So I have been baking sourdough for around two years now and I can now consistantly bake a pretty decent loaf, however I am still unable to attain professional level crust and presentation. My crust is never that crusty and I can get a decient rise out of my scoring.
450g active starter per kg of flour
4 rounds of folding
3-4h bulk ferment
Overnight retarding in circular banneton
Baking 245C on baking stone for 25min
boiling water poured onto cast iron pan below to produce steam
The bottom on my bread never crusts up, stays soft/supermarket like.
Top scores never really fold out and crust is rather medium
Any ideas on how I can improve my process and end result???....
I am just a bit curious about your recipe. The amount of starter that you use seems a bit on the high side compared to a lot that I have seen. But that shouldn't give you a problem. And I assume that you have just neglected the mention the amount of water that you add when you make the dough.
Your process and timing sound as if they should be about right. The baking temperature should also be OK though your loaves are pretty well browned. I wonder whether you should either get an oven thermometer and check your oven temperature or just try baking at a lower temperature or even simulate a 'falling' oven where the temperature is progressively reduced through the baking time say starting at 250 and reducing to 180 by the end of the bake. As an aside I bake a 1kg (dough) loaf for 40 minutes following this regime. It is possible that your crust sets too quickly and this is why you do not get the expansion through your slashes though you do not seem to get other splitting which would often follow if that was the case. The fact that your slash area is pretty much the same colour as the rest of your crust confirms that they open to that extent early in the bake and do not expand from there.
With your slashes, one thing to try is to cut the dough with an under-cut by holding your blade at a low angle to the surface and cut at least a centimetre deep. This will protect the cut dough from the heat of the oven for a while and give it more time to expand and could give more contrast while the flap will dry and curl to give a 'desirable' grigne.
As for the soft bottom crust, I can only wonder whether you give your stone sufficient time to get a good soaking - perhaps at least 45 minutes at temperature before baking.
Let us know how you go and good luck with your projects.