How do I get a more open bread crumb?
Lots of factors affect the “crumb”, or internal structure, of your loaf. Many amateur bakers want to know how to produce lighter bread with larger holes.
“To achieve a very open crumb, you need a good flour with a high protein content, between 13-16%,” I use King Arthur all-purpose, wheat, and bread flour because they are very consistent. “This allows you to produce a nice gluten network which is responsible for retaining the CO2 gas given off by the yeast.”
The water content of your dough or its hydration is also key.
What is hydration?
One of the most commonly asked questions… Simply put, it’s the amount of water called for in your dough recipe. Usually, it’s referred to as a percentage. For example, 1000g of flour and 600g of water – that’s 60% hydration and easy to handle. 70% and above is considered high hydration, sticky and requires some skill to handle. However, not all flour can handle high hydration, so it’s best to start low and work your way up.
Beginners often add too much water too quickly and then panic when their dough becomes sticky so they throw in extra flour. Now your recipe has completely changed. My top tip is to start with about three-quarters of the water in your recipe, mix slowly and add splashes as you go. Greater water content makes for softer dough and bigger bubbles.
“It is easier to blow up a balloon with thin skin than one with thick skin, and by adding more water your dough becomes more like a thin balloon.” Get it?