Why has my bread stopped rising?

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HI there
I bake in a relatively high altitude of 1000 metres or more than 3000
feet (Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia).
It took me some adjustment to cope with the higher altitude than I was
used to, but I finally found that baking at 140 degrees Celsius for
around 35 minutes produced a perfect loaf. I'm using 2 cups of hard
baker's flour to 1.5 cups of mixed-grain.
The air up here is usually dry but for the past month we've had
unusually high humidity. Would that explain why, all of a sudden, my
bread rises by only half to two-thirds its normal volume on its second
rising .. and doesn't improve at all during the baking. I'm getting
bread which is almost half its normal height. It was gluggier than
normal also, till I dropped the baking temp down 10 degrees to 130
degrees Celsius.
Is there a way to compensate for this? I guess the situation isn't
helped by the fact that Australia is only now starting to recover from
a prolonged drought which has, reports suggest, led to production of
flour with less than normal levels of protein.


Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?
PS .. I just tested my dry instant yeast and it's still in fine
condition.


Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?

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I'm at ~1100m (~3600') in Calgary in a very dry climate.

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That's awfully low - do you mean 240C?

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A few years ago, after baking bread for over 25 years, I experienced failure
after failure.  I decided to go back to basics and got out the baking books
and followed a basic recipe to the letter.  Result? A perfect loaf.
I think that over time, one can become sloppy or experience "recipe drift"
(especially if you use cup-measure rather than weighing your ingredients)and
it might be worthwhile your going back to first principles.  I suggest that
you weigh out 500g of bread flour (no additions of other stuff), 325ml (or
grams) of water, add 2tsp of salt and use 2tsp of instant yeast (or
equivalent).  This is a basic recipe for a 65% hydration loaf which should
work with hard wheatflour (that's what I'm used to here).  If this produces
a decent loaf (and it should) you can then start fiddling with the flour
proportions.
You can also look at:
 http://planeguy.mine.nu/bread/index.php?section=faq&page=88

If you have any problems with bread, post on alt.bread.recipes where you
will get stacks of advice.
HTH
Graham



Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?
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OK, thanks Graham; I'll give that a try. By the way, the 140C is
correct .. anything higher and I bake the outside hard, leaving the
dough gluggy inside. 140C corresponds to 285 Fahrenheit.
Cheers


Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?

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Try pre-heating the oven to 230C  with a cast iron casserole  and lid in the
oven(I use a Le Creuset - without the plastic handle).  When the dough is
ready, plop it into the pot and put the lid on.  Bake my recipe (or
equivalent) for 30 minutes and then remove the lid and bake for another 15
minutes.  I'd be surprised if you don't like the result and it's not gluggy
inside.  It's based on the New York Times method of a few months back.
http://tinyurl.com/ys9l9k

or
http://video.on.nytimes.com/ifr_main.jsp?nsid=a-7cff1bf3:11152ef5947:-3e7f&st=1173920286484&mp=FLV&cpf=false&fvn=9&fr=112306_095859_552c2fa1x10f152e6418x25f2&rdm=875978.6693118205

Some people bake from cold but I've never had good results with that method.
Cheers
Graham



Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?

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Thanks for your check-recipe, Graham
I used it with just the plain unbleached hard bread flour and that
simultaneously cleared the oven, yeast and flour of being at fault.
Only one culprit left -- the bag of multi-grain flour which must have
come from a dud (or protein-reduced) batch as I'm now sure it was that
which was wrecking my efforts.
Best wishes and thanks again .. your recipe produced totally delicious
bread! I handmixed it but next time I'll try doing the first mixing
stage in my daughter's bread machine before transferring to the baking
tin and then to oven after the second rise.
Cheers



Re: Why has my bread stopped rising?

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I'm glad it worked out! Now if only there was a recipe for calorie-free
bread....
You should check alt.bread.recipes from tme to time as well.  There's a
great bunch of bread-bakers who post there.
By the way, I generally sieve my whole-wheat flour with a fine kitchen sieve
to remove the coarser bran particles.  It is thought that they pierce the
gas bubbles in the dough so that you end up with a denser bread.  If I want
to make a multigrain loaf, I usually make a normal bread dough and throw in
flax and sunflower seeds.  I can't stand the millet seeds they put in
multigrain mixes.
Graham



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