Unfortunately, there are many reasons for a bread machine bread to come out too dense. Below are some of the most common reasons with potential solutions. FYI – If you like to bake homemade bread in your oven, many of these problems can also occur with oven-baked breads. However, if you are looking for bread recipes, please visit Bread Dad’s bread machine recipes or oven baked bread recipes sections.
Read the manufacturer’s instruction manual for your bread machine to make sure you are operating your bread machine safely and effectively. Always wear oven mitts when dealing with a hot bread machine, hot oven, etc.
Reasons & Solutions
- Not measuring the ingredients correctly. Don’t “eyeball” your ingredient measurements. Incorrect ingredient measurements are the cause of many bread machine problems. Use measuring cups and spoons correctly (i.e. the ingredients are level with the brim of the cup/spoon and not over/underfilled). Many people (esp. in Europe) like to use a kitchen scale in order to get the most accurate ingredient measurements.
- Old or stale yeast. Expired yeast or moisture contaminated yeast will have trouble growing properly and this can lead to dense bread machine bread. Always relatively new yeast & store it in an airtight container. For longer storage, the airtight container (sealed tight) should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer,
- Too much flour. The dough will have trouble expanding properly if you use too much flour. Measure ingredients accurately.
- Not enough liquid. Similar to the flour problem above, you need to measure your recipe liquids (i.e. water or milk) accurately.
- Too little sugar. If you remove sugar from the recipe (i.e. to reduce calories), you can throw off the recipe. Yeast uses sugar in part to fuel its growth. Best results are based on using the amount of sugar stated in a recipe.
- Too much salt. If you accidentally added a tablespoon of salt when the recipe called for a teaspoon, you will be hurting the yeast’s ability to grow.
- Old flour. Stale or moisture contaminated flour can lead to bread having trouble rising properly. Always use fresh ingredients for the best results. Store all ingredients in airtight containers.
- Removing ingredients from a recipe that were added to help the dough to rise (i.e. eggs). Eggs are often added to baked goods to help the rise of the dough or batter.
- Using the wrong yeast. Use the type of yeast called for in the recipe. Bread machine/instant yeast is different than active dry yeast. One needs to be preactivated before use (active dry yeast) and the other does not (bread machine/instant yeast).
- Using cold refrigerator temperature liquids. Using cold liquids slows yeast growth and this can lead to a dense bread machine bread. Follow a recipe’s instructions regarding the temperature of the liquid ingredients.
- Baking in a cold winter temperature kitchen. Yeast likes kitchen temps of 75-80 degree F. If the kitchen is too cold, the yeast will have trouble rising quickly.
- Using all purpose flour instead of bread flour (if bread flour is called for in the recipe). Breads made with all purpose flour breads (versus breads made with bread flour) tend to be denser breads because all purpose flour has less gluten than bread flour. Gluten helps trap the CO2 bubbles put out by the yeast. More gluten means more trapped bubbles (which equals an “airier” less dense bread).
- Placing salt on top of or next to the yeast. Salt kills yeast so it must be placed away from the yeast in the bread pan. I like to place the yeast in the middle of the bread pan (in a “crater” on top of the flour) and the salt on the side of the bread pan (far away from the yeast).
- Recipe is too “small” for your bread machine. For example, trying to make a 1 lb loaf in a bread machine that makes only 1.5 lb and 2 lb loaves. The 1 lb ingredients will be spread over a wider than expected area and thus the loaf will be very short and overly crusty.
- Using the wrong bread machine setting. Different settings have different time lengths for mixing, kneading & baking. Use the settings called for in the recipe. The wrong setting may give the dough too little time to rise (so the dough rises less than expected).
- Older machines can slowly fail and have trouble controlling the baking temperature, properly mixing/kneading ingredients and/or regulating the time needed for mixing/kneading/baking. These problems can results in overly dense bread machine breads, undercooked breads, bread collapses, etc. If you need a new bread machine, you should check out the page on Bread Dad’s favorite bread machines.