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Consensus on gluten development and open crumb?

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samf526's picture
samf526

Consensus on gluten development and open crumb?

Hi all,

I've been trying to produce an open crumb without going to high hydrations (i.e., i'm trying to get a good open crumb from Hammelman's poolish baguette recipe, at 65% hydration), and i've come across a few different threads about gluten development and mixing.  These typically contain a mix of people saying that high gluten development is good for oven spring and an open crumb (let's set aside the problem of over oxidation for now), and others saying that you actually want less/moderate gluten development for a proper open crumb structure.  Is there any consensus on what level of gluten development is optimum for getting an open crumb structure? I know that are many other variables in play, but all other things equal...what difference do levels of gluten development make?

 

...and a side, random question: are there any particularly negative effects of using aluminum foil instead of parchment paper to transfer bread to oven? I've been liking the fact that I can reuse aluminum for a few weeks before it starts to tear, but i'm also wondering if it limits the amount of heat that the bread is exposed to from the baking stone underneath the aluminum foil.

 

Thanks!

wally's picture
wally

I can't offer any answers based on my knowledge of bread chemistry. But as a baker I can tell you that baguettes are probably the most difficult bread to successfully bake.  Leave aside the issue of gluten development (which I suspect is not the issue here), getting an open, irregular crumb structure is no easy task and is dependent upon everything from intial mixing to subsequent handling of the dough - particularly when shaping the baguette.

As for using aluminum foil, it will affect the baking of the bottom of the baguette by insulating. I'd stick to parchment paper.

Good luck,

Larry

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

It is hard to address your question without knowing what results you have already realized.  I am guessing that you got the recipe from Hamelman's book,  Bread.   The answer to your questions about gluten and mixing are in that book.  If you have not read the book cover to cover,  I would suggest that. 

As Wally pointed out, a good baguette does not come easily.  No matter what the level of your experience, you will need to pay attention to every little detail of creating a baguette in order to create a good one.

Happy Baking,    Jeff

StuartScholes's picture
StuartScholes

I may be wrong, but I've always thought that a baguette recipe calls for a much higher hydration level than 65% - the one I'm trying to perfect now is a recipe (a published recipe from a book, not my own) that is 85% hydrated! May I ask why you want to keep the hydration low? Is it because you want to follow the above recipe or because you don't want to handle such a wet dough? If the latter, I've found that the dough isn't really a problem if you use the folding technique described on this site.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

A high hydration baguette is more an americanized notion than french.

Key reason is that american flour is higher in gluten and so more water is needed to create a dough of the same consistency.

65% with french flour is quite normal. A poolish is also used to create extensibility and a more open crumb.

At 85% hydration, even with american flour, it will be hard to create a dough that has good surface tension and therefore clean slash openings.

blacktom's picture
blacktom

I absolutely agree with mwilson on all points. In particular, I find the obsession with wetter and wetter doughs absolutely mystifying. Very high rates of hydration will often (but not always) produce a more open crumb, but the resulting dough is difficult to handle, will not hold a good shape, and is incredibly delicate when risen, so that slashing the surface is very likely to deflate it, if it hasn't already started to deflate as a result of spreading out on the peel or baking tray.

Even better than a pre-ferment like a poolish is a sourdough starter, if you want to open the crumb up. But there are no failsafe ways to guarantee this kind of texture. It seems to me that getting a dramatic crumb has become a fetish amongst bakers, and leads to a lot of unneccessary fretting.

varda's picture
varda

"Is there any consensus on what level of gluten development is optimum for getting an open crumb structure?" 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Sorry I was going to answer the question at hand...

Letting gluten develop passively through fermentation is the answer. Like no-knead.

If I were to make an open crumb with a medium-hydration dough I would definitely use a pre-ferment and/or long fermentation.

Pointers for encouraging an open crumb:

  • Little or no kneading by utilizing passive development.
  • Use of a pre-ferment or sourdough.
  • Stretch and fold during bulk fermentation.
  • Creating a slack dough, by using high hydration or weak flour, or both.
varda's picture
varda

That couldn't be more clear.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Parchment vs aluminum foil.  Wally mentioned that it will make a difference and I agree as it also conducts heats differently being a metal.

I re-use my parchment paper many many times and it costs much less than aluminum foil.   I only toss it when it become so brittle that it falls apart.

Janet

 

sunyfun's picture
sunyfun

I have been baking with re-useable parchment sheets that can be used in the oven up to 500+degrees and used practically forever (I have definitely used them at least 300 times). You cut them to fit your pans or just use them to lift your dough onto a stone or hot dutch oven.

blacktom's picture
blacktom

But what about his actual question

"Is there any consensus on what level of gluten development is optimum for getting an open crumb structure?"

No, there isn't any consensus.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Sorry but that is incorrect. In a professional sense it is well known that less kneading will help encourage an uneven crumb. Short mix, Improved  mix and Intensive mix are careful considerations for the professional depending upon the desired attributes, one of which could include an uneven crumb.

I find your response to be rather ignorant... Not a good mindset for someone that wishes to write a book on the subject of bread.

blacktom's picture
blacktom

Saying that there is no consensus (i.e. agreement) between every breadmaker in the world on this subject is hardly contentious, and certainly not ignorant. It's a statement of self-evident fact.

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

In terms of a consensus I considered that to be in the context among professionals because their experience is invaluable. Given that I have worked with many professionals I can tell you that there is indeed a consensus. It is common knowledge. The pros and cons of mixing less/more is well documented too.

Perhaps ignorant was too strong of a word and I apologise if I have caused offence but you clearly didn't do any research before responding.

Michael

blacktom's picture
blacktom

No, I didn't do any research before responding. I didn't have to though, because, like you and many others on these forums, I've spent many years learning all I can about bread and baking. We have, however, reached different conclusions. I was probably too forthright in stating mine and I'm going to disengage myself from this thread.