For those having difficulty achieving an open crumb structure, the following might be of interest:
What a novel approach to mixing! Do you have enough experience with this yet to have a sense of the range of doughs this works best with? For example, does it have a relatively greater impact on the crumb of lower-hydration doughs compared to slack doughs?
I am intrigued and must give this a try!
(Note the lack of specifics regarding your ideas. The curious should just hop on over to breadcetera and see for themselves.)
You read my mind (or what little is left)! This was my first attempt at using the technique. My next step is to try the double hydration technique in tandem with this technique to produce a ciabatta. I was also going to perform the 'control' for this technique before posting it but the results were so good that I decided to post it anyway. Let the peer review begin! :)
Don't know that I'll be trying this anytime soon as I have become pretty content with the "fold in the bowl" technique (slower, but quieter than a mixer). The two techniques are different routes for obtaining the not too small pockets in the dough which will develop into the now much desired open crumb.
I have been doing some house cleaning and am looking at old bread recipes that give us techniques to create a finer, more regular crumb which was in fashion when I started baking (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth...). Now we work hard to get just the opposite. Interesting how things change.
Steve, that is a great idea that I look forward to trying.
I have a KitchenAid Pro600 that I've not used in a very long time because I found some of the same issues you describe in your mixing quest, and have resorted to French Fold giving me the best results lately over minimal knead/long ferment only. But - Just when I think I have that figured out, I followed some directions recently to only do the fold-in-the-bowl like David and others do, without French Fold and only with very long refrigerated retarding, and was amazed at how great and open the crumb was on more than one occasion. Tried it again for Jane's 1-2-3 bread (albeit using a good % of whole wheat and rye) and I got a more dense bread than usual (probably didn't proof long enough, although it was a long time), so back to the drawing board - I'm getting confused! I wish I could get more consistent results.
I assume you find this to be the case as well, but as for why I like a more evenly open crumb to begin with, I'm going for best taste, and I find that in the same lean dough recipe, the results where the crumb is more open also have better flavor and chewiness in the mouth to me and others I bake for, whereas a more dense version of the same bread will just not taste as good to me.
I will try your method as it may be nice to put the old mixer to use again.
I'm also in the middle of Hammelman's Bread and how I wish I had picked up this book a long time ago, it is living up to its reputation, everything I've been learning about sourdough baking the past 2-3 years esp. seems to be coming together for me as I am reading this book - extremely well-written. I think you, Howard, Eric, and JMonkey and maybe David suggested it, so thanks!
MD, like you I, too, find that for lean doughs, all things being equal, a bread with a more open crumb structure tends to have a better flavor than a bread with a more dense crumb. I'm not sure why that is. And if it tastes good, I tend not to use butter or other spread, so I don't have a problem with the bigger holes.
I wonder if I haven't been doing this at an earlier stage for some time. When I read your method Steve I was reminded that I whisk the starter into the water at the first stage to a foam using a hand tool. Typically it's 50 G of 100% starter into say 325g of water for 500g of flour. I do the same for starter feedings.
I thought I was helping the culture by providing more Oxygen but recently I have learned that the LAB are anaerobic and don't need the added O.
After foaming the inoculation amount and all the water, the whisk is still easy to clean and I have to believe some of the tiny bubbles remain while the flour is added. After flour is added it becomes harder to foam by hand which is why I don't bother. Actually I started using a single beater from a hand mixer as a whisk. It works great and is way easier to clean with only 4 wires, plenty of foam. I'll have to try to hand whisk a little flour in after the starter next time.
Susan from San Diego is the one who got me doing this by hand. She uses a chop stick to foam her starter into the water. Her Boules under glass are a thing of beauty with a nice open crumb every time. Interesting! Nice work Steve, as usual.
Eric, I find your post to be very interesting. I, too, whisk my starter innoculation with water when I feed my starter, but for a different reason. While LAB do not require oxygen, it is my understanding that yeast, during their reproductive cycle (but not during their fermentative cycle), do. By incorporating air into my starter, I am hoping to facilitate the reproductive cycle of the yeast to increase the yeast population. This concept might also be in play when whisking during the double flour addition technique. A maximized yeast population could contribute to an increase in carbon dioxide production, leading to a greater degree of leavening.
Steve,Yes I have been whisking away for the wrong reasons but it did increase the yeast activity, I think. I found your idea that creating all the small bubbles gives future activity a place to build from, if I understand the point of your experiment. I plan to do a side by side comparison of whisking vs: stirring to see if I can prove the hypothesis.
Eric, I look forward to hearing your results. I have my fingers crossed. :)