The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to get a more open crumb?

RobbyC's picture

How to get a more open crumb?

I've been baking for years now, my own starter, using a one-bowl, stretch-fold, cold retardation method, and the bread is superb. The oven spring is great (using the inverted Lodge Dutch oven pot), the crust perfect, the taste wonderful etc, I've very happy with the results. One thing eludes me, and that is a more open crumb. That nice stretched look of holes...

I can get it around the periphery of the loaves, but not in the center. I've tried everything:

1. short (15m) to long (4h) autolyse

2. hydrations from 65-90%

3. various % of levain, 10-20

4. straight rise-bake at RT vs cold retardation step

5. Different supermarket flours

6. infrequent S&Fs to frequent S&Fs

7. cutting loaf size by 20% in case I'm overloading banneton

Probably more things, but that's all I can think of right now. Sometimes the yeast activity is better than others, and I get a puffier dough, but this seems to have no effect on the inner crumb. Attached are some pictures of what I mean, perhaps someone has ideas!



Using approximately 80% BRM AP and 20% BRM WW, with a bit of rye


julie99nl's picture

You are going to get a flood of these kinds of responses, so here's your first.

That is a beautiful loaf. The crumb is lovely and light and airy. Hole distribution is even in placement and size.

RobbyC's picture

Sorry for the days old response but this was my first post and I thought I set it to notify me of responses!

BreadLee's picture

This is more of a statement and less of a helpful reply. 

I personally like your crumb more.  With the latter crumb shot,  I can hardly do anything with a slice of it. It will not hold mayo or mustard.  Butter slides thru it.  Doesn't make good sandwiches. 

It seems to be more for bragging rights.  But what's there to brag about I don't know.  

On the other hand,  your loaf looks superb for any application or occasion.  

That's just my two cents. 

RobbyC's picture

I completely agree with you, and it all tastes the same. For me it's not bragging rights, it's:

Why can't I achieve it? Why is it great at the edges but not the middle?

And I don't use the bread for sandwiches, it's usually just sweet butter and salt, or olive oil and balsamic. So presentation is important.

ifs201's picture

But you certainly are not alone! I'm in the same camp.

Skadoodle's picture

I associate a more open crumb with chewiness; like a Ciabatta or Focaccia. I've done all you've done, including using expensive Italian flour, with limited success. Not failures by any means but not exactly what I was aiming for.

To be honest I read your post with a sinking heart. You are obviously very experienced; way more than I. What hope do I have?

Two extra ingredients in my favourite store bought Ciabatta are added wheat gluten, and wheat starch. Clues maybe? A very specific protein content and knead time?

RobbyC's picture

I have vital wheat gluten I can add, it's something I've not tried. What bothers me is the discrepancy between side and middle. Obviously the dough strength is there, otherwise the sides would not have such nice holes. The dough also feels strong, the last stretch and folds are tight, and pre-shaping, final shaping etc are all tight, even at 80-85%.

DanAyo's picture

Many bakers on the forum, including myself highly recommend Trevor Wilson's E-Book, "Open Crumb Mastery". IMO, there is no better source for all things open crumb. If you are detail oriented (you should if open crumb is your goal) this book is for you.


RobbyC's picture

I will give that a look.

not.a.crumb.left's picture

with Danny and Trevor's book is an amazing read and I learnt sooo much from it.

It taught me also a lot towards understanding my crumb...and I have not seen any other book that goes into the details of different crumbs and the thinking of how to achieve them...

It is now on the 2nd edition with useful additions and reading it now...

I agree with the other comments and your bread looks amazing but I can relate as I sometimes can achieve open crumb and sometimes it is a wonderful challenge to aim for!!!

Trevor says open crumb is 80% fermentation and shaping and from my own experience I think I kind of got a feel for the 'fermentation' side but the shaping is constant learning. Looks like you have a handle on the fermentation too and could it be the shaping?

Too tight a shaping...which is so important for oven spring but compromises crumb......when I achieved really good open crumb it also often was on occasions when I got the final proof spot now I often let my shaped dough sit out for 30min or more before retarding at 4C in fridge. But that all depends also on how far you let your dough go in bulk...

So many things to consider...and best of luck... Happy Baking... Kat

RobbyC's picture

I definitely have problems with shaping, and I was trying different methods. None seemed to be any better than others. My bulk is 4hrs. Pre-shaping, rest, shaping another 30mins or so, and lately I've been doing final proof another 30min before fridge retardation.

chleba's picture

Hi:  What most are saying about gluten development, fermentation, and shaping is true.  My crumbs were similar to yours.  I recently stumbled on the following thread searching for something else, which contains a video demonstrating a very gentle shaping technique, more for ciabatta style dough.  I tried it with a higher hydration dough (82% - hydration was a total accident) and ended up having quite the open crumb (not as dramatic as the thread, but much better than previous results):

If this doesn't improve as much as you'd like, try a long autolyse strategy (no salt, only flour and water, I do ~10 hours because it works with my schedule), then mix in salt and levain, with gentle shaping.  Finally, you'll have to experiment with different bulk and proof fermentation times - this is the hardest part.

not.a.crumb.left's picture

and gave it myself a is a cold bulk and then shaping like a ciabatta. Works well as long as you are ready to forsake an ear and happy with the ciabatta approach. Beautiful bake and great to try.....Kat