The Fresh Loaf

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Crumb Diagnosis

BlackCatBreads's picture

Crumb Diagnosis


I'm hoping to receive some feedback on my crumb structure in an effort to make it more consistent and open. Ive been making four to six loaves a week for the last few months and have been struggling with both consistent oven spring and open crumb structure. Any feedback or input would be greatly appreciated. 


712g (75%) H2O @ 90F

190g Leaven (20%) 

855g White Flour (90%) (Cairnspring Trailblazer 13-14% protein)

95g Whole Wheat (10%) (King Arthur)

19g salt (2%)


Starter is fed twice daily at a 1.2.2 ratio. Leaven is created night before bake at a 1.6.6 and is used when very active and healthy at around 12hrs. 

Autolyse for 40min with starter.

Mix in a Kitchenaid for 3-4 min on low when adding salt and 50ishg additional water. 

Bulk for a total of 31/2 hrs with to stretch and folds during the first hr. Dough temp fluctuated from 74F of 78F and rose by about 30-40%.

It felt good during pre and final shape (not too sticky and nice and extensible and buoyant)

Directly into 37-39F fridge after shaping for 18hrs. 

Baked directly from fridge in a preheated DO. Baked with lid on at 450F for 20 min and with lid off for an additional 20-25min or until desired darkness achieved. 

JonJ's picture

Lovely bread. I'd be satisfied with them as they are.

And yet, since you asked.... my first thought was that the hydration could be pushed a bit further with an extra bassinage, but my back of the envelope says that the hydration is already 77%  [ ((712+85) / (855+85+95)) * 100 = 77%]. Depends on what the flour can take, it sounds like it has enough protein to push the water up a little more, and I'd do so by adding it later as a bassinage.


P.S. and 30-40% increase and 3.5 hours is on the low end of things. Perhaps think of adding an extra 0.5 to 1 hour proofing time on the day of the bake - take the loaf out of the fridge and place in the proofer for an hour on baking day whilst the oven is warming up?

BlackCatBreads's picture

Jon, thank you! This is very helpful. I was wondering about hydration as well. It seems like the Cairnsprings flour at 13-14 percent could potentially handle a lot. I will try upping it into the low 80's as well as a slightly longer bulk. Thanks again. 


MTloaf's picture

As Jon suggested is the first thing to try with the higher protein flour. Judging by the profile,It looks like you’re not getting enough oven spring and the score is not opening enough. The 18 hour final proof might be too long or more time should be added to the bulk ferment. I think it helps to give divided dough a rest and the shaped loaves at least 30 minutes on the counter before chilling them in the fridge. 
Your starter being fed daily should be a lively one unless it has fallen too much between feedings. Rather than using the overnight levain in the bread I would try a 1-1-1 feed in the morning that should give you a healthier younger less acidic levain in 3+ hours. 
In my experience a mixer can very quickly over tighten the dough. The folds by themselves should be sufficient to create enough tension. 
That’s MTCW Let us know how it works out for you 


BlackCatBreads's picture


Thank you so much! This is all super helpful. I tried another round today already incorporating a bit more water and using a levain refreshed  @ 1-1-1  this morning along with a bit longer bulk and will shorten the refrigerated time as well. 

The overmixing is something I was wondering about. I did my usual stand mixer plus the two stretch and folds but will try omitting the mixer next round. Oven spring has not been where I would like it and Im wondering if the dough is just too tight rather than overproofed. 

Thanks again. 


tpassin's picture

The thing about S&Fs is not to do them according to some formula but according to the dough - what you know about it and how it feels.  If the dough seems stiff and lifeless, let it relax and then do a S&F session.  That will probably make it somewhat springy, but still without a lot of life.  Time will let the dough relax and the gluten develop.  Time in bulk ferment will let the dough develop its gluten and relax.

OTOH, if after a rest the dough can stretch way out as you pull on it, it should develop some elasticity (springiness) as you stretch it a few times.  The dough is only hopeless if it stretches out in a limp way like warm taffy and doesn't develop any springiness (even then it might not be a lost case).  That's very unlikely coming out of a mixer.

What you should look for is that at shaping time, you can bring the dough to a state of some springiness, enough to hold its shape to some degree but not so springy that it will have trouble rising.  It takes some experience to develop the feel for all this, but the bread is usually forgiving.  It's one of those things where if you were with an experienced baker all would be clear but it's hard to describe through written words.

By way of example, I typically mix my dough by hand for a few minutes, just enough to hydrate it.  I cover it and let it rest for half an hour or so, then knead it and stretch it by hand for a few more minutes.  Then I will usually do 2 - 4 S&F sessions over the next few hours - depending on the flours in the dough, its hydration, etc. - then leave it alone until it's fermented enough.

Since you are using your mixer, there will be less need for S&F sessions. Let the dough guide you.


BlackCatBreads's picture

Thank you Tom. I appreciate the in-depth explanations. I especially relate to it being one of those things that's hard to describe with words. Having spent fifteen years cooking professionally that resonates with me. Its so much matter of sense and feel and instinct rather than than any set repeatable formula. 

tpassin's picture

Right!  It's not that there is nothing definite to detect, it's that the signs are hard to describe on paper and there are a lot of interacting factors.

tpassin's picture

using a levain refreshed  @ 1-1-1 

The point of this refreshment ratio is not that it's a magic number but that the less flour you mix in, the faster it will all be fermented.  The suggestion was made so that you could get an active starter in a shorter time.  The potential disadvantage is that the starter will tend to be more acidic (because the acidity in the starter is getting less diluted by the smaller amount of flour and water).  This may not matter for you and it's worth trying.


therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Looking at your loaf cut section, I think there are a number of tell-tale signs of the issues you mention.

I think these are most visible when you highlight a section of the cut as in the image below:


Lots of people will notice the even voids - but the issue is the thickness of the dough around them.  The areas shaded by the black mask really highlight the skewed ratio of void to dough. When I zoom in to your image, a number of the areas the voids become even a little undefined and I suspect those sections may have a slightly gummy mouth feel.

A couple of things you may want to explore.

Dough too cold when it goes in the DO. The outside is hardening before the internal dough has stoped being cold and is able to really stretch its legs and rise. The visual of the crust in your image may potentially support that.

Fermentation time is out.  I couldn't say if it is too short (not allowing the fermentation to really build a good structure) - or - too long that the structure has started to collapse and it can not overcome the early crust formation in the DO and bakes itself into this thicker walled structure. 

Hydration, others have touched on that.