Sourdough Bread: How Dough Shape and Size Influence Crumb

Bread
Sourdough Bread: How Dough Shape and Size Influence Crumb

I've noticed that when I make smaller breads like baguettes, ciabatta, and pan de cristal, I usually get a more open crumb even if I haven't optimized every step of the process. I thought this had to do with the amount of dough being baked. The air pockets in these short loaves are not weighed down by a large vertical mass of dough. Additionally, the heat from the oven reaches the center of smaller doughs relatively quickly, stimulating the yeast's CO2 production and thus creating air pockets perhaps before they have a chance to tear or deflate. That's at least what I assumed and decided to test it in several ways.

Before we dive deeper, I want to clarify that I am not recommending the following methods (Test 1 without leavening, Test 2 with over-rising) nor am I choosing a favorite bread shape (Shhh, I love you, Baguette from Test 3). I'm just trying to isolate the impact of dough shape and size on the crumb.

I also want to highlight an unexpected finding from this experiment. I've always had trouble baking larger loaves on a stone instead of inside a pan. The loaves often have curved bases and puff up like soccer balls. The score seals soon, making the crumb very compact. During Test 3, I used my usual steam drip system which works great for smaller loaves but usually not so well for large loaves AND I scored the dough again after 7 minutes of cooking. Soon! For the first time, I had a well-formed batard with a watershed that continued to bloom even while cooking. Particularly complex steam production is not necessary.

Test 1

Dough formula in Baker's percentages
80% bread flour
20% wholemeal red fife flour
80% water
Mother yeast 20%.
2% salt

Controlled variables

The loaves came from a single large dough that I divided and shaped into four different loaves for the final test: oblong, boule, batard and mini batard (1/2 the weight of the dough).

Uncontrolled variables

Smaller, narrower doughs (mini batards, oblongs) cooled to refrigerator temperature faster during final proofing.

The doughs were baked the next morning two at a time due to the size limitations of the home oven. This meant that two of the doughs had a longer final proof, even though there is probably minimal additional fermentation in the fridge during this time.

The doughs were not all cooked in the same container. Three were baked in the Hearth Baker, which allowed them to spread outward. Depending on the strength of the dough, shaping and fermentation; this can make the crumb more open and a flatter bread. Meanwhile, the oblong dough only fits into the Oblong Baker, which offers lateral support to the dough, promoting upward expansion of the bread and, in low-adhesion situations, a more closed crumb.

The scoring model affects the way the bread opens and therefore the crumb. I scored the boule differently than the oval loaves and it is possible that this reduced the elasticity of the boule.

Results

The crumbs on this bread were more similar than I expected. The mini batard (far right) was a little more open than the other breads, but I expected the difference to be greater. Perhaps because the doughs were all more or less the same height, this reduced the effect of dough size. The boule (center left) was a little denser in the center, which I attribute to the shaping process, which pulls the dough into the center of the ball and compresses it. The boule also had the fewest kiln springs, again probably due to the shape having weaker surface tension and oozing outwards once scored.

From left to right: oblong, boule, batard, mini batard

Test 2

Dough formula in Baker's percentages
75% bread flour
22% wholemeal flours from hard red winter wheat and hard red sprouted wheat
Wholemeal rye flour 3%.
80% water
Mother yeast 15%.
2% salt

Controlled variables

The loaves come from a single large dough that I divided and shaped into a batard and a boule for the final test. They underwent the same treatment at the same temperature, including the final (over)test in the kitchen at 80F. They were baked at the same time in Hearth Bakers. Compared to Test 1, this firing eliminated temperature inconsistencies during the final test.

Uncontrolled variables

This time I scored the boule with a cut as I would a batard, but again I'm not sure this was the right score to encourage oven spring.

Supercharged country bread

Results

As in Test 1, the boule (right) has a central area of ​​higher density and overall less oven spring.

Test 3

Dough formula in Baker's percentages
77% bread flour
23% wholemeal red turkey meal
69% water
15% starter
2% salt

Same low hydration dough

Controlled variables

Compared to tests 1 and 2, this baking cycle tested the height of the dough in addition to the overall shape and size. The loaves came from a large dough that I divided and shaped into a batard and a demi baguette for the final test. They underwent the same treatment at the same temperature throughout the leavening process. The doughs were baked on a preheated FibraMent 500F baking stone and scored a second time after 7 minutes. After 18 minutes, the baguette was done, while the batard baked another 15 minutes at 450F with aluminum foil on top for the final 10 minutes.

Uncontrolled variables

The standard baguette and batard scores I chose may have had some impact on the crumb, but overall I think I controlled the temperature/fermentation and cooking method the best in this test.

Batard (right) has a denser central area

Results

As expected, the crumb of the baguette is airier and has no dense areas. The baguette finished baking (internal temperature above 205F) about 15 minutes before the batard, meaning the heat reached the center of the bread faster, and the shorter height of the dough meant there was less weight pressing down on the air bubbles as they expanded.

Conclusions

Based on the results of these three test bakes, the crumb is affected by the height of the dough more than the overall size of the dough or the width of the dough. This is especially evident with the short baguette in Test 3, but also with how in Test 1 the crumbs were similar despite the different sizes and shapes of the dough, perhaps because the height parameter was similar. The notable exception is that the bowl shape, even at the same height, tends to have a denser central area.

Related Articles

How To Make and Use Tangzhong

Contributor

Fudgy Sourdough Discard Brownies

Contributor

When to Shape Dough along the Fermentation Curve

Contributor

Leave a Comment