how can i create a lighter crumb? all my breads have a denser and heavier crumb than i would prefer. even the crust is harder and not as light as the bought versions. please advise
there are probably a couple of things, one could be that your not proofing it long enough for the final rise, and too is that you might want to try increasing the hydration a bit, because a higher hydration do means a more light crumb in most cases
that you may have a couple of issues going on here. Post one of your recipes including the time and temp that you bake the bread at so we can see what might be going on. Initially, I think there might be a proofing problem either with the length of time of the proofing or the yeast might be a probelm as well. Let us know what yeast you are using and how you are processing it.
As far as the crust goes, shiny pans reflect heat in your oven and make the crust lighter in color and thickness, as we as adding to the bake time. Dark pans do just the opposite. I have one shiny pan that I have to leave the bread in the oven 10 minutes longer than the others for the bread to be done properly.
Whatever the problem, there's someone here to help you get it fixed.