The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Loaf Yet--Still No Open Crumb

Elmhurst Bread Boy's picture
Elmhurst Bread Boy

Best Loaf Yet--Still No Open Crumb

Hi All,

So I'm still relatively new to the sourdough game--been doing this regularly now for about 6 months.  This last loaf I made was definitely my best.  Best structure, best appearance, best taste (I know that crust is a on the thick side--I know how to remedy that and what I did wrong so I'm not as concerned about it).

My concern is that I still can't achieve an airy open crumb (whether that's a Tartine style or the more "Lacy" style a la Trevor Wilson).  That crumb you see was tender and custardy, so what was there had all the traits I was aiming.  It's just holistically, the crumb structure I'm hoping to achieve still evades me.  

I know I know--that holy grail open crumb is not necessarily a signature of bread mastery.  But I would like to achieve it on a regular basis so I can say I have done it, I know how to do it, and, when the itch comes, I can work to recreate it.

I honestly thought this time around I did everything correctly--dough was silky and strong at end of BF; pre-shape and shape went well for my standards (this is where I struggle most--my dough just always seems to stick to everything despite a ton of bench flour and what I'd consider delicate hands), and loading was smooth as granola.  

Vitals and techniques are below.  If there's any info/guidance/suggestion/therapy you could offer toward the perfection of open crumb, or any other comment based on what you read and see, please feel free to dish it out.  I'm committed to this and want to be a respected bread baker.  

Central Milling DNS: 320 grams
Central Milling ABC: 114 grams
Local Whole Grain Spelt: 44 grams
Local Whole Grain Rye: 22 grams
H20: 346 grams
Salt: 13 grams
Levain: 100 grams @ 100% hydration

Autolyse Flour, Water and Salt for 1 hour.  Added levain after.  4 hour BF with S&F every 30 mins for first 3 hours.  Left untouched during last hour.  Pre-shaped into a round.  Bench rest 30 mins.  Shaped via Tartine method; went to finish with stitching but dough was just too sticky at that point and didn't want to mess/degas anything so I left it as is.  Transferred to oval banneton for overnight proof in fridge.  Preheated Dutch Oven in 475 degree oven for 45 mins; let dough sit a RT for last half hour of pre-heat.  Cooked with top for 20 mins; then uncovered for another 25 minutes, all at 475 (that's where the error lies in the thick crust--easily remedied).  

Again, my wife and I both were very happy with the results, but still not the aesthetic I'm looking for (which, again, I know are completely superficial reasons but, hey, I'm the baker, it's my bread and I'll cry if I want to).  

Any, any feedback or comments would be great.  Thank you!!!

Also, how do I upload more than 1 photo???



hreik's picture

Can you post a pic of the crumb?  to do that click on the icon that is 5th from the right or 7th from the left on the panel under "comment".  then follow instructions. 

How many hours was the final proof?  I wonder if it was slightly overproofed... though it looks perfect to me from the pic you shared.

Your hydration was plenty high for a nice open crumb.  Have you tried this from Trevor Wilson?


DanAyo's picture

Bread Boy, we really need to see the crumb before making relevant suggestions. You should be able to upload additional images using the same steps you took to upload the first one. If you can’t get this to work, explain why and we’ll figure it out.

We all agree, your bread is a beauty.


Elmhurst Bread Boy's picture
Elmhurst Bread Boy

Okay--don't know how I completely missed this button for the extra pics.  Doh!

Elmhurst Bread Boy's picture
Elmhurst Bread Boy
ifs201's picture

First of all, your bread looks delicious and the crumb looks really moist. Second, I'm not the best person to be giving advice since I also really struggle getting an open crumb and am also a newer baker. I feel like upping the hydration and getting better at shaping have made the most difference for me in addition to pushing the bulk ferment a bit more. I think my loaves were a tad underproved before. Like you I also like having whole grains in my bread which can make it harder to get an open crumb.

chleba's picture

Hi there, I've had similar issues, but found a few non-traditional methods for opening up crumb.

1. First, how does the mass/weight feel of the baked bread vs the raw dough?  If they feel similar, then you are likely under fermenting the dough (or over, yay sourdough).  Final product should feel light compared to its actual weight.  If not, then add more time to the ferment, or, less time.

2. Try baking a smaller loaf, i.e. your recipe is nearly a kilo loaf, bake two or even three loaves from it.  I tend to get greater oven spring with smaller loaves, which leads to a more open crumb.

3. Don't do any fancy shaping, don't degass the dough, etc.  Try a simple ciabatta-like shaping technique: fold the dough over itself without stretching, and then roll it into your basket/banneton. Watch this dude's video how he shapes, and also, read his comments about following recipes, etc:

Elmhurst Bread Boy's picture
Elmhurst Bread Boy

Hi All,

First, thank you for the honest feedback, suggestions and advice!  I liked the idea of baking a smaller loaf--a full kilo loaf is a lot to consume so I scaled it down to about an 830 gram loaf in total for this next bake. All else aside, I have to say I really like the smaller aesthetic of this loaf--they appear similar to the pan rustico test bakes Artisan Bryan has been posting lately as he refines his recipes for his new bakery (must be exciting).  I like their compactness.  I think it's safe to say I'm sold on this smaller sized loaf from here on out.

As to the bread itself--much the same.  Crumb was delicious, tender, moist, borderline custardy.  Yet, still not open toward the center.  I know it gets tricky the moment you add whole grains into the mix, but this is still a pretty standard amount I'm using for a country SD.  I think it really all lies in the handling of the dough during shaping.  This was probably my best shaping effort yet.  Best part about this time out was learning how to better use the bench knife in the assistance of shaping.  Titling it down and under the loaf while pushing keeps it from sticking.  May sound quite obvious for the experienced bread baker, but for us neophytes who know all to well that the devil is in the details, that's a detail that was borderline life-affirming.  

Anyway, pics are below.  I included a snapshot of what the crumb looked like towards the end of the loaf.  I usually end up with this type of crumb toward the ends of all my loaves.  It's the crumb I'm looking for--open, yet strong.  I just can't seem to carry this throughout the entire loaf and I'm presuming here that the trick lies in understanding what I must be doing correctly with the ends of my loaves that I'm failing to keep consistent throughout the entirety of the loaf, particularly in the center where the most weight is located, and, hence, where the most glutinous strength would be required to defy gravity and pick itself up during its spring.

The other note worth mentioning was that when scoring, this loaf severely flattened out laterally which I haven't witnessed yet.  As stated above, this was my best shaping yet, so when I loaded into the DO, I was so elated to see that the loaf held its firm, upright shape.  I figured I nailed it this time--only to be thrown for a loop after the first score, witnessing its taut compact form just relax and spread in an instant.  Maybe that's what typically happens when the dough is formed tight and properly and I just haven't done it yet--but, man, witnessing that thing just man-spread right in front of me was demoralizing.  

Again, thanks to everyone who takes the time to read these posts and even more time to comment and advise.  

50% CM DNS
25% CM ABC
15% Local WW
10% Local Whole Grain Spelt
77% Hydration
2% Salt

1 hour autolyse; 4 hour BF with S&F every half hour for first 3 hours.  Preshape into round.  20 minute bench rest.  Shaped.  Cold proof in banneton overnight for 8 hours.  Baked in DO @ 475 for first 20 minutes; removed cover, reduced heat to 450, finished baking for another 15 mins (again, smaller loaf, less bake time).