Baking a loaf of bread is great, but only when it works out the way it should. Cutting into your loaf to find that it’s really dry and crumbly isn’t something you want in a good loaf of bread, so it’s important that you figure out what you’ve done wrong.
The most common cause of dry and crumbly bread is having a dry dough. Dry dough can be caused by adding too much flour, the type of flour you use, or even the climate you’re in. Many people add additional flour during the kneading process and it causes their bread to become dry.
Although dry dough is one of the most common mistakes a new baker can make, it’s certainly not the only one. There are plenty of things to learn, so there are lots of potential mistakes you can make.
Knowing what’s causing your bread to be dry and crumbly will help you avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Causes Of Dry And Crumby Bread And How To Fix It
Bread can either be made to be delicious or disappointing, so it’s going to be in your best interest to make some good bread. If you make some and it’s dry and crumbly, it’s not exact the good bread you want, so here are some things you’ll want to think about before you go ahead and make another dry and crumbly loaf of bread.
Too Much Flour/Not Enough Liquid
If you aren’t an experienced bread maker, you can’t know what kind of dough you’re looking for when you’re making certain breads.
A lot of inexperienced bakers just add flour if their dough is sticky, but this can cause some problems.
When you’re adding more flour than the recipe calls for, you risk drying out the dough. Once the dough has become dry, you’re likely going to end up with dry bread.
Next time, just perservere through the sticky dough and knead until it becomes less sticky.
Almost all dough has some stick to it, you just have to get used to handling dough properly.
You’re Working The Dough On A Floured Surface
There’s a lot of confusion about whether to flour your work surface or not. Some people say to flour it in order to prevent sticking whilst others don’t.
The problem with flouring your surface is that you’re incorporating much more flour into your dough, especially if you can’t handle the sticky dough.
Some people heavily flour their work surface before going into the kneading process, but this will likely just add too much more flour to your dough and ruin it.
Keep in mind that the more you knead your dough, the less sticky and tacky it gets, so you don’t always need additional flour.
Try to avoid adding extra flour as much as possible. Only do so if you can’t handle the dough after 8-10 minutes of kneading.
Not Kneaded For Long Enough
Gluten is key to developing a nice structure to your bread, so if you haven’t kneaded it enough, it’s going to end up being a crumbly mess that doesn’t have a good texture.
Gluten is what gives bread it’s elasticity, and without it, the dough wouldn’t rise and it wouldn’t be the bread you expect.
You need to make sure that you’re kneading your dough until it passes both the poke test and the windowpane test.
Poke Test – Form your dough into a ball and poke it with your fingertip. If the dough quickly springs back, it’s fully kneaded.
Windowpane Test – Hold a piece of dough and stretch it until you can get it paper-thin without it tearing. You should be able to see light through it.
You’re Using A Low Protein Flour
Good bread is made using a bread flour with a high protein content because that protein forms gluten.
Without enough protein, you won’t be able to form a good gluten network, so the bread won’t rise as well or taste as good.
Breads that are made using a low protein flour are often more dense and can be crumbly and dry.
Try using a strong bread flour over anything else. This contains more protein and creates a much stronger gluten network.
Overbaking Your Bread
Overbaking your bread will cause it to dry out by driving out a lot of much needed moisture.
It’s not always something that’s obvious either. You may just be following a recipe, but everyone has a different oven and environment, so your bread will likely cook at a different rate to the original recipe.
Keep a careful eye on your bread and make sure that you’re not overbaking it. You can check that your bread is done when tapping its base and listening for a hollow sound or by inserting a food thermometer and expecting 190 – 210°F (88 – 99°C) depending on the bread.
Baking At The Wrong Temperature
If you’re baking your bread at a temperature that’s too high, it could end up being overdone on the outside before you get to the middle.
Alternatively, if it’s on too low a heat, it could take much longer to cook and dry out the exterior before it gets fully cooked.
Just make sure that you’re baking your bread at the appropriate temperature. All ovens are different, so it’s handy to have a food thermometer, but it’s not always necessary.
Your Yeast Isn’t Active
Inactive yeast can lead to a dense, crumbly, and disappointing loaf of bread. If it’s old or died for any reason, it’s not going to give your dough any rise, so your bread won’t end up being good.
Make sure to test that your dried yeast is active every time by stirring it into some lukewarm water and letting it sit there for 10-15 minutes. If you see bubbling and swelling of the yeast, you’ll know that it’s active.
Make sure that you don’t use water that’s too hot or you’ll kill the yeast before it gets the chance to rise any of your dough
You’re In A Dry Climate/At A Higher Altitude
Whether there’s not much humidity or you’re just at a high climate, the air is going to be dry.
When there’s not much moisture in the air, it will pull the moisture out of your dough and leave you with a drier bread.
You want to account for this by adding slightly more water to your recipe and keeping your dough in an airtight container.
By doing this, you’re minimizing water loss and making sure that your dough doesn’t turn into a dry mess.
You’re Cutting Into It Too Early
Trust me, I know how hard it is to resist the temperation to eat your lovely warm bread, but just don’t.
Cutting into it before it completely cools releases the internal moisture and causes it to dry out.
Make sure that you let your bread cool off completely before you even think about going near it.
Of course, if it’s all going to be eaten at once you can cut into it when it’s still warm. I won’t tell.
Improper Storage After Baking
If you aren’t storing your bread properly after baking, you’re really going to lose out on its quality. You want your bread to stay moist and tasty, so you need to make sure you’re storing it right.
Avoid putting it in the in the fridge. This pulls moisture from it and leaves it in a worse condition.
I personally like to either freeze it, put it in a bread bin, or store it in a well-sealed bag.
After freezing, thaw it at room temperature before doing anything with it. I like to cut mine into slices and freeze them. Whenever I want them, I just leave them out for 15-30 minutes so they can defrost completely.
I believe that storing your bread in an airtight bread bin is a great way to extend its freshness for a few extra days.
Additional Tips For Keeping Your Bread Moist
Use A Dutch Oven
If you’re lucky enough to own a dutch oven, you have the potential to make some great bread.
When you’ve got some bread cooking in a dutch oven with a lid, it traps the moisture inside and keeps the dough from cooking too quickly.
This trapped moisture can help to keep the bread from drying out.
It also allows the surface of the bread to expand more and leaves you with a better loaf overall.
Introduce Some Steam
If you haven’t got a dutch oven or the type of bread you’re baking isn’t suitable for it, you can fill a preheated baking tray with either ice cubes or hot water. Both of these methods will introduce a good amount of steam and keep your bread moist.
Just like with a dutch oven, it can also help with oven spring so you get a larger loaf.
Play Around With The Ingredients
There are all kinds of bread recipes out there. Some are simple that just have flour, water, salt, and yeast, but others have additional ingredients that can make your bread retain moisture a bit better.
Ingredients like eggs, milk, butter, or oils can help to keep the bread moist, so try out some recipes including these.