The Fresh Loaf

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De-gas, or not De-gas? That Is The Question...

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rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

De-gas, or not De-gas? That Is The Question...

Well, first of all, apologies to the Bard and everyone else for that pun. It's actually a serious question I'd like to put to fellow sourdough breadheads.

Sometimes I end up with a tighter crumb than I like with breads I've done many times with identical flours and using the same process, with the same baking times in the same oven.  At their best these breads have nice, open spongy crumbs. I know there are multiple factors at play here (proofing, ambient temp, shaping etc), but I'm so far unable to confidently pin down this tight crumb phenomenon to anything in particular.

If I was still a betting man, my money would be on de-gassing being the main factor. Recently, after turning out one of these high-rise but tight crumb breads, I decided next bake not to de-gas. Hey presto - lovely open, airy crumb! Yet, I usually de-gas, and usually turn out breads with reasonably open crumbs, so the correlation between not de-gassing and open crumbed breads is hardly compelling.

Here's something else to complicate the equation. Recently, I tried PiPs' process of slap-kneading a la Bertinet when making a Gerard Rubaud bread, followed by my usual stretches and folds. I was incredulous at just how light and air-infused the dough was at the completion of the bulk proof. I couldn't de-gas it, even though I tried (gently)! It was just so full of air, and I'm not referring to obvious bubbles on the surface (the surface was not particularly gassy). It resisted de-gassing, exhibiting a sort of resilience I have not encountered before.

I suspected I'd let the BP go too far, but the FP was unremarkable, and the finished loaf was just superb - extremely light, with a richly flavoursome, caramelised, crackly but thinnish crust. I took a picture, which doesn't communicate the quality of the bread, but here it is:

 

I repeated this bread next bake, with the same Bertinet kneading at the beginning of the BP and the same S&Fs - in fact, I thought everything was more or less replicated from the previous bake, and that the results would be similar. They were not. The incredible lightness of the dough was not evident this time; nothing wrong with it, but it was like any other SD dough I had made. The baked loaf exhibited an amazing rise,  changing its cross-sectional shape to just about a perfect circle - quite a contrast to the photographed loaf.

I was quite excited, anticipating a spectacular crumb. However, when I sliced it open I was greeted with one of the tightest crumbs I have seen in my home-baked SD breads. Was so pouty about that that I didn't take a pic! The flavour was good, but...

Next bake, I went back to one of my own formulae I call, rather unimaginatively, "My Three-grain Levain". The mix is not far away from Gerard Rubaud's.  I returned to my usual process (autolyse, stretch and folds only). This time, I decided not to de-gas. The result was thrilling - one of the best breads I have done. Voila:

 

Anyone have any feedback or comments on the tight crumb phenomenon? Would like to iron this out, because hundreds of sourdough breads down the track, while I am often chuffed with my breads, I still lack consistency. I think this is one of the key differences between a good baker and a great one, actually, and probably between amateur and pro bakers. So, in the interests of filling in one more gap in my knowledge, over to you good folk...

Happy and safe Christmas/festive season all.
Ross

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

For me, it's the opposite. When I do de-gas, I get larger irregular holes. When I try not to de-gas, I end up with smaller uniform holes.  I watched youtube videos with Danielle Foriester (she treats the dough brutally by slamming down on the dough twice during the shaping!)  and Ciril Hitz (he gently presses down on the dough).  I shaped baguettes like they did, and the breads came out with larger irregular holes. Weird. I just wonder if I got smaller holes because the gluten in the dough were too relaxed? 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

I'm even more of an amateur than you are, so can't really help you with your main question.. but here are a few observations. I often get a tighter crumb than I'd hoped for (although with a good rise and flavour this doesn't bother me that much) and my two biggest pitfalls are - not developing gluten enough until very late into bulk proof, and less-than-confident shaping.

I'm a proud mum to a very high maintenance toddler who interferes with any time-consuming project I may have going. I often don't get a chance to stretch and fold soon aften mixing the dough, or i only do 1-2 S&F in the bowl, and then the dough sits around for ages until I get a chance to tend to it, and sometimes gets overproofed in the meantime. I have certainly noticed a corellation between the timing of stetch and folds, whether or not it's overproofed, and a tight crumb.

My other problem is that I haven't quite got the hang of working with wet (-ish) doughs yet, shaaping anything over 65% hydration can be a bit tricky for me. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I have to reshape once or twice, resulting in a loaf that's had more handling and more flour added during shaping than other loaves in the same batch. Funny enough, it's not always the twice reshaped loaf that turns out with the tightest crumb!

Another thought though, I don't think you really need to stretch and fold after  slap-and-folding because if you slap-and-fold until the dough is no longer sticky, the gluten will have developed beautifully and additional s&f may actually over-develop your dough, IMHO.

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I don't think you really need to stretch and fold after  slap-and-folding because if you slap-and-fold until the dough is no longer sticky, the gluten will have developed beautifully and additional s&f may actually over-develop your dough, IMHO.

Yes FoodFascist, that's what I would have thought also, but PiPs' breads are dramatic evidence to the contrary. Also, as I wrote in my post above, I achieved one of the best Gerard Rubaud breads I've made using PiPs' process of slap knead followed by S&F. Yet the second time around was a different story with a not-so-happy ending, and when I went back to my usual process next bake after that (no slap knead, and just 3 S&Fs during the bulk proof - or however many appear to be needed to develop the gluten sufficiently...but no de-gassing at the pre-shape/shaping stage), another great bread resulted! It's got me beat.

Thanks for your comments about irregular timing of your S&Fs and overproofing, but those factors don't apply in my case. (Not that I haven't been guilty of both, but this tight crumb thing has occurred when neither of those errors are present).

Getting back to the title of my post, anyone have any thoughts on the possible role of de-gassing in tight crumb syndrome? I should add that this is not a very regular issue for me - but when it does happen, it's perplexing and a bit frown-worthy.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The way I think about it (and one reason I don't understand what it really going on) is to remember that bread dough is a foam, but with a high enough viscosity that syneresis does not happen to any significant extent. I suspect that the cell size distribution is altered by S&Fs and slapping the dough around, but the effect will be different depending on the exact conditions and the stresses induced by whatever process you use. There may even be some interaction between the S&F at any particular stage and the successive biological activity. It may depend on the acidity of the dough to some extent (because of the impact of acididy on gluten strength) though yeast doughs exhibit the same cell structure with only minor differences in process steps. We know that hydration plays a big role in enabling large cells to become the dominant feature in ciabatta and other wet doughs, but it is still possible to get a tight crumb if you mishandle (handle) the intermediate steps.

You might want to run some splits to tease out the effects of process variations. S&F at 30 min intervals vs 60 min intervals; S&F vs slapping; ... You write the test plan; you run the process; you collect the data; report back with incisive results. We will all be waiting with interest.

Breadboard's picture
Breadboard

Rossnroller,

I'm a big fan of sourdough and having a blast baking with my own starter.  I'm learning, self taught, school of hard knocks, ha ha.   Today I'm not de-gassing, no stretch and fold.  Going with a well kneaded dough, started with stand mixer, finished by hand kneading.   Now I'm running fermentation and proofing straight through no stops.  What I'm looking for is a soft but tighter crumb without large bubbles.  Bread that's easy to slather with cream cheese, jam, butter.   I have 4 loaves proofing right now; 2 basic white, 1 Scandinavian light rye, 1 light white whole wheat.

If the crumb development manifests itself to my desired wish I'm gonna be one happy camper.  The stretch and fold and resulting de-gassing (gas re-distribution) has a purpose but I hope I can get away without this extra step.    I'll post results of my test when I can.

I'm sure others here already know what's going to happen to my sourdough (possible uneven gas bubbles, large pockets, poor lift) but I'm ok whatever happens, happens.  I will eat the sourdough anyway, he he.    I just want to find out for myself how the crumb will develop.

Merry Christmas,

Breadboard

 

 

 

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Quite perplexing phenomenon, Ross. I share the same concern with you. I'am baking a twin levain sd bread today.. i'll see what i can think of.

Andy... where are you?

lumos's picture
lumos

The traditional French kneading method of slap & fold had been my choice of kneading ever since I got Bertinet's first book because of the way it envelops lots of air into dough, but in my experience  I had to be very careful not to over-do it or I'd end up with, may not necessarily tight, but surely  fine and even crumb rather than very open crumb with randam holes I'd usually like to have. It's quite difficult to judge between 'just right' and 'a littel too much,' and so since I was introduced the wonderful world of Stretch & Fold in a bowl, I chaged to that method.  I also find bread made by Stretch & Fold tastes and smells better than Slap & Fold....maybe because of too much oxidation in the latter???  It may be OK if you're making a large batch of dough like professionals, like several kilos, at a time, but I only make smaller batches of 500-600g flour, so the effect is quite noticeable, IMHO, anyway. 

As for de-gassing, I usually pat gently with a palm of my hand all over the dough not to 'de-gas' per se maybe, but to eliminate too large air pockets and distribute the air more evenly through the dough, especially when I'm making baguettes, because leaving too many too large air pockets often cause tight crumbs in surrounding area......especially in baguettes. (Learned the lesson in hard way......:p)

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Hi lumos,

I usually stretch and fold, also, although for years now I've been using the Bertinet slap kneading technique for my wet SD pizza doughs. But for bread, yeah - S&F. As mentioned in my initial post, I just wanted to try PiPs' process after reading his Gerard Rubaud thread. The GR bread is one of my all-time faves, and I'm always open to trying new things, so when I came across Phil's variation on the GR bread just had to give it a go. The first time I went Phil's route, the result was sensational. If it hadn't been, I would have just reverted to my usual S&F technique, dropped the slap-kneading and not tried it again. I guess the less spectacular result second time around got me intrigued, and I started looking for clues...hence this thread.

So, I can't agree that S&F bread tastes better than slap-kneaded bread, because one of my recent experiences was very much otherwise! Going on my second GR bread using the Bertinet technique, I would be more inclined to agree with you (although even then, the flavour was still excellent - it was the crumb that was my concern)

To matters terminological:
Your description of overworked dough as resulting in a "fine and even crumb" is more accurate than my "tight" descriptor. Fine and even perfectly describes the crumb of mine I was referring to - and you may well have hit on overworking as the main factor behind this. "De-gassing" may not be a factor. It just popped into my head as sorta logical as a reason for a less open crumb, but this is contradicted by the many lovely open crumbs I have achieved when "de-gassing" as a routine step prior to pre-shaping and shaping!

I used the term "de-gassing" without thinking about it, probably because this is the term Hamelman uses for the action I was referring to. Your description of patting the dough gently fits what I do, also. So, no difference there, except with terminology.

Season's best to you!
Ross

 

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, Ross. Hope you had lovely Christmas! :)

One thing your reply reminded me was my old favourite from Richard Bertinet's first book (Dough), 'Pain de Campagne' I used to make a lot some years ago. It was just before my breadmaking became more 'serious' and I didn't understand very mucyh  how each different procedure affected how bread turned out. Even though I really liked the flavour of the bread, I just couldn't produce open crumb with random holes I'd have liked at all - the crumb was always fine and even how many times I tried.   It was only in later days when I switched to S & F method and also learned that fully developed gluten often produced even crumb that I realized why I wasn't able to make the crumb of  Bertinet's 'Pain de Campagne' more open - I think I was kneading too much. So I tried making it with less Slap & Fold (I used to do it 15 minutes or so before, so tried with 5 minutes instead), and voila! - the crumb was much more open than what I used to make in those days.

I also like GR bread very much but have only tried with S & F in a bowl method, so I can't compare.  However, in my breadmaking class a few months ago, I was showing my students 2 basic techniques of kneading ; French folding ( a.k.a. Bertinet's Slap & Fold) and Streth & Fold in a bowl.  We made two loaves; exactly the same flour + water + salt + yeast, exactly the same formula,  at exactly the same time, baked in exactly the same way (in heated Pyrex with a lid), put in the oven together at the same time and baked for the same length of time.  The only difference was the kneading methods......and the one made by Stretch and Fold had much better taste and aroma. (actually the difference in aroma was much more outstanding than the difference in taste)  To be honest, I wasn't expecting the difference would be that much, so it came as a total surprise for me, too.

So later, I tried making one of my regular poolish baguettes, which I always made with Stretch & Fold, with Slap & Fold instead to see if it'd affect the flavour/aroma.......and again, it didn't taste/smell as good as Stretch & Fold one, though again it was the difference in the aroma which was more profound than that of the tastes.

In both cases, the batches were very small, only 250g for a batch, so probably the proportion of the surface area which was exposed to air was quite high, I suspect, which might have been the cause of deterioration of taste/aroma.  So since then, I stopped using Slap & Fold method unless I really need it....like for those very soft French T 55 + T65  flour my daughter got from Paris in summer. They definitely need proper French folds.    No wonder Slap & Folds were their choice of kneading! :p

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Ross,

Hope this comment makes sense as its 2:50 Christmas morning and I am sitting up with my jet lagged daughter :)

I wouldn't term what I do in a naturally levained bread de-gassing. Sounds much to aggressive. I don't "de-gass" before preshaping. Before final shaping I will turn the dough over and press/pat/tap to remove any larger bubbles that may have occurred. Earlier in my baking I struggled between mouseholes and tight crumbs. At the moment I seem to have found the balance. If I am making sandwich bread or soft white style of bread I will be a lot more aggressive in de-gassing.

I am wondering about your crumb questions and am thinking about the process even before shaping. For me dough development matched with the proper bulk-fermentation is probably the key. I have found the slap-and-fold method of kneading creates a soft and open crumb, but not wildly so. 

If I am using a shorter bulk ferment I will knead more thoroughly and give only one stretch-and-fold. If however, I want to use a longer bulk ferment I will not knead quite as long and maybe use more stretch-and-folds. mmm ... feel like I am rambling. Often you can feel and assess the strength of the dough and how much work it needs during the bulk ferment. What I want to see at the end of a bulk ferment is a prehaped piece of dough that holds its form and feels alive ... you can feel the air in it.

Perhaps the difference you experienced was to do with the amount of development during kneading and the bulk ferment (ie temperatures can also play a big part) For instance I mixed a dough recently and had a big drop in temps during the evening and I was not paying attention. I divided and preshaped the dough at my usual time and I was not happy with it. I had given it the same amount of kneading as past doughs but it felt lacklustre and look sad. I left it on the bench for almost another hour and when I preshaped it again it looked and felt so much better and the bread turned out beautifully with the kind of crumb I like.

Hope this makes sense...

My daughter is asleep now ... think I should do the same

Phil

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Above and beyond the call of duty replying to me at 2.50am on Christmas morning! Sorry it's taken me 2 days to get back.

Re "de-gassing": yes, I do as you do. It seems "de-gassing" refers to a more aggressive action, close to "knocking back", which I have only ever done with dry-yeasted doughs. My terminological inaccuracy...

You werent rambling at all, as far as I was concerned - on the contrary, I found your elaboration on your dough-working strategy most relevant. It points to a factor other than "de-gassing" as most likely to be the one I'm trying to pin down: that is, developing the dough. I feel pretty sure, now, that that is the key to my perplexing issue with differing crumbs in the same bread made under almost identical conditions. The first time I added the Bertinet slap-knead to my process, I did it for 2-3 mins maximum after autolyse, and another 2 mins subsequently, which was way less time than you devote according to your GR post. That worked a treat for me.

The second time, I decided to follow your directions exactly and extended the slap-knead accordingly. I'm thinking now that for my pre-ground flours less working of the dough is required than for your fresh-milled ones. As always, it comes down to one of the most important fundamentals - watching the dough and reading what it tells you, rather than adhering strictly to directions. All part of the fascinating world of sourdough!

So, thanks to you and lumos, I think I'm back on track.

Season's best to you!
Ross

Breadboard's picture
Breadboard

I got a tender crumb with many small bubbles that grow larger from bottom to top of the loaf.  Was glad that large pockets just under the crust did not form.    I'd like to see a more open crumb although satisfied with what happened here.    Going to stretch and fold the next bread, perhaps proof longer and see what happens.

Mix of sourdoughs;  Basic white, light whole wheat, light Scandinavian rye.   The rye was especially delicious with thin slices of beef.

Merry Christmas,

Breadboard

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I fear I may have led you and maybe others astray with the post that started this thread.

My strong sense now is that "de-gassing" of the type I do is not the factor I was suspecting it may have been in determining crumb openness. As stated above, I've made many a SD bread with a lovely open crumb, with "de-gassing" a routine part of my process. Also, please note my clarifications on "de-gassing" in my responses to lumos and PiPs - like lumos and Phil, I use only a very gentle patting action, which perhaps should not be termed "de-gassing." I may have given a wrong impression in using this terminology.

Dough development, including proof times, are far more likely to account for crumbs being fine or open than gentle patting of the dough at the pre-shape and shaping stages. I knew this, but had lost sight of it for some reason. I find I am often needing to re-learn things with SD bread baking. Probably a matter of complacency. Every so often, it seems the bread gods give me a kick, and well they might.

With this in mind, looking at your pics and leaving the "de-gassing" factor aside, I think there may be some evidence of slight over-proofing with your breads (although, they're pretty nice - don't get me wrong!). I refer to the minimal spread of your slashes, the compression at the base of your crumb shot, and the early signs of mouse-holing near the crust. A worthwhile experiment might be to watch the dough and not let it develop quite as far next time. And yes, call me a preacher who needs to practise his own pulpit pronouncements, and I'll readily answer!

Best of the season to you!
Ross

 

Breadboard's picture
Breadboard

Thanks Ross, I appreciate your feedback as I learn about the 'nature' of sourdough.  I was thinking that I'm not proofing long enough so your observation got my attention.   Yes, I see your points.  I was wondering about the slash not expanding and the denser crumb at the bottom of the loaf.  Feeding my starter today for another bread so the plan is a gentle stretch and fold along with a slightly shorter proof.  It's fun to experiment. 

Breadboard    

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

And yeah, experimenting is crucial, as long as it's well-reasoned. You sound like you're on track for some great breads. All the best with the next one.

Cheers
Ross