The Fresh Loaf

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how to get a good crumb and crust?

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gizzy's picture
gizzy

how to get a good crumb and crust?

So I'm starting my very first sourdough bread and I've made the sourdough starter. I'm using the instructions in the Bread Bakers Apprentice book. I've made bread before (never sourdough) and always had problems with the crumb and crust and I want to make sure I dont have this problem with my first sourdough bread, as I'm sure you can imagine how frustrating it would be to put over a week into something and not have it turn out right.

So my usual problem is that my crumb is dense. It turns out really  nice in pizza dough and bread rolls, but for a nice large bread loaf or boule it just dosent work well. The crust is often 50/50. I've been able to get it nice and brown and crusty before, but other times it turns out grey and weird.

What I usually do is mix the dough via stand mixer for about 5 minutes, transfer it to the counter and kneed for about 5-10 minutes as well. I can never get it to pass the window pane test without the extra kneeding.

After that I let it rise for about and hour or 2. Then I deflate it, mold it into the shape I want and let it rise again for about and hour before putting in the oven.

I received some advice from some bakers at the farmers market near me last weekend. They said that because the area (NYC) is humid this time of year, I should let it rise in the fridge instead of on the counter and that I need to let at rise and deflate 3-4 times before I'll get the nice crumb that I want.

Will these tips solve the problem or are there any other tips you can recomend? Also, what kind of crumb can I expect from a sourdough bread?

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear Beginner,

We've pretty much all been there.  It's great that you've asked the group.  In my 40 yrs of baking, I'd say that the absolute best thing you could do is find someone nearby to bake with.  Second choice would be to invest in a bread-baking class.  You can use this website to find a local baker.  Just announce where you are and what you're looking for.  Your neighbor might become your mentor!  There's nothing like working with someone who knows the moves and textures.  Leaves you not having to invent the wheel.

I've recommended using a textbook rather than a bread cookbook many times on this site because texts are designed to take you from the beginning stage on.  See if you can find a copy of DiMuzio's Breadbaking at a library or a used book site (Alibris, Powell's, etc.)  Larger, more complicated, texts (Hamelman, for example) can be too dense at the beginning.  I've lots of bread cookbooks, mind you, but after all this time I wish I'd had a text at the beginning.  I'd have saved so much time.

Finally, however good I am at bread baking after 40 years, I couldn't have gotten here without making tons of mistakes.  Practice, practice, practice.  Then tell us about your successes and failures.  But don't spend time asking your questions until you've used the search function on the upper left.  There's probably no question that's not been asked and answered many times before.

 

 

 

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear welcome beginner,

I forgot to add this:  watch all the videos you can find.  Look on this website and Youtube.

 

Chuck's picture
Chuck

... put over a week into something ... 

???    A whole week, really?

Even the best bakers have flops every so often. Don't set yourself up to be devastated.

Have in mind a couple backup plans for using attempts you don't want to serve as bread (croutons? bread pudding? ...). Walking on a high wire with no net doesn't demonstrate presence of guts so much as absence of brains.

(can you tell I flunked philosophy 101?-)

gizzy's picture
gizzy

Yes, Over a week. Right now it's exactly a week, but once I'm completely done it will be over a week.

The recipe that I used called for 4 days for the seed culture, 1-2 days for the barm and then another 2 days for the sourdough bread.

However, I feed the seed culture for 6 days, because I didnt receive the results the recipe said I should. At the end of the 5th day the seed culture was rising the way the direction said and by this morning it was amazing. All bubbly and acidic smelling (it actually smelled like wine, which freaked me out till I read that it was normal).

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I've been able to get it nice and brown and crusty before, but other times it turns out grey and weird.

"Grey and weird" is usually a result of overproofing, i.e., letting the dough rise too long, whether during the initial (bulk) rise or the final shaped rise (proof). As a general rule of thumb, for both rises dough should no more than double in volume.

What I usually do is mix the dough via stand mixer for about 5 minutes, transfer it to the counter and kneed for about 5-10 minutes as well. I can never get it to pass the window pane test without the extra kneeding.

Knead longer in your stand mixer; if you're using a KitchenAid with a dough hook, at the 2nd "click" AKA speed 2, mix for at least 15 minutes if you are trying to get a windowpane. The exact time will depend on several factors, including your dough hydration and your overall recipe. 

After that I let it rise for about and hour or 2. Then I deflate it, mold it into the shape I want and let it rise again for about and hour before putting in the oven.

Rise times should be dictate by the amount of yeast in the recipe, the room temp, and the overall growth of the dough, not just an arbitrary "an hour or two here or there". You will not get good results this way. Pay attention to your dough: make sure that during each fermentation cycle almost (but not quite) doubles in volume. 

I received some advice from some bakers at the farmers market near me last weekend. They said that because the area (NYC) is humid this time of year, I should let it rise in the fridge instead of on the counter and that I need to let at rise and deflate 3-4 times before I'll get the nice crumb that I want. Will these tips solve the problem or are there any other tips you can recomend?

Rising in the fridge is good but it will take longer. Even at very warm temps, I would not rise and deflate 3-4 times, IMO that's just too much, you're not leaving a lot of food for the yeast/bacteria to eat, and you will likely overferment your dough. To generalize wildly: one rise right after mixing & one rise after shaping should be good enough for 95% of all bread recipes. 

 Also, what kind of crumb can I expect from a sourdough bread?

You can expect a typically slightly denser crumb (like Tartine's bread), but a lot of that depends on your skill level (including your mixing and shaping techniques) and your recipes. Search TFL for txfarmer's posts about fluffy sourdough bread for one example of a very fluffy sourdough. 

gizzy's picture
gizzy

Thank you for your advice. I do use a kitchenaid standmixer, its a 6 court professional series (I forget the exact model without looking it up). I'll let it work longer the next time I make bread (which will be this weekend).

You mention dough hydration and I've been working with that a bit to make my dough wetter. I've definately noticed a big difference from when I first started, the dough had little flexability, wasn't soft. Then I started reading more and learning about wet doughs and the texture when I kneed is so much different now. I do have one question, how do I know if my dough is wet enough?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I do have one question, how do I know if my dough is wet enough?

"Wet enough" is relative to the type of bread you're trying to make: focaccia and ciabatta will be quite wet, hamburger buns will usually be pretty dry, lean French breads will be somewhere in between, etc.  

Over time, you'll get a better feel of hydration per type of bread. In the meanwhile, here's a frame of reference: doughs that are under 60% hydration will easily clear the sides and bottom of the Kitchen Aid mixer after 3-4 minutes of mixing. Higher hydration doughs will not usually clear the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl. 

In general, many people say your final dough should be "tacky like a Post-it note, not sticky". 

gizzy's picture
gizzy

It seems all my doughs have been under 60% then as they do firm up within 3-4 minutes.

I'm making bread this weekend. I'll take pictures and take notes on what exactly I do, taking everything you told me into consideration as I do this new batch. I'll post results and hopfully be able to get more guidence with more acurate data to work off.

Thanks for all your help!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

The number one piece of advice I hear for new bakers is dmsnyder's "watch the dough, not the clock".

If your crust and crumb don't make the grade yet, perhaps you should make similar yeasted recipes over and over until you can produce consistently satisfactory results, and only then branch out into sourdough. Although "fluffy sourdough" is certainly possible and is a worthy goal, it's not what I would suggest as a starting place, as there are an awful lot of variables.

If I may ask a rather blunt question: exactly what advantage are you trying to gain by switching to sourdough? (There are lots of good answers  ...but I'm curious about your answer:-) Perhaps "sourdough" is not the best response to unsatisfactory crust and crumb.

gizzy's picture
gizzy

So I decided to try making sourdough bread when I made this french toast recipe using sourdough from a bakery and then next day I used a storebought, not so good, "artisian" bread from the local store, needless to say it didnt taste well. The sourdough was so delicious with the french toast, it just added a complexity that I've never had with other breads. I've always been one to want to make things from scratch. I dont know why, but I love trying it. Even if I never make it again from scratch, I like to try it at least once.

Thats my reasoning. Plus, I've really developed a love for making bread, despite my many failed attempts. I wrote about it more in the Introduction and Ideas area, when I introduced myself.