The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advice needed

  • Pin It
abeskin's picture
abeskin

Advice needed

Hello everyone!


Although I am a pretty experienced bread maker, there is something in this craft that completely eludes me. I want to bake wheat-flour bread with hard, thick crust and large irregular holes in the crumb. But no matter what I do, I cannot seem to achieve that.
I bake sourdough or regular bread. I use poolish or long retarded fermentation. I make doughs with various degrees of hydration, up to 80%. I use fresh or dry active yeast. I try to handle the dough as gently as possible. I make pan loaves or free-form loaves of various sizes. I bake with various amounts of steam. I tried to bake inside a large pot. Nothing helps - the loaves come out from the oven with rock-hard crusts, but they invariably soften as the loaves cool down. And no irregular, large holes in the crumb, ever. Even when I bake focaccia or ciabatta, they have small uniform holes.
My bread is always very tasty and flavorful; it's just not what I want it to be.


What am I missing?! I would appreciate any suggestions.

Yogibaker's picture
Yogibaker

Hi,


I've been looking for the same thing for the last few months.  A while ago, someone else suggested to stay with the same recipe, and just keep at it.  And finally, around 6 months after I began baking, that sweet, irregular large hole nirvana seems to be developing!  I'm using a pretty standard white sourdough recipe 44% starter, 66% water, 1.5% salt, using stretch and fold very gently, around each hour (or so) before an overnight retard and then bake in the morning.  This morning's loaf was holy!  I'm trying again later today to see if I can replicate it.  I'm really not sure what I did differently, so am putting it down to practice and persistance.  Sometimes things just take their time, I guess.  Which is why bread baking, like yoga, is just so endlessly absorbing.  And meditative.


Good luck with it all

abeskin's picture
abeskin

Yogibaker, thank you for your reply.


Practice and persistence are of course essential. Still, some information won't hurt either. How long is the fermentation before you put the dough in the fridge? When do you shape the loaves - before or after the fridge? Do you use yeast in addition to the starter? If you do, what type of yeast?

Yogibaker's picture
Yogibaker

Hi,


Yes, sure, recipes are helpful!


I use strong white bread flour, add the starter (my own, now around 7 months old, 100% hydration, mix of white and rye flour), 66% water and mix.  Leave for 30 mins, then add the salt.  Then leave for 1/1.5 hours, Strech and fold.  Again, another 1-1.5 hours, S&F.  Then perhaps another once or twice, depending on what time of the day it is, and how long I've got.  Other people claim that it's the S&Fs that make the holes, and I must say I'm trying to be more gentle and more vigilant about timings than perhaps I've been previously.  After all that, shape and put into benneton.  Wrap it up in a plastic bag and leave to retard in the fridge overnight - usually 8-10 hours.  Take it out, return to room termpature and bake.  I usually make one small loaf (around 450g) and bake at 250C for 10 mins then 200C for 15 mins.  Done.  And like I said, the holy grail this time!  And regarding the yeast question, no yeast, just the starter.  I try to use the starter around 4-6 hours after feeding, so it's just peaked.  I'm no expert at all, just found this works for me, so I hope it helps.  Good luck.

abeskin's picture
abeskin

Thank you! I will try to follow your recipe.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Note above recipe.  Mix ingredients until wet and sit covered 30 minutes.  Then add salt.  That should get you there...  No matter what you do afterwards (short of underproofing and overproofing) you will get irregular bubbles.

abeskin's picture
abeskin

Thank you. I will certainly try that. Do you know the reason for this effect?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You might find this discussion interesting:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8638/big-holes#comment-48431


Mini

abeskin's picture
abeskin

Yes, this is an extremely informative discussion! I cannot wait to try your approach.


However, I just came across this recipe:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2984/jasons-quick-coccodrillo-ciabatta-bread


The author recommends to "beat the living hell" out of the dough (30 minutes in the mixer!), and still he gets huge holes in his ciabattas. Confusing...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Do Both!

abeskin's picture
abeskin

That's what I am going to do!

Mason's picture
Mason

I started being able to achieve the holy texture your're after once I learned just how gently to handle the fermented dough while I shaped the loaves for their final overnight in the fridge and rise.


First, you want a rather high hydration dough (I have gone up to about 75%; some can do 80% with lots of stretch and fold and very deft handling).


After the main fermentation, the trick is to try to keep all the gas in the dough. Shape the outside of the dough to develop surface tension, but leave the gas inside relatively undisturbed, so some of the bubbles inside get bigger on the next rise.


Reinhart's video here on shaping a boule is a good guide.  So is this one here by Theresa Greenway on shaping a batard.


Notice, esp. in this latter video, how the dough does not change in size, but just in shape.  The gas inside stays inside, to make the larger irregular holes.  


I'm usually even more gentle than she is, since I like really big holes like these (selectively choosing one of my better attempts):


abeskin's picture
abeskin

Your bread looks excellent and certainly has larger holes than mine but I want them even larger, like here:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13525/my-imitation-chad-robertson039s-country-sourdough


or even here:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5500/pierre-nury%E2%80%99s-rustic-light-rye-leader


The holes in my bread are more or less like in Theresa Greenway's video, maybe a bit more uniform in size.


As for your advice, it somehow doesn't work for me. I make doughs up to 80% hydration; I almost don't handle them at all, and still they come out with small holes. And the less wet doughs that I do shape I handle much, much gentler than in those videos. And by the way, I don't see much gentleness in Theresa Greenway's video. She presses the dough and squeezes it, and pinches it quite forcefully. And I don't see that the dough does not change in size, but just in shape. Look in Reihart's video - he starts with a huge bowl full of dough, which he then divides in two. Is the final boule a half of that volume? I don't think so.


I am starting to think that something is wrong with my oven spring.