The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can't get an expanding crust

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Can't get an expanding crust

Hello everyone and all the experienced baker!

I've been trying to make sourdough bread for a very long time but I never got an beautiful expanding crust and the bread is very chewy.

In this picture, I use:

  • 160g bread flour
  • 45g of whole wheat flour
  • 160g water
  • 4g salt
  • 60g 1:1 whole wheat starter

I did:

  1. Autolyse 3 hours
  2. add starter, mix, rest 30 mins
  3. add salt, mix, rest 30 mins
  4. fold 30 mins
  5. lamination 30 mins
  6. coil fold 3 times at 45 minutes interval
  7. shape
  8. cold ferment for another 16 hours
  9. Dust with brown rice flour, score with a dull knife coz I don't have lame.
  10. Bale in a saucepan with small stone and ice cube aside for steam at 220'C (that's the highest my oven can go) for 20 mins, then remove the lid for another 20 mins. 

This is what I got. And this is what I got all the time no matter what recipe I tried...

Please help :( I don't want to give up!

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

You produce lovely loaves as pictured but have thought about quitting?

I don't understand.

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

First thanks for the complement. I have been pranting a lot but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get an open crumb. That's why I am hoping to get an answer and see if I can do better.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Especially not when you are already successful. So you don't have craters in your loaf. It's still a lovely crumb and taste is everything!

Getting an open crumb comes from handling, getting the ferment just right and high hydration, although if you get the first two right then the high hydration isn't a necessity.

When it comes to stretch and folds try not to de-gas too much. Ok for the first set to be not so gentle but with each subsequent set be more gentle so as not to knock all the air out.

P.s. oops, for some off reason I thought you were talking about bigger holes in the crumb. I was confused as it looks just perfect. Expanding crust is obviously judging the ferment just right but it's also a good shaping and enough steam when baking.

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Thanks 😊Now that you mentioned, I did find the autolyse was a bit dry but I followed the recipes exactly anyways. Maybe next time I'll add 5% more of water to the autolyse and see how it goes.

As for the coil fold, I didn't de-gas or knock the dough but I did remove the large air bubbles. I'll try again tomorrow and see. Thanks again!!

BrianShaw's picture
BrianShaw

slather soft butter on it and eat. 

Dip in really good olive oil (and pepper) and eat. 

Make pasta with red sauce an eat. 

Put pastrami/corned beef/ tuna fish/chopped liver between 2 slices and eat. 

Did I make my point clear enough????

:)

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Sorry my previous post might be a bit confusing so I edited the word and hopefully you can understand. Sourdough bread usually has an beautiful crust, like a balloon expanding, but mine? just a line in the middle :(

David R's picture
David R

Your bread is good. To get that slash to open better, there are a few things you might try - I don't know which ones are right or wrong in your situation, but here are a couple:

  • If you let the final rise happen for too long, then when you put it in the oven it has no energy left for expanding more. Maybe you need to bake a little bit sooner.
  • If the crust becomes too hard before the bread expands, it may prevent further expansion. Did you use any water or steam?
  • If you don't slash deeply enough, nothing really happens.

Again, I don't know which ones might apply in your situation, and I may just be wrong.

And, looking again at your photo - what you want is already starting to work - you may only need a deeper cut.

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Thanks for the tips!!

For the last stage of fermentation, I did 16 hours cold and slow fermentation in a banneton. It wasn't hard. 

For steaming, yes I also did. I bought some stone that people used in fish tank and heat it for an hour, then place ice cube on top to create steam. But it seems like it didn't work coz the crust is chewy.

I guess slashing is the problem then, my knife is dull so I have to cut the surface little by little at a time to get a deeper slash.

BrianShaw's picture
BrianShaw

Either sharpen your dull knife, or better... find a sharp razor blade. Even if you hold the razor blade with your finger you’ll be better off. Score at an angle rather than perpendicular to the skin. Maybe score a bit deeper too. 

David R's picture
David R

This is a picture of the kind of blades people are talking about. The brand shown gives a nice clear photo of an individual blade which is why I chose it, but it's one of the more expensive ones - they're great for shaving, but you certainly won't need the expensive ones for your bread! (Many brands make this same design of blades - they've been a standard item for many years.)

Hmmmm. "Bread" uses exactly the same letters as "Beard". 🙂

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Hello David, bread / beard... that's interesting 😆

And thanks for the link! So do it come with a handle because I don't see any in the enclosed link. It's a bit expensive but I'd rather get a better one coz failing a sourdough bread is a pain :( 

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

I see that your bread has a rugged edge. My bread appeared that way when the dough was over-proofed and therefore too weak to hold its shape. Chewy crumb suggests over-proofing to me as well. A weak gluten network cannot support large air bubbles, thus tightening the crumb up. 

Even considering the inclusion of whole wheat, 80.85% hydration should still produce a rather slack dough. Can your dough stand without spreading after shaped? If not, you might try extending the bulk and shorten the final proof. 

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Hello Elsie, thanks for the reply. I've a question, is the rugged edge you mentioned refer tothe surface or the side?

The dough stood after it's out from the 6 inch-banetton. Of course it did spread a little bit bigger than the banneton, about 6.5 inches but it's not like falling all over the place.

But still, I'll take your advise in my next trial and shorten the last cold ferment from 16 hours to 12? What do you think?

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

Usually my over-proofed dough refuses to hold its oval shape after flipped out of the banneton. That might just be the blisters if the total surface is rugged, right? :) Of course it's a different story if there's a sudden indentation across the surface. The localized collapse is likely a result of under-proofing. However, that is obviously not the case with your bread.

Assuming the dough is over-proofed, shortening the proof to 12 hours might not sufficient. Yeast activities have probably slowed to almost zero by the 12 hr mark. I'd try 8 hours maybe. If your dough managed to stand after shaped, you might as well shorten the bulk. 

BrianShaw's picture
BrianShaw

Or this (available from any hardware store. The one linked is only for convenience since their site includes pictures):

https://www.homedepot.com/p/American-Line-Single-Edge-Razor-Blades-10-Pack-66-0210-0000/100154917

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-1-3-16-in-High-Visibility-Mini-Razor-Blade-Scraper-28-100/203743502

total cost for a fully functional system... about 2 bucks. 

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Hello Brian, I did use blade before. I attached the blade on a long skewer but the blade bounced and fipped to the wall. I don't mind a scary experience though haha but the blade was so dull that I couldn't cut the dough open 🤦🏻‍♀️ Will try yours too and hope it works!

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

To proof seam side down so you get a natural scoring on top? 

Struggling_Baking's picture
Struggling_Baking

Usually I proof seam side up, then flip over to the baking pan or parchment and then score.  

prettedda's picture
prettedda

Looking at your ratio of starter to flour it looks to me like your bulk ferment may be too long. My standard has the same amount of starter for 400 g flour. My bulk ferment is two hours and then overnight in the fridge. With minimal autolyse.You may want to cut back back a little on the water sometimes that makes it easier to get oven spring. That being said I am a sloppy baker

 and sometimes leave the dough overnight on the counter and sometimes it is still okay.  

calneto's picture
calneto

Your final hydration is 81% and using almost 30% levain and 20% whole wheat. Fermentation will be very fast. Not only that. It can be tricky to shapevsuch a dough. I use 80% hydration, but with nly 20% levain and proof for 6h at 25C, in case that helps to give you some parameters (whole wheat is usually 15%)

HBGHarbor's picture
HBGHarbor

I assume that during the 16 hour cold ferment the bread is resting “good” side down on a floured cloth/couche in a basket or similar device and, also assuming, that you are dusting the cloth with flour (or combinations of flours) as a release agent. 

If you are not already, I would consider using 100% rice flour or a mix of 50% rice flour and 50% AP flour as your release agent as I think what you are currently using is drying out the surface.  And, when baked, the dried out surface manifests itself as shown.  Use just enough flour on the cloth to prevent sticking as you don’t want it to act as a desiccant. Another possibility, the protein in the bread’s surface may be simply breaking during the long cold ferment.

Best of luck.