The Fresh Loaf

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Dense crumb only in the middle of the loaf

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Simon280586's picture
Simon280586

Dense crumb only in the middle of the loaf

I've been baking a few round loaves recently, following the formula in Tartine Bread for the country loaf. They turn out pretty good, but one oddity I've noticed is that the crumb is very open for the first few slices, but gets progressively more dense as I get closer to the centre (the widest part of the loaf). It's cooked properly, but is comprised of smaller, more regular air pockets, almost like a standard loaf of white bread.

 

So I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced similar issues. The pictures in the book suggest that the open crumb should persist throughout the loaf.

 

One thought I had is that the heat is not penetrating the centre of these large loaves before the outer portions have solidified, preventing proper expansion. Is that possible? And if so, what can i do about it? I'm cooking in a Dutch oven and at the suggested temperatures, which seem to produce the correct crust colouring.

 

Maybe it's something else entirely. Any suggestions welcome :)   

 

 

Ford's picture
Ford

"One thought I had is that the heat is not penetrating the centre of these large loaves before the outer portions have solidified, preventing proper expansion. Is that possible?"

Sounds about right.  It sounds as though the loaf is underdone.  Use an "instant read" thermometer inserted into the very center of the loaf.  The temperature should read 190 to 200°F  (88° to 93°C)  It is also a good idea to check the oven temperature, and be sure to let it preheat for at least 30 minutes, or an hour if you are using a baking stone.

Ford

Simon280586's picture
Simon280586

I'll test the temp next time. It doesn't look underbaked, but it's worth a shot. Maybe I'll raise the oven temp a few degrees too and see if that helps. Thanks.

Cob's picture
Cob

Similarly, my boules/rounded free-standing loaves have the same 'problem'. I'm not so bothered about hole distribution, but I know what you mean. It will be denser in the core of a baked loaf, I suspect, if gas is not redistributed properly whilst shaping, and not enough is dispelled when you shape, so the holes will expand unevernly for the final proof.

I've never had such a problem with SDs. In fact they work so slowly, and uniquely, the holes permeate the entire loaf, like bubble-wrap-gone-wrong.

It doesn't actually sound like you've been underbaking.

 

Simon280586's picture
Simon280586

Yeah, I was considering shaping as a possibility too. Perhaps shaping the loaf too tight / not gently enough might knock too much gas out of the centre. I tried to be as gentle as possible, but I'll try being extra careful next time and see what happens. Perhaps I tried to tighten too much, maybe I'll stop as soon as it holds its shape.

phaz's picture
phaz

Is the surface of the dough hard or crusty before it goes in the oven? is there agood amount of steam used in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the bake?  I'm thinking the crust may be forming a little early in the bake.  if it sets before the interior has a chance to heat up enough to expand you can get a denser center. 

Simon280586's picture
Simon280586

Nope, surface is normal, as far as I can tell. I'm using a dutch oven w/ lid so steam shouldn't be an issue, and the loaves have good general spring and the cuts have opened nicely when I take the lid off after 20min.

I mean, they're not bad loaves of bread by any means, but there is a very distinct difference in the crumb as you move inwards.

Cob's picture
Cob

Create enough tension so as to shape a good looking bread, but not enough to tear the strands - it'll be visible anyway. I'm sure, if you're using low % of yeast, that the dough shoudl not be thoroughly degassed.

Treat is as you'd want to be treated, not knocked about, nor handled with kiddies' gloves! :)

Jolly's picture
Jolly

I tried everything, finally I cut short the time for removing the dutch oven lid, it worked. I was leaving the lid on for 20 minutes. Now I'm baking my Batards 10 minutes, covered, then I remove the Dutch oven lid.

I live about 1/4 mile from a huge natural lake. The Lake is one of the largest here in Oregon. The dutch oven lid was retaining to much moisture. Then I figured that I didn't need the added moisture in baking because of the lake. During the winter we have snow, again added moisture, plus lots of rain in the spring, and during the summer constant irrigation in the area. It all played a part in producing doughy breads.

You might consider the environment, and humidity.

Give it try