The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pillowsoft crumb-technique?

clazar123's picture

Pillowsoft crumb-technique?

I guess pillow soft is a good description of what I want to achieve. When you squeeze-test a package of these buns, they feel like a pillow you would sleep on.Depresses easily but has bounceback. I'm not talking "store-bought" guar gum,air injected buns,stick-like-wallpaper paste-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of buns. I have seen soft sandwich buns at a local organic, flour,water,yeast,salt,starter kind of bakery.It is easy to get a bite without all the filling squishing out.  Of course, they don't want to talk about technique-then I wouldn't buy their buns. My bread crumb turns out chewier-it's good but I want to be able to achieve the soft bun.

I have sifted this site numberous times and I'm missing something because I'm not able to achieve this. I have tried adding:potatoes, milk,eggs and oil after various posters suggested that. Delicious experiments but still not there. I have to believe it is a technique or hydration issue rather than an ingredient issue. I have always used either Better for Bread (Gold MedalBrand) flour or AP flour for these endeavors. I also use a KitchenAid stand mixer and favor using sourdough with a little additional yeast due to time constraints (I bake on weekends).

So, how does one achieve a pillowy crumb and a crust that is thin and easy to bite off without being tough?


xaipete's picture

Try Norm's Semi-Flat Onion Buns. You don't have to put the onions on the top. That bun was very soft on the outside and fluffy on the inside.


pjkobulnicky's picture

Lots of yeast with a highly hydrated dough will give you what you want. If you don't like the taste of lots of yeast, then do a sponge the evening before. I usually do my sponge with 1/3 of the final flour and an equal part of water by weight (so I know how much to add the next day). To this sponge add a teeny amount of yeast (1/16 or 1/32 OF A tsp). You then get a lot of "natural" yeast development. When you put the dough together the next day, add another teaspoon of yeast (for a couple of pounds of dough).

flournwater's picture

I only recently began experimenting with the affect Whole Wheat flour has on my bread.  Yesterday I used a 1/3 whole wheat 60% hydration starter (actually a 50/50 mix of my old starter and whole wheat flour/water that fermented in the fridge for about four days) and 2/3 AP flour, with about 1 1/2% active dry yeast and 1% salt.    The final hydration was somewhere between 67 and 70% and I used a stretch and fold kneading technique (the method that includes slamming the dough on the counter to stretch it out and kneading it a dozen or more times after each folding action) and ended up with a somewhat sticky dough that would not hold its shape without longitudinal support.  Baked on stone at 425 to internal temp. of 210 degrees.  Oven spring was enormous and I was surprised to find the pillowy texture inside the firm crisp crust.  Inasmuch as I've used this combination of ingredients and technique, sans whole wheat flour, in the past, I have to conclude that the whole wheat flour was the source of the ultimate texture I enjoyed.

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clazar123's picture

And have you done this with sourdough? 

I avoid the recipes with large amounts of yeast-I really don't like the flavor but the thought of a sponge to develop bread flavor is something I haven't done in eons. I can handle the night before baking  prep-it's the 3 day type of recipe I also avoid-not enough time.

Flournwater, I hope the internal temp was a little higher than 110F (say 190) and I'm glad your loaf turned out so nicely. I usually make 70% whole wheat sandwich bread but my hydration is not that high. I should try and increase the hydration just to see if the solution was right under my nose.


flournwater's picture

Oooops ....  thanks for the heads up, clazar123.  I hate those typos that I miss when I proof read.  I've either got to learn to type with fewer errors or proof read more accurately.  That's the second time in two days.

pattycakes's picture

Make the Potato Hazelnut loaf by Salome posted by David Snider:

You will not be disappointed! This bread has the most luscious texture imaginable.


dghdctr's picture

It's difficult to give you a simple answer since only you know precisely what you're looking for.  You've already tried a few good ways to soften your crumb.  Things that soften dough usually do this by interrupting or otherwise weakening the gluten structure.  Eggs add loft but there's more albumen than fat there, so they're net "tougheners."  Sugar will weaken a dough considerably if added in significant quantity, and it probably won't give a noticeably sweet flavor until you get upwards of 15% or so of the weight of the flour.

If adding fat, milk, or potatoes hasn't worked, you might think about consciously limiting the amount of gluten you're working with.  I'd still use any or all of the above softeners in conjunction with reduced gluten quantity, but it may be that there's still too much gluten (or gluten development) to allow for a soft bun.

This may not be the flour that you'd want to use in the long run, but White Lily's All-purpose flour is made completely from soft wheat (AP flour is actually a vague designation that is applied by different millers to very different flours).  It is more available in the Southeastern U.S. than other places, but perhaps you can find a source by going to their web site:

Or you can order their stuff here (it ain't cheap):

The thing is, I believe that all White Lily flours are bleached, but if you have access to it, you might try using it just to see if the gluten quantity is the issue.

Or, if you have another way of getting very soft all-purpose flour, you could do that.  King Arthur's AP is stronger than some bread flours. Pillsbury or Gold Medal might make weak enough AP flours, but I haven't used them enough to know. 

Pastry flour is sometimes just strong enough at 9% protein to work as a weak flour for yeasted products, but most are more like 7-8%, and they are usually (I think) not malted to correct for amylase content.  That can inhibit yeast activity and browning of the exterior.

Some organic AP flours are softer than conventional versions, so you might look there.

Sorry that I can't offer more immediate solutions, but I do think the issue is one of reducing gluten quantity and/or gluten development.

--Dan DiMuzio