The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why did this work?

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Renee B's picture
Renee B

Why did this work?

I've been trying forever to get large, cavernous holes and a chewy texture in my whole wheat bread and I finally achieved success this week.  I tweaked a few things and I am curious as to which change made the real difference.  First, I added 1/4 tsp citric acid as opposed to the small pinch that I previously used.  I increased my retardation in the fridge from two hours at 38 degrees to 36 hours at 42 degrees (I use red star active dry).  I also increased my proofing time from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes.  Finally, I increased my baking temperature to 425 with steam and.  I am just really interested in the science behind what I changed and how I can further take advantage of it.

amolitor's picture

You definitely got a lot more fermentation in. At the very least, you had a much larger population of yeast in your dough, which certainly helps when you're trying to get holes!

I can't speak to the ascorbic acid part of things, or the higher baking temperature.

Steam would not have any effect on the "crumb" of the bread, although it would certainly make the crust a lot more interesting.


Chuck's picture

Since you haven't gotten many replies, here are my guesses (from someone who's not too sure) as to which things made a difference in the crumb:

  • Using 1/4t citric acid probably had a similar effect to using higher gluten flour. In other words it probably made a difference. The quantity you used previously was probably too small to have any effect.

  • As to increasing fermentation times (both retard and proof), it's hard to say if it mattered or not, because we don't know what the dough "felt" like before. Even specifying exact amounts of yeast, times, and temperatures is probably not enough to elicit a "yup" or a "nope" from an experienced baker. The only things that seem to help are a) use a straight-sided crising ontainer and tell us both starting and ending heights, or b) post photos then ask for opinions or c) take a hands-on lesson from an experienced baker.

  • I doubt that 425F made much difference in the crumb. It will change the color of the crust, and the baking time, but it won't affect the crumb very much. Extremely high heat (i.e. 500F and up) is sometimes used to help get larger holes, but 425F isn't close enough to that for you to see any effect.

  • I doubt the steam made much difference in the crumb either. It mostly changes the crust. Steam can make scores/slashes open wider, thus allowing more oven spring, thus leading to larger volumes  ...but it will only make the holes that are already there a little bit larger, it won't create holes and it won't make them a whole lot larger.

If you get the right combination of flour, gentle dough handling, temperature, etc., you should be able to make bread with very large holes without resorting to any of the tricks you used. In other words 'yes' something worked, but 'no' it shouldn't have been necessary. To see someone else who's done it, take a look at this thread, all the amazing pictures before the text.

What helped me the most was the advice to try to get my gluten "developed" but not "organized"; more autolyse, more stretch-and-fold, less kneading, and so forth. Also in many cases it helps significantly to hold back on de-gassing before shaping, so some of the holes that started to form during rising get carried over into proofing.