I've just made some 50/50 loaves using a biga. The taste is quite good but I'd like the crumb to be more open.

The biggest issue is that while raising the dough tends to "spread" rather than rise. What did I do wrong?

Here is my recipe:

For the biga:
500g  manitoba flour (extra strong)
300ml water
8g    active dry yeast

After 24h I add:
500g  wholemeal flour
300ml water
1tbsp vanilla paste
1tsp  sugar

I've shaped the loaves straight away as I know wholemeal bread doesn't like long proofing. I've let the dough raise 1 hour at room temperature and 10 hours in the fridge. This morning I found the dough slightly raised and evenly spread in the pan (more like a focaccia than 3 loaves :-) ). I've reshaped a bit, just separating the three loaves.

In the oven the size hasn't changed much (180 C, with a bit of water to keep humidity right).

I'm trying to get soft, open crumb loaves, like this one http://www.thefreshloaf.com/files/u5218/proth5_baguette_crumb.JPG

Edit: by mistake, as often happens in the kitchen, I've found the right recipe:

For the biga:
500g  manitoba flour (extra strong)
300ml water
8g    active dry yeast

After 24h I add:
500g  wholemeal flour
**600ml** water
1tbsp vanilla paste
1tsp  honey

And that is the result wholemeal bread

  • How long did you knead for? – Doug Feb 19 '15 at 9:28
  • I kneaded with a stand mixer for about 5 minutes the biga, then another 5-6 minutes the final dough. – algiogia Feb 19 '15 at 9:33
  • 1
    By hand? This could be your problem. I've always kneaded for around 20min total when making "strong" breads. I know side ways proving is inevitable. However making bread rolls you still get more upward motion than sideways. However if you think about a ciabatta dough, with almost no kneading it goes sideways instead of up. You can tell a novice attempt because it raises instead of staying flat. – Doug Feb 19 '15 at 9:38
  • "I kneaded with a stand mixer". I used to knead for longer but then the dough come out too elastic. – algiogia Feb 19 '15 at 10:31
  • There is no "too elastic" when it comes to bread dough. The problem with too long kneading in the stand mixer is when it breaks down completely and is no longer elastic, but it seems that you were far from that point. Also, you cannot expect whole flours to make a loaf as high as fine flours. – rumtscho Feb 19 '15 at 11:31

If your crumb is not open you likely either underproofed, your dough is too dry, or you have not opened the dough up by cutting across the top. There are many very good questions about crumb on this site already so I won't go more into that in detail, instead I'll move onto shaping.

Bread will spread out and not up unless it's restrained, it's natural for it to do so as it's the path of least resistance. If you want it to prove in a certain shape you need to use a tin or a basket in the shape you want. Bread can be baked in a tin, however if you use a basket you'll need to turn it out onto a sheet before baking.

  • I don't think it's a hydration problem. There is 600ml water per 1kg flour. The dough was "almost" sticky. I've cut it before the final proofing. – algiogia Feb 19 '15 at 9:36
  • @algiogia 600 ml water is on the dryish side when you are using high gluten flour. And if you are kneading with more flour, the real hydration you get is lower. – rumtscho Feb 19 '15 at 11:30
  • @rumtscho is right, that's not a wet dough at all. Sticky is ok, try kneading with oil. – GdD Feb 19 '15 at 11:35
  • I've kept it to 600 because of the wholemeal flour, that shouldn't have much gluten. How much water should I use then? – algiogia Feb 19 '15 at 13:44
  • Wholemeal has way more protein than fine flour. The protein is in the hull, the middle of the grain is much more starchy. You can use any amount of water you like, you'll have to see if you like the end result or not. – rumtscho Feb 19 '15 at 13:46

The short: The stretch and fold method is my favorite technique for building big bubbles and strong gluten structure to support a taller loaf of bread. This does require more time and doesn't really work with the stand mixer method.

The long: I've found that a loaf spreading rather than "springing" is a function of a number of things. It took me about 6 months of constant baking to finally be able to identify the factors and how they affect the final product:

  • Loaf size. Some loaves are just too big and collapse under their own weight. I make loaves half the size of the recipe I started with because they spring much better.
  • Improper loaf formation. If a loaf is not formed correctly to develop a taught skin around the outside, it will fail to constrain the dough during final proofing. I reference the Good Eats "No knead sourdough" episode for an demonstration of this.
  • Insufficient gluten development. If you allow your dough to rest for 45 minutes at room temp, then pick it up. How many times will it stretch under its own weight, then be folded over itself. If the answer is more than once, then it is probably not developed enough too spring correctly. This is also a function of too much moisture in the dough.
  • Excess moisture. Anything much over 70% hydration usually tends to fall for me unless the gluten is really well developed.
  • Proofing vessel size. If the final proofing vessel is not small enough to give structure to the rising dough, it will just spread out. See "Bakers Couche" for how the French get their baguettes to stay round instead of flat.
  • Scoring. You may notice that all great tall loafs of bread have been scored (sliced gently with a knife just prior to baking) to allow expansion of the bread as it cooks.
  • Oven humidity or steam. Bread really needs humidity in the first phase of baking because it allows the skin constraining the bread to stretch upwards as the bread expands during cooking. I usually use a spray bottle to coat the oven and the loaf directly just before I pop the loaf in the oven.
  • Thanks Tobin. These are really good advices and I'll try. Just I don't get point 3. – algiogia Feb 25 '15 at 8:40
  • @algiogia The intent of point 3 was to demonstrate one method for gauging the level of gluten development. When using the stretch and fold method, you usually allow your dough to rest for 30-45 minutes then you pick the dough up by one end and allow gravity to stretch it downward. Once it has stretched, you fold the dough in half and grab it by one end again. Usually a well developed dough will only stretch then fold once. – Derpy Feb 25 '15 at 23:15

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