The Fresh Loaf

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Question about crumb....

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SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Question about crumb....


I would appreciate some input - I am attaching a picture of the crumb of my sourdough bread made this past weekend. I've used my own starter, made according to Dan Lepard's Handmade Loaf, and it is his White Levain bread


 


I've been making this bread regularly for one year (in fact, my starter just turned 1 a couple of days ago!!!!) -I love the taste, the open structure and all. But I would like to get some input from the expert bakers here. From what you see in the picture, am I doing the shaping of the round loaf correctly? It seems to me that the crumb shows a marked tendency of flowing up in the center, maybe because of the way I shape it?


 


should I change something to get a more uniform "look"? Or is my loaf fine the way it is?


 


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Sally.


A year and a half or so ago, when I first started submitting photos of my breads to TFL, one of the more experienced bakers (Susan? MiniOven?) commented that the large holes having their long axes vertical rather than horizontal is a sign that the loaf was well-shaped.


If that is so, you are doing a great job!


In any case, that's a lovely crumb.


David

xaipete's picture
xaipete

That's interesting information, David, about the axes of large holes. I'm going to look for those vertical axes in my SD breads. --Pamela

Susan's picture
Susan

I do know that this one is neither vertical nor horizontal, but being particularly deficient in math sense, I probably wouldn't have used that term. 



Nice axe though, isn't it?


Susan from San Diego

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Hi Susan. I love your axe! The plural of "axis" is "axes" (nominative plural in Latin). --Pamela

Susan's picture
Susan

Yeah--axis, axes; crisis, crises; etc., etc.


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I just couldn't resist. --Pamela

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Well, that is great to know!


 


I will then keep doing what I'm doing - the crumb in my breads usually look like that, but only in recipes that call for a higher hydration and minimal kneading.


I've yet to have similar crumb with a recipe that requires kneading on the KitchenAid for several minutes, no matter what I do: dough can pass the windowpane, can reach the correct temperature, etc etc.. The crumb is always tight and the loaf never has a "light" feel to it.


 


Puzzling  :-)


 


 


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Sally,


I suspect that the vertical orientation of the air pockets inside your bread is more the result of the way you handle the dough. The fact that there are large pockets I think shows that you are gentle in the pre shape and shaping phase.


Another consideration which probably has some potential is that you are not baking the loaf evenly. The bottom of the crust is several shades darker than the top and sides. This can happen when the baking shelf is positioned on the bottom rack in the oven. I believe what occurs is that the bread is cooked more like frying than baking in an even heat. Subsequently the gas that is produced  by the moisture in the bottom of the dough turning to steam, looks for an outlet, which is up. The bacterial activity increases briefly just before it dies off from the rising heat which also contributes to the air pockets growing.


In any case, you might try raising the shelf one level for a more even crust. You will still get the beautiful crumb and what I expect is a very good loaf.


Eric

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Along the same line as Eric I was wondering whether you have a convection mode on your oven and whether a baking stone is used.  Also are you covering the bread (cloche) for the first 15 minutes of the bake to maximize oven spring?  


+Wild-Yeast

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

No, I don't have a convection oven - I use a baking stone, and maybe my oven rack is indeed a little too low - I will bake my next loaf raising the rack a little


 


as far as how I bake it, I use a very large roasting pan (bottom part) inverted on top of the loaf, sometimes I spray the surface with water, sometimes not. I let it covered for 20-25 minutes, then uncover and bake the rest of the way


 


I read that it is almost impossible to overbake bread, and that most beginners tend to bake less than they should - however, it's true that the bottom of my loaves are always getting too dark and I need to deal with this issue next.


 


 

hoek59's picture
hoek59

One thought I came up with is have you checked to see if your oven temp is correct / calibrated properly?  I just bought a oven temp. gauge to check one of my ovens that I know is not heating to the temperature set/indicated.  In fact, I learned some ovens can be as much as 30 +/- degrees off.  If you do discover your oven needs adjusting, check your owners manual that will guide you through the procedure to correct it. 


Just a suggestion.


 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

That is a very good point, and I should find my oven thermometer - which is hiding somewhere, I'm sure - and test my oven


 


my oven died one year ago and we had it fixed, but I have not tested the temperature ever since. I have a GE Profile,  by the way.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

One way to reduce bottom browning is to use baking parchment.  It reduces heat transfer between the stone and the baking bread.  I usually remove it at the same time that the cloche pan is removed.  Leaving the parchment under the loaf will result in a much lighter bottom color.  Also what type of salt are you using?  Sea salt produces a more consistently colored crust and improves the taste of the bread. 


The pyramidal cross section shape of the loaf indicates that there wasn't enough skin tension in the dough envelope.  Increasing in the amount of tension will aid in producing a better "domed" shape cross section.


+Wild-Yeast


P.S.  Geesh Susan, Strunk & Whites "The Elements of Style" or the LRB. . . ,

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I also remove the parchment paper as soon as I can--usually about 12 minutes into the bake. If I leave it under the loaf the whole time, the bottom of the loaf doesn't brown well.


--Pamela

ehanner's picture
ehanner


Also what type of salt are you using?  Sea salt produces a more consistently colored crust and improves the taste of the bread.



Wildyeast,
I use the non Iodized sea salt from the grocery as a matter of habit. Do you have any science to point to that would indicate there is any difference between one kind of sodium chloride over another? For table salt I like Real Salt from Redmond. It is supposedly mined from salt beds that were created before the dinosaurs peed in the water. As far as I know scientifically, it's all the same stuff really, some has other trace minerals.


Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

A couple of thoughts when looking at the cross section, it shows very dramatic heat action coming from under the loaf, too much in comparison to the rest of the loaf.   I like Eric's explanation.


If moving the shelf up doesn't help, it could be that the stone is too big for the oven.  It is important that heat circulates around the sides of the stone and reaches the rest of the oven.  At least one inch of space, a little more is better, between the stone and walls of the oven.  


Another thought is the inverted roasting pan.  I find that less space between the dough and the cover works best.  Naturally, the loaf should not touch the cover but too much space takes too long to transfer heat to the dough inside.  I don't know the size or the spacing involved but maybe trying a smaller cover or a bigger loaf might help.  Yep, lots of things to try.  :)


Mini

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Hi, Mini


 


I think you brought a very important point - ok, the tiles are NOT covering a large extension of the oven - I use only 4 terracota tiles, unglazed, so they allow a lot of space around for heat to circulate. HOWEVER, my roasting pan is very large compared to the size of the loaf. So large that a small part of it even hangs outside of the tiles


 


I think I'll start by moving the rack up, keeping the roasting pan the way it is - see how it affects the loaf. If nothing changes, I will find a smaller "cover"


 


thank you

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I forgot to mention the parchment paper - yes, I do use it underneath the bread, and remove it when I take the cover off


 


as to the salt, I use La Baleine sea salt, fine -  I was using coarse Kosher type salt, but decided to switch to the fine salt a couple of months  ago


 


Some of my loaves are really browning way too much at the bottom, I am starting to suspect my oven is off calibration. Will check it out this weekend

hoek59's picture
hoek59

Sally I just checked one of my ovens and it was 35 degrees cooler than the desired setting. You mentioned you had a oven thermometer stuffed in a drawer somewhere. According to the instructions on my thermometer I just bought, oven thermometers become fatiqued with age.


Also, a technique I use when baking bread is to use a Silpat on a baking sheet. One side of the Silpat is smooth and the other has a rough/raised edge and can be used up to 480 degrees. The other advantage is it lasts forever opposed to parchment paper. Hope this helps.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Eric, No, I haven't any scientific notations to back it up,  it comes from personal observation that sea salt doughs produce a more "rustic" coloration than mineral salt (I add salt in the very early stages of dough preparation).  The effect is also evident in the crust composition being somewhat thicker and chewier.  The taste difference is not that noticeable in overly "sour" doughs but becomes evident in retarded "sweeter" doughs.


+Wild-Yeast

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I did not know I could use the Silpat this way - I usually knead my bread on top of it because it is so nice, no need to add flour, works like a charm


 


I will turn it on the other side and try it on my next loaf of bread -


 


Also, I now pretty much gave up from finding my oven thermometer - it is simply GONE. I will have to get another one    :-(


 

hoek59's picture
hoek59

Although I don't mean to beat this subject to death I bought a new oven thermometer from Cheftools.com ( 06-1505 CDN MOT1 Multi-Mount Oven Thermometer 1 $7.99).  This is supposed to be a good thermometer according to Cook's Illustrated.  Alton Brown even mentions how oven temps and thermometers vary.  I just checked my second oven and it was 15 degrees off.  These are high end ovens so its worth checking.


I think that's enough said on thermometers for quite awhile.  Hope this helps.  If you would like to learn more about your Silpat, check their website www.silpat.com


Good luck!

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR


I checked my oven and it is right on the money!   Very relieved!


I placed the rack slightly higher in the oven and made another loaf - this time the browning was much more even, so I guess that solved THAT problem. Thank you!


I am posting a picture of the loaf and another one sliced. This week I used a commercial sourdough starter (King Arthur's), last week I used my own (which is from the exact recipe used by Dan Lepard in his book, and therefore the starter he calls for in this bread).


Using my own starter  the rising of the dough before it gets in the oven is not that great. However, it has very nice oven spring - the crumb is "creamier" and more yellow.


Using King Arthur, the dough rises a lot more during proofing, it has good oven spring too, but the crumb is slightly tighter and more white.


as I've been experimenting with this bread for 1 year, I sometimes added commercial yeast to my own starter, in minimal amounts - I wanted to see if I could reduce the final fermentation, because this bread takes a long time to make, pretty much the whole day.


whenever I did that, the crumb would look more like the King Arthur's - I think the bottom line is, to get the quality of bread from last week (which is my favorite), it is absolutely mandatory to use a very slow starter. A commercial one might be a bit too fast and give a different result. My husband actually prefers this week's bread, so I guess they both are good in their own way.


also, the difference in the crumb is not due to how I handled the dough - I've been making it long enough that I am now confident I do it consistently - and noticed this difference whenever adding a faster yeast to the equation.


 


any thoughts?


 

Susan's picture
Susan

Really beautiful!  Good sleuthing job. 


Just one thought came to mind.  If you're not retarding your loaves at proofing, you might give that a try sometime.


Susan from San Diego

LindyD's picture
LindyD

If you look at the photo accompanying Lepard's white leaven bread, you'll note that the pictured slice doesn't really have an open crumb in spite of a schedule of kneading eight times throughout the morning at specific time intervals.  


Lepard's recipe is simple: bread flour, leaven, water, and salt.  It's a 65% hydration dough.


Here's a photo of a slice of a sourdough I regularly bake.  Bread flour, leaven, water, and salt.  65% hydration.  


It involves a one-hour autolyse, maybe four minutes of mixing, and two folds over 1.25 hours before the dough is divided, shaped, and retarded for up to 18 hours in the refrigerator.  The recipe does include 10 percent rye flour, but that has no effect on the crumb, just the taste.


The only major difference, aside from technique, is that Lepard states the water should be 61F and the dough temperature 68F.  My recipe calls for a dough temp of 76F, so I have to calculate what the water temp should be each time I bake this bread (my well water comes out of the tap at 44F)



Autolyse, folding, and retarding can produce some very nice results 

Susan's picture
Susan

If you don't have that recipe on your Blog, you should record it there for all to see.


Susan from San Diego


P.S.  I agree with Sally, thanks for outlining your method here.  Sometimes little changes can reap big rewards, and you never know until you try.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Thanks, Susan....I think that recipe is all over TFL - it's Hamelman's Vermont sourdough.


Which, by the way, I'm going to mix today, form into boules, retard, then pop under a bowl for baking tomorrow, per your technique! 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Lindy, your bread is absolutely gorgeous, exactly the kind of crumb I'm looking for!


 


I will definitely retard the loaf next week - due to my work schedule, I can only bake on weekends. Now that I think of it, maybe retarding the loaf could allow me to bake during the week too....


 


I will look for the specific recipe here in this forum - I will scream for help if I don't find it  


Do you allow the dough to rise after forming for a while, or stick it straight in the fridge? How long does it have to warm up before baking, a couple of hours?


 


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Sally, this is the perfect sourdough for midweek baking.  Here are the general instructions:


Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt.  Mix on first speed (I do this in my KA Artisan mixer) until the water, flour, and levain are a shaggy mass.  Adjust hydration if necessary (I've never had to).  Scrape up any bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl and push them into the dough.  Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit for an hour.  The recipe says 20 minutes to an hour - I go for the full hour.


When the autolyse is over, sprinkle the salt over the dough and finish mixing at second speed for three or four minutes, or until the dough is at medium consistency. The temperature of the dough at this point should be 76F.


Bulk fermentation is 2.5 hours (I screwed up the time in my previous post).  Move the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic.  Set your timer for 50 minutes and when the buzzer goes off, remove the dough and fold it.  Move it back to the bowl, reset the timer, and 50 minutes later, fold the dough again.  Then it goes back into the bowl for  the final 50 minutes.  


When the final buzzer goes off, move the dough to your counter. Now, when I make the recipe I have about three pounds of dough, so I divide and shape it (I've never needed to flour the counter).  Then it is moved to a parchment covered cookie sheet which is slid into a plastic bag (make sure no air can get in), and moved to the bottom shelf of my refrigerator where the temperature is 42F.  I generally will do a quick light spray of oil on the tops of the loaves so the plastic doesn't stick to the dough.


The next day, when I get home from work, I'll pull out the loaves and put them on the counter for maybe 30 minutes, then preheat the oven (460F).  The bread does rise during the final fermentation in the refrigerator. The strength of your levain will determine how much.  When it looks like it has risen to around 85-90 percent of its original size, into the oven it goes.  That's never taken more than an hour in my kitchen and I'm sure the dough is probably still cold, but that really makes no difference.  You bake it when it's ready.  Bake time is 40 to 45 minutes. Check it at 35 minutes and if your crust is getting too dark for your taste, you can lower the oven temp.  Steam after loading the oven.


I know there have been some variations of the recipe posted here - if you can't find the actual recipe, let me know.


Finally, I always weigh my ingredients (except once...and that resulted in a too salty bread) and try to achieve the desired dough temperature through calculating what temperature my water should be before mixing.


 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Changed this reply to the end of the thread.....

ejm's picture
ejm

Lindy, I just showed your photo to my husband and he went nuts "I LOVE that kind of bread!! Will you make that? Is the recipe here????"


Quel happy news that it is! At least I'm assuming this is it:


Hamelman Vermont Sourdough


-Elizabeth

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Zolablue did a conversion from the pounds and ounce weights Hamelman used in the book to grams, which was nice of her.


It's a wonderful bread, easy to make, and I hope you and your husband enjoy it as much as I have, Elizabeth.  

ejm's picture
ejm

Thank you, Lindy. But I think it's going to be a while before I make it. I murdered my wild starter and will have to wait til it's warm before trying again.


-Elizabeth


P.S. But for future reference, Zolablue's gram version says



LIQUID-LEVAIN BUILD
150 grams Bread flour
188 grams Water
30 Mature culture (liquid)



Should that read "30 grams Mature culture (liquid)"?



FINAL DOUGH
750 grams Bread flour
100 grams Whole-rye flour
462 grams Water
19 grams Salt
338 Liquid levain (all less 30 g)



And should that read "338 grams of Liquid levain (all less 30 g)"? And is the "less 30 g" the part that is reserved to keep the starter going?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Sorry to here about the demise of your starter, Elizabeth.  


I'm not sure how the conversion was made to grams because I got out my digital scale today, placed a container on it, poured water into the container, stopped at six ounces, then switched the scale over to grams and that reading was 170, not 188.  Did it twice with the same result (reversing grams to ounces).  Also checked oneline conversion tools, which supported the results.  And yes, I know fluid ounces are different, but the Hamelman doesn't state fluid ounces - just ounces.  The online conversion tools came up with 4.8 ounces of flour = 136 grams.


So, for the sake of accuracy, here are the numbers as Hamelman wrote them:


LIQUID LEVAIN BUILD:


4.8 ounces bread flour


6 ounces water


1 ounce (2 T) mature liquid culture (Total weight: 11.8 oz)


FINAL DOUGH:


 1 lb, 8 oz bread flour


3.2 ounces whole-rye flour


14.8 ounces water


.6 ounces salt (1 T)


10.8 ounces liquid levain (all, less 2 T). (Total weight: 3 lb, 5.4 oz)

ejm's picture
ejm

Thank you, Lindy. I think you must be right that Hamelman is talking about ounces rather than fluid ounces (this confusion alone is enough to convince me to use metric measurements. But I know that not everyone agrees so I'm a big fan of the online calculators here: Gourmet Sleuth: Cooking Conversions. And yes, I too got 6oz = 170gm as well, or 6USfl.oz = 177gm but never 188... there must have been a typo in Zolablue's conversion...).


However, with this relatively small amount of starter in the liquid levain build in Hamelman's recipe, I might be able to produce a reasonable facsimile using active dry yeast. I'm guessing that using Glezer's method of measuring a ridiculously small amount of yeast  - 1/16 tsp (.06gm) active dry yeast in 2Tbsp (30ml) water and then using only a Tbsp (15ml) of that mixture instead of the 30 gm of starter he uses might work and perhaps adding a little extra flour.


What do you think?


-Elizabeth


 


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Your comments, Elizabeth, led me to check "Bread" to see if I could find any reference to fluid ounces.  I did, in the section on conversions and equivalencies (pp 387-388).  Since Hamelman notes that 1 fluid ounce weighs 1.043 ounces, and since he is adament about scaling all ingredients, I'm going to trust that he did the conversion for us so we wouldn't have to get our calculators covered with flour. Or at least, my calculator since I'm sure there are bakers here who can compute those conversions in a nanosecond without mechanical help.  I can't.


I've never tried Glezer's method.  Is it in "Artisan Baking"?


What you describe sounds as if it will produce a nice levain, but without the nuances a mature culture would add.  I know that is beyond your control right now, so please do report on how the bread turns out using Glezer's method.

ejm's picture
ejm

Yes, Lindy, the yeast mixing method for "Acme’s Rustic Baguettes" in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer.


It will be interesting to see what happens. It might well produce the kind of loaf we really like. One of the reasons that I murdered our wild yeast was because I was consistantly getting very sour-tasting bread. Now, we like strong flavours but we're not fans of sour bread.


-Elizabeth


P.S. i'm sure you're right that Hamelman means "ounce" rather than "fluid ounce". Especially because of the discrepancy in volume between an imperial fluid ounce and an American fluid ounce. (It's comforting to know that at least ounces around the world are the same....)

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

You are an angel!


 


What can I say?


 


I will be making this very soon and will report back - of course, I will have to start running longer distances to compensate for the extra intake of my bread experiments, but that's a whole other story


 


 


thank you so much for taking the time to write your instructions!

hoek59's picture
hoek59

Sally you really seem to be on the right track.  The bread looks great and the crust seems just right.  I just finished making a starter and hope to use it this week. 


Keep posting your pictures.

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

 I should have posted my reply here, so I will repeat it



Followed your method, made the dough yesterday and baked this morning - nothing could be easier!



The bread tastes absolutely great, it was very easy to work the dough, I intend to repeat this recipe often to get it as perfect as possible. If you see my crumb structure, I got some very large holes and small ones - not sure if that is a mistake (if it is, it is a tasty mistake anyway... )



I have some photos here



http://tinyurl.com/c5hld2



I am wondering if I am "over=folding" the dough - I do two folds, from the right to the center, then the left to the center. Then I fold from the top to the center and the bottom to the center. Should I just fold the dough from left/right and forget the bottom/up?



thanks for all your help and advice! Much appreciated!


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I couldn't access the tinyrul link and couldn't see your photo, but am delighted that you've gotten such great results with a lot less effort!


Your folding method is fine.  I do gently degas the dough with my fingertips when doing each fold - that expells some of the CO2 and equalizes the dough temp.  Then the dough goes back into the bowl, seam side down.


I'll bet the scoring went very well for you too.


 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

The scoring is ok, but I will post here a picture for you, you will see that it forms this little "hat" - not sure it is a sign of bad scoring  :-)


if you don't mind taking a look, I will also post a picture of the crumb, as you could not get to the flickr site

LindyD's picture
LindyD

The little "hat" was due to the placement of the scores.  Last weekend I did boules for the first time and one of them looked just like yours - only my "hat" was quite crooked thanks to a slip of the knife.  I scored the second boule in a "X" and liked  that appearance.....but I really prefer shaping this sourdough in batard form.


Your crumb looks pretty good.  Maybe try very gently degassing the dough before you shape and retard it.


It's a very lovely boule!  Ya done good, Sally!


 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Now that dinner is over, and with dinner we enjoyed a little more of the bread, I wish I had started to cut the bread from the other half... :-)


 


the crumb looked EXCELLENT on the other side -


 


I will try degassing next time - this time I was VERY worried about losing all the bubbly nature of the dough, and was very gentle when I formed the boule. I guess that lead to the extra large holes in some points of the bread


 


My husband thinks I need therapy  -  normal people cut a slice of bread and eat it. I cut it and inspect it for a looong time, mumbling to myself... :-)

hoek59's picture
hoek59

I think the bread looks great!  Here is a great link that will provide some illustrated answers on folding/shaping.  http://thebackhomebakery.com/Tutorials.html


Personally I love large holes and believe it shows character.  From what I have learned from other sites, large holes are something most try and achieve.  That's why everyone is stressing to be very delicate with the dough after proofing and placing the bread into the oven.


Was the crust soft or did you achieve a nice crunch? 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Crust was crunchy, the way we like it - so no problem there.


 


My mistake when I was starting to bake this kind of bread was not baking long enough - for some reason, I did not want to get a dark, brown crust. Then, I ended up with soggy, gummy crumb. And a crust that would not stay crunchy once left at room temperature.


 


Now I pretty much force myself to leave the bread longer - the final temperature   is never lower than 210F.  Much better crust.

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Thanks for the link to the tutorials - will indulge shortly... :-)

LindyD's picture
LindyD

We are an odd bunch, I guess.  I always look at the crumb and if the kids are here, they complain that holes mean there's less bread to eat. (!)  


Am glad it was picture perfect at the other end.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I tried that one with the diabetes dietician - but she didn't go for it! Nor did she believe that sourdough bread is "better" for diabetics, unless it is whole grain, A.