The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help Solve My Case Of Moist Crumb

ChaChaMan's picture

Help Solve My Case Of Moist Crumb


I wonder if anyone can help solve my moist crumb outcomes. The pic is my first attempt for making ciabatta. It's a very tasty loaf. I am trying to get the hang of  baking very slack dough.

I use long preferments and ferments (around 12 hours in cool cellar)

I cook at 480 F in a dutch oven with lid for 30mins and  at 425 F without lid for 30 minutes. Is this enough time for a 1.5 kg loaf ? Could the baking alone explain the moist crumb? I am confident that loaf proofed well.

 Does anyone have any insights ?


Starter  8484  
Biga  23097  
MultiGrain Flour 548   
Unbleached Flour 0   
Water   408  
Milk   57  
Sea + Kosher Salt   30 
Total  862646301538
hydration 75%2.0% 


ChaChaMan's picture

Please note : that's 548 grams of unbleached flour and not multigrain flour.

Those black dots are poppy seeds I sprinkled on the crust.

Floydm's picture

1.5kg is a lot of any kind of dough, but particularly for a ciabatta loaf that seems like way too much dough.  Ciabattas are mostly air inside, right? Taking a quick survey of my books and some recipes here, I would divide that into at least 2 or 3 pieces, maybe even 4.  

So... yeah, if I were baking a 1.5kg loaf, I'd probably lower the temperature some from what you've got and extend the time another 10 or 15 minutes, whatever it took to bake it through to the center (and it is worth picking up a cheap instant read thermometer to make sure you've done so).  But if I were trying to bake ciabatta, I'd divide that dough into much smaller pieces and bake them a shorter time (say 15 minutes covered, 15-20 minutes uncovered), but still until I was confident they were baked through to the center.  It is hard to overbake them, but underbaking them and ending up with a moist, gummy crumb is quite unpleasant.  

Good luck!

ChaChaMan's picture

Thx for taking the time to respond.

I've taken to baking bigger loafs. I did one last week at 75% hydration that was 1.7 Kgs. Like I said, I really stretch the ferments on both the poolish and dough, and finally, I proof to the limit. The flavours are delicious.  Again the only problem is the moist crumbs.

If I understand correctly, home ovens have a hard time baking the big loaves ?   Why would you lower the temp on a big loaf ? Could the spring also be affected by the loaf size ?

On the next batch I will try your suggestions and let this forum know the outcome.

thx again.

Xenophon's picture

Baking french-style breads (basically anything that has only water, flour, yeast and salt as ingredients) poses a couple of unique challenges:

a) you need to bake them at a very high temperature to get the right combo of crisp, thin crust and slightly moist, airy interior.  Most home ovens have a hard time reaching let alone maintaining these temps (260 centigrade or sometimes more).  The more dough you put into the oven at the same time, the harder this becomes.  Can be remedied to some extent by using a heavy baking stone and letting the oven pre-heat for a long time (way beyond to when your oven indicates the target temperature was reached).  This will get you thermal inertia.  Using forced air circulation also allows you to cheat a bit as the temperature effect tends to be about 10-20 centigrade higher than the absolute temperature.

b) The exterior needs to be crisp, the interior a bit moist but baked through.  Now, only the exterior is  directly exposed to the heat.  The interior cooks via thermal diffusion and -simplifying a bit here- the larger the volume/unit, the longer it will take for the interior to reach starch gelatinization temperatures.  Combine high volume/unit  with the high oven temperatures and you're headed to a train wreck as the crust will be perfect but the interior underbaked or the interior baked well but the crust thick and almost carbonzed.  If you lower the temperature a bit you essentially buy time and give thermal diffusion a better chance of reaching the center of your unit.  But there's a trade-off as longer times at lower temperatures=thicker and paler crust that will not be as crisp.

The above explains why there's such a thing as an optimal unit size/dough weight for various dough types.   For the ciabatta I'd recommend doing as Floyd said and scaling at 350 gram/unit.  Remember, it's a 4-ingredient french style bread.  The less ingredients, the harder it is to bake correctly.

When using a very high hydration dough (such as with the excellent no knead croccodllo ciabatta recipe which you'll find on the site) what you can also do is bake at fierce heat until the crust is perfect, then switch off the heat and open the oven door, leaving the loaves in for another 5-10 minutes.  This will further promote temperature rise in the interior as well as evaporation of water.  The crust stops browning when its temperature drops to below 160-170 centigrade, something which happens quickly due to evaporative cooling (water vapour from the interior which escapes).  To judge if a loaf is done you can either tap it or -using an IR-thermometer- measure crust temperature.  For French breads scaled at normal weight/volume i find this to be the case when the crust is about 175 centigrade (the mechanism behind this is a decrease in evaporative cooling with a correspnding increase in crust temperature as the interior 'dries out' and has less moisture available.

If you have a powerful computer and a PhD in mathematics/physics it's possible to model the process :-)

Good luck!


ChaChaMan's picture

Hi Xenophon,

Thank you very much for your reply. It gives me exactly the insight I was looking for.

If for a ciabatta, a (dough mass)/unit = 350 g is optimal,  then when doing a boule in a dutch oven, what would you say is the optimal dough mass/unit ?

Thanks again