The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Continued Oddysey (and OCD) Towards Achieving Holy Grail of Open Crumb!

HKbreadwinner's picture
HKbreadwinner

Continued Oddysey (and OCD) Towards Achieving Holy Grail of Open Crumb!

Hello to all you wise sages out there.  Long post, but I'm really hoping you amazing bakers out there can ease my recent torment!

So I'm a complete novice when it comes to artisan/rustic breads, and have a few obstacles that for the life of me can't get past.  The main goal is to achieve those explosive and beautiful oven springs that result in outrageously huge and irregular holes.  I've been baking basic pan loaves for years for my family, and only recently have begun to experiment with wet doughs, and I AM OBSESSED.  I've played around with different autolyzing times, bulk fermentation at room temp or cold retardation, final proofing at room temp or cold retardation, different pre-shaping/final shaping methods, etc., with various degrees of satisfaction, but never close to what I want--you know, stuff like what Trevor J Wilson and so many amazing bakers out here produce.  So here go my questions, and please please help me answer all these.  I would be eternally grateful!

- It seems that almost 100% of the relevant discussions involve sourdough!  I don't have any experience in sourdough, but would like to eventually get there, but not before I'm 100% confident of my knowledge with wet doughs/basic artisan bread.  But here's the question: must one use sourdough to create those outrageous oven spring and open/airy crumb?  Can yeasted dough achieve that as well?  No one ever mentions yeasted dough when talking about open crumbs and oven spring

- People seem to advise bulk fermenting and proofing times at room temp that involve hours on end.  Is it because it's sourdough and the natural yeast just takes longer than instant yeast?  I understand that room temperatures vary infinitely depending on what sort of climate one bakes in.  But just generally, I suspect that sourdoughs take longer to rise and ferment?

- There's been plenty of talk about DDT.  Is it really THAT important?  If you don't pay attention to the DDT, would that render all other variables useless.  Can't you manipulate other variables to achieve strong oven spring, or DDT is a necessary consideration?

- Also, seems like the vast majority of people shape and proof theirs doughs into a batard vs round boule.  What's the reason behind it?  Does the shape actually create bigger holes because there's less room for the dough to spread out in all directions?

- I'm very confused about whether to de-gas or not.  Most comments/videos advise to handle the dough gently during pre-shaping and final shaping, and to not destroy any bubbles that have been created during bulk fermentation.  But just by releasing the dough from its container necessarily causes huge deflation.  And second, I see bakers slapping and stretching dough during shaping all the time.  I've even seen bakers pat the dough to get rid of bubbles and advising that they will return during final proof.  Even if I were to not consciously de-gas, the mere exercise of pinching the dough to stretch (for building tension) and shape a boule would involve deflation.  So just HOW careful should I be during pre-shaping and final shaping?  Should I de-gas a bit to create room for more gas to form during final proof, or should I completely try to avoid any disturbance to the dough whatsoever (then how the heck do you stretch/fold to shape a boule?)  Currently, I either stretch and fold in a clock-wise fashion or do the stitching method by Trevor J Wilson, then flip the dough ball over and do a round or two of tightening, all the while trying as hard as possible to not disturb the integrity of the dough.  The resulting ball is quite bubbly, jiggly and very delicate.  So is that good, or should it feel more substantial and solid, and let the final proof do its work in re-building bubbles?    

- Continuing on the topic of dough handling.  What's your preferred method of tipping dough out to prevent unnecessary tears and overall damage?  The Trevor J Wilson method of wetting hands then doing a letter fold then tipping the dough out?  He doesn't grease his container prior to bulk fermentation.  Do you grease your container before bulk fermenting?  Again, I fear one of my problems is the dough handling after bulk fermentation, from releasing to pre-shaping, to final shaping.  I feel and fear that too much gas has been lost during the handling.

- What are your views on underproofing?  Seems like quite a few people advocate underproofing in order to achieve phenomenal oven spring.  Can I get some clarity on this point?  Underproof or not?

- Finally, AP or bread flour?  I've read conflicting advice on this.  To me, bread flour makes more sense because of the stronger gluten to hold the gas in.  But someone also said the strong gluten structure prevents big bubbles from forming--like it's harder to inflate a strong and tight baloon.  Thoughts?

Thank you SO SO very much for helping me with my OCD!  For reference, here's my basic formula

- Biga 35% at about 70% hydration, prepared the night before and fermented in a wine cooler at 15C for about 12 hours

- Then mix in bread flour, yeast, water (final hydration, including biga = 80%, total flour used = 450g), autolyze for 30 mins at room temp at about 24C (75F) or wine fridge at 15C (59F)

- Add salt then mix with dough hook for 5 mins

- rest 5 mins, then S&F 3-4 times at half hour increments

- bulk ferment at room temp for a couple hours, or overnight retard in 10C (50C) fridge for 14 hours (I've had better results with the cold ferment)

- tip out, pre-shape, covered bench rest for 10 minutes (it's hot and humid in Hong Kong right now, so kitchen temp is about 27C (81F)

- shape then proof in banneton for about 45 mins at about 24C (75C) room temp or an hour in the wine fridge.  I finger test the dough and make sure it's slightly underproofed.  If the advice is to underproof, then I'm a bit lost at this stage.  How underproofed should the dough be? 

- Slash then bake in a 250C (482C)  pre-heated dutch oven.  Sometimes I mist the dutch oven, but it doesn't seem to make any difference.  If anything, the bread comes out flatter when I mist, but I don't know if there a cause and effect there.

THANKS AGAIN everyone!

Comments

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

- It seems that almost 100% of the relevant discussions involve sourdough!  I don't have any experience in sourdough, but would like to eventually get there, but not before I'm 100% confident of my knowledge with wet doughs/basic artisan bread.  But here's the question: must one use sourdough to create those outrageous oven spring and open/airy crumb?  Can yeasted dough achieve that as well?  No one ever mentions yeasted dough when talking about open crumbs and oven spring

Certainly not. Big open holes depend on hydration, flour and handling. Many yeasted breads have big open holes. Ciabatta, for instance.

- People seem to advise bulk fermenting and proofing times at room temp that involve hours on end.  Is it because it's sourdough and the natural yeast just takes longer than instant yeast?  I understand that room temperatures vary infinitely depending on what sort of climate one bakes in.  But just generally, I suspect that sourdoughs take longer to rise and ferment?

Sourdough does take longer than yeasted breads as a whole due to the nature of sourdough. However that doesn't mean yeasted breads have to be quick. Using a small amount of yeast and increasing the fermentation time is often done to increase flavour. All things being equal sourdough takes longer.

- There's been plenty of talk about DDT.  Is it really THAT important?  If you don't pay attention to the DDT, would that render all other variables useless.  Can't you manipulate other variables to achieve strong oven spring, or DDT is a necessary consideration?

DDT will give you an idea of how quickly a dough will take to ferment. However as long as you watch the dough and not the clock it's not absolutely necessary to pay attention to DDT as long as you give the dough enough time during fermentation bearing in mind it'll speed up or slow down depending on temperature. So unless you particularly wish for a certain temperature to fit a timescale or to manipulate flavour it's not going to make or break a bread as long as you give the dough the time it needs.

- Also, seems like the vast majority of people shape and proof theirs doughs into a batard vs round boule.  What's the reason behind it?  Does the shape actually create bigger holes because there's less room for the dough to spread out in all directions?

Preference

- I'm very confused about whether to de-gas or not.  Most comments/videos advise to handle the dough gently during pre-shaping and final shaping, and to not destroy any bubbles that have been created during bulk fermentation.  But just by releasing the dough from its container necessarily causes huge deflation.  And second, I see bakers slapping and stretching dough during shaping all the time.  I've even seen bakers pat the dough to get rid of bubbles and advising that they will return during final proof.  Even if I were to not consciously de-gas, the mere exercise of pinching the dough to stretch (for building tension) and shape a boule would involve deflation.  So just HOW careful should I be during pre-shaping and final shaping?  Should I de-gas a bit to create room for more gas to form during final proof, or should I completely try to avoid any disturbance to the dough whatsoever (then how the heck do you stretch/fold to shape a boule?)  Currently, I either stretch and fold in a clock-wise fashion or do the stitching method by Trevor J Wilson, then flip the dough ball over and do a round or two of tightening, all the while trying as hard as possible to not disturb the integrity of the dough.  The resulting ball is quite bubbly, jiggly and very delicate.  So is that good, or should it feel more substantial and solid, and let the final proof do its work in re-building bubbles?    

Depends on what you're after. It's advisable to knock the big holes out either way but other then that you can keep the smaller ones in if you want a more open crumb or knock them out too for a more closed crumb. Yes they do come back but it's the way you handle it when shaping that has a big effect on the final crumb. What you do want either way is a taut skin when making a normal loaf.

- Continuing on the topic of dough handling.  What's your preferred method of tipping dough out to prevent unnecessary tears and overall damage?  The Trevor J Wilson method of wetting hands then doing a letter fold then tipping the dough out?  He doesn't grease his container prior to bulk fermentation.  Do you grease your container before bulk fermenting?  Again, I fear one of my problems is the dough handling after bulk fermentation, from releasing to pre-shaping, to final shaping.  I feel and fear that too much gas has been lost during the handling.

Whatever works for you. Try different ways and you'll find your preferred method.

- What are your views on underproofing?  Seems like quite a few people advocate underproofing in order to achieve phenomenal oven spring.  Can I get some clarity on this point?  Underproof or not?

I don't aim to under proof but better a bit under than over. This is one of the most difficult things to judge when baking bread. It takes a lot of practice.

- Finally, AP or bread flour?  I've read conflicting advice on this.  To me, bread flour makes more sense because of the stronger gluten to hold the gas in.  But someone also said the strong gluten structure prevents big bubbles from forming--like it's harder to inflate a strong and tight baloon.  Thoughts?

Whatever gives you the results you want. I'm not fussed on a very holey crumb. Don't wish for it to be too tight either. I can work with bread flour and get the results I want.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

under proofed in order to get get good spring and bloom .  The more whole grains in the mix the less proofed it should be.  Whole grain breads should go in at 85 % proof or so and white ones no moire than 95%.  Any bread that is 100% proofed will have no or little spring and bloom with no ears and these are all considered faults.  Some breads you don't want bloom and you want them 100% proofed - buns come to mind right away but there are others.

Protein in flour that is listed on the bag can be misleading.  LaFama AP and KA bread flour say the same thing - 4 g of protein per 30 g of flour or 13.3%.  To be truthful  the LaFama could have 3.51 g of protein that is rounded up to 4 g and it could be 30.49 on the serving side or 3.51/30.49 = 11.5% not 13.3 for the protein content.  KA could have 4.49 g of protein and a serving size of 29.51 g for a protein content of 15.2% .  If you contact both of them you will see that the LAFama has a 12.2 % protein and KA has 12.7% depending on when you call them and the wheat they have on hand at the time.  But all of this is nonsense when it comes to bread though.

Of the 30 proteins in flour only 2 of them form gluten with water so it is the amount of these 2 proteins only that make any difference in gluten forming ability.  Hard spring white wheat has much more of these proteins than hard red winter wheat and why it is used to make High Gluten flour for pizza and bagels when the hard red winter wheat has more protein overall in it - just the wrong kind if protein.  DUrum has the most protein of all but it is horrible when it comes to gluten forming performance.  Millers usually won't tell you how much of the gluten forming protein is in their flour  and most don't even know if you ask me.

For the breads I make LaFama Ap works plenty good enough and at 30 cents a pound it is at about 4 times cheaper than KA Bread flour which is overkill in my book if not making pizza or bagels but I want HG for that anyway so I raely use KA for anything unless someone gifts me some.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And what it means to different people. I don't refer to a bread rising to double as perfectly proved and anything less as under proved. The way I understand it is timing it right to get the perfect oven spring with a good crumb as perfectly proved whether that be just under doubled for a white bread and even less the more wholegrains in the dough.