The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is having plentiful/scarce gluten the same as having strong/weak gluten? And which is more likely to produce an open crumb?

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Sable's picture
Sable

Is having plentiful/scarce gluten the same as having strong/weak gluten? And which is more likely to produce an open crumb?



To expand on the post title: 

Does having more gluten automatically mean a stronger dough? I'm particularly confused about what I should be aiming for in regards to 'artisan' bread with an open crumb, as most information I've seen regarding this type of bread seems to insist on high levels of gluten/gluten development, but it seems to me that a more extensible (i.e. weak) dough would allow bubbles more opportunity to expand. 

Thanks for any help you can offer. 


Floydm's picture
Floydm

My impression, based on personal experience more than an understanding of bread chemistry, is without decent gluten development you end up with one of those "lazy baker holes," a huge air bubble at the top of the loaf and very few cavities in the rest of the loaf.  With stronger (higher protein) flour and better gluten development you can get the web of cavities distributed throughout the loaf that we associate with good artisan bread.

Sable's picture
Sable

That seems consistent with the experiences that I and fellow bakers have had, which leads me to wonder if I can make a distinction between high levels of gluten formation and high levels of gluten development, and use each to produce different results. My idea is that, for breads such as this, we want very many short strands of gluten, which is why we use high protein flour, but slack dough, etc. 

Of course, I may be way off-base, which is why I choose to turn to the expert minds of TFL! 

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

Higher gluten flours allow for the potential for greater gluten development, but that may not be achieved if you won't work the dough enough. So higher gluten flours aren't that useful if you don't plan to take the gluten development past the maximum possible with lower gluten flours.

Less developed doughs will develop bigger holes. How evenly distributed they are depends, I think, more on the shaping technique; a "room where the baker sleeps" is usually diagnosed as a shaping error. I get nice hole distribution on a relatively low hydration dough using AP flour, but I only mix for a minute or so, then fold three times. I'm sure it would never pass the window pane test. The more I mix, the smaller the holes.