Bread is supposed to have crumbs, but when you're new to baking your own yeast bread you may find that it produces more crumbs than you're used to. It's a common problem and there are a number of things you can do to try and fix it.
Baking bread is a science and bakeries have it all figured out. When it comes to bread from your own kitchen though, you simply need to think about all the variables involved. To help solve the problem of bread that is just too crumbly, let's take a look at the different things you can change in your favorite recipe. Try any or all of these and see if you notice an improvement.
01 of 10
Your Bread Doesn't Have Enough Gluten
Gluten has gotten a bit of a bad reputation, but when it comes to bread, it is essential. Gluten is what helps your bread get the "crumb" (the texture) that defines bread. If your bread does not have enough gluten, the crumb will not come out as expected.
Different flours have varying amounts of gluten: white flour contains the most and whole grain flours contain considerably less. If you're adding whole grain flours to your bread recipe, you need to strike a balance between that and white flour.
That is not to say that all white flour has the same amount of gluten, either. This is why you may notice excess crumbs in a basic white loaf of bread. All-purpose flour has less gluten than bread flour, which is designed to have the right amount of gluten bread needs. However, all-purpose flour can make a great loaf of bread.
If you prefer to buy all-purpose flour because of its versatility in the kitchen, try adding more gluten. To do this, add one tablespoon of wheat gluten to one cup of all-purpose flour in your recipe. It should be the perfect amount to give you a great crumb.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
02 of 10
Your Bread Has Too Much Flour
Flour is very important in bread and the mistake that many beginning bakers make is adding too much. Adding more flour than what is needed will create a dry bread and that produces more breadcrumbs.
The key here is to find a good balance between the flour and liquids in your recipe. This can be tricky because bread recipes don't give you exact ingredient amounts like cake and other baked good recipes. Instead, the recipe will tell you approximately how much flour is needed and it's up to the baker to know when to stop.
When you're baking your first loaves, it's very easy to add a lot of flour when kneading, especially by hand. After a bit of kneading, the dough becomes sticky to touch, so you add more flour. While this is how it should be done, it's the amount of flour you add each time that's the issue.
To keep the flour in check, there are a few habits you can get into.
- Weigh out your initial flour measurement, especially if your bread is a mix of white and whole wheat flours. Weighing ingredients—including the main liquids—is much more accurate than eyeing it in a measuring cup.
- Measure out the rest of the recipe's recommended flour, though you don't need to fuss with accuracy here. This helps you know what the maximum amount of flour should be.
- As you knead, generously sprinkle just enough flour onto the dough when it gets sticky so it no longer adheres to your hands or board. Work that in as you knead and when you feel it getting sticky again, add a little more. Keep going like this until you're done kneading.
- Remember that you'll add more flour when you first start kneading and less toward the end of the session.
The goal of kneading in the right amount of flour is to produce a bread dough that still has some elasticity but is neither wet nor dry. It's a fine balance, but with the more loaves you make, the better you'll become at recognizing it.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
03 of 10
Your Bread Has Too Much Yeast
More yeast is better, right? In theory that seems logical if you want a high rise on your bread, but it's actually the opposite. Remember that yeast is a living organism and if you add too much to your bread it can grow too fast and get out of control. This, in turn, can throw off the balance of gluten, carbon dioxide, and steam needed to produce a great bread crumb.
For most bread recipes, those single-use packages of active dry yeast have the perfect amount needed for one loaf of bread. It measures out to 2 1/4 teaspoons. If you're using bulk yeast, make that your goal for the yeast measurement, unless the recipe tells you otherwise.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
04 of 10
Your Bread Doesn't Have Enough Salt or Fat
Certain ingredients are added to bread to help control yeast. While the yeast feeds off the sugar found in many recipes, the salt and fats help "retard" it, or slow it down.
As much as you may like to cut the salt in other food recipes, doing so in bread is not a good idea. Typically, you'll only add 1 teaspoon per loaf so it won't affect your diet. Instead, the recipe's recommended amount of salt is crucial to keeping the yeast in check, so be sure to measure it properly.
Similarly, many bread recipes include a fat such as butter, shortening, or olive oil. These also help retard the yeast's growth and keep the bread moist. Try adding an extra tablespoon or two of one of these fats to your recipe and see if it improves the crumb. Do keep in mind, though, that too much fat will prevent a full rise.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Your Bread Was Not Kneaded Enough
Kneading is one of the trickiest parts of learning to bake bread. It can be hard to tell if you've kneaded too much or not enough, and this can also factor into the crumbiness of your bread.
If you're kneading by hand, it's a good idea to study up on the proper technique. Visit a bread-baking friend to see how they do it, take a class or watch some videos online if needed.
Also, kneading can seem like a tedious task. Most recipes ask you to do the first round of kneading for a full 10 minutes (six minutes with a machine) and this is crucial. Kneading mixes the dough's ingredients and creates a good structure for the bread. Setting a kitchen timer and learning to enjoy the "quiet time" spent kneading can really help you reach the target time.
After the first proofing, many breads need to be kneaded again to rework the gluten before shaping. Typically, this is best when done for a much shorter amount of time (two minutes or less). If you've been doing the second round of kneading for longer than that, cut it back and you should notice a significant difference in the crumb.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
Your Bread Was Overproofed
We have to go back to overactive yeast because it is so important in producing a great loaf of bread with a nice crumb. While you've cut back on the amount of yeast and added sufficient ingredients to slow it down, it's important to double-check how you proof it.
Proofing (or proving) bread means you let it rise. Initially, you'll allow your bread to rise for 45 minutes to an hour after the first round of kneading. The goal is to allow it to double in size. When you're starting out, it's easy to think that the more it rises in this stage, the better the bread will be. Again, this is a theory that doesn't hold up in bread baking.
The longer you allow your bread to proof, the more active the yeast becomes. By restricting it, you produce better bread with a more reliable crumb. Allowing the dough to grow too large is a very common mistake.
To tell when your dough has sufficiently risen, poke your finger into it. If the hole does not close up, then you're ready to punch it down. If you notice the dough moving a little or the hole completely closes, allow it to rise a little longer.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
07 of 10
Your Bread Dough Is Sensitive to Temperature
Even before it hits the oven, bread dough is sensitive to temperatures. For instance, warm water is used to dissolve the yeast in the first steps of most bread recipes. If that water is too hot, it can literally kill the yeast and the bread won't rise. The water should be 130 to 135 F unless the recipe says otherwise.
Likewise, if your kitchen is too hot while the dough is rising, it can cause the yeast to grow more rapidly. This can have the same effect as over-proofing.
In general, it's best to make bread at room temperatures between 70 and 80 F. If your kitchen is hot, you may need to shorten the rising time or place it in a cooler location. Likewise, you'll find that adjustments may be needed if it's a little cool in the house. In this case, you may need to extend the proofing time.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
08 of 10
Your Bread Was Baked at the Wrong Temperature
Bread can become too dry if it's baked too long and this can add to a crumb issue. While your recipe may work wonderfully at 350 F for 40 minutes in someone else's oven, you may need to make adjustments.
It is possible that your oven's thermostat may be off. This means you may be inadvertently overbaking your bread. The best way to know for sure is to use an inexpensive oven thermometer. This will tell you the exact internal temperature so you can adjust the temperature setting to hit the target needed for the recipe.
Also, whenever you're baking, pre-heating the oven is crucial. Baking times are based on an oven that is already to temperature. If you place the bread inside before it hits that target, bread may not rise properly and that also affects the crumb.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Your Bread Did Not Cool Before Slicing
It can be hard to wait before slicing into a freshly baked loaf of bread. It smells so good and you can't help but dive in and enjoy that first piece. However, it is best if you wait until it cools down.
The primary reason for this is that the bread is still baking inside. The crust has trapped enough steam inside the loaf to continue working its magic and create a great crumb. If you let that steam out too soon, it will be drier than it would have been.
Allow your white bread to rest for at least one hour. Whole wheat bread needs a little longer, so hold off for two or three hours.
Also, when you do slice your bread, use a serrated bread knife. These are designed to cut through bread in a way that reduces tearing and crumbs.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
10 of 10
Your Bread Is Not Stored Properly
If your bread was not as crumbly the first day as it was the second or third day, you might have a storage issue.
Keep in mind that homemade bread doesn't have the preservatives included in commercial bread. Sourdough bread includes a natural preservative, which is why many home bakers quickly move on to that style. Yet, other homemade bread will begin to mold within a couple of days if not stored properly.
Due to this, keep only the amount of bread you'll eat within a day or two in a bread box or air-tight container. Freeze the rest of the loaf by wrapping it in plastic and sealing it inside a plastic freezer bag. When you need more bread, it will thaw out within an hour and be as moist as it was the first day.
The worst things you can do is store bread in the refrigerator or thaw it in the microwave. Both of these will dry out the bread and produce a lot of crumbs.