The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crumbs, texture and falling apart

pmiker's picture
pmiker

crumbs, texture and falling apart

Sometimes, after a day or two, I notice the bread wants to break or fall apart.  A piece here or corner there.  Is this a result of the ingredients, the baking, the kneading or just the nature of the bread?  I made be imagining it but it seems more frequent now that I am hand kneading.  The doughs appear adequately kneaded.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

is it's the level of wholegrains you are using. More wholegrain = less gluten = less structure. How are you storing your bread btw?

pmiker's picture
pmiker

had 10% whole grain.  In the past I used 45 to 50% whole grain along with butter in the mix.  Lately I have been using sourdough culture for my leaven and been hand kneading.  I store my bread in plastic bags.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

previous breads with butter in would have stayed soft and moist. With simple "lean" breads (no fats) the bread can dry out much quicker, but kept in a plastic bag they can become mushy and moldy if there is too much moisture.

I keep my breads in paper bags and in a bread bin. They last about 3 days depending on the loaf.

pmiker's picture
pmiker

I have a lot of plastic bags.  Possibly enough for a couple of years now.  I work in an animal clinic and in bringing breads to work I just don't know if paper bags would be enough protection.  I do let the dough thoroughly cool before bagging to reduce moisture buildup.  We have a plastic bread case/keeper/bin.  My breads are fine for the 2-3 days we have one out.  They've just been a bit crumbly lately.

I may try a naturally leavened enriched bread to see if that works.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

How about hydration level?  It can change with the weather and the flours you are using.  Could be you are using a new bag of flour that requires more water.

Less moisture = dryness = crumbs.

pmiker's picture
pmiker

Since using the slap and fold method, the doughs have been wetter.  I knead until the dough takes shape and is smoother.  I do not knead until it's dry.  I have gone to using wet hands to handle the dough for folds because otherwise too much would stick to me.

If I feel something is too dry while mixing, I usually toss in a bit more water.

pmiker's picture
pmiker

Since I can only bake overnight breads on Tuesdays and Sundays, I usually choose one of those and bake four breads.  I let them cool a couple of hours and bag them.  Then three go into the freezer till we need them.  We've found that shelf life on homemade breads is not very long.  Sourdough does last longer.  For this reason, I also tend to make one pound loaves since it's the just my wife and I eating the bread.

Sometimes I make breads for co-workers and those do not get frozen.

I can make yeast breads in about four hours, start to finish, and do these on work nights but that's not fun.  I do like to experiment and those usually require an overnight setup.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

5% of the flour in 5 x the water and just cooked until it starts to gel.  This may give you the "glue" you're looking for.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/39723/my-tangzhong-roux-faq

Another thought might be how the whole grains are being handled prior to adding to the dough. Could it be that the whole grains continue to pull moisture out of the crumb, slowly drying out the bread?  

I had that happen to me, the hard wheat grains and chunks got softer as the days went by but the loaf got crumbly.  I will try soaking my whole grains first and then adding to see if it changes, otherwise it just might be that awareness makes us more sensitive to observing the bread's ageing.  

pmiker's picture
pmiker

.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Especially high hydration breads?  That hasn't been my experience so far.  Crumbly whole-grain breads, or breads with significant (say 30-40% or higher) whole-grain content, yes.

If you don't mind me reiterating some of what has been said so far, here are things that have helped me.  Perhaps some will be useful to you, too.

1. Adequate dough hydration.  You are already on track with this, it seems.  That said, an autolyse (didn't see that mentioned, yet) can help by allowing the flour to hydrate.  This is especially helpful for the whole-grain flours, in that the bran takes time to absorb the water.  Better to get it wet in the dough and then adjust moisture levels, rather than having the bran suck moisture out of the baked bread.

2. Storage.  Since you are already using plastic bags, that's about the best you can do; assuming that none have pin-hole leaks.The other thing to consider is temperature.  Keeping bread at room temperature for near-term use is best.  Refrigeration actually increases staling, the expulsion of water from the starch granules, thereby increasing crumbling.

3. Extended kneading.  By extended kneading, I mean 20-30 minutes of hand kneading.  This seems more helpful for whole-grain breads than for white breads.  And, wierdly enough, it seems to help more with breads that are panned than it does for breads that are baked hearth-style.  I haven't figured that one out yet; it's just something that I have observed. 

4. Enrichments, such as fats and sugars.  This isn't universally a cure.  While fats tenderize, they can also contribute to crumbliness by shortening the gluten strands.  And sugar is hygroscopic.  It can draw moisture from the air, which helps reduce crumbliness so long as the humidity in the air is greater than the moisture level in the bread. Or, if humidity levels are low, it can pull moisture from the crumb, increasing crumbliness. 

I had a honey whole wheat bread that tended to become crumbly after a few days.  It already had fat (milk and butter) and sugar (honey) in it and it still crumbled.  What eventually fixed it was a nudge up in hydration, and an autolyse, and extended kneading. 

Hope this helps.

Paul

clazar123's picture
clazar123

PMcCool and Mini are spot on. If you are adding whole grain to your recipe, this flour contains a lot of fiber and branny bits that need time to absorb the water in the dough or it simply continues to absorb it after the loaf is baked. The crumb structure dehydrates and becomes fragile. Kind of like pressing flowers between the pages of a book.

If time is the issue, using the Tang Zhong method  is so easy and will solve your problem. It is a foreign-sounding name but simply a way to make a pudding-like mix of flour and water that acts as a hydrator in the final dough. Heck, I have even used the WW flour in the Tang Zhong when I was adding just a small amount to a white bread recipe. The idea is to get the starch in the flour to form a gel. This keeps the crumb moist after the bake. There is a whole thread on how to do this but actually, Mini’s description is a good synopsis.

Remember, bread structure is a balance between gluten, starch and gas bubbles. All the ingredients and all the techniques are used to change the outcome by bringing their unique characteristics to the table. (Flavor is a whole different subject.) When you make bread, you need to have gluten structure and a starch/gel structure to trap the gas produced by the yeast. Both require adequate moisture and the time to absorb the moisture. An awful lot of discussion goes on about developing the gluten structure but developing the gel structure is usually only alluded to. Gluten will organize itself by just adding water to flour and gel will form in this manner, also, but kneading exposes more gluten and gel molecules to the water molecules and helps this process of gluten/gel development. . Alternately, we have the option of adding VWG to a dough or even adding premade starch in the form of Tang Zhong or even ryeflour, tapioca starch, potatoe flour or any other edible starch. Using the premade forms of gluten/gel will affect the texture of the crumb-usually a finer crumb with fewer holes and a moistness. Too much starch and you have spongey bread. Too much gluten and its tough. Not enough water for any bread makes for a crumbly loaf. Even white flour needs to be properly hydrated.

At the very least, mix the WW flour with the liquid in the recipe and let it sit about 30 minutes before mixing it in with the other ingredients. This will be a great demo of how much water just the WW portion can take up and the dough will probably require a little extra water added.

 Bread (basic) is just flour, water, yeast and salt. The fascinating thing about bread is how just 4 ingredients can produce different outcomes based on technique, environment, temperature, handling,etc. Even different seasons of grain growth can have different characteristics. The loaf can be flat, thin, high, fluffy, feathery, dense, chewy, ethereal, flavorful, pasty tasting,etc. All from 4 ingredients. Then when you start adding other ingredients, the possibilities are endless.

Bake delicious fun and make the technique work for you. The possibilities are endless!

pmiker's picture
pmiker

I'm not ignoring Tangzhong roux, just postponing it for now.  I want to hone my basic skills first.

I have been going with higher hydration since I started hand kneading.  Now that my mixer is fixed (for now), I'll increase it by bits to see what I discover.  I will heed the autolyse suggestion for the WW and water.  Currently, I mix all ingredients but salt and let them sit about 20 minutes.  I can easily let the WW sit alone in the water for awhile prior to adding the yeast and other flour.

I made a couple of loaves last night.  55% bread flour, 35% whole wheat and 10% whole spelt flour.  I milled the whole wheat and spelt just prior to mixing.  My initial hydration was about 68% but I added more water as I felt it was needed.  As I said I mixed all ingredients but salt and let it set for 20 minutes.  Then I kneaded the salt in and kneaded for about 4-5 minutes in the Bosch Universal Plus (BUP).  The bread is good but I noticed today that on my sandwich pieces of bread would fall off.  Just a 1/2 inch piece from a corner or something like that.

I will see if higher hydration solves the problem.  I have access to no other home made bread so I cannot compare it.  It may be normal for home made bread.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Whole grain flour is especially thirsty and it is not unusual to have what would seem to be impossibly high hydration level (compared to an all AP flour dough) and still have a  dryer feeling dough when it is given time to absorb the water. Bread flour can also require an increase in hydration compared to its all AP brother.

Try hydrating the WW flour before mixing it in. Also, continue the mix/rest before adding the salt as that allows more starch to be released for the "gel" side of the equation. I had to build in some precautions so I didn't forget to put the salt in. :) Very disappointing to bite into a lovely slice of bread with no salt.

I believe increasing the hydration and using autolyse will solve your problem.

Have fun and keep us posted!

 

pmiker's picture
pmiker

was 68.5% not including the 6.67% soft butter. 

BTW, I cut a slice when I got home and it was fine.  I think I'll investigate my wife's cutting technique.

pmiker's picture
pmiker

This last time I let the dough autolyse in the mixer.  I set the cup holding the salt on top of the mixer lid.  When the timer went off, I had to go thru the salt to get to the dough.  That way I didn't forget it.