The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

pain a' l'ancienne

pattyspride12's picture

pain a' l'ancienne

I've just baked 4 loaves of pain a' l'ancienne for the second time. The loaves were very tasty, with a beautiful crust. However, the loaves don't have the crumb with the big holes. I think I may be degassing them too much in preparation, but the loaves are tough to handle being so wet and pliable. Does anybody know what I may be doing wrong? Thanks for reading.

cranbo's picture

I'm assuming you're using the BBA recipe? What hydration level are you using? Reinhart lists 70-89% hydration, which is a very wide range and will yield very different results. 

Yes, wet doughs need careful handling, along with sufficient dough development to hold the air pockets as they form and when they bake. A lot depends on technique. Look at Txfarmers 36 hour baguette, that one is 75% hydration, on the drier end but look at the holes

Hard to say beyond that without seeing some photos. 

kenlklaser's picture

In the initial section Reinhart lists a range of water values, however in the bakers' percentage box he specifies 79.6(%).  He also says to use instant dry yeast, not sourdough. My yeast curve (room temperatures) asserts his IDY value, 0.7%, as approximately a 2-hour rise.

Probably if you want larger holes, you'd let it proof a little longer.  Reinhart says if you want ciabatta-style breads (I believe that means big holes), let them proof for 1-2 hours.

fminparis's picture

What is the fascination and need of everyone for "big holes?"  All big holes give you is less bread to eat.  The bread can be light and delicious with a whole lot of small holes.  I never understood why people are worried about not having big holes. Who wants to eat air?

dabrownman's picture

holes don't have much taste and stuff falls though them onto the floor :-)  I suppose big holes are traditional now a days for certain breads since pro bakers have been obsessing over them for quite some time now thinking they were  better and the mark of perfection.  Nothing wrong with that or tying to achieve it if that is your goal.   It's like slashing a baguette 5-6 slashes down the middle 3rd of the loaf with a 30% overlap that produce ears is the standard..  You can taste those ears though.  If you aren't a pro baker where people won't buy your bread if it doesn't look right or, write you up in the paper or Internet as an armature who shouldn't have a bakery and killing your business, it doesn't really matter but being the best baker you can be does matter and the standards that are set are worth shooting for no matter how far we fall short.

I rarely go for holes since I bake bread with a lot of stiff in them and lots of whole grain but when I go for big holes I want to see them!

Happy baking

Fatmat's picture

Big holes give a different texture to the bread. They also give more 'edges' to crisp and caramelise when you make toast. 

kenlklaser's picture

I think part of it is that they're better, up to a point, in holding fillings, dips, fats like butter, cheese, etc.  For example, larger holes hold more mayonnaise, which may be more desirable for sandwich slices, but holes too large may decrease desirability. Lighter in weight bread (relative to a constant volume) seems to make better toast.  There's also the "pushing the edge" concept, taking the phenomenon to an extreme.  At some point it becomes a matter of art, and the associated marvel.  You don't have to paint on canvas or mold clay to be an artist!

david earls's picture
david earls

the holes are better for me than the floury/salty parts. She would be happiest if I only at the holes...