There are so many theories talking about the perfect open crumb or the perfect sourdough recipe. But is there really only one method or only one recipe or only one secret behind, this so wanted, result of a nice open crumb?
I have my own theory and i think it can be simplifid down to 2 small important steps such as bulk proving and proving.
Yes it is all related to carbon dioxide.
First of all I want to break one myth, a myth that has held me back for a long time, trying to figure out what could have been the secret behind the open crumb.
The Myth of developing the gluten.
My story starts in a warm winter day when the room where I prepare my dough has been filled up with a nice warm sunlight and the temperature of my home has risen and stayed constant for quite a long time. I mixed the dough as usual and then rested it for about 10 minutes; then started folding it at intervals of 5 minutes. After couple of times I’ve noticed that thes close intervals was creating a very good resistence and at every extra fold I could feel the dough tensing harder and harder. I thought, oh, the dough is developing the gluten structur without even working hard and rapidly the dough.
After all this thinking I decided to fold it another couple of times at an interval of 20 minutes. The dough resulted more elastic and the long pause between the stretching and folding had helped the dough relax and give it more room to stretch and to do more folds.
This was my first break through, I’ve figured out, that even without kneading your dough for a long time in a dough machine you can develop the gluten and have great gluten structure into your dough. i was stunned!!!
Second, I noticed that the dough was getting smoother and smother after every stretch. I was getting happily overwhelmed.
The only thing to know to obtain a nice open crumb.
I usually keep my Bulk proving as long as I believe my dough can sustain in relation to some main factors:
- water content, hydration of the dough.
- strength of the flour, Gluten and protein quantity.
- Amount of starter used in the recipe
- Acidity of the starter (usually related to when the starter was last fed)
So in case your flour has high amount of protein and the recipe requires low amount of starter, your dough will be able to survive longer fermentation and do not lose many sugars. The dough and bread will result slightly acidic with nuances of toasted tree nuts.
Instead, if the dough will be made with poor flour or lots of starter it won’t be able to cope with a long fermentation and will easily rip during the folding or shaping, especially if you’ve tried a long bulk fermentation.
Now that you know the most important factors and issues of baking, I can introduce you to my wonderful method and secret for the achievement of an open crumb.
We start after the bulk fermentation of at least 12 hours. Make sure that you take the dough out of the fridge, and give it time to raise its temperature.
The dough, if the starter was active enough, should start proving again, at this time it is important that you start the most essential folding steps. Mow the folding are really important. try and fold it every 15 minutes. At this tage you should be able to see great action in the dough, the carbon dioxide should be producing lots of gas bubbles all around and the different folding steps will move these bubbles around, breaking some, creating some more and making other larger. This is the only trick to have a great crumb. Even a 60% sourdough dough is able to produce great crumb, as long as you become aware of the stages of folding and especially when you can understand when the dough is actually proving.
The rest is as per normal routine: you cut the dough into the size that you want and subsequently you shape it, trying to keep as much gas as possible inside. Prove it from an average of an hour and bake it accordingly to the size and weight of the loaf.