Why is my bread machine bread so dense

Why is my bread machine bread so dense?

If you’ve ever used a bread machine to make bread, you may have noticed that sometimes the bread comes out really dense. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to make fluffy, delicious bread. So what’s causing this problem? And more importantly, how can you fix it? Let’s explore the reasons why bread machines produce dense bread and offer some tips on how to make your loaves less heavy. 

Why is my bread machine bread so dense?

There are many factors that can contribute to dense bread. Below are the most common ones.

You’re using too much flour

One of the most common factors that makes bread machine bread dense is simply using too much flour.

Adding more flour than what the recipe asks for will result in a very dense bread. If a recipe asks for 360ml of water and 550 grams of flour but you end up putting 700g-800g of flour, there will not be enough water to hydrate the bread as the flour will soak it all up.

If there is not enough wet ingredients and the dough is too thick it will prevent the yeast from doing its job properly. The result will be a loaf that’s heavy and dense as the yeast will not have had enough liquid to thrive in.

For the perfect textured bread, you need the right balance of wet and dry ingredients.

Using too much water

Adding too much water or wet ingredients can also cause your loaf to come out dense. 

If there is too much liquid, the bread will not be able to form a proper structure. The gluten strands will be weak and unable to support the loaf as it rises too quickly. The loaf will end up collapsing, resulting in a dense, heavy bread.

When the dough is almost done kneading, open the lid of your bread machine. If the dough briefly sticks to the side and then pulls away without leaving any residue then the dough is a perfect consistency. If it resembles more like doughy soup then it’s too wet.

If you are following a recipe for a dough that has high hydration like ciabatta, then the dough will look wetter and will stick to the sides of the bread pan as it is being kneaded. So, don’t confuse a high hydration dough with one that has too much wet ingredients.

The key is to find the perfect balance of wet and dry ingredients. Too much of either one can result in sub-par bread.

Not kneading enough

Another common cause of dense bread is not kneading the dough enough. Kneading is an important step in the bread-making process because it helps to form gluten, which gives bread its structure. If you don’t knead the dough long enough, the gluten won’t be able to do its job and your bread will be dense.

Under kneading dough can be easily done if you are kneading by hand.  It’s difficult to tell when the dough is sufficiently kneaded, so it’s easy to give up too soon.

A bread machine is foolproof when it comes to kneading because it does it for a specific amount of time. That being said, there are a few instances where a bread machine can fail in its kneading abilities.

If you have an old machine, over the years the motor might have depleted and may not be strong enough to properly knead the dough. This can result in a dense loaf.

If you’re using a bread machine with a small capacity, it may also have trouble kneading the dough properly. A bread machine that’s too small will struggle to knead larger batches of dough, so always make sure you are adding the amount of ingredients your machine can handle.

You forgot the kneading paddle

Another reason why the dough might not be kneaded properly is if the kneading paddle isn’t placed in the bread pan properly or if you completely forget to put it in the bread pan. We’ve all done it at least once, no judgement here!

If the kneading paddle isn’t in the bread pan, it will not be able to do its job and the dough won’t knead at all, causing the bread to come out really dense.

The same goes if the paddles are not engaged into the shaft properly. The dough will just spin without being kneaded properly.

You’re not letting the bread machine rise cycle is not long enough

Another reason why bread machines bread can be dense is because you are not letting the dough rise long enough. This can become a bigger issue if you live in a climate with extreme weather conditions or live in high altitudes.

If your house is really cold, the dough might not rise properly in the allotted time. This can result in a loaf of dense bread.

Similarly, if you live in a high altitude, the air is thinner and there isn’t as much moisture in the air. This can also make it difficult for the dough to rise properly, leading to a dense loaf of bread.

When dough rises, it doubles in size as the yeast ferments and creates gas. If you don’t let the dough rise for a long enough period of time, the yeast won’t have a chance to do its job and your bread will be dense.

Bread machines know how long the dough should rise for, so all you need to do is select the right cycle. If you can see that the dough isn’t rising well during that time, let it rise for a bit longer by taking the bread pan out and leaving it in a warm oven. Once it has risen, put it back in the bread machine and set it to the ‘bake cycle’.

The yeast is expired or you forgot to add it

Have you accidentally forgotten to add yeast to your dough? If so, that would explain why your bread machine bread is so dense!

Bread needs yeast in order to rise, so if there is no yeast present, the dough will not rise at all. Take the dough out of the bread pan and make flatbreads instead!

If your bread is dense, it could be due to problems with the yeast. If the yeast is old or has expired, it won’t be as effective and your bread will not rise as much as it should. This can cause the bread to be dense and heavy.

There are a few ways you can check if your yeast is still active.

You chose the wrong type of Flour

Another thing that can cause your bread to be dense is using the wrong kind of flour. Bread machines work best with all-purpose, bread flour, wheat flour, and rye flour.

Having said that, all-purpose flour does contain less gluten than bread flour. If you’re using all-purpose flour and your dough is really dense, try using a higher gluten content flour like bread flour to see if that helps.

Here’s a little test I recently did in my bread machine. Each loaf was made with the exact same quantities and cycles, the only factor I changed was the flour.

Did you notice how dense the self-raising flour loaf is?!

Temperature and humidity

The weather can also affect how your bread machine makes bread. If it’s too hot externally, the dough might rise too fast and collapse in the bread machine. In this case, you might want to try making bread at a different time of day when the humidity is lower.

If you’re living in a really cold climate, you can try putting the bread machine in a warm place and try and avoid opening the lid of the bread machine. This will prevent the heat from escaping. Avoid putting the bread machine near draughty doors or in cold rooms.

How to make bread machine less dense

If your bread machine bread is too dense, don’t worry, there are ways to prevent this from happening again.

  1. Follow the recipe. It is easy to steer away from a recipe and start adding your own ingredients and quantities. Make sure you follow the exact measurement and use kitchen scales for accuracy as this will prevent you from adding too much water or flour.
  2. Don’t add too many extra ingredients like dried fruits, nuts and raisins. These kind of ingredients can weigh down the dough causing it to come out dense. Next time, cut back on the extra ingredients.
  3. Opt for bread flour or flour with a high gluten content. High gluten flours make bread light and fluffy.
  4. Add vital wheat gluten. This is a powder that can be found in most stores and it’s great for making bread less dense. Just add one tablespoon for each cup of flour you’re using. Vital wheat gluten can be added to flour with less gluten as it will help it rise quicker.
  5. Use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast.  Instant yeast is a little more potent than active dry yeast and will help your bread rise faster. Plus it doesn’t need to be bloomed and saves a lot of time.
  6. If you live in a high altitude, try using less yeast.
  7. Let the dough rise for longer. If you see that the dough isn’t rising fast enough, let it rise for a bit longer by taking the bread pan out and leaving it in a warm oven.
  8. Don’t be scared of adding salt. Without salt, the dough will ferment too quickly and exhaust itself. Salt stops the dough from rising too quickly.
  9. Before you add your ingredients, make sure the paddle is engaged properly.
  10. If in doubt about your yeast, test that the yeast is still active before making bread.

There are many things that can cause bread to be dense. But, by following the tips above, you should be able to make light and fluffy bread machine bread every time!