The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with hearth loaf crumb

Anthony's picture

Help with hearth loaf crumb

Hi all. I'm a very new bread baker, and have been trying to get the hang of it with the Workhorse Loaf recipe on Serious Eats:

I feel like it's been improving every time, but I have a question about the crumb I'm ending up with. On my most recent attempt, it seemed good from a taste and feel standpoint - it was springy and a little chewy, and not gummy like my first few tries. But visually, it doesn't look right to me - overall it looks too tight/dense with small holes, but then there were a couple of very large pockets in it (I'll try to attach pictures at the end).

I followed the recipe and procedure pretty closely. The main differences: I halved the recipe and had to use some approximate measurements (since my scale is only precise to 2g, which gave me:

500g all purpose flour

350g water

Slightly more than 1tsp active dry yeast

Slightly less than 2tsp salt

Process-wise, I autolysed the flour for about 40 minutes, mixed then kneaded everything for about 10 minutes. Bulk-rise for 30 min, folded, another 30 min rise, folded again, then left it alone for an hour. Shaped, then 15 min rest. Shaped again and into a wooden banneton for a 1 hour and 15 min final proof. At the end of that, the poke test seemed to indicate it was ready - my finger indentations sprang back about halfway, the slowly filled in a little more over the next few minutes.

If any one had any ideas why my crumb might end up looking like this, and what I should try different, I'd love some help. Again, it seemed to taste good - my family loved it! But the crumb doesn't look like I think it should look.

hreik's picture

makes great toast.

Right off the bat it looks under proofed.  Probably both in the bulk and the final rise.  You have to go by the feel and not the time.  If your kitchen is cooler than the test kitchen then your rises will take longer.  Maybe much longer. like 2 or 3 times longer even. 

Try letting the bulk and final rises go for longer next time.

Good luck


p.s are you using bottled water? Tap water can kill yeast.

Anthony's picture

Thanks Hester! I am going by feel, but since I'm so new at this, I'm probably getting it wrong. My final proof has actually been shorter than the recipe calls for, because I thought the poke test indicated it was done... so that suggests to me that you may be right, and it's under proofed, and I just need to develop a better feel for "done". Maybe next time I'll let it go the full time no matter what and see what happens.

I am using tap water - I'd never heard that before about the yeast. I'll look into trying bottled next time.

And yes - it does make great toast! :)

love's picture

Monitor your dough temperatures; dough takes longer in winter if it isn't kept warm somehow. A few degrees can seem trivial, but actually, it makes a huge difference, like, 5 degrees colder can almost double the fermentation time in some cases.

I keep my bulk ferment bucket in a water bath with an aquarium heater in it, does the trick. I aim for 25C.

Your bulk fermentation isn't done until the dough looks super "alive" and wobbles when you jiggle it. 

Telling when proof is done is a lot harder but just go by the recipe for now, you'll learn from experience. 

Also. That loaf kind of looks like you might have forgot the salt.


good luck!