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I've noticed bread purchased from the local baker always has a very fine crumb. How is this achieved??

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What do you mean by "fine" crumb? That the holes are small and regularly shaped, or that it is very soft? –  rumtscho May 18 '12 at 10:35
    
I mean that the holes are small and regularly shaped. It would also be good to know how they make it so soft but that is probably better for another question. –  Jachin May 19 '12 at 3:22

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A couple of things will help give you smaller holes:

  1. Keep the hydration reasonably low (say, 60% with American-style bread flour).
  2. Use some oil or butter. Try 10% (baker's ratio).
  3. Knead very well, something like 10–15 minutes in a stand mixer.
  4. After the first rise, normally you try to be gentle, and not press out all the air. Don't. Instead, press it out.
  5. Bake in a moderate (say, 350°F) oven. You don't particularly want much oven spring here.

For even finer texture, part way through the second rise, you can press it out again, and let it start a third rise (but not to double).

Also, adding some whole wheat or rye flour will give a denser crumb. With different flavor, too, of course.

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1  
I wouldn't use bread flour for small holes, but AP flour. Has the side effect of tasting better at low hydration, too. –  rumtscho May 20 '12 at 8:57
    
Agree they're probably adding fat of some sort. Also, there's probably no sourdough in there, and rising time is probably very tightly controlled for their baking environment. I think it's quite easy to get smaller holes at home but it's difficult to get a light texture and a small crumb. –  Mick Sear May 20 '12 at 17:11
    
Covers most of what I was going to post. A little sugar in the bread dough helps yield a tighter but more delicate crumb too. –  BobMcGee May 23 '12 at 2:21
  1. a small amount of fat emulsifies, trapping multiple bubbles instead of a few giant ones

  2. faster overall processing: a single rise

  3. denser dough and worked til highly elastic.

Dough for a sandwich loaf would be portioned into three balls and worked til taut, lined up snuggly in pan and proofed to only half of its rising capacity then baked with a lid on to further compact the crumb.

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My experience is that the drier your bread dough is, the finer the crumb and smaller the holes. Try using slightly less liquid or slightly more flour.

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