My mom let me have her old bread machine when I went back to Dallas last weekend. Yesterday it was time for the first batch of bread. Jon and I both thought the onion dill rye bread sounded easy and good, so I decided to make that. I bought bread flour and rye flour at the store, read and reread the bread machine instructions and recipe, and finally assembled the bread. Since it was 8:30 by that time and I was not going to stay up until after midnight for the bread, I put it on a delay so it would be ready at 8 this morning. I didn't sleep all that well because I was so excited about the bread, and around 7:40 I could smell the bread. When I went to the kitchen to peek in, I was a little surprised by how short the loaf was. And when it was done cooking and I took it out, it was clear that it hadn't risen nearly as much as it should have. It is pretty dense, although definitely not inedible. I am disappointed in the rise, but now I can have fun figuring out how to make the next one better.
Here are some theories I have, from most to least likely:
1) Maybe the yeast isn't fresh enough. It says best by January 2009, and it also says to use it within four months of opening. I probably bought it in 2006 or 2007, so clearly it is expired on two counts. However, it appeared healthy when I proofed it in some warm water this morning. Proposed solution: buy new yeast. Alternate proposed solution: increase the amount of yeast since it doesn't appear to be completely dead and may just be a bit less effective. I might try the alternate solution first so I don't have to buy new yeast.
2) Maybe the yeast didn't stay dry long enough. If the yeast touches the water too soon, it will start to bubble and give off gas before it's supposed to, and it won't get trapped in the gluten and make my bread big and strong. Even though I carefully put the yeast on top of the dry ingredients, which were on top of the water, maybe the delay was too long and the yeast got wet. Proposed solution: don't use the delay setting.
3) I used the whole wheat setting, which has an extra rise cycle in it. The recipe didn't come from the bread machine manual, and while the rye is a whole grain, it also white bread flour. Maybe the second rise isn't good for that recipe. I don't know whether having the second rise for whole wheat bread is standard. Proposed solution: use the white bread setting.
4) Maybe the room was too humid. I hope this is not the case because I don't want to have to modify all my recipes for humidity. I will only entertain this option if the first three fail. Proposed solution: Decrease water slightly.
5) The bread machine hasn't been used in at least five years, so maybe it isn't calibrated right or had trouble adjusting to being used again. Proposed solution: make more bread?
The scientist in me wants to try each solution separately and then combine them if results look promising, but the person in me who doesn't want to waste a lot of ingredients on inferior bread wants to try all the solutions at once to give herself the best chance of success.
The bread is tasty, especially toasted with butter. Then again, what isn't?