The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough crumb too dense

pendalink's picture

Sourdough crumb too dense

This is my fifth or sixth attempt at making a simple sourdough loaf. Each attempt I've had issues with the crumb being too spongy and dense, so before making this loaf I took some time to understand more of the process and concluded that I wasn't building enough of a gluten network to trap air with just a few stretch and folds during the bulk fermentation, so I kneaded the dough until it had the window pane effect (about 10 minutes) before allowing it to bulk ferment, during which I did the stretch and folds as well. From the way the dough felt when I starting shaping it, I was expecting major improvements, but I still ended up with a crumb like this (spongy and dark) instead of a fluffy, white, crumb. From reading other posts, I feel like it may have over-proofed, but I don't have the experience to tell what went wrong here based off looks. Any help is appreciated! More details below.

-Leaven was 25 g mature 100% hydration starter, 25 g all-purpose, 25 g whole wheat, 50 g water, given about 6 hours to ferment

-Dough was 250 g all-purpose, 136 g bread flour, 87 g whole wheat, 330 g water

-30 min autolyze before mixing with leaven and 9 g sea salt, then kneaded mostly via slap+fold until showing the window pane effect

-Allowed to bulk ferment for 6-7 hours

-Preshaped by pulling each edge into the center, flipped and allowed to rest for 10 mins, then shaped by pulling the edges in again and doing a few tension pulls; at this point I had a smooth, round, bouncy, surface

-Proofed in fridge for about 14 hours in a sealed bag

-Baked in iron dutch oven with lid on at 500 F (260 C) for 20 mins, then lid off and temp down to 425 F (218 C) for 25 more mins


hreik's picture

look b/f you use it?  Are you just doing one build?  How does it look?  And what about the dough after your bulk fermentation, how does that look?  Does it rise nicely and is it soft and billowy?


DanAyo's picture

Trevor Wilson, once a professional baker and friend of The Fresh Loaf wrote an ebook with bakers like you and me in mind. It is called, “Open Crumb Mastery” and is highly revered on this site. If you are inquisitive and detail oriented, I am confident this book will benefit you. It specifically deals with bread crumb of all types. Here is the knk to the book.



By the way; you are off to a great start. Your bread has a lot of good things going for it.

pendalink's picture

I will look into that book, it sounds like it might have the set of information I do and will need.

Filomatic's picture

This seems under-fermented, but not as severely as some we see, since the crumb is not tight everywhere.  There are several telltale signs, such as close crumb with large holes along the top and a somewhat raw look.  Under-fermented dough also tends to have a pale crust.

What temps are you using for fermentation of the starter and for bulk fermentation?  That will make a big difference.  Your recipe has under 10% pre-fermented flour, which is on the lower end, so 6-7 hours might or might not be enough, depending on temps and how active it all is.

So I'd say you're closer to great results than you might think.  Assuming I guessed right that you're not fermenting at a high enough temperature, Hamelman's recipes (the book "Bread") mostly use 70 F for starter and levain building, then, e.g., 76 F for bulk fermentation.  Tartine uses more like 80-82 F for bulk fermentation (which many a baker here have found can lead to over-fermentation, even with cold retarded loaves).

mikedilger's picture

The crumb color will never be "white" if you add 20% whole wheat flour.  This color looks normal and tasty to me.

I'm less sure about the crumb itself, others on this site are more knowledgeable than I.