The Fresh Loaf

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ISO Advice for Better Crumb

rosemonahan's picture
rosemonahan

ISO Advice for Better Crumb

Hi folks - I've seen a lot of good advice on this forum, and so I'm hoping folks have some advice for me as well. I've been baking bread for several years, but only over the past year have become more "disciplined" about my approach. When I set out to make bread, my goal is always something like the breads of Tartine, Dan the Baker, etc. However, whenever I get larger air holes, the crumb is usually fairly dense (I believe from under-fermentation). When I achieve a lighter crumb, I do not have the air holes that I'm seeking (an example attached). I'm happy with the breads that don't turn out too dense, but I'm not achieving what I think I should and I'm not sure why - over-fermentation? poor shaping? too high of a hydration? too much whole wheat? problems with temperature? (I do have a really hard time controlling room temperature, particularly in the winter). I have the Tartine bread book and usually follow that recipe, with some tweaks based on advice from other forums. (e.g.,  I usually don't make a levain - instead I feed my starter twice and I usually put my bread directly in the fridge after final shaping instead of allowing for a proofing stage)

My recipes vary, but usually I use between 40-60% whole wheat, 75-90% hydration (typically 80%), bulk ferment for upwards of 5 hours, put the dough immediately in the fridge after shaping. The photo was 40% whole wheat, 75% hydration; bulk fermentation for ~6 hours; shaped and put in the fridge before baking this morning.

Any thoughts welcome!

jl's picture
jl

This is great! What you could do is get a sharper knife so the cuts would be cleaner. Then it would look even better in pictures. :-)

Benito's picture
Benito

As you know the greater the % of whole grain in your dough the greater the difficulty in achieving an open crumb.  However, at 40% whole wheat, 75% hydration it should be possible.  The tact that I have taken with some success is to develop the gluten up front not waiting on the folds during bulk to develop gluten.  Instead the folds during bulk help organize the gluten and build structure.  How you develop the gluten upfront is up to you.  Some may use a mixer, I use a combination of Rubaud kneading and French Folds doing as many as required until I had pull a good windowpane.  Then using an aliquot jar to monitor rise because my bulk vessel doesn’t easily allow me to measure rise I will allow bulk fermentation to go until a 60% or so rise at which point I shape and place the dough into the banneton.  This is a major point at which your method and mine deviate.  At this point I start a final proof at room temperature or higher and wait until the dough has achieved at 90% + rise in the aliquot jar before finally placing it in the fridge for a cold retard. I ensure that there is no fermentation activity once the dough drops to the fridge temperature (this takes a few hours) of 3ºF. If your fridge is warmer then your dough may overproof.

I’ve been using this strategy based on Trevor Wilson’s Book Open Crumb Mastery which you should consider getting if this is something that interests you.  In particular I’ve been trying to achieve a lacy crumb.  As he says in that section you will need to fully develop the gluten right at the beginning in order to capture all or most of the gases produced during bulk.  Then you’ll need to proof to the max in order to achieve a lacy crumb.

Have a look at my 75% whole red fife sourdough bake, this was probably my best effort so far to achieve a lacy crumb with a high percent of whole grain.  Red fife is a heritage grain and is difficult to work with so I’m particularly proud of that bake.  75% whole red fife 

rosemonahan's picture
rosemonahan

Thank you - this is really helpful. I'll see if I can implement some of your strategies on my next loaf and check out the Open Crumb Mystery. Appreciate you taking the time! and the 75% whole red fife looks lovely!

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you, I hope you post again when you’ve baked again.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

but you have turned out a good loaf of bread.  It appears to have been fermented well, in both the bulk and final stages.

Open, lacy crumb requires some specific dough handling processes and skills.  It isn't as simple as "add more water".  The fact that you are using a substantial percentage of whole grain flours in your breads will also shift them toward a less-open crumb. 

I'll let others chime in with specific recommendations, since lacy crumb isn't something that I have wanted or worked toward.

Paul