Hi there everyone!
I am a Pastry Chef and have a few years working in the industry, but I have only just started getting into making breads. I baked off my first sourdough loaf today and I was very pleased in general, except........ the crumb was a lot more uniform than what I would have liked. My dream loaf has a large, open crumb.
Can anyone tell me what I can do to get it?
P.S. unfortunately my camera is broken at the moment so I can't upload a photo :(
It all depends on your method and recipe. Usually the higher the hydration of the dough, the more likely you will get the bigger holes you are looking for. The other thing that is very important is the method of mixing and also the type of flour you are using.
You want to have minimal dough handling to prevent the carbon dioxide that is building in the dough from releasing too early. I favor a minimal mixing method with a long overnight retardation for up to 2 days. I mix the ingredients for about 4-5 minutes on low in my mixture and then do several stretch and folds over a 30 minute to hour period to build up the gluten strength in the dough. The dough is then left at room temperature for another 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on the room temperature and then put in the fridge for up to 2 days. When ready to bake let the dough sit out at room temperature for 2 hours, then gently form into your desired shape and let it rest for another 1.5 to 2 hours until it is ready to bake.
I have many recipes on my blog describing my technique which is borrowed from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Everday with some slight modifications. I have also tried some other techniques recently which have given me excellent results.
Hope this helps.
I have just followed the basic Pane Francese 1 recipe taken from the website, and took the method from the beginners guide (also on the website).
I was very careful when handling the dough so as not to let any CO2 escape through all stages of proving. From what you have said, it is possibly the flour - I am currently in India and we can only get one type of flour (ingredients are very difficult to find). I have no idea what the gluten content is, but I'm guessing it's just a basic all-purpose flour from the different things I have made. It's not the best flour I have ever used, so that could be the cause. I might try raising the hydration slightly on the next bake to see if it makes a difference.
The Pane Francesa is a very good one to start with and it is actualy the basis for the day to day bread that I bake and I can get a very satisfactory open crumb. I have found that it takes a while for your technique to develop as you get to know the characteristics of the ingredients that you have to work with and the conditions that you are working under. At this stage I wouldn't be changing the recipe
Temperature is very important and you either need to adjust the time schedule from dough making to baking to suit or you have to adjust the temperature to fit the time schedule that you want. As a bit of a guide, if you are working at room temperature, I would take some of your starter (90g of 100%hydration) and feed it with 45g flour and 45g water. Then observe how it rises and the time that it takes to reach its peak volume. This is better done in a container with a smaller cross-section and a bit of height - I use a 500ml Pyrex measuring jug. The time that the freshly fed levain takes to reach a peak (just starts to fall back in volume) can be used as a guide to how long to take from dough preparation to being ready for baking. About half of that time can be used for dough development and bulk ferment and half for proving the loaf for baking. However, observation and testing for complete proving is still essential - don't just go by the clock.
One other observation that I have made is that the crumb texture can be related to the amount of energy that goes into the dough development. Vigourous kneading seems to give a finer more even texture than by using stretch and fold. In any case, the gluten has to be well developed so that the dough can form a continuous strong thin membrane when stretched. This is quite easy to observe during the stretch and fold but requires a manual stretching if the vigourous kneading is used. The change in the resistance of the dough to stretching and the tendency to spring back to a smaller size after stretching is another indication of how the dough is going.
Keep on bakin'