The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with Crumb

nickg's picture

Help with Crumb

Like everyone else. I want that open crumb.

Been baking for a little while now and lately, I feel like the crumb at the bottom of my loaf differs pretty drastically from the top. It seems to get tighter and more dense as you work your way up. 

I'm looking to see if anyone has had this issue, and what their solution was, or if anyone has any ideas of what variables could be causing the issue.

My thoughts are:

Pre-shaping is too tight?

Shaping itself is off in someway–but not sure in what way?

Bulk too long??

For the loaf attached:

500g flour (blend white, spelt, rye) but about 90% white.

395g H20 - 90ºF (79%)

10g salt

20% Levain (about 5hrs old)


Autolyse for about an hour, then mix in levain and salt (S&F for about 5 min).

4 folds 30min apart–then continued bulk.

Total time for bulk was 4hrs. (Ambient temp was about 78ºF)

Tip out dough onto counter (bottom now facing up) and lightly fold and pre-shape into a boule.

30min bench rest (it started spreading pretty quickly)

For the shaping–

Floured top of dough and surface and then flipped dough over so the seam side was up.

Did a standard 4 folds–rolled it over and dragged it back across the counter towards me a few times–then into the banneton. 


Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I'm close–but I am missing something or just performing a critical step slightly incorrect.





pintolaranja's picture

I am by no means an expert. But you mention when you drop the dough onto the counter, the bottom is now up. So what was at the bottom of the bowl is now on top.

Do you flip it before folding it into a boule and then flip it again so the seam goes down? I believe you should.

You don't need to flip it if you simply use your scraper to fold the dough under and around to create tension until it looks like a boule though.

It looks like it spread quickly after the pre-shaping, so either the dough was quite a wet one or there wasn't much tension in it from former folds nor the pre-shaping itself.

Which then leads to the shaping: is this one maybe a bit too tense?

Also, have you tried proofing it for longer? Maybe all you need is a bit more time for the bubbles to expand a bit more on that part of the dough.

nickg's picture

To answer your question about tipping dough out onto the counter.

What was at the bottom of the bowl would become the top and do light folds from there, directly on the counter. I always like to try to keep the top of my dough, the top of the dough, if that makes sense. 


I will say the dough seemed pretty loose – but it was 79% hydration, so it was by no means a stiff dough. But like I said I have been having this issue with varying degrees of hydration with varied strength at this point in the process.

Skibum's picture

. . .like a very long bulk rise given the temperature. My preference is to do my bulk rise in the refrigerator overnight, then let the dough warm up for a couple of hours the next morning. Just my two cents.

Happy baking! Ski

nickg's picture

Could that impact and cause the crumb to behave that way?

What I have been doing recently is take a small piece of my dough and put it in a separate container right after mixing and use that to help judge my bulk in terms of rise. At about that 4hr mark it was at approx 50% rise. And in terms of visual cues it had domed around the edges and was only getting a few small bubbles on the surface of the dough. 

Next time I'll try cutting it back a bit and see if that helps!

Skibum's picture

Okay this is new information. When I do my bulk rise for a loaf like this I usually get at least a doubling of the dough. Again I refrigerate my bulk dough overnight, so call it 12 hours. I note that your starter was 5 hours old. Had the starter doubled in that time? As I don't bake every day, I keep my starter in the fridge. three days before baking, I remove the starter from the fridge and feed it 4 times over 3 days to ensure it will be active and happy. If you are onnly getting a 50% rise in 4 hours at 78F, I suspect your starter. Not sure what else to suggest.

Happy baking! Ski