Hi everyone... oh and I have a problem with my crumb
I've lurked for a while and wanted to start off by saying what a great site this is. Full of information - both expert advice from some apparently expert bakers and also some helpful "this is where I went wrong when I was learning" stuff from people more like me.
I posted a comment on another thread about a problem I'm having - I'm not sure if cross-posting is allowed so apologies in advance if I'm doing anything unspeakably bad!
My problem is my crumb - I can get a reasonably open crumb (probably not quite as open as I should be getting, but it's definitely passable) - but the texture of the cooked bread is really odd. It ends up being slightly grey (rather than white or cream) and rather plasticky or rubbery. It's quite hard to describe but it's not a soft, fluffy crumb as I'd expect (based on what I get served in restaurants!)
I have tried various recipes with different hydration levels, starter / no starter, high temperature / lower temperature and even milk-based dough rather than just water, yeast, salt and flour. They have all yielded slightly different breads (as you'd expect) but the one common theme is the odd texture of the crumb.
The bread is definitely cooked - I use a probe thermometer to ensure it's at least 95+ degrees C internally. I have tried overcooking the bread, but then it, unsurprisingly, just dries out and goes even tougher. The only thing which helped very slightly was using a milk-based dough rather than a water-based one. The problem is, of course, this is no longer "traditional" artisan bread. And in any event, the problem doesn't go away, it's just masked slightly probably by the extra fat/milk solids.
The only thing in common with all my loaves is my flour. I've been using Allinson's Strong White Bread Flour (not the very strong version) which has a protein content of about 12.5%. I did once use some Tesco own brand bread flour which from what I remember had a very similar protein level - no change. I've just started another poolish using all-purpose (tesco value!) flour which has about 10.5% protein, so it'll be interesting to see what difference that makes (perhaps I'll just end up producing a dense lump...)
Any ideas what is causing my problem? I've tried changing every variable (I tried overworking the gluten using my KA but I usually hand knead, or more accurately french fold - the slap and fold, if that's what it's also called) except the flour. I'm now trying an alternative (lower-gluten) flour so it'll be interesting what happens. Do you think the brand I'm using is just a bit rubbish? Perhaps it's intended for bread machines and enriched doughs where the fats will mask the plasticky gluten??