The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Is it just me, or is Instagram wrong?

CurlyBaker's picture

Is it just me, or is Instagram wrong?

Good Breadpeople of TFL, I'm deeply confused. 

Whilst on my sourdough journey, having learned a lot about what constitutes good fermentation I have come to realised that some of the fantastical aesthetically pleasing breads I see on social media are in fact, a lie. Or... At least I think they are...? Help me out here...

I keep seeing these pictures of these hugely open crumbed loaves, with huge tunnels in the top half of the loaf (granted, some of them are sometimes surrounded by what otherwise seems like pretty normal texture) being lauded as examples of sourdough perfection. A few months ago I might have thought "oooo that's pretty!" too... But now I often find myself looking at them and thinking "Oh look! An underproofed loaf!" But nevertheless they seem to attract hundreds of likes and nothing but glowing and encouraging comments about how perfect it is and I'm just baffled!

Now I do realise that everyone's opinion of what constitutes the perfect crumb is different and hugely subjective, but am I way off base here? Has anyone else noticed this? I don't profess to be any kind of expert so I'm wondering if some of these trends may actually be leading some beginner bakers astray chasing that kind of texture when that's not what good, even fermentation and proving looks like.

Also, some of them look completely impractical in terms of usability. The giant holes would men anything you try to put on it would fall straight through. In which case... What's the point?

I don't know what to make of it. At what point does open crumb just become underproving rolled in glitter?

JonJ's picture

I don't follow a lot of Instagram bakers, but there are some that are creative and talented bakers who don't deserve to be tarred with the same brush  (even if some of them also happen to make the crowd pleasing aforementioned hugely open crumb loaves!).

I'd recommend fullproofbaking (Kristen Dennis), and some commercial bakers such as danthebaker and jenniferlatham (from Tartine bakery) who are well worth following.


Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I'll add Maurizio (@maurizio) and of course Benny (@bread_md) - his latest post is about under/over proofing :)

CurlyBaker's picture

I don't mean to generalise and say that all bakers on Instagram are bad. There are some brilliant examples of different techniques to be found there. I follow quite a few (including TFL's very own Bread_MD) I just mean that it's very hit and miss sometimes.

I'm not here to trash any one Instagram baker in particular either. But in amongst some of the brilliant stuff I've seen, I've occasionally seen some loaves that maybe weren't so great. But were set against a pretty backdrop and given a catchy caption, and the fact that it was hugely underproved just didn't seem to matter. I saw a particular example today which fell into that category and was genuinely confused. Hence my question. Is it me? Am I reading these loaves completely wrong? Or is it just some weird Instagram trend where underproving gets passed off as just a "very open crumb"?

It strikes me as very counterintuitive to encourage the latter but I'm genuinely trying to understand, not denigrate anyone.




christopher's picture

My understanding is that underproofing can cause large holes surrounded by dense bread, the so-called "fool's crumb". But I don't think most people are posting that on IG.

That said, many people are tired of the open crumb fetish. (Ever tried making a grilled cheese sandwich with an open crumb?) And more generally, I find it tiring that everyone on the internet seems to be baking the same kind of bread. There's more to life than just rustic sourdoughs. How about an old-fashioned Vienna bread, or a satisfying multigrain? (I read an interview with Hamelman bemoaning the same thing, but I can't find it.)

mariana's picture

Christopher, thank you for the link to Andrew's article with its picture of crumb resulting from the starter that is not there yet. It's perfect.

Having good quality ingredients is important and starter is one of them. 

I had similar results with homemade yeast when yeast was not done yet, yeast cells haven't multiplied enough. It's different from a low dose yeast bread though, just as "young starter" , refreshed and used before it doubles, is different from the starter that has not completed its "growth" or "formation" when you create a starter from scratch. 


justkeepswimming's picture

... regarding the quest for an open, lacey crumb. I get it in some ways, especially if someone really likes eating Ciabatta or croissants or something similar. We haven't ever eaten those on a regular basis, so I haven't felt compelled to try to learn how. I did play with trying to reproduce that open crumb style early on. It taught me a lot in a short time frame, which helped me understand what I do and why when making a simple whole wheat sandwich loaf. I don't post those very often, because they are just kind of boring photos. They taste awesome! And my hubby is really happy I figured out I enjoy baking bread. But yeah, social media trends aren't really representative of reality for many things.... including bread.

I may try to learn how to make baguettes in the fall, when soup and chili season return. Or something else if I get bored over the summer.... we'll see. I promise to post flops as well as success stories. 😁


justkeepswimming's picture

Thought you might be interested in this thread, from last summer: