The Fresh Loaf

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HELP ! My Ciabatta is always ending up with a dense crumb on the bottom of the loaf

eve_y_chen's picture

HELP ! My Ciabatta is always ending up with a dense crumb on the bottom of the loaf


Ive tried four times this week already to make ciabattas but I always seem to end up with something like this, a loaf with a very dense crumb on the bottom, 

The ciabatta in the photo above I used 90% hydration with a poolish

after mixing the poolish with water, yeast, flour I let it rest for 10 then added the salt, and let it ferment for an hour, did a streach and fold, followed by 2 more in 30 min intervals, followed by another hour rest (total 3 hours bulk fermentation)

divided in to two loaves, and let it do the final rise until they were puffy and baked them,

I had a good oven spring, and was super excited to see so, but when I cut into the loaves it was disappointing to see that although on th top I had beautiful large pocket holes, with a nice glossy interior, on the bottom it seemed the pocket hole were all squashed together, and was very dense, first few sclices were better but as it got to the middle section of the loaf the dense part was worse !!!


What is wrong??? Is it because I'm not handling the loaves gently enough??


Cooky's picture

Are you using a baking stone? From the photo it looks like the top crust is well done but the bottom is not. If you place the loaves -- or even the pans holding the loaves -- on a blazing-hot stone, you will get more even results. 

You don't have to spend a ton on stone. I hunted down some unglazed quarry tiles, which are pretty cheap.  Never wash them; they will get ugly but make a huge difference in the quality of your bread. 

You may also want to experiment with making the loaves a little thinner. That helps with such a wet dough. 

vtsteve's picture

What is your dough temperature and yeast percentage? If the poolish is overly mature, excessive enzyme activity can result in a dense/gummy crumb. Do you invert the dough piece when you put it in the oven (so the top surface after proofing goes *down*)?

davidg618's picture

Based on the photos, it looks like the bottom crust is thinner and lighter than the top crust, so I agree with Cooky there may be a heat inbalance top to bottom.

You didn't provide details of how you Stretch and Fold, nor how strong the flour used, so I'm going out on a limb, but I think the gluten network appears--again, looking at the photos--underdeveloped. 90 percent hydration dough requires a lot of kneading, slap and fold, or stretch and fold to develop its gluten strength.

Frankly, I think 90% hydration is a bit much. I make acceptable ciabattas with hydrations of 75% to 80%, but, then again, I've never been a card-carrying member of the holeyer-than-thou club;-)

Another trick is called 'double hydration' , best done in a stand mixer. Hold back 10%-15% of the water, and mix the dough until the the gluten is well developed then gradually add the remaining water while still mixing.

You may also want to read Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread--either use the search function, or it's listed among the Highest Rated Stories on the right hand column on the TFL home page. It absolutely requires a stand mixer.

David G

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think your dough needs more developing and folds before a final rise.  It looks to me like the dough was allowed to final proof too early. 

swtgran's picture

Have you tried gently flipping the almost risen loaf over, onto the baking surface, or a piece of floured parchment on a pizza paddle, or cookie sheet with no sides and letting it rest for just a few minutes, before sliding it into the oven on the stone?  That makes the bubbles seem to even out.

rjerden's picture

I agree totally with the last post as I was experiencing the same thing.

Now, 10 minutes before baking, I gently dimple the top of the loaf to eliminate any huge bubbles.

Then I put a cut-to size piece of parchment paper on top of the loaf, put my peel underneath the other piece of parchment that the loaf proofed on, and with my palm on the top piece of parchment, flip the loaf over, peel off the parchment now on top and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

In addition to evening out the bubbles, I get a nice pattern from the wrinkles that were previously underneath and are now on top of the loaf.