Open Crumb, an update
Back in November http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25804/whole-wheat-sunday I specified what I want in a sourdough loaf's crumb...
2. Al dente crumb; i.e., when you mash it, it springs back; when you bite it, there is resistance.
3. Open crumb. Now I'm not looking for gaping holes. I want irregular size aveoles, the biggest of which occupy no more than the thickness of a good sandwich slice--about 3/8ths of an inch radius. I frequently use sourdough breads for sandwiches. Unquestionably, sandwich-making is its singlemost use. So, I don't want mustard or mayo dribbling on my shirt front. I also think #2 is closely related to #3--if you don't have 3, you don't have 2.
I've been baking the same 50%WW sourdough formula, every two weeks, since November without any changes, until now. Today I baked two 1.5 lb loave of 50% Whole Wheat sourdough, using the same formula and techniques, with one change: during the last 5 hours the levain build was working I hydrated (autolysed) the balance of the non-prefermented flour while chilling it too. Subsequently, as usual, I retarded the final dough 15 hours.
Specifically, I pre-chill all the flour not used in the levain build, and mixed the final dough with ice water. My target DDT is 54°F. Because of mixer friction--the hydrated dough is machine kneaded for 2 minutes on speed 1, and 7 minutes at speed 2--I never achieve DDT; the dough is always warmer. Consequently, during autolyse, the early hours of fermentation, and simultaneously with any dough manipulations (i.e., Stretch and Folds) I continue to chill the dough in the refrigerator until it reaches DDT; then I transfer it to our wine closet, where the ambient temperature is 54°F, for the remainder of its retardation. Yesterday, I mixed the balance of the dough's flour with the balance of the water, and hydrated (and chilled for 5 hours) the mix before adding the levain and salt.
I cut one of the cooled loaves, and was greeted with a crumb that is the closest to my ideal I've ever reached--although I've had a lot of "close, but no cigar" moments. Not certain I'll ever see the like again, but I'm going to try.
By-the-way. I didn't photograph this bread slice, I scanned it.
Same formula, same ingredients, same techniques and process; smaller loaves: 1 lb. this time.
I'm satisfied. You be the judge.