The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Open crumb with no special equipment. Possible?

Mr Pickle's picture
Mr Pickle

Open crumb with no special equipment. Possible?

So I've been baking for about 2 weeks now and I am doing everything without any special baking equipment, other than a scale and scraper. Im using an inverted cookie sheet and kneading by hand. Other than increasing the hydration of the dough, are there any tips for getting oven spring/open crumb?




dabrownman's picture

also important as is a baking stone.  I use 2 wash cloths in a Pyrex bread loaf pan half full of water on one side and a 12 " iron skillet on the bottom rack on the other side with the stone on the rack above for at least a 45 minute preheat at 500 F  regular bake.  When the bread goes in the oven, put a cup of boiling water in the iron skillet, turn the temp down to 450 F regular bake and steam for 15 minutes.  Then remove the steaming apparatus. and turn the temp down to 425 F convection.

Doc.Dough's picture

I had trouble until I got my hands on some high gluten flour and learned how to do a stretch and fold.

A stone will help give you a nice bottom crust.

Steam will help but it contributes more to crust than crumb.

Really good gluten development is key so you have to learn what that means in your context.

Proper bulk fermentation (time and temperature) and not too much proofing.

Oh yes - be gentle with the dough! It is very delicate when it is so wet, so use as much flour on the bench as you need, but as little as you can get away with.

And whatever you do - have fun!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

A few tips... there are hundreds!   A lot depends on what you are already doing...

My best tips would be to mix up the flour and water (until all the flour is wet) and leave out the salt and the yeast (measure ahead of time and have sitting nearby so you don't forget to add them) and save about a teaspoon of water.  Then park the dough to rest (often overnight) covered so it won't dry out.  Then come back and spread out the dough on a lightly greased surface, moisten the yeast with the teaspoon of water (or mist the dough with a sprayer and sprinkle on the yeast) spreading the yeast all over the surface.  Roll up the dough to trap the yeast inside and fold and knead for about a minute blending in the yeast.   Let rest 10-20 minutes and spread out again and sprinkle with the salt.  Knead lightly to blend.  Let the dough bulk rise.   Continue the recipe as written.

Another tip is to find something to cover the loaf to trap in steam for the first 15-20 minutes.  A foil tent works well.  More info if you site search for 'trapping in steam'  or  'foil tent.'  It is a good way to avoid all the fuss with wet pans and towels, hot rocks and breaking door glass. 

Baking parchment can save a lot of clean up if used between the dough and the cookie sheet.  It can also be slipped out when you un-tent the loaf and be saved for another bake.  Let the dough rise on the parchment and simply transfer to the oven with the cold cookie sheet or a piece of sturdy cardboard to a hot cookie sheet.  As the loaf bakes, it releases from the parchment paper.  If no parchment, dust the cookie sheet with flour first before setting the shaped loaf on it.  Any flour sticking to the finished loaf can be dusted off outside or in the sink with a stiff dry brush.  Left over flour on the cookie sheet can be saved to flavour the next loaf or thicken stews or soups.

Welcome to TFL!

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

So the question seems to assume that only since electric mixers were invented did bakers find the wherewithal to know how to make decent bread. As if the big historic loaves of the 19th century were just total crap.

I bet they knew a thing or two about dough handling that would blow our minds, those 19th century bakers...

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

While some of the old ways and methods have been lost with time, and while industrialization, mass production, and Food, Inc. have decimated the fundamentals of so much with faster, cheaper, "stays-fresh-longer" (to say nothing of our worsening dietary habits and increasing girths–I saw a outdoor folding chair (for camping) at Costco today that triumphantly announced, "Will hold up to 400 lbs!"), I'm inclined to believe that we make better artisan bread today (certainly as good) than has ever been made before.

While there's much variety within and across different cultures and histories, when I read the techniques of old, I find myself bored with the simplicity, dismissing so much of it with: How could they! Look at that crumb!? It's concrete. What Philistines! For example, when reading old baking books (late 1800s - mid 1900s), I often find their methods and reasoning to be much less refined than our own and sometimes almost completely without merit. Dough temperature? What's that? Hydration? Never heard of it? As long as it feels right, right? Not sticky? Call it done. We have corsets to tighten!

And then I re-watch videos like Meet the Baker: Gerard Rubaud and Il Pane di Altamura and am thankful no one was around to listen to my blasphemies.

dabrownman's picture

the great bakers in Ancient Egypt who captured wild yeast, cultivated it and made fine SD bread without equipment and grinding grain on stones by hand.  They had WFO's though and likely got fantastic, crusty, dark brown crust, great spring, open big holed and moist crumb - about 5,000 years ago. 

spsq's picture

NOTE TO MIMI'S ADVICE:  She's an expert, but I'd just like to note that if you are premeasuring yeast and salt to add later, DO NOT mix them together, keep them separate.  I'm sure you already know this, but just in case.....  (edited:  I should have read mimi's more thoroughly.  I guess you can't mix the yeast and salt if you're adding them in different stages.  Oopsy!)


I seem to be a perpetual novice at bread, but I've been at it for years!  My special equipment is still pretty limited, and I always work by hand. 

When it came to holey bread, my breakthrough came with the stretch and fold and resting method, especially with high amounts of whole wheat.  My "technique", as it is, would be something like this:   mixing the ingredients (leaving out the salt for at least 1/2 hr) into a rough mass,  resting for 40ish minutes,  knead in the salt, until dough is relatively smooth, rest 30ish, s and f, rest 30, s and f, rest 30, form rounds, rest 20, final shaping, rise 1 1/2- 2 hr.   (this is a sourdough, yeast would have a much quicker final rise, s and f's would be quicker too).

If my dough is dry-ish, I use wet hands to s and f.  If it's wettish, I use floured hands.

Crust formation is greatly helped by proper steaming, and I had good luck with spraying the oven and hot water in the bottom, but I can't remember, b/c now I'm a devotee of the Tartine method of using a cast iron combo cooker - which is foolproof, unbreakable, doesn't require extra steaming, useful for many other things, AND I got for less than $40 online.  Excellent investment in "special equipment"!




jhegg's picture

Holy sh!t! No wonder my crumb is crappy!