The Fresh Loaf

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How to get an open crumb THROUGHOUT the loaf?

chelseasf's picture

How to get an open crumb THROUGHOUT the loaf?

My latest bread had great oven spring and when I had the first two slices, the open crumb was amazing - especially for a mostly whole wheat bread.  The holes were pretty evenly distributed which made for a very light texture. But by the time I sliced middle of the loaf, there were larger holes toward the edges but the center was a bit denser.  Wondering if I should increase hydration, lower the bulk temp to extend it longer, or what.  Any thoughts welcome!

My formula was:

150g leaven
1000 g flour (high-extraction, turkey red, white whole wheat)
800g water
25g salt
2g diastatic malt

The bulk went super fast at 75 degrees in my Brod & Taylor proofer - it was puffy and bubbly at 2.5 hours - probably because of the freshness of my Janie's Mill flour plus the diastatic malt.



idaveindy's picture

The final fold/shape just  prior to the final proof should re-distribute the holes.

If you _are_ doing a _fold_ and shape immediately before proof, then the outer parts of the dough mass are somehow getting warmer and making more gas than the core during final proof.

If you are merely shaping (not _folding_ and shaping) then the inner-cooler outer-warmer gas production could be happening during bulk.


Also pertinent is whether you are kneading/mixing to develop gluten up front, or doing stretch and folds during bulk. S&F during a warm bulk would help equalize temp throughout the dough mass.  

Are you putting 65 F dough in the B&T or 75 F dough in it?  If 65, and you don't S&F, then the interior stays  cooler longer.


My guess is that at some point, your dough is "cool" all the way through, and when you put it in a warm place, the outer/warmer parts ferment more because it takes a couple hours for the warmth to penetrate to the core.


Suggestion: Adjust your water temp so that right after mixing, the entire dough temp is at the temp at which you bulk. Several formulas exist to calculate it based on flour temp, ambient temp, and Desired Dough Temp.

Secondarily, use less levain so you can add more time to bulk ferment and final proof, giving more time for the core temp to equalize.

Thirdly, omit the diastatic malt. WW and especially home-milled flour ferment super fast anyway.

Hope this helps.

kendalm's picture

the weight of this alone is going to present challenges to get consistent crumb throughout.  It takes longer to get heat into the middlle.  I think good crumb on the ends tells us that the dough gluten and proofing is probably ok but it takes a lot of oven spring to pop the whole mass.  I would recommend to the OP to work on smaller loaves and work up.    

chelseasf's picture

Kendalm, this formula is for two loaves - maybe that wasn't clear?

Idaveindy - Thanks for your interesting suggestions. To answer your questions:

- I am doing an autolyse of one hour in the Brod & Taylor proofer at 75 degrees.  But the flour is cold (from the freezer) and I didn't heat the water.  

- After autolyse I mix in the levain (which has also been in the proofer) and salt, then do about five minutes of rubaud mixing.

- Then during bulk I did three stretch and folds - would usually do five but the bulk was happening too fast this time. 

- I am pre-shaping and shaping using a Tartine-style fold and stitching (following the @tartinebakery method on the instagram video)

I have already started a levain and autolyse today. But based on your suggestions, I will try these changes and report back:

  • Eliminate the diastatic malt
  • Cut down amount of levain slightly
  • Do more stretch and folds if the bulk slows down a bit
idaveindy's picture

You haven't said what your final proof time/temp/procedure is. Sorry, I should have asked for that explicitly, as that would have a bearing on my cool-core/warm-outer hypothesis.

Your S&F during bulk should have equalized temps, but I still wonder what the core versus outer temp is during final proof.

If you have a pen/probe type thermo, could you take an internal temp reading of the dough after final shape?  Then let's compare that to the air temp of the final proof.

If you do a cold proof in fridge, are you baking it cold, or letting it sit at room temp before baking?  That could also cause a "cold-core/warm-outer" situation.

chelseasf's picture

idaveindy - after final shaping, I let the dough rest 3 or 4 minutes, then turn it over into a banneton and that goes into a 40-degree fridge for 12 hours.

Will take the temps as you suggested. It was 72 when I started the bulk.  The Brod & Taylor is set at 75. was set at 75 but after 30 minutes (at my first fold) the dough had risen so much that I just turned it down to 72.  

chelseasf's picture

I eliminated the diastatic malt, used less leaven (150g vs. 180g) and let the bulk fermentation go longer (at a lower temp) to fit in more stretch and folds. But in the end, I was a very bad scientist.

I did a two-hour autolyse of the flour and water, at 74 degrees (changing the autolyse time was a mistake, because I introduced one more variable.)  I started the fermentation at 74, but even with the changes above, the dough still seemed to be fermenting way too fast - it was jiggly and had a few bubbles after just an hour!  So I lowered the temperature to 72 and let it go for 4 hours total, with five stretch and folds. I did raise it back to 74 during the final hour because the dough seemed a bit lifeless. While it did get a few small bubbles under the surface, it never seemed to regain its initial jiggly and puffy quality.  I find this confusing - how do you extend the bulk but not lose the activity? The dough temperature was 73 at the end of four hours.

The result: the crumb is more even (which I guess was the goal) but I just don't like it as much when the holes are smaller - it's not as light.  Also, because I eliminated the diastatic malt, the crust wasn't as dark as I like, so I baked it longer. Which dried the bread out too much. I think I will go back to using the malt! 

On my next version maybe I should try starting the bulk at 72 degrees. Although this Grist and Toll article makes me think I should try a new approach.

idaveindy's picture

I think you're over proofing.

I haven't followed your baking history on tfl, so I am unsure if you have recently switched from commercial yeast to sourdough, or maybe you have switched from mostly white flour to mostly whole wheat flour like this formula.

1. With sourdough, we normally bulk ferment to less puffiness/bubbles than with commercial yeast. It has to _look_ underfermented in the eyes of someone who is used to commercial yeast. If it looks "just right" to a commercial-yeast baker, then it is likely overfermented for sourdough.

2. whole wheat and high extraction flour ferments very fast. It does not really slow down much in the fridge. It keeps on fermenting.

So, I'm going to reverse my previous opinion of a cold center and warm outer part. Perhaps the center stayed warm in the fridge and overfermented.  while the outer part cooled down quicker.

BTW, photos of the top of the uncut loaf help too, so people can see the oven spring.

Your bread does look good and. IMO, big holes are not really needed.

chelseasf's picture

idaveindy, I think you are right about overproofing. This time I cut it off at 2 hours 10 minutes. Could have done it even earlier by the looks of it. This crumb looks great to me, what do you think?  I coated it with black sesame seeds - which adds a lot! Very happy with this bake. 

My next experiment is going to be using a much smaller amount of levain to slow down the fermentation a lot. Curious to see what that does. 

chelseasf's picture

My previous loaves fermented in no time. So with my latest experiment, I made the following changes, keeping everything else the same (adjusting the flour and water amounts up for the smaller starter amount used here):

- Did an overnight "saltolyse" with the water, salt and flour

- Then added only 25g. cold starter (unfed for 24 hours) to slow down the fermentation

This allowed me to extend the bulk to 7 hours, with 6 stretch & folds. It did not seem overproofed - had some small bubbles on the surface and maybe a 40%-50% rise. Then I shaped and refrigerated for 12 hours at 38 degrees. Baked straight from the fridge as usual.

Results: The main difference is a more sour flavor from the long fermentation. The crumb is still less open toward the center of the loaf, and the larger holes (not quite as large, though) are still toward the outside edges. 

So here's my question - is my Dutch oven (Emile Henry bread & potato pot) too small to allow for a more open crumb in the middle?  Would this be different if I baked it in something like a Challenger pan, where the sides aren't constraining the dough so much? This is a pretty big loaf, and it can only rise so high I guess. Thanks!

gerhard's picture

that the sides are limited by the container as they have that natural oval curve to them.

chelseasf's picture

I was just trying to think of things that are preventing me from getting a more open crumb.  I know it's hard with whole grains, but know some of you achieve that!  I am very gentle with my handling and shaping, I try not to de-gas the dough.  I'll figure this bread mystery out one of these days....