The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Difficult time getting an open crumb..

BKSinAZ's picture

Difficult time getting an open crumb..

I have been using the baguette and ciabatta recipe from Sue Gray and P.J. Hamel posted on King Arthur's website.

The baguettes come out ok, but for the life of me I can not obtain an open crumb. Looks like sandwich bread crumb.

I even added a bit more water to the recipe... still no luck.

2 question.... is this a good recipe and how do I get an open crumb?

richkaimd's picture

There are lots of opportunities to make mistakes in making the kind of bread you want.  Without more information about what you're doing, one can only guess why you don't get the crumb structure you want.  I discovered only by taking a 4 hour class that my failure to get the "holes" was that I was over-handling the dough. I was doing this because I was accustomed to making Northern European style bread, the bread with a "cake-like" crumb.  I learned at the class how not to degas my dough after the first rise by being very delicate with it.  The result is that the holes that naturally form during the first rise continue to grow in size.  The other thing I wasn't doing was baking at a high enough temperature.  I'd been accustomed to baking my breads in a moderate oven, i.e., 350 degrees F.  If you are taking care not to degas your dough and then baking it at 450 or above, I don't think you can fail to get what you want in a slack dough (a dough with 65% hydration).

By the way, if any of what I've said is puzzling, I strongly suggest that you either take a class at a local cooking school or work your way through a good bread-baking book.  Here are two options for books:  DiMuzio's Bread Baking and Hamelman's Bread.  Those books are very different from each other.  They may be available at you local library.  I know that both are available regularly used on-line at Alibris and/or Powell's Books in the States.  My choice would be the DiMuzio text.  

My suggestion is that you give yourself time to choose the proper book for you and then devote the time to bake your way through it from beginning to end.  You'll thank yourself for a long time if you do that, even if it takes a year.


Salilah's picture

I'm sorry - I don't know those recipes?

What sort of hydration are they using?

I've found I get a more open crumb with a) stretch and fold rather than any kneading or mixing, and b) hydration above 74% or so - harder to shape, but it does seem to bounce a bit (!)


mikeortelle's picture

How are you mixing the dough? They show a cuisinart...FAIL. I would go with a hand mix if you don't have a mixer with a hook or spiral. First, I would make sure you don't over-mix. A rough looking dough is fine at first, with a few folds during the initial fermentation will get that dough to the right consistency. Note the elasticity and extensibility of the dough, you don't want it too slack nor too tough; it should give you a little resistance when you give it a tug.

Be sure you mind the time during fermentation, this is where the yeast is feeding and starting to produce gas in your dough, give the dough a little longer of resting and proofing time to allow for gas development. You want to shoot for a dough temp of 73-78 degrees, yeast is most active there; there are great threads here on how to achieve and maintain proper temps. You can check if your rising dough is ready by lightly pressing your finger into it, it should pop back slowly when ready to shape. 

I see they have a few pics on their recipe demonstrating how to shape. I would direct you to youtube to gather what the pros are doing for baguette shaping. It is very easy to push out too much gas when shaped improperly; be deliberate but gentle. 

Finally, are you steaming during the bake? Try taking a pan, fill it with clean nuts, bolts, lava rocks, etc. (to add mass) and a foil cake pan with holes poked in it, add several ice cubes to the foil pan, and place it atop the mass right after you put your loaves in. This gives a slow and steady steam to the loaves, allowing for a nice rise and good crust.

Hope that helps! Let us know what you come up with!