Why Are My Bread Rolls Dense?

September 12, 2022
Written by Allyza Cepeda

Bread is loved all around the world because of its light and airy texture. Because of this, it pairs well with many other types of food. But what happens if your bread rolls come out as the opposite? 

Bread rolls become dense or heavy when the dough is not kneaded enough. With most types of bread, you must knead it enough so the gluten develops.

You’ll know if your dough is ready if there’s enough tension when stretching it out. Other reasons might be using dead yeast or mixing yeast and salt so your yeast doesn’t bloom. 

Why should you knead dough?

Many bakers will tell you that the most challenging part of making bread is the kneading part. There’s no exact science to kneading such as the exact time it takes to get the dough ready.

You just have to look at the telltale signs that the gluten has developed or do the window pane test.

Kneading your dough is important because it allows the protein molecules in the flour to form. This, in turn, creates healthy gluten strands which then create gas so your bread rises and builds texture. 

Once properly kneaded and the gluten has formed, your dough will be easy to stretch. It will have an elastic-like feel and bounce back when touched.

How do you make bread rolls less dense?

There are several ways that you can do to ensure that your bread rolls are less dense the next time you make them. Here are some.

One of the ways to achieve lighter and fluffier bread rolls is to knead them enough. Do the window pane test by stretching your dough. If you see a thin film and it doesn’t break, your dough is ready.

Another technique you might want to try is to add two tablespoons of dry milk powder to your flour before mixing the wet ingredients. Vinegar also has a similar effect as it helps hold the dough together and strengthens it so it’s able to retain the air. Once baked, you’ll see your usual air pockets inside the bread.

What does under-kneaded dough look like?

What does under-kneaded dough look like

An under-kneaded dough is typically floppy and loose. It also tears easily and has a “shaggy” look which is the opposite of the smooth look of a properly kneaded dough. You’ll know your dough is under-kneaded if it’s still a mess and is unable to hold its shape.

However, if you miss the above signs and have inadvertently baked your under-kneaded dough into bread rolls then there’s still nothing to worry about. You can still eat it but it will look flatter and have a dense texture.

Can you over-knead dough?

We’ve mentioned above that it’s possible to under knead your dough. But what happens when you do the opposite and you over knead your dough?

Yes, it’s possible to over-knead your dough. When this occurs, your dough can become very hard to work with and is a sign that it might be over-kneaded. Once baked, the result will be a flat and chewy bread.

To prevent this from happening, you mustn’t over knead your dough. Below are the signs of an over-kneaded dough:​​

  • Dense or stiff
  • Hard to flatten out
  • Difficult to knead by hand
  • Resist being shaped
  • Tears easily when stretched

You must stop mixing at the above signs since a dough that’s overworked cannot be fixed. You’ll know you’ve over-kneaded your dough when it tears more quickly. This is because the gluten strands have become so tight that they easily break.

If you have reason to believe that your dough is a bit over-kneaded, let it rise a little longer before shaping it. Although you can’t undo the whole damage of an over-kneaded dough, letting it rise for longer can help relax the gluten a bit.

What to do with over-kneaded dough?

What to do with over-kneaded dough

If you know you’ve over-kneaded your dough and there’s nothing else you can do, you can still bake it so it doesn’t go to waste.

However, acknowledge to yourself that the result might be a bit different than you expected.

Bread rolls that are over-kneaded come out with a hard crust as well as a dry interior. If you cut it open, your rolls may also crumble in the process. The good thing is, that the resulting crumbs can work great as croutons or bread crumbs.

How to knead bread dough properly?

To knead your bread dough properly, you have to be proactive in looking for signs if it’s ready. Below are all the ways you’ll be able to know if your bread has been kneaded properly.

Your Dough Should Look Smooth

Upon mixing all the ingredients, your dough will look lumpy at first. But as you knead it, the dough will gradually smoothen. By the time it’s fully kneaded, it should be smooth and slightly tacky to the touch.

It Should Withstand the “Poke” Test

It Should Withstand the "Poke" Test

You’ll know if your dough is fully kneaded if you poke it firmly and the spot where you poked it bounces up quickly. If the indent from your poke remains, then continue to knead some more. 

The Dough Should Hold Its Shape

Shape your dough into a ball and then hold it up for a few seconds. If it remains a ball, then the gluten has developed and now has a durable structure. If you’re dough flops in your hands, you’ll need to knead it more.

Are You Tired? Your Dough is Probably Done

Unless you easily tire, your dough is probably done once your arms and hands feel tired. It may sound simple but it’s especially true for many bakers.

Just to make sure, run your dough through the above tests. If it passes, then you can end the kneading process so you can start letting it rise.

Wrapping Up

ensure that your bread is kneaded properly

Baking the perfect bread rolls is a learning process especially if you’re just starting. Although you may not do everything correctly the first time, you’ll learn from each mistake you make. 

By following the tips mentioned above, you can skip the usual mistakes beginners make and ensure that your bread is kneaded properly. The result? A delicious homemade bread roll that looks just as amazing as it tastes! 

Allyza Cepeda
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