The Fresh Loaf

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Help with trouble shooting crumb issues with part WW?

wvdthree's picture

Help with trouble shooting crumb issues with part WW?


        I've been baking yeasted bread since the beginning of the year (mostly using Forkish book) and making SD since March. I am not following his recipes for SD but I guess an using his techniques/dough handling. I am using/maintaining a stiff bread flour starter I received when taking a SD class at a great local bakery. 65% hydration. I am generally getting decent oven spring but have not been able to get much of an open crumb. I'll detail my process and then include photos for reference.

Day one at 9-10 PM: Make levain with 50 grams active starter, 65 grams water at 70 degrees and 100 grams bread flour. I let this rest at 72 degrees until 8 AM the next morning. It more than doubles in volume overnight.

Day two at 8 AM: Autolyse 100 grams bread flour, 200 grams unbleached AP flour, 75 grams WW, 25 grams rye and 310 grams water at 75 degrees. After 30 minutes mix in levain and 1/2 TBSP salt. Do three sets of stretch and folds over the next hour and a half. Bulk fermentation is usually done around the five hour mark. Pre-shape, let rest for 30 minutes, do final shape and place in 9" banneton. Sometimes I bake that day in which case the final proof normally takes 1-2 hours but sometimes, like in the case shown in the photos I retard over night for 12-16 hours and bake the following morning.

Bake procedure: I bake at 475 in a Lodge 4 qt dutch oven. 25 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered and 10 minutes out of the DO and placed directly on the rack.

In the case shown I think the loaf was over proofed. I let it sit in the banneton for 30 minutes at 72 degrees before retarding in the frig. I don't include a photo of the loaf in the banneton after the final proof before it went in the oven but the loaf had risen to the top of the banneton coils. I believe it was over proofed and didn't have as much oven spring as I normally get.

I have a few questions.

1) Is it more difficult to get an open crumb the more whole wheat you use? Between WW and rye I'm at 25%. I have tried different levels of hydration from 70-80% and honestly have not notice huge differences in crumb. I have had more open crumb in the past but not by a large degree.  I have not changed much with regard to dough handling. Open to suggestions here. I don't think with my dough I could begin to utilize a slap and fold or lamination, maybe coil folds.

2) On the right side of the baked loaf you should notice crack marks. Does this indicate anything noteworthy? All my loaves end up with these cracks, yeasted or SD.

In summary, I like the crust and taste however I think a more open crumb would provide a different/nicer mouth feel? Note that while I do like to bake dark, the lighting on this loaf shows it off to be a bit darker than it actually was.

Anyway, great forum and love reading and learning. Hope some folks will chime in with opinions. Not really sure how to label photos but I think everyone will k

now when they were taken. Thanks so much.




ifs201's picture


I also have a crumb similar to yours on most of my bakes. All else being equal, higher hydration is supposed to create a more open crumb and more whole grains leads to a tighter crumb. That said, skilled bakers can get an open crumb with low hydration and a decent amount of whole grains! 

Trevor Wilson is recommended as a good source if you are trying to achieve a more open crumb. 

In terms of splitting on the side, I haven't had that issue but I've read it could because of issues during the shaping process or underproofing.

wvdthree's picture

Hi ifs201,

              As I mentioned in my post I have tried version of this bread with anywhere from 70 - 80% hydration and never had hugely different results. I have had more open crumb than this one but not by much. I think I need to turn to looking at my starter and dough handling techniques. What is the saying? "the definition of insane is continuing to do something in the same way but expect different results"? All I have changed so far is water content. BTW I've looked at some of your other posts and you're making some nice bread!

     One other question for anyone that looks in on this post. What are all the ways in which a starter can effect a dough/baked loaf. Does it change taste? Does it have the capability of changing crumb structure? Does it effect crust? If it in effect "raises the bread", has it done it's job and is it a healthy starter, or is there much more to evaluating the quality of a starter than this simple test? I'm guessing yes. I've been watching Trevor Wilson's Youtube videos but thin I probably just need to buy his eBook.

     Thanks for any responses.




Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

You display a beautiful loaf of bread in every regard. Don’t get distracted by the internet obsession with open crumb and flawless bread porn. A more open crumb than yours might photograph ‘better’ in the current fashion climate but is that your goal, to impress strangers?  Hopefully not. 

But if you must...

Assuming your two white flours add up to ~11% protein, there’s nothing in your formula preventing a more open crumb.  Focus on your dough handling. Gentle>gentler>gentlest as bulk proceeds. And that crack in the side adds character. I love to see those. 

FIrst rate photography too. 👍👍


wvdthree's picture

Yes Tom, I am trying to determine how much of my desire for a more open crumb is driven by bread porn photography, current fad over the issue or if I genuinely have other, more worthy reasons for wanting to achieve it. As I mentioned earlier in my post my desire for a more open crumb is a desire to have a bread with a different and I think in a way a better mouth feel than my denser/tighter crumb. I just returned from two weeks in France and was able to experience more breads with the type of crumb I am describing. Not looking for quarter size holes or more air space than crumb but a happy medium.

Yes, the more I read and watch, the more I convinced my issue lies in dough handling. For instance, for some reason during pre-shape I am doing a full on fold corners in while rotating the loaf and then rounding with cupped hands. I'm sure I am degassing far to much by doing this. When what it seems I should be doing is gently rounding by only using a bench scraper into a vaguely round shape. Then, after 30 minutes do the shape. I will also concentrate on how gently I am doing my S n F's.

Tom, any comments on question with regard to what a starter contributes to a dough baked loaf other than its ability to raise that dough? Thanks for the nice comments on my bread. Fortunately this such a cheap hobby that I can experiment to my hearts content!


On the photography, I am a former photographer. Nothing like soft window light to make things look their best.




Filomatic's picture

That's perfect bread.  If you want to learn more open crumb techniques, consider Trevor Wilson's newly updated e-book, Open Crumb Mastery.

wvdthree's picture

Thanks Filo,

                   Thanks for the compliment and yes I have been thinking about getting Trevor's eBook and I think the time is here. I clicked on his site and had to laugh when I read an article he wrote about "Tartine Envy"......hilarious!!! The crumb shot at the top of the article is more air than crumb.

Not looking for that, just something more open than what I am currently getting. So, I am starting to change things one by one and document my changes with notes and photos. This will hopefully prove fruitful given time. It's a great past time.