast then it will kill your yeast. You do not want to kill your yeast because your bread will become very dense! As a rule you should be able to leave your finger in a pot of water for 10 seconds without feeling any discomfort. If you do feel discomfort your water may be too hot. 
  • Make sure you are not over-kneading your bread (does not apply to gluten free bread). If you are making bread with a standard flour that contains wheat gluten then overworking your bread might cause it to become rubbery and make it difficult for the bread to rise. It is hard to do this and will almost certainly not happen if you are kneading your bread by hand. Unless you knead your bread for a long time using a mixer or machine you will probably not overwork your bread dough. 
  • Keep the bread in a warm area to rise. Your bread will rise faster if it is left in a warm area to rise. Yeast are more productive and work faster when they are in a warm environment. If they are in a very cold environment their carbon dioxide production will stop entirely. If you bread is rising too slowly you can put it in a warm environment to prevent it from becoming dense. 
  • Reduce ingredients that retard yeast. There are some ingredients that when added to bread reduce the speed at which the bread rises. Bread dough with a high salt or fat content will not rise as quickly.
  • Let the bread rise longer. Another way to prevent your bread from becoming dense is to let your bread rise for a little longer. The exact length of time your bread needs to rise will vary depending on what recipe you use. In general your bread should double in size during the first rise. 
  • Slash your bread before baking. Slashing the bread allows it to rise after the outer crust has started to form. When the outer crust of a bread starts to solidify it holds the dough in place and makes it hard for the bread to rise more. If you slashed the bread that creates a weak point in the crust that makes it easier for the bread to bread through and rise more. 
  • Bake the bread on higher heat. When you heat up the bread the air pockets in the bread become larger and the bread rises more. You need the air pockets produced by the carbon dioxide to expand before the outer crust of the bread cooks through and is frozen in place. If you are using a low temperature the air might not get warm enough to expand sufficiently before the outer crust of the bread solidifies.

Ingredients that prevent bread from rising

There are some ingredients that can retard your yeast and prevent your bread from rising or slow the rise of your bread. If your bread dough contains many of these ingredients then you will need to let your bread dough rise for a longer period of time to prevent your bread from becoming dense. If your bread contains a lot of salt or a lot of fat then you should let it rise for extra time to prevent it from becoming dense. 

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Cooked gluten free focaccia bread

This easy gluten free focaccia recipe is one of our absolute favorite gluten free bread recipes! Focaccia bread is one of the easiest types of bread to make for beginners.

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