The Fresh Loaf

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Trying to Improve the Crumb

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CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Trying to Improve the Crumb

I've had varying success with the crumb on a number of loaves.  I think this is one of my best efforts so far, but far from perfect as I compare to other wonderful bread posts I see on this site.   Interested in opinions on this.  Thanks.  Phyllis

Comments

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Hi Phyllis

So this looks to be the Classic Sourdough you did in your LaCloche.  The previous photo from above didn't show us how tall the loaf was but this crumb shot does.   It's a lovely looking loaf but you seem to be wanting something "more".   What is it that you want to see?   For me, your crumb here looks very regular, all the pockets a similar size and mostly on the small size.  Now that I can see the height of the loaf I'm wondering if perhaps you are not getting enough oven spring and overall height and whether that is affecting the crumb. 

Either way, if you could maybe tell us a little about your method and the recipe you used it may give us some indications?

Cheers

EP

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Yes, this is the Classic sourdough in the LaCloche. I did expect to get more oven spring on it. I can post the recipe I used later when I am back at my computer, but I did think that the hydration may have been a bit higher than last time. Also, when I was baking in England during the holidays, I got amazing oven spring. Now, back in California, not so much. Could it be humidity?  I was happy with the loaf overall, but would have loved a touch more height. Thanks  for your comments. Phyllis

isand66's picture
isand66

Please do post your formula and procedure you followed.  There are several things that can dramatically affect the crumb with one major thing being how you handle the dough and another being the hydration.  If you handle the dough too heavy handed it will cause you to lose some of the nice Co2 gasses trapped inside. 
Another thing could be how you are mixing and if you are machine kneading the dough.  The longer you mix and knead with a machine the more uniform the holes will become.

Ian

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Ian:  I try and handle the dough lightly as to not lose the gasses, but I will try and be even more conscious of this in future.  I do it all my hand and don't use a machine.

Here is the link to the recipe I use (I probably deviate a bit....):

http://breadmakingblog.breadexperience.com/2012/02/classic-sourdough-in-la-cloche.html

 

Thanks for your thoughtful response.  Phyllis

twcinnh's picture
twcinnh

Might the British flour make a difference in the oven spring? 

Tom C

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Tom:  You may be right.  Most of the flour I found in supermarkets there was "self rising," so perhaps that gave it a little more height.  Come to think of it, my starter was crazy there as well.....Hmmmmmm  Phyllis

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Did you bake bread with self raising flour? It is not for bread making, it has raising agents added to it and is really used for things like cake, where in the US you would use baking powder or bicarb. But it is very interesting if you got well risen bread from it. I am surprised that there was not a strange reaction from both bread and starter.

I am having similar issues with getting the vertical spring that I want. But if you were getting a better crumb with self raising flour that must be a clue, I wish I could work out what it was!

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

I mean I think I know why your starter would go crazy, as self raising flour has baking powder added to it, baking powder has bicarb in it. Bicarbonate reacts to acid by fizzing up wildly. I assume it would react with the acids in your starter in a similar way, although not as pronounced as the raising agents are diluted in the flour. I assume that by the time you baked there was still enough energy to lift and lighten the crumb a bit.

I think that adding a little extra water might open the crumb a bit more. But then you might encounter the problem that I have been having, which is the dough spreading out more rather than going up. But the crumb is improving! Oh! There is just so much to learn! I correct one problem and create another! But on the whole there is progress.

If baking in England again, you want bread flour, it is called bread flour and is the right sort of protein content, (unlike what I have read of US flour) unless it is called very strong bread flour. All the supermarkets will stock some bread flour that will be ok, and the bigger ones usually stock some good quality organic ones. Plain flour here is the more like what I think you would call cake flour.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Was the loaf pictured made with self-raising flour then?  If so that's the reason for the cake like structure.  Protein level of self raising is about 8% I think vs the 11%+ of bread flour.

If this wasn't made with self-raising then the "problem" lies elsewhere.   In the recipe you cited it states:

"When you make the loaves, if the dough seems quite active, but the loaves do not rise or they retract when baked, it is probably due to the acidity level in the dough. If the loaf is unusually sour, you’ll know this is what happened."

So, is your starter quite sour and acidic?  Have you had any hooch on it for example? 

 

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

ElPanadero:  I did not use the self raising flour on this one.  Just AP.   I would not say that the dough was very sour at all, and no hooch.....Thanks for the insights, though!  Phyllis

dosco's picture
dosco

Your bread looks good to me. Perhaps it's spread out a bit due to hydration?

In my experience the crumb and oven spring are tied to gluten development. I've been getting much better results lately by 1) using King Arthur Flour bread flour (instead of AP flour), 2) mixing to 'windowpane' with my Kitchen Aid, and 3) adding Vital Wheat Gluten to my "levain" (starter fed to meet the preferment requirement of the recipe).

I also usually mix the flour and water to let it autolyse, which is said to aid in gluten development.

The sourdough that I currently make is that from Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I put the maximum amount of water (called for in the recipe) into the dough, then as it's mixing I add a teeny bit more ... aiming for ~72% hydration.

So far - for me - the results have been excellent.

YMMV. Keep us posted.

Cheers-
Dave

PS: pre and final shaping are also important, but I'm not sure it's something directly tied to crumb/oven spring.

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Dave:  I think the hydration is the key.  I have been trying to work on shaping as well, as I had some early disasters on this front.  I do think I am going to go to exclusively KA flour.   Thanks for all the thoughts.  Phyllis