Why does my bread always seem flat or dense?

Joined Jun 6, 2009
I've been trying to get the hang of baking bread for some time. Namely a fluffy French or Italian bread. Our local grocer offers bread that's nice and crispy on the outside while very light and fluffy on the inside. Now, I can achieve the crispy outside by placing a small tray of water in the oven while the loaf is cooking. But the inside is always much denser than anything I find at my grocer's.

I've been experimenting for some time trying to figure out the trick. I've tried stickier, thinner dough. Drier dough. Kneading less, kneading more. The texture always seems the same. Dense.

Now, I've had some moderate success in letting the bread rise longer than I ordinarily would. However, when I do it tends not to maintain its shape and instead rise horizontally and turning out kind of flat. I can't seem to figure out how to get it to hold its shape and be soft and fluffy on the inside.

Anyone have any ideas what I'm doing wrong here?
Joined Aug 29, 2000
How about posting your recipe and method? Are you at high altitude? Are you sure your oven thermostat is accurate? What type of flour are you using (ilel, how much gluten does it contain). There are more questions, but let's start there. :D
Joined Jun 21, 2007
Maybe it's all in the 'feel' of the dough.
I've been making bread since I was a little girl, just watching grandmother do it.
It's very basic as I'm sure you know.
One thing I did last year when doing this wonderful and easy bread at home was to check my water temp with an instant read thermometer. It was way too cool believe it or not.
I think it calls for water in any bread using yeast to be about 105°-115° and mine was quite cooler than that. I always thought it was room temp. So I upped that and always keep my yeast in the freezer. < Always cause that's what works for me.
Standard French bread for me anyway, is flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt, olive oil, knead let rest, punch down, form loaf on cookie sheet or {?}let rise again, spray with water on top, cut slits, preheat oven, bake.
I mean I couldn't do a French baguette if I wanted to but not many can.
Try the New York Times bread way of doing it if you haven't already.
You mix your ingredients, walk away from bowl for 18-24, and go from there.
Very easy, very good, very many different things you can toss into it to make it perfecto!
Joined Feb 26, 2007
How long are you kneading it for - should be at least 10 minutes. I made some great bread by accident once. Was having a bad day and worked off some anger on the bread dough hehe. Worked out well with extra elbow grease...maybe that's the missing ingredient :)

Where are you letting it sit to prove - maybe the place is too hot/cold. Needs to be warm. Sounds like your recipe and method is pretty sound. Have you tried dried packaged yeast? (Assuming you are using fresh).

Also, do you oil the bowl the bread is proving in, toss dough in, then flip it so the whole lot is greased up, then cover with cling film? If not, it may not be able to move enough while its rising.

I'm no expert, but just some thoughts.
Joined Jan 25, 2006
You might be over-proofing in the second rise. The dough will look good when you put it in the oven, but the wall structure is too weak to support itself while the bread bakes. It literally collapses on itself. Try a batch where you think the second rise is a little under proofed and see if you get good results. This can be especially important with soft-dough breads like focaccia.
Joined Jun 21, 2007
I did the basic NYT's bread again the other day.
Put all but the kitchen into it or so it seemed.
My point is you do the easy basics and walk away.
The heated vessel is the steaming part of the transaction.
It has yet to fall on itself of be too dense.
Sometimes it has more holes other times not.
But try it...what have you got to lose?
Joined Nov 22, 2010
I am having the same problem. My loaf is always flat and the bubble density is always very small. I have tried letting the second rise, rise for 30min, 1hr and 2 hr to get the same result. I have noticed that as soon as I touch the loaf it will deflate.  What could this be?

(private user)

Ugh I forgot how to use a computor
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(private user)

Nice Quote.

There are so many variables with flour, hard, soft, gas, bubbles, yeast, leavens, absorption of water, flour maybe dry, bleached, unbleached, storage, gluten development. Makes my head spiny, along with Penny, who is telling me to come to bed; in non culinary terms,its feel, sight, translucency,taste, and I'm going to bake it anyways, my way or the highway. Just keep on trying and don't expect the same results day to day.
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