The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Only More Questions

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Only More Questions

A return to Andy's formula yielded good results and considerable lessons about dough development, strength, and fermentation. At the same time, I'm more convinced than ever that all home baking is local. Andy, if you are reading, thanks again for your guidance.

Now, an interesting new question arises. Andy mentioned that the center of these breads does not bake up as does the perimeter. My own loaf, and my own experience in general, agrees with this. I have made and seen loaves with very even distribution of the cell structure, but more often, I make and see loaves that have a perimeter with larger, varying cell size, and a center with a more uniform structure. As a nontechnical person, I am only guessing that this is a result of a combination of all the factors that go into a finished loaf; handling, fermentation, baking. 

I would be very interested in comments directed at the goal of producing loaves with more evenly distributed cell structure throughout the loaf, even if the holes themselves are irregular in size, if that's clear.

Anyway, photos (I've included one with flash to better illustrate the translucency of the cell walls,) followed by some shots of txfarmer's crazy baguette, which I undertook just as a challenge. The long cold autolyse and bulk fermentation make for a really delicious bread. However, do take txfarmer's admonition to heart: this isn't an easy dough to handle, especially as a baguette. Myself, I'd be inclined to form it maybe as a batard, or more accurately, a log of some kind. I'm still trying to figure out how I got a 21 inch baguette on my 17 inch stones. Still, delicious and a fun project.

And a side by side shot, which is actually pretty interesting:




dmsnyder's picture

Hi, louie.

I think the crumb looks great on all your breads. 

The difference in crumb structure between the periphery and center of a loaf is inevitable, as far as I know, due to the greater weight of dough bearing on the cells the deeper into the loaf you go. The thicker the loaf, the more pronounced this effect will be. It is greatest with a huge miche, somewhat less with a small boule, less yet with a bâtard and minimal with baguettes. 

At least, that's my experience, and that's what I was told at the SFBI.

Now, this is not to say there is nothing you can do to modify this to a degree. For example, more de-gassing while shaping will result in fewer huge holes, and this will be seen more in the loaf periphery. I also think that how tightly you form your loaves may have a similar impact, but I'm less sure of that.

In the Artisan I workshop at the SFBI, which was mostly about baguettes, the instructor liked our crumb to be highly aerated with a random distribution of holes of different sizes. However, if there were holes that were too large, she suggested we de-gas more vigorously next time. 

I hope this helps.


ananda's picture

Hi Louie,

David's given you the correct information to explain why the middle of a large loaf is more difficult to open and lift than the outer reaches.

However, my point has always been that good fermentation plus a decent oven will help you more than anything else if , like me, you are not from the "wetter the better" school.

Take a look at my most recent post here to see what can be achieved with a commercial deck oven, as opposed to an under-powered home electric oven like my own.

The link is here:

Good to read you are making progress and found my advice helpful

Best wishes


louie brown's picture
louie brown

for your observations and kind words. Both of you guys are as good at talking about baking as you are at doing it.

I do think that I understand the contributing factors. Controlling them is shaping up (no pun intended) to be a matter of better and better understanding of fermentation as it takes place in my "climate," using my materials and my hands. Beyond that, it is clear that my GE Cafe range just isn't going to do what a deck oven or a wood fired oven will do, even with the best steam and baking stone setup. As it is, I am pleased with my results, even if learning would be greatly facilitated by (much) more frequent baking, something that's all but impossible for a weekend baker.

Anyway, I was fascinated by the last photo, where slices that are about fifteen points apart in hydration can be compared and contrasted. This was a satisfying part of the exercise for me and i think I'm ready for the next thing now.