The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Open Crumb Fraudery

Got-to-Baguette-Up's picture
Got-to-Baguette-Up

Open Crumb Fraudery

Hello All,

Trevor J Wilson has a book out called "Open Crumb Mastery" which, like his videos, purport to teach you how to get a nice open crumb from various kinds of dough.  Personally, I call bullshit.  

Has anyone here ever made a nice open crumb with a dough less than 75% hydration?  And I don't mean its an airy bread.  I mean big, irregular, artisan style holes.  

Why is it my local bakery can't seem to make open crumb bread?  Only their shitty looking ciabatta has irregular holes.  

There is something else folks, something else that leads to the open crumb we see on blogs and books.  It isn't gentle dough handling, I'll tell you that.  I've been babying my dough lately.  It isn't having a good starter.  I have a super active one.  It isn't judging the proof right.  I've tried every possible ferment/proof time combo.  No open crumb.  

Is it flour type, is it a secret ingredient, is it misrepresentation?  Don't know yet.  What I do know is the book "Open Crumb Mastery" is a retarded meander through one man's opinion on what makes open crumb.  It sounds really good, but apply the principles, and you don't get open crumb.  Do not waste your money on this E-book.  

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Constructive criticism is useful. Blasting someone is not.  

WRT the open crumb: if Person A says "This is how I achieve the open crumb in the breads I make" and backs it up with photographic evidence, why should Person B call it bullshit because they didn't get the same results?

What I have learned about bread is that big differences in outcomes are the result of very subtle nuances in the details.   I have watched my students do "exactly" what I have demonstrated for them--and do it very differently than I did.  It may very well be that the same thing is happening in your situation.  Although you do the best you can to emulate Trevor's methods, you application is almost certainly different in some way, big or small. That will lead to different results.  However, that does not invalidate what Trevor does.

Try again.  And again.  And again.  Keep at it until you figure out which small details are the difference-makers.  

While you're at it, follow the evolution of alfanso and other TFLers who set themselves a challenge to perfect their capabilities with a specific bread.  You will see that none of them achieved competency, much less perfection, in their first few bakes.  As they persevered across multiple bakes, their skills and breads kept improving.  That's the real secret: diligence over the long term.  There aren't any secret techniques or ingredients, just the baker's willingness to invest themselves in their craft 

Best wishes for your continued development. 

Paul

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

I read your post slack-jawed. I can fully appreciate your frustration, but the way you expressed it wasn't cool in my opinion. And your frustration is misdirected. It also tells us more about you than your baking.

I don't know him other than through his posts and book. But what I do know is that he is a highly experienced baker that through that book has shared some great wisdom to bread hacks like me. Maybe I've made hundreds of loaves in my life. And while I'm not sure, I'd suspect Trevor's made tens of thousands as it's his full-time vocation - a riff on on 10,000 hours becoming 10,000 loaves of bread I suppose.  Either way, there's much to learn from his book - it's full of wisdom that comes from experience and thoughtful engagement with his craft. If you look you can often see it in his replies on this site or on his posts, there is real depth to his interest and understanding and a genuine nature to share. We should all do more of the same.

And no, I'm not able to make his open crumb loaves yet. And yes, I too find it very frustrating. But I'm baking better today when that's my goal, than before picking up the book. My not being able to replicate his loaves doesn't make him any worse a baker or his book any less valuable to me. And on that point, it's worth one heck of a lot more to me than the 9.99 I paid for it.  My not being able to make his open crumb tells me I haven't baked enough, learned enough, experienced enough.  But I'll get there in time with more effort.

In the meanwhile rather than crap all over a guy that's probably spent many months reflecting on a 'lifetime' of baking and had the gumption to put pen to paper to write a book, maybe there's a better way to express your frustration.  Clearly he's mastered an open crumb bread. Most of us not so much. That doesn't mean he's a fraud. 

mrvegemite's picture
mrvegemite

Just because you dont have the skill level or knowledge to acheive the crumb your after there is no need to discredit someone who has kindly shared his knowledge and experience to help others. Probably not the best site to make such a claim against Trevor as a lot of bakers on here value his work. 

Geoff

 

Dsr303's picture
Dsr303

i am by far not a professional baker but,following Trevor’s book and videos my sour dough looks like the cover of Tartine. The crumb is open and holy. Just fabulous...A friend of mine whom recieved oneof my loaves called it memorable. You aredoing something wrong my friend. 

hreik's picture
hreik

   "Has anyone here ever made a nice open crumb with a dough less than 75% hydration?  And I don't mean its an airy bread.  I mean big, irregular, artisan style holes.  "

Yes, this was 65-68% hydration

 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

No, I haven't come up with holes big enough to drive a truck through, and I'm not sure that that's what I really want. But Trevor, in addition to showing us that it is possible, has also shown me some important best practices, since I still consider myself a newbie: clean hands, immaculate bowl, spotless bench. I've seen that these, too, are possible and so they are also goals for me.

Believe me, I hear your frustration. For me, every bake is still a leap into the unknown, even when baking a loaf that I think I know by heart.

But I think your anger is misdirected and the vehement statements you make unfair.

If the process of learning/experimentation has ceased to be enjoyable, perhaps it's time to do something else.

Carole

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Supermarket AP flour, tap water, supermarket kosher salt, AP flour levain.

A good friend once said that a poor worker blames his tools.   Take some advice from the TFL crew and figure out why YOU can't get larger holes.

Personally,  I think that the quest for them may be 'fun', but large holes are greatly overrated.  You can't eat them.

 We are, for the most part, a happy community.  Kindly don't tip the scales of discontent here.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Distinctly and clearly states "for the intermediate sourdough baker".  One should be honest with themselves and evaluate what stage of skill he/she has.  If you aren't an 'intermediate' skilled baker, then this book was not written with you in mind.

My wife has a few activities on her weekly routine which she's been at for many years and in one case for 25 years.  She occasionally signs up for workshops where there are three levels of classes; beginner, intermediate and advanced.  And she always reports back that there are consistently folks who sign up for the levels that are clearly above their skill set.

so...are you an intermediate baker, and if so, why do you think that you are?

DBM BTW the skills and hard work of txfarmer throws shade on just about all fellow bakers to one degree or another.

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

although I think I may go for it now to sort of prepare myself (like getting a jump on next semester's reading list ;-))

Unless you think it might plunge me in over my head and just discourage me!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

You know your own skill set, and what strengths and deficiencies you possess.  Wherever you feel you are, you should still be able to benefit from Trevor's book.  Just ensure that you are honest with yourself, and don't let your expectations exceed your abilities.  

Now, I don't have his book, but I can surmise from others and his videos how he operates. Trevor lays out his levain build schedule.  Even if you think that you aren't ready to tackle an entire mix, if nothing else, just get comfortable with building the levain his way a few times.  Drop the hydration level on his formulae down a modest few percent, find the simplest formula to execute and do it a half dozen times.  So what if it isn't ready for prime time.  No matter what, even ugly bread tastes good when you close your eyes ;-) .  

And for goodness sake, don't be disappointed if you get a good bake but the crumb isn't consistently open enough.  There are few and far between those who have the acumen and feel from the earliest stage an de the rest of we commoners.  I've posted my earliest baguettes here a few times to prove that it didn't come easily to me either.  They are ugly as sin.

Record your activities and results, and try to analyze what changed from last time to this time.  Only change one thing at a time so that you can effectively isolate what did or didn't work.

and as far as buying the book and letting it sit there unloved for a little while - I bought Moby Dick probably 40 years ago, $1.95 cover price.  It sat in the darkest corner of my bookshelf.  And finally read it last summer. 

alan

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

for the thoughtful and helpful reply. I hear you!

not.a.crumb.left's picture
not.a.crumb.left

It is one of those books that you read and pick something up every time and absorb as you go.......at least with my limited capacity I have to do this in phases....

In the beginning and probably still now...I overlooked important bits as so focused on 'one' thing at the time...then next time you read it you discover something else up that is relevant. and oh how could I not have seen this in the first place.....and it is that beautiful iterative process of learning.

Totally agree with Alan to write down and compare....that is what I have done with the Champlain and the basic white SD. You don't have to follow necessarily Trevor's forumulas but I found I absorbed bits of different bakers all over the place and made it mine with my flours in my kitchen as Vanessa Kimbell says...:D Kat

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

I'm on it -- having trouble with the Paypal window not popping up, despite changing setup… Thanks for the encouragement. I think I'll also take a look at Vanessa Kimbell, since I'm using French flours, which are not nearly as strong as US ones, or even UK ones!

And yes, I have noticed that you have completely digested Trevor's techniques and made them your own!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Then I would tell you to never look at his 80% hydration holes:-)  Trevor reminds mo of another quite famous bread book writing Fresh Lofian - txfarmer.  She made 100% whole wheat baggies with holes bigger than Don Baggs pictured above no shade on Alan either - even though he probably deserves it:-)

All I can tell you is that there are many Fresh Lofian Newbies who have documented their holes with low hydration dough after reading Trevor's book and making a couple of loaves.  Lucky maybe but there are too many to discount his processes and consistently documented outcomes by so many of his and others loaves as well.

Some people just aren't good bakers, none are in the beginning, and maybe you are one of them who knows?  I do know that the skill you seek will never make you successful at anything but your good character attributes will every time.  From what I can tell about your post above, I suggest you start there with dogged stick to it DETERMINATION AND PERSEVERANCE and not discount, Trevor's graciousness and generosity or our gratitude for having him as part of the TFL community.  Beware all fear, pride and ego - they will make you keep failing. 

So get to it, do your part, all will be well and big holes will follow, they usually do after failing often - just ask DanAyo.  He was a recent newbie like you who struggled with open crumb like you but recently had a breakthrough and his bread making will be forever changed and he can make big holes when ever he wants....... and the bread gods allow.  He was using the famous 123 recipe that comes in at 71% hydration - his holes make Tevor's look tiny if you ask me:-)

Happy hole hunting 

Thanks for the formula,

Dan

Southbay's picture
Southbay

Hopefully you can achieve holes that are tasty as well as large. No matter how I try, my holes all taste about the same. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

you find out they have no taste at all... no matter how good they look.  Most food that looks good taste better but holes are just the opposite.

Theory's picture
Theory

I just bought this e-book a few weeks ago and haven't cracked it yet. My luck with huge holes is at best sporadic. I follow Trevor on Instagram and stalk his website. I believe he is very dedicated and sincere.

Saying he is a fraud seems like a bridge too far.

 

A Mediocre Baker That Has Gotten Lots Of Hope From Trevor Wilson

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

“Extreme open crumb frustration” - it mirrors what others said above.

todays open crumb - quite unexpected

 

74% hydration.

Leslie

not.a.crumb.left's picture
not.a.crumb.left

and then continue learning and working hard and patiently rather than blaming and being quite frankly terribly rude to other human beings! I believe strongly that applies to most things in life and in this case lashing out at someone as genuine and as an experienced baker as Trevor is just not on!

He is an amazing teacher and quite frankly when I see how he answers all enquiries and questions patiently I often wonder....he is so patient with often very 'impatient' folks (and I tend to include myself in this...) who wish to acquire skills 'on a fast track' that in the end if we are truly honest with ourselves will need a lot of practice, dedication and love just like any amazing skill (playing an instrument, learning a language or being a great sports person).

Also, in a wider sense making sourdough is part of being prepared to 'slow down' and to experiment with all those variables and make that part of the bread making journey...what makes you think that you applied all the principles correctly? How do you know? I believe that with those beasties involved not one bake is the same anyway and humbly declare that the more you think you know the less you do.....and please don't unleash your frustrations on other people.

 p.s. 71% hydration loaf white SD with UK flour....

 

syros's picture
syros

Whether it’s Trevor or anyone else, baking bread successfully takes patience, experimenting - failures and successes to understand why it worked one time and not another. I don’t expect to get Trevor’s results - at least not on a consistent basis because I don’t have the skill set and may never have it. But he makes very important points - and one of them is about the starter and it’s importance. Be careful about discounting the experience and results of someone who has done this for years. And there are enough experienced bakers on TLF who can verify what he does. 

Trevor has been nothing but gracious in his willingness to give advice and help. 

There are other bakers, like Maurizio who will also frustrate you. Remember, like DAB mentioned, Trevor’s book is not for the newbie. Try to keep that in mind before you go on a rant. Especially here.

Sharon

clazar123's picture
clazar123

My mother made lighter-than-air biscuits. She couldn't make bread to save her soul but her biscuits floated into your mouth and melted there. Yum!

So one weekend, we decided we would work side by side at her kitchen counter, I would use her ingredients, in her kitchen and we would make biscuits together. Great experience-hopes were high from both of us that my biscuits would be exactly like hers. Guess what happened? Mine were like hockey pucks and hers floated off the pan! WHAT?????? We were both just blown away. I was upset that I hadn't been able to achieve my goal but I didn't yell at her and I didn't blame myself or the recipe or the universe. I just kept trying and learning. Turns out I needed to learn other things before I achieved success. Persist. Practice. Patience. Don't be afraid to make birdfood!

Now-decades later- I can make light biscuits, ALMOST in her class. After a lot of thinking (that day's lesson was very important in my life for baking and other reasons), I think I may know what one of the variables was that made my biscuits heavier. Even though I handled the dough lightly and quickly, my hands were warmer and likely stronger  than hers at that life stage. Minor but significant in biscuit dough handling. Many recipes (including bread) can be like that-there is  a minor variable you may not even be aware of, which can influence the outcome significantly.

So patience, please. Dealing with this minor frustration with humor and dignity can make a baker a better person. It is good practice for when you face bigger problems that life can throw at you.

This forum is known for it's support and positive response but it can also let you know when you have stepped over the line of respect and courtesy, just as has been noted in all the responses you got. This forum is also known for forgiveness, kindness and the preservation of anyone's dignity that acknowledges a faux pas. It is a great place for a mulligan-if you golf.

Keep baking and keep learning. Most of all- practice patience and kindness-with yourself first and also with others.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I was very upset when I read this post, as everyone on here has been so supportive, helpful and kind for the whole time I've been here. And Trevor Wilson has been one of those people. I downloaded his book and haven't even finished it yet, as there are so many good things in it that I have to go away and ponder and bake for a while before coming back to it. I will likely never achieve the webby, open crumb that many people on here achieve, but that's more because I don't really want to (I like bread better than holes!), but much of Trevor's advice applies to making good bread regardless. And he makes it very clear throughout the book that this is a compilation of his learning through experience, and not really a 'formula' kind of book (i.e. "do all this and you will succeed").

Reading all the responses has alleviated my upset; all the comments are true TFL spirit! But still, saying Trevor is a fraud is about as silly as saying Forkish and Robertson and Hamelman are all frauds because you can't bake bread that looks like theirs. Honestly...

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Will weigh everything down to the gram, follow instructions to the letter and time everything with a stop watch but still get a mediocre or just a passable loaf.  

An experienced baker will throw something together, watch the dough and not the clock and go by feel. The results will be a beautiful loaf of bread. 

What a book does is give you direction, share ideas, convey a set of skills etc. What a book cannot do is make you an experienced baker. That is up to the reader not the author. 

Trevor actually says something to this effect in the introduction. And when asked how he makes handling a dough look so easy he has said that a dough behaves differently in the hands of someone experienced.  

Books give you theory. The learner needs to practice. 

Trevor has proved himself beyond any doubt of his mastery. There is no question. 

But you've got me interested now. I don't persue an open crumb. If I get a tasty risen loaf then I'm happy. To me taste is everything to judge the success of a loaf. But because I'm up for a challenge I think a nice low hydration loaf with an open crumb will be my next. 

not.a.crumb.left's picture
not.a.crumb.left

this made me think and about to mix a Champlain as it has been a while....Makes me feel all nostalgic with the community Champlain bake and not that long ago......:D Kat

HKbreadwinner's picture
HKbreadwinner

Like many of you, I've bought his book because there's been so much talked about him, and I follow his IG and have watched his YTube videos more times than I care to count.  I'm not done with reading his book, but having applied what I've absorbed so far has already made a big difference.  I started baking yeasted breads 5 years ago, and only about half a year ago I started going OCD on artisan/rustic style breads.  I finally started baking sourdough about a month ago, and have been absolutely addicted and obsessed with, drumroll...those outrageously open crumb structures worthy of Instagram posts.  Do I like eating hol-y breads, not really, but dang-it, those illusive big holes are such a fun challenge to pursue!  Using tips and guidance from Trevor, I baked a 70% hydration loaf this morning, and this was the result.  Nice oven spring, and these are the biggest holes I've ever "achieved."  However, can someone help critique it and let me know if it's a respectable open crumb or is it what TJW would call a "Fool's Crumb?" I suspect it is because the crumb is characterized by some big holes surrounded by tighter areas.  But I also don't feel the dense areas are THAT compact.  Might be under-fermented?  Either way, I'm still happy if I've been fooled because it shows improvement.  Constructive comments are welcomed!  Love this site!

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Lovely! Like you the open crumb is not my goal but hey if there's a challenge I'm up for it. 

Looks perfect to me. 

What about the taste? 

HKbreadwinner's picture
HKbreadwinner

It was a pure white dough, except for some residual rye that was in the starter.  Acid was mild, since I went by Trevor's advice to use a low-acid load and young starter.  Although I'm not sure if the starter was considered "young" in my case.  With the Hong Kong heat and humidity, my starters have been tripling within 4 hours, and I baked it at 6 hours.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

love the crumb, wouldn’t change anything (in my opinion any way😊)

Leslie

not.a.crumb.left's picture
not.a.crumb.left

and know exactly what you mean about the worry about the 'fools crumb'....However, in my humble opinion this is a lovely crumb.....If it were a fools crumb, then you would have more dense crumb area around the holes or not?

Yours is lacy and open... -  

Someone who has been fooled herself during ambient proofing before! :D 

Ru007's picture
Ru007

That is lovely! Well done :)

HKbreadwinner's picture
HKbreadwinner

Although I baked another loaf after that one, and I think the crumb came out even better.  Overall more light and airy than the one posted a couple nights ago.  I thought I totally botched this one because I came up with the brilliant idea of bench resting the dough on a piece of parchment paper, thinking I would have resolved the issue of sticking when I needed to flip it over for final shaping.  I literally had to scrape the dough off the paper and almost threw the lot away whilst fuming over having committed this unnecessary step.  And the bread came out better than even when I think it will be a good loaf.  Go figure, good results when you think you had botched it.  First reaction is one of pleasantry, then follows the profound confusion over "wait, this wasn't supposed to happen!"  Then back to the drawing board!  We're headed back to California on Friday and can't wait to visit Tartine to try one of their famous, or infamous, loaves!  Tartine, I'm sure, has been the source of much envy, heartache, and some mental breakdowns for many on here haha.