The Fresh Loaf

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Trying for a closed crumb.

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Epsilon's picture
Epsilon

Trying for a closed crumb.

Most of the search results I've spotted tell how to get an open crumb. This is all well and good, and I actually appreciate info on this (since I love a good open-crumbed bread,) but I've got a specific application for which I want a closed crumb.

I'm planning on making bread bowls for French onion soup. I can get the outside reliably crunchy and tough, but I'm used to making the inside nice and open. Anyone got any tips for me on it? Even my sandwich loaves are starting to come out with a decently open crumb - and I never thought I'd consider that a problem!

The ideal crumb, the way I see it, would be something that's chewy but doesn't have a lot of holes the soup could seep into. Making it chewy seems like it'd keep it from soaking in as much.

Thanks!

Berti's picture
Berti

have you considered the water percentage and changing that? my breads do have a more closed crumb than average hol(e)y sourdoughs because of that, I thought. more french countrybread style.

and what percentage sourdough do you use.

 

Epsilon's picture
Epsilon

I'm almost ashamed to say that I don't have a SD starter. >_>

As for water, presumably you mean that a lower hydration will have a more closed or "fine" crumb? (now that I think of it, maybe I should search for "fine" crumb...)

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

My everyday go-to bread is a fine crumb Pullman style, enriched sandwich loaf. The key isn't so much hydration as it is full gluten development plus careful redistribution of air pockets. You should be able to pull  a thin, almost transparent window pane. The purpose of the punch down in this case is not to expel the gas, but to create more smaller bubbles. I do a punch down 30min into the bulk ferment by turning the dough out onto the counter and giving it a few sharp slaps with the palm of my hand (not the fingers), then allow a further rise to double. Prior to preshaping, another slap or two  before forming a tight ball breaks down the large alveoli. Whether you need to punch down before final shaping will depend on the dough.

I think, but wouldn't bet the farm, that a goodly amount of fat (~10%) would improve soup-proofing. It will definitely help with volume and extensibility. Use butter, lard, or olive oil. Poly-unsaturated oils and hydrogenated oils (e.g. Crisco or margarine) are contra-indicated, as they reduce volume.

cheers,

gary

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Introduce half the flour (or a little more -- should be a batter)  into all the liquids.   Let the gluten develop by beating with a whisk or wire mixer for around 15 minutes.  Then slowly add the rest of the flour in small amounts beating with each addition until smooth.  You might also have to work in that last 100g with hand kneading if it is a low hydration dough.   Bulk rise to just doubled and here it comes... wait for it:   "punch down!"  or drop the bowl on a hard surface.  A shock wave does wonders to deflate the dough and a lot more fun than gentle stretch and folds with sourdough.  If you got lots of rise and could still see large bubbles after that first initial bulk rise, heck! let it rise again for a second bulk rise before dividing & shaping.  The second rise will be much faster and just as much fun deflating ---> another "punch down!" and shape your dough.  :)   

I remember a time when in home-economics class we got down graded for anything other than a fine crumb.  Lol!   

Baking with just yeast?  No problemo!  (I do like to drag out the rises though... check into reducing yeast.)

Epsilon's picture
Epsilon

I'll certainly try being more rough with the dough, and see if I can go from wet to dry without pulling my hair out. ;)

And I find it funny that open crumb was a bad thing in the past - quite amusing!

Thanks, Mini!

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Not all that surprising, when you consider that bread sliced for sandwiches is supposed to hold in the contents, not let them dribble out through big holes into the lunchbox or onto the lap.  *smile*

Berti's picture
Berti

Being rough with the dough is a bit exaggerated .....

Usually you try to keep most of the gas in instead of deflating.

Now you are trying to do the opposite. Simple as that.

Though I have a hard time, I admit, to that being the only solution to your problem. Because french breads are being handled with care and are generally drier doughs, and less holey.

Keep us posted we all learn from each other.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

drops onto your favorite tie or good suit... use a plate!  :)   Save and wash your egg shells.  Yup!  Pulverize the dry shells into a powder and keep in a small bottle or jar (very handy when traveling)  Sprinkle a generous amount (pile it up) on the fat spot and give it time to soak up the oil.  Brush off.    Repeat if needed but one usually doesn't need to.   

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I have to admit that I've never seen anyone carry a plate in their lunchbox-or-bag.  I don't think it would fit, do you?  *wink*  Bread for a laborer's lunch is not the same as bread for a meal at a table.  My point was that home economics class was probably teaching students how to make bread for practical everyday use by the average person, rather than bread for a gourmet meal in suit and tie complete with bottle of crushed eggshells.  *smile*

For what it is worth, I still make bread without big holes.  It's just as tasty and healthy as yours, I'll bet.  *grin*

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Woah!  You've got to get out more!   With all the new shapes and sizes of plastic & glass containers (lids make nice plates) some come complete with eatingware and insulated keep cool pouches!  Have you seen the freezable gelled filled containers?  Even a CEO can look classy bringing lunch from home.  When I remember my mother freezing my lunch for school...!  Thin little paper sack.   It was a long time ago that stateside home-ec class.    Austrians tend to pack cutting boards in their lunch and wickedly sharp knives.  

Hey, remember what a week old lunch bag or container smells like in the bottom of your locker or back pack?   That still holds true today holes or no holes.  :)  

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Mini,

Here is the context of my remarks, just to remind you since you seem to have forgotten or perhaps never understood.

Submitted by Mini Oven on September 30, 2012 - 2:16pm

I remember a time when in home-economics class we got down graded for anything other than a fine crumb.  Lol!

 

Submitted by Epsilon on September 30, 2012 - 3:35pm

And I find it funny that open crumb was a bad thing in the past - quite amusing!

 

I don't know how old you are, Mini, and apparently you live in Austria, so your memories very likely do not correspond to mine regardless of your age.  However, in the 1950s, in the USA, home economics classed taught bread-making for loaves made in loaf pans, to be used for sandwiches eaten out of the hands of people who carried lunchboxes or paper bags to school or work and who did not have the luxury of carrying china and cutlery down into the mines, onto construction sites, or into school.  For this type of bread, the crumb should be close and there should be no large holes.  Therefore, the teacher was correct to down-grade for holes.  If the class had been teaching the students how to make foccacia, the reverse would have been true. 

Right and wrong is not a matter of past and present.  It is a matter of the recipe.  The relative popularity of recipes might be a matter of past and present, but that is a different issue.  Your teacher deserved no ridicule, nor do people who today still prefer close-crumb bread.  I stick by my statement that the holes in "artisan" breads don't add anything to the flavor or to the nutritional value.  The holes are made of air, and in my opinion only add snob appeal.  And they do let through the filling.  *grin*  However, I understand that my bread, however tasty and nutritious, is not "artisan" bread.  You don't see me claiming that, and I never will.  You are free to claim all the kudos for those breads.

I do realize that technology has changed a lot in 60 years.  I confess I don't know what modern-day coal miners are carrying down the shafts.  Perhaps they are carrying complete place-settings for one and a sit-down dinner packed in frozen gell containers.  If so, perhaps that is why our economy sucks.  *laugh*

As for rotting food in lockers or backpacks, I never had that.  To begin with, the only place I ever wore a backpack was hiking, and it was laundered when I returned.  I carried lunch in paper bags or lunchboxes to elementary school, and books in a bookbag to university.  The paper bag or lunchbox went home every afternoon with me, and no food was kept in the bookbag.  A soiled paper bag was discarded, and a lunchbox was wiped out with a dishcloth.  My family weren't dirty slobs, not even the ones who were coal miners or road crew.

And with my final post to this thread, I will take your advice and get out more.  Or at least, get into the kitchen and remove my starter from the refrigerator preparatory to making my 100% whole grain sourdough non-leaking sandwich bread tomorrow.  *happy smile*

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

having a fine crumb if I walked into your home economics class today.  Good to know.  

Open crumb has it's comes and goes but it is desired in certain breads.  The ability to make a bread with fine, medium or open crumb as a matter of choice is an "art" even if you choose to only bake one type of crumb.   Making what one wants when it is desired.   I was not implying that your family or any other family were dirty slobs.   I think however that every person has found a old lunch bag at one time that went off to the waste basket faster than the time it took to be found for what ever reason it wasn't eaten.   If you can't relate, don't worry about it.

Somehow you're missing my general humor, sorry.  I gave instructions on how to make fine crumb bread no less!  Ah! you were offended!  

After all the postings of holey breads here, I had hoped that those making fine crumb breads would certainly enjoy my method and humor.  I didn't want to upset the gentle-fold folks either although I could hear some of them holding their breath.  The slap and fold folks were more likely thinking I could rough it up 800 times more and sooner.   I'm old enough to know that there are many ways and many crumbs.   I've learned a lot about bread on this site and will be eternally grateful to Floyd and everyone for all the discussions.  I also like helping folks and problem solving.  I also bake fine crumb breads and wear a Clear Lake hooded sweatshirt.  I believe my great Aunt is the second oldest living woman in Iowa.    I'm also learning new tips and tricks all the time although I've cut back on my baking.  :)

 

GrapevineTexas's picture
GrapevineTexas

but shape to the size you want for the bread bowls, being sure to adjust your baking time(s).  My personal suggestion would be to bake at 450 degrees (with an oven that has been preheated to 500). I've done this numerous times, not only for soup bowls, but for artichoke dip and other appetizer 'containers'.

I do prefer to use my sourdough starter, but it can also be done, successfully, with any other baking yeast.  

Oh, and I consider ANY bread that I make to be an 'artisan'... no one but me knows the trouble I've been through to get that darned thing, accomplished.

Enjoy the journey, it involves bread crumbs...how can you fail?

;) 

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... is also an element in this discussion.

My mother taught herself to make bread after a catastrophically disasterous first foray with plain white flour (the sort used for cakes and biscuits) and rather too much yeast and not enough knowledge. End result: a brick of such density and impenetrable crust it was utterly inedible, but a wonderful weapon of mass destruction if hurled.

She was a woman not to be defeated. All the advice, know-how and wotnot she subsequently gleaned from the cooking books of the day taught her how to make beautiful, light, airy bread - with - wait for it - a very even, well-distributed crumb. Small neat holes and plenty of 'em. 'Sandwich bread' as it seems to have been termed.

So that's what I learned to do. And that even, small-holed crumb was a much prized result - as laid down by the conventions of the day - at least, the conventions of England (we didn't live in the UK, then, but Great Britain - another fashion that's gone out of style).

Getting that small, beautifully distributed, even crumb was achieved just as Mini has described. The essential part being the "knock down" or "punch down" after the initial bulk fermentation. And in the case of wholewheat, the dough was then given a second kneading for good measure prior to shaping and its final proof.

And until I bounced along and tripped over The Fresh Loaf, that's exactly how I made bread too.

As Mini says, it takes art and skill to be able to create the crumb of your choice, and personally, I found the lovely lacy, open crumb far harder to crack at first than the close, even type. Visually and texture-wise, I must admit, I prefer the loose and lacy variety, but big holes, little holes, fat holes, fiddly holes, it really doesn't matter a fig - just so long as you are happy with whatever type you produce and that it suits the food it is to be eaten with.

All at Sea

LarAl's picture
LarAl

This is the only thread I could find about obtaining a fine crumb. Usually people want a coarse crumb. I am trying to duplicate the Italian horn bread of my youth (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/35843/italian-starhornbolognese-bread-really-variant-la-coppia-ferrarese). I have been experimenting with extremely low hydration doughs (35%-55%) with 6% lard and 4% extra-virgin olive oil. I have no mixer but I mix the ingredients in a Cuisinart food processor just until blended, being careful not to overheat the dough. I autolyse the dough 30 minutes, knead by hand, then autolyse it another 30 minutes before shaping it. This bread is unique in that there are no intermediate rises. It is shaped BEFORE the one and only rise. The crust comes out nice and crispy and smooth and the crumb is very fine and soft. I think gary.turner and Mini Oven make good suggestions about kneading the hell out of the dough. The Italian official IGP specs I am using for the basic dough specify kneading for 15-20 minutes in a commercial mixer. It is very difficult to knead the 35% hydration dough by hand. In fact I found a video online showing a 90+ year old woman pounding the dough with a huge long wooden dowel type rolling pin to knead it. I haven't kneaded it more than 5 minutes so far but I will try to do 15 minutes next time and see how much of a difference it makes. I have had reasonable success but I am still looking for a finer, softer crumb. This is a recent loaf from a 55% hydration dough:

I actually deflated it slightly by accident when I transferred it to baking parchment. It is quite dense but soft and smooth. Baked at 350F initially, reduced to 325F to finish.

ananda's picture
ananda

The problem with lowering the hydration is that the bread will not keep so well.   If you scald some of the flour with boiling water before adding it to the final dough this is very effective in creating close-textured chewy bread.   The pre-cooking process de-natures the protein in the flour.   It is an extremely effective way to encourage maximum water take up which helps keeping qualities in the dough.

Best wishes

Andy

ps. It reduces mixing time in the dough

LarAl's picture
LarAl

Quite the opposite. This type of bread is known for its keeping qualities and the lard helps that a lot. See: remains crunchy after a few days and does not become quickly dry and practically inedible. This type of bread harks back to the 13th century when people were dirt-poor peasants who could only afford to buy bread once, twice a week. It will remain crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside for at least a week even after it's cut. In fact I'm eating a piece of the bread shown, with coffee, as I type, and it's already a week old and it is just as crispy/chewy as the day it was made. :)

As for boiling the flour, you're kidding right? That sounds almost like heresy. The specs that I am working from go back to the year 1287 and there's no mention of boiling. Italians would never do that. You're thinking of bagels where you briefly par-boil the dough maybe?

ananda's picture
ananda

LarAl,

People who were "dirt-poor" back then would not be able to afford to buy the premium type of flour required to make the loaf you are describing.   Using a natural leaven is the obvious way I can think of that would enable the bread to keep well.

No, I'm not thinking of bagels.   Your description of the bread as chewy and close-textured had me thinking of the effect of using a portion of cooked flour in the dough.   It's a technique which has been used over many years in many countries, especially common in rye bread manufacture, but also legitimate in Italian styles of baking to create the effect I have described.   So, no, I'm not "kidding right".

I'm sorry if you think what I have written is not relevant to the bread you post about.   But a more generous reply which doesn't suggest that I haven't a clue what I am talking about would have been received by me with more good grace.

Andy

LarAl's picture
LarAl

No one made the bread themselves. Even if they had a proper oven, which is unlikely, they would have been heavily taxed for making bread. The guilds were tyranical in those days as were the landlords. More likely they brought wheat to the local mill or bakery and the baker made the bread. They could have bartered for it. I don't know what you mean by "premium type of flour required".

Why are you being so defensive? I meant no offense. The idea of boiling the flour seems a bit extreme you'll have to admit. Maybe for rye bread but for white bread? Have you actually tried this yourself with white flour? How would you measure the added water and factor that into your recipe? You could weigh the flour before and after but it sounds very messy and time-consuming to me. It's nothing I would want to try, especially given the already rigid specs I am working from and the fact that no Italian breads I know of employ that concept. In any case I think going to those measures seems far beyond the scope of this thread. Are there any threads or articles on this site that discuss what you are proposing? Do you have links to any bread recipe that calls for such means?

Epsilon's picture
Epsilon

Wow, I forgot I posted this question. Sadly, I never did get a chance to make those bread bowls - I got a job 2 weeks later (yay!), and lost 70 pounds by not eating as much bread. ;)  I -have- made a few cakes for friends lately, though - maybe I should post those somewhere...
That said, I'll offer you a piece of wisdom I have sitting on my desk:

"Tradition: Just because it's always been done that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

Not to say the recipe you've got is stupid, but there's always room for tweaking bread. Try Andy's suggestion - the only thing you have to lose is 4 hours and 2 bucks worth of flour. :)

LarAl's picture
LarAl

First off, saying "Not to say the recipe you've got is stupid" is downright insulting and rude quite frankly. It insults not only me but the centuries of traditions that have gone into making a bread that is of legendary proportions and is appreciated by thousands of Italians. I am just offering what I have tried in response to your OP. You can accept or reject it but at least show some appreciation for the effort. Although I agree in principle with what you are saying, I don't see how that applies here. We're talking about a bread that has centuries of tradition and a long history of very specific requirements, not to mention a large following in Italy. Traditional foods have evolved over centuries and have stood the test of time and can rarely be improved upon. Any change can completely alter the desirable character of a food. Any change has to be made for good reason. Like economy, efficiency, availability of ingredients and the like. A radical change like the one suggested is definitely not in order. An adjustment of technique is what is likely needed. As I mentioned, I will knead the dough longer next time, just like the spec requires. That's all.

I find it common for Americans to often try to "improve" traditional recipes that don't need or want to be improved and then arrogantly act as if they invented the recipe. The wheel has already been invented so why try to re-invent it and history? Good examples of what I am talking about can be found at the Serious Eats site and on the America's Test Kitchen TV show. Both these venues consistently take traditional recipes and alter them to make them easier to do for, presumably, the less experienced members of the audience, and claim all kinds of improvements. The fact is, these old recipes don't need to be "improved". The cooks need to learn the techniques employed by the more skilled cooks of the past and the highly skilled cooks of the present. There's no short-cut. Learning to cook or bake takes lots of time to do well. Slow cooking is the way to go if quality is uppermost. I know I don't have all the answers and that I need to constantly improve my skills. That's why I was attracted to this thread in the first place. I am willing to do this. I don't like short-cuts.

As for trying Andy's suggestion, why don't you try it and report back on it? This is after all you're thread.

ananda's picture
ananda

The only reference to Italian Horn Bread in this thread is from LarAl.   The OP actually asked a much more general question about bread with a closed-textured crumb.   I tried to answer that by providing a technique which works to achieve a chewy and close-textured crumb.

I apologise; foolishly, I did not chase up the reference in the post about Italian Horn bread.   Unforgivable, I know, but I was, as always trying to help the OP, not other posters who have subsequently made their own contribution to the thread.

I'm leaving it at that.   The issues brought up for discussion are of immense complexity, and I certainly don't know enough about 13th Century Italian history to comment in any meaningful way.

I also don't like the tone of the writing in some comments just made; I'm bowing out now to avoid becoming further embroiled.

I apologise to anybody if I have caused any offence; I didn't mean to do that.

Best wishes

Andy