The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Weak sandwich bread structure

CamanoBread's picture

Weak sandwich bread structure

I need help troubleshooting my recent sandwich loaf bakes.  In a number of batches my bread appears weak structurally in the area of the loaf with the most oven spring (center high point).  This has happened in multiple batches with different recipes and/or different flours.

Here are the particulars of my most recent multigrain loaf bake (Costco organic APF) and freshly milled hard red winter wheat.



220 grams 7-grain hot cereal mix

740 grams (by weight) boiling water 

532 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface + 80 g of added flour during mix

262 grams whole-wheat flour 

105 grams tablespoons honey

71 Grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

10 grams instant yeast

22 grams table salt

121 grams pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, (unsalted)



Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour.

Mix all dough ingredients but the salt and let dough rest 20 minutes.

Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add additional all-purpose flour (80 g for me) and continue mixing for another 5'. Add seeds and knead for another 15 seconds. Place dough into greased container and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape loaves and; cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes (60' for me, 1 " above pan rim)

Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.

tpassin's picture

I think you have two things going on, and they are working together.  Have you made a similar bread before with better results?

The tears in the middle look like lack of bonding during shaping. More strength in the crumb might have held those weak areas together better.

A bread like this strikes me as being difficult to pull off well.  It probably takes a lot of experience. It's got a lot of non-wheat and non-white flour and it's got a lot of inclusions.  I would guess that the effective hydration is fairly high, based on the amount of water in the soaker. You haven't said if you generally have gotten stronger results with similar recipes.

Generally speaking, I would back off on all the elements that make this recipe difficult.  Once I was getting results I liked I would start bring back those elements one by one.  This means reducing the amount of cereal and the amount of water, and leaving out or reducing the seeds for now. I also think that more mixing or kneading would be useful.

I would also include the salt with the other ingredients before the rest period.  That will help to tighten and strengthen the dough, and it seems to need that help.

When you go to shape the loaves, if the dough feels flabby and very extensible, don't hesitate to fold and stretch it firmly during shaping.  That will help tighten up the gluten and help the folds of dough stick together.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes.


CamanoBread's picture

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful reply.  Good food for thought and I can explore the suggested options.

I haven't made this bread in awhile but my memory tells me that I didn't have the weak crust issue before.  The other interesting thing is that I have been having a similar issue with my all APF enriched sandwich bread recipes.

Is there any chance that I am not letting the final proof  long enough and the dough is under proofed? 

I really appreciate the help you provided.


tpassin's picture

I remembered something else.  You're using some Costco flour.  I remember not long ago on TFL there was a lot of discussion about whether Costco had changed their flour supplier, and some posters thought that one or more of their standard flours was not giving good results any more.  I don't remember the title of the thread nor which flour(s) were involved.  But it might be a factor for you, too.

Maybe a search of the site looking for "Costco" might unearth the discussion.

Is there any chance that I am not letting the final proof  long enough and the dough is under proofed? 

If it were underproofed I would expect to see a tight, compact crumb, maybe with some bigger pores, and that's not what your photo looks like to me.

tpassin's picture

Here are a few TFL thread that talk about Costco flour suppliers. -

I didn't find the threads I was thinking about where people talked about baking problems apparently caused by changes to Costco flours.  But it's clear that all Costco stores don't stock the same flours and that the suppliers for some of them might change.  Worth thinking about in your case, anyway.

The other thing that has tripped some people up is their water.  If your water could have suffered a largish change in its hardness or mineral content that could matter.  You could try getting a filtering pitcher and see it that makes a difference.

CamanoBread's picture

Thanks again for providing some helpful comments and directions to explore.  I have reached out to Central Milling to see if they still source the flour I am buying at my Western Washington Costco.

jo_en's picture

Someone here at tfl helped me a lot when they said to 

1) develop the gluten with just the water, flour and starter (no yeast , diy yet)

2) then add the diy and salt 

3) and lastly the butter.

With freshly milled, I am careful to get a fine grind.  My mill (Komo)  does not grind finely so I sift the coarse parts out and grind it in a spice/coffee bean grinder for 35 sec. Then I add it back into the flour.

I hope this helps!


I mix and knead in a bread machine (Zojirushi or panasonic).

CamanoBread's picture

Thank you so much for your helpful suggestions.  When you add the butter at the end I am assuming it is in a softened state vs melted (as in recipe).

jo_en's picture


I think Chain Baker had an episode about melted or softened butter.  

I scrape butter in with a knife  (or potato peeler for cold butter) so  it is pretty thin. 

If I have an add-in like black sesame seed then I figure that by the time that is well distributed then the butter will be ok too.  (5 min in a bread machine mixer).

Hope you are enjoying your bakes! 

CamanoBread's picture

Thanks. I will check out the ChainBaker’s YT video. 

Moe C's picture
Moe C

This might be the link Tom was referring to:

Sometimes your problem with the shaping can be simply too much (or ANY, for that matter) flour on the work surface. It gets between the layers and stops proper melding.

My original thought was to consider adding vital wheat gluten to the recipe, but if the Costco flour is the problem, that might not be necessary with another brand.

CamanoBread's picture

Thanks for the link.  Interesting read.

I am careful about using bench flour.  The loaf slice in the picture was with no bench flour and I tried to shape fairly tightly to provide good structure.

macorgi's picture

Well, this is interesting, because the recipe looks like the America’s test kitchen multigrain bread I have been making for well over 10 years (albeit with somewhat different weights and measures, as ATK tends to do when they repeat a recipe), with similar issues popping up along the way. The various comments have hit on most of the things I’ve discovered along the way. I have found the bread definitely requires some special treatment.  First, I replace the AP flour with good quality bread flour, or replace a couple of Tablespoons of the AP with vital wheat gluten.  Also, the usual 8 minutes in the Kitchen Aid isn’t nearly enough. I follow it with aggressive hand kneading, including literally picking it up and slamming it onto the counter several times. When I try for a windowpane (good luck with all the whole grains, but it’s a definite visual cue), I can really see the strength developing. Also, no flour on the counter. Use a lightly wet surface and wet hands for the kneading and shaping. And watch the final rise; I never go the full 60 minutes, regardless of time of year (Los Angeles, so ymmd). Finally, I have made this bread with Bob’s Redmill cereal as well as the coarser multigrain blend from Central Milling. The coarser Central Milling mix doesn’t hydrate as much, so I usually give it a short time in the microwave to get more water absorbed before it goes into the dough.  Otherwise, really no different handling. Good luck!