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texture varies in bread

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I am a pretty experienced bread baker and I've lately had a puzzling problem with the texture in the finished loaves. The center of the loaf is quite 'open' whereas the outer areas are fairly dense. I've tried various rising and cooking times but the problem persists. I'm a 'hand' (not 'machine') baker; the loaves are whole wheat. Doug
post #2 of 12
This happened to me just last Monday as I was baking our loaves for home. Here's what I think happened to me--hopefully, my theory will help you, as well. I forgot to account for the fact that it was 67 degrees in the kitchen. This=very long rise, which is good. I forgot to use a moist towel (or Saran--something to keep the dough from forming a skin). I just used a regular old linen towel--the dough "skinned up." So, while yeasty fermentation was still happening deep in the loaf, and carbon dioxide was busily trying to distribute itself, the tough crust held it all in. The carbon dioxide in the center had nowhere to go, so it just stayed in the middle. What I ended up with was a bread whose center was hollow (about 1/4" hole) surrounded by coarser crumbs, then tight crumbs near the crust. Next time, I won't forget the moist towel/Saran Wrap!

Hope this helps you.
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
I don't think this was it. My kitchen was warm (the rise was about 45min.) and the loaf was covered with saran -- no skin on it. Mysterious huh?
Thanks for your reply.
Doug
post #4 of 12
Mysterious, indeed. Hope someone can shed some light on your issue. Good luck!
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #5 of 12
Sometimes it just happens -- to very experienced, professional, artisanal bakers who do everything in their power to stay perfectly consistent after a recipe and set of techniques is perfected.

However, the problem you're describing usually has to do with how you degas (punch down, partially punch down, fold, etc.) and form your loaves. Whole wheat doughs tend to be a little stiff and problematic anyway.

If you're mixing the bread with a combination of whole wheat and white, try using an unbleached strong (better for bread) white flour and see if that doesn't help.

Let me know what your rising, degassing and formation techniques are, and maybe we can figure out something a little more reliable.

BDL
post #6 of 12
the open holed, almost cavernous inside, has happened to me when i let it raise too much in the last rise. It looks great, but using the touch test it sort of caves in a little when you press it, instead of leaving simply a dent. This means it's overrisen, and i recommend pressing down again and doing a new last rise. you can even take it out, press flat, and fold up again to make the loaf. Overrisen bread will be dry and unpleasant.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #7 of 12
Wish I could offer a definative answer, Doug. But I can't.

I had the same thing happen once. Did everything the same way, or thought I did. The bread proofed as usual, and baked as usual. And it all respects was a perfect loaf---except for the cave in the middle.

Despite all we know about the science of bread making, the fact is there is still a little bit of magic and mysticism involved. And sometimes things just happen. What's more, they seem to just happen more with whole grain breads.

I suspect, however, that BDL is right, and it has something to do with degassing and reproofing. Perhaps even your kneading method? Something caused a large gas bubble to get trapped in the middle of the loaf. If you can figure out what that something is, you'll have solved that problem.

And something else, no doubt, will pop up. Ahhh, the joys of bread making. :rolleyes:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 12
Sid,

What you're describing is sometimes called "flying crust" (Peter Reinhart's term, IIRC). I'm not sure if that's the OP's problem or not.

It's mostly a consequence of gravity, i.e., there's less weight on the top of the loaf than on the bottom (so the top rises faster), combined with allowing too much rise for the last proof. What happens is that when the bread goes into the oven, the heat expands the already large cells on the top beyond the glutens' ability to hold the bread's cell structure together. So, a lot of a little-bit-too-big holes become one great big one. (Remind me to put this in the bread section of my book).

You don't have to completely degas and reform. Just press down about half way in way in the pan -- pressing a channel down the long axis of the bread leaving the sides a little higher. A positive benefit is that you'll get a classic, French "sandwich loaf" shape with the two-lobe top. (Professional bakers use a dowel to make the channel, I use my knuckles.) Another fix short of a complete reformation and rise, is to dump the loaf out and replace it in the pan upside down with as little degassing as possible.

BDL
post #9 of 12
Hi bdl
what i was describing is not, i think, what you;re describing. It sounds like you're describing the big hole under the crust, that we discussed some time ago, me attributing it to too hot rising (i'm still convinced of this by the way, it happened to me when i was in a cold house and put the bread in a place with warmth from the top) and you to gravity, etc.
but anyway
what happened to me a couple of times is that the bread rose just way too much in the last rise. I was inexperienced then, and it just seemed like a really good rise and oh wow, it's going to be nice, high, fluffy bread. (it was a sweet bread for the holidays). It wasn;t. I do remember trying the poke test and it collapsed a little, but i figured it would be ok.
Instead while it was cooking it collapsed more, and inside there were, right in the center, cavernous holes, sort of spongey, i seem to remember many broken holes converging around a bigger central hole, and very, very dry, at least the next day it was horribly dry.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
BDL:
You said: "Let me know what your rising, degassing and formation techniques are, and maybe we can figure out something a little more reliable."
The first rise was quite fast -- maybe 40 min. -- and the kitchen was warm -- about 22 or 23C. I punched it down, turned it out of the bowl and did a minimal kneading -- 20-30 seconds. I formed it into a loaf shape and put it in a pan. The second rise was about the same time.
What's interesting about this is that I've been making the same bread for years and it's always been fine. This is new, and consistent now. Sid made reference to largish holes but it's not like that; it's a "loose" or "open" texture right dead in the middle of the loaf compared to the rest of it.

Doug
post #11 of 12
You can improve texture and taste by adding another rise. The texture will benefit from the extra degassing. The harder the yeast works, the better the bread is going to taste.

Now that's out of they way...

Let's try your next bake with basically the same procedure. But instead of punching the bread all the way down do this:

After the first rise (doubled in volume), turn the sponge out without punching it down; cut it in loaf sized portions (in half?) and pull each half into a ball, doing your best to keep as much gas in there as possible.

Pick up a ball, and gently work it into a circle (then a rectangle) off the board -- or you can do it on the board using the heels of your hands. -- again, all the time trying to keep as much gas in the dough as you can. The size of the rectangle you're looking for is about 3X the width of your loaf pan.

Lay the rectangle on the board, and fold it into thirds, letter style. Rotate the rectangle so it's seam up, fold about an inch of each open end over, and close all seams by pinching and smoothing them -- forming loaves. Place each loaf in its pan seam side down.

Option 1. Allow the loaves to rise to about a 75% increase in volume, rather than allowing them to double, and bake in the usual way (presumably 350*F). In other words, different punch down and formation techniques; more advanced -- they have you working with the dough instead of trying to pound it into submission. Let's see how it works.

Option 2. Allow the loaves to rise to the size you want your loaves to have, then push them gently down along the long axis of the loaf pan, using your knuckles or finger tips to create a channel which runs the length of the loaf. Allow the loaves to rise again (third time), giving them enough rise time so that their total volume before going into the oven is about 75% of the final volume you expect and bake. That last, partial press down should help to make for consistent structure throughout the bread. Another benefit is the resulting "sandwich" shape.

BDL
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
BDL --

Thanks -- I'll give it a try.

Doug
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