The Fresh Loaf

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How to get light tender crumb in sourdough

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GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

How to get light tender crumb in sourdough

I like my sourdough pretty well, but the crumb is usually heavier and more chewy than some of the sourdoughs from top local bakeries (Acme, for instance).  Today I had some excellent sourdough in a restaurant.  It had a nice chewy crust, but a very airy, tender melt-in-your-mouth crumb.  I'd love to be able to replicate that texture.


I use a fairly low protein white flour (11.5%) and about 15% whole grain.  I usually follow a process and formula similar to that of Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough.  I mix by hand.  Any tips to getting a lighter crumb?


Thanks.


Glenn

Occabeka's picture
Occabeka

Hi Glenn,


Try the water roux method. Use about 5% of the flour and 5 times its weight of water. Heat the water to 70 C and whisk in the flour. Allow to cool and inccorporate this into the final dough.


I find that the dough can take in a lot more hydration this way. The crumb is softer. The bread keeps better too.


Sometimes I add in a bit of my white starter and it becomes the second pre-ferment.


Occa

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I've not hard of this technique before.  Any idea why this technique would result in a softer crumb?

Occabeka's picture
Occabeka

Hi Glenn,


The reason this method gives a softer crumb is down to increased hydration, mainly.


I found I could bump up the hydration by up to 5% more if I used the method.


Occa

yy's picture
yy

Was the crumb open and irregular, or was it uniform and on the tight side?

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

If you were asking me, the crumb was open and airy, and quite irregular, but no huge pockets.


Glenn

Occabeka's picture
Occabeka

The crumb was open and irregular.


I was making bread with 60% to 80% whole wheat flour, so I had not expected the crumb to be as open as it would be with white. But it was certainly softer. And more importantly, there was no loss of flavour.


Occa

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Glenn.


i find that lower hydration SD breads like the Vermont SD or PR's San Francisco sourdough are pretty chewy. On the other hand, those with higher hydration like the SFBI miche or the Tartine Basic Country Loaf, while chewy when first cooled, have a more tender crumb the next day.


If you don't want to work with higher hydration, you could always sub some milk for some of the water.


David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I thought higher hydration might be part of it.  I also thought maybe a lower protein flour might be a factor.  Do you think the intensity of the mix would affect the tenderness of the crumb?


Thanks.


Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I never use flour lower than 11.7% protein for bread. However, gentler mixing might result in a more tender crumb. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. You are hand mixing, and it's hard to over-develop the dough that way. You do need to develop the gluten enough to contain the air cells.


When I started making SD bread, I mixed with my KitchenAid. I believe I tended to under mix, following PR's mixing time recommendations. My crumb tended to be dense and doughy.


I really think your answer is either higher hydration or adding an enrichment - specifically milk - that tenderizes the crumb. Alternatives would be to add fat - butter or olive oil - in small amounts. Another tenderizer is mashed potatoes. They, in effect, lower the gluten and raise the hydration of the dough.


David

Brian B's picture
Brian B

Hi Glenn,


 


I agree with David.  Hamelman's book is my all-time favorite, but like you I have always wanted to achieve a softer crumb than I was getting with the Vermont Sourdough and variations.  I recently got the Tartine Bread book and the basic country loaf recipe has given me my best sourdough ever.  It is a higher hydration loaf than most, and it is likely that this is helping with the tender crumb.


 


Brian

Syd's picture
Syd


...the crumb is usually heavier and more chewy than some of the sour doughs from top local bakeries (Acme, for instance).



Are they using any dough conditioners, flour improvers or enzymes in their formulas? 


Occabeka makes a good suggestion.  Adding milk powder to your formula or using a small percentage of potato flour will also make for a more tender crumb.


Syd

yy's picture
yy

The tenderest, airiest crumb I've ever achieved is with txfarmer's asian fruited barm loaf. It was a pretty wet, silky dough. It has butter in it for tenderness, but the lightness is mostly due to mixing until a very thin windowpane is achieved. The degree of development right before incorporating the butter was about where I usually stop for my sourdough loaves.


The kneading allowed the bread to triple, almost quadruple in size without collapsing in the oven, and resulted in a very light texture.

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I appreciate the help.  I don't think the bread I had yesterday was enriched.  First I'll try higher hydration and working the dough to a better windowpane, and see what happens.


Glenn

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Glenn,


Good to hear more about your bread baking journey.


I have found that hand working a sourdough more intensively can help crumb development, even when the formula remains 'lean'.


What prompted me to try this was hearing Jeffrey Hamelman on video stating that a dough taken to 'medium development' by machine would have had around 900 turns in tbe bowl. Conversations with Andy have also led to an interest in more intensive hand mixing. 


For doughs with higher gluten development, I, like yy, have learnt an enormous amount from tx farmer's posts. 


Do keep us posted.


Best wishes, Daisy_A

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Glen, I don't have any experience baking sourdough bread, but quite a lot of  experience eating it. Just wondering if the commercial bakery setting with their excellent steam injected oven might have a lot to do with a lighter crumb, with the early expansion thing going on. Mabey a tender crumb would also result.  Ray

CarlSF's picture
CarlSF

Hi Glenn,


Was the bread that you ate liked toast bread or pan de mie?


Carl

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I just baked a loaf with just the crumb texture I was trying for.  Tender, airy, moist.


It seems it was indeed high hydration that did the trick.  I baked the Tartine Country Bread (80% hydration) for the first time, and I'm in love.


IMG_2272


More to follow on my blog.


Thanks for the advice!


Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Right now, the honor of my favorite bread is a toss-up between the BCB and the SFBI miche.


Looking forward to your full report.


David

oceanicthai's picture
oceanicthai

did you use the water roux?  I am wondering if I can do it too  :)


and, um, do you have a modified tartine recipe that I can try?  I won't need a mixer, will I?  I don't have one.

rayel's picture
rayel

You nailed it. Looks very nice indeed.  Ray