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I tend to make a starter for my bread, typically a poolish. Sometimes I make ciabatta without a starter. I tend to see the same results either way. I give the starter 10-12 hours, then rise the dough to double(4-8hrs), then form the loaf, then proof to double(30min-2hrs) it before baking at 475F with a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven.

A few things I suspect:

  1. The flour I use
  2. The temperature of my kitchen(though I always rise to double, not by time)
  3. Not using enough yeast(~1/4tsp in starter + 1/8tsp in dough)
  4. Over proofing
  5. Under proofing
  6. I need to adjust my level of hydration(I noticed my loafs tend to rise out more than up)
  7. Living at high altitude(9,000ft), though I hear this is supposed to increase speed of the rise.
  8. Too little gluten

What would cause my bread to always have a fine crumb? With my ciabatta I feel like its not really ciabatta because its crumb isn't coarse enough. Its more like a dense american style bread with a ciabatta crust. My french bread has the same exact crumb. Its very consistent through out the whole loaf, and I rarely(almost never) find any large holes in the bread.

My bread recipes:

Note: I measure to consistency, so any measurements are going to be crude.

Cibatta:

  • 4c flour
  • 2c water
  • 1/4tsp yeast

Mix warm water (~175-180F), yeast, and a dash of sugar to feed the yeast. Sit for 15min(until water froths). Mix remaining ingredients together. Wet knead dough in bowl till consistent and gluteny. Rise overnight(10-12hrs). Punch down, pour dough out and shape by pulling to a crude oval shape. Proof till doubled(~1-2hrs), rises out not up due to high moisture and no added surface tension. Bake at 500F drop to 475F. Bake until bottom produces a hallow knock.

French bread:

  • Starter/Poolish
    • 1 1/3C flour
    • 1/4tsp yeast
    • 1C water
  • Dough
    • 3C flour
    • 1/8tsp yeast
    • pinch of salt(1/8tsp)

starter: Mix warm water(175-180F), yeast, and dash of sugar. Sit for 15min(until water froths). Add remaining ingredients. Let stand for 10min to hydrate completely. Mix until smooth. Let sit overnight(10-12hrs).

dough: Mix flour, yeast, and salt. Add poolish. Mix until consistent. Adjust hydration if to wet/dry(add flour or water). Knead until consistent, firm, and gluteny.

The french bread is a much less hydrated dough. It's not firm like pasta dough, but it can hold its shape unlike the ciabatta. The ciabatta just spreads out on its own, but holds together enough to be picked up(carefully).

marked as duplicate by rumtscho Oct 24 '15 at 10:12

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I just added the recipe along with the method above. It may be a little crude. But I formed these recipes in my head out of many other recipes I've tried over the years. So if any clarifications are needed, feel free to ask. – tsturzl Oct 24 '15 at 3:11
  • I thought of leaving the question open, as it is somewhat more specific than the dupe target. But it seems that you're only getting generic advice for answers, and really, I don't know if it is possible to give you more ideas about what is wrong with your batch without having handled the dough. So there is no need to replicate generic answers when we already have a question on that :( – rumtscho Oct 24 '15 at 10:13
  • 175-180F water and yeast? Major typo or conversion error? Over 120F tends to make dead yeast. – Ecnerwal Oct 25 '15 at 2:21
  • @Ecnerwal Definitely a typo on my part. I must have flip flopped things in my mind. I heat my oven to 180F, then turn it off before I put my starter in, and do so as well for my bulk rise. – tsturzl Oct 26 '15 at 4:50
  • @rumtscho Not a problem, the linked question provides sufficient information for my answer, so you were right to close it. Seems I need to search with broader search terms next time. I usually rely on the title to generate a search for duplicate and give a scroll through. – tsturzl Oct 26 '15 at 4:54
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In my limited experience (I bake bread a lot, I don't chase "big holes" a lot, and I don't mind) you'll want to adjust your hydration, but not in the direction you seem to think you might. If you want to "rise up" then find one of those baskets for the bread to rise in - you need an annoyingly wet dough for the big holes.

  • What about hand formed rolls? I'm generally fine with the finer crumb, and I really enjoy the bread I make(and so do my room-mates). I'd just like to make some coarser breads once in a while for dishes that I'd like to make. I've been considering getting a basket for rising, however I'd also like to make baguette/torpedo loafs. – tsturzl Oct 24 '15 at 2:17
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    High hydration and gentile handling helps to form/keep big holes. Thorough mixing tends to create a uniform crumb. – Optionparty Oct 24 '15 at 2:29
  • My ciabatta is generally high hydration, I used to get coarser crumb, but that was when I lived at much lower altitudes. I read that I should add more flour at this altitude to prevent over-proofing or over rising the bulk rise. Perhaps I've over done it. I usually punch my dough down before shaping the loaves and proofing. Perhaps I should be more careful and not punch the dough down as much or at all? – tsturzl Oct 24 '15 at 2:54
  • @tsturzl They make baguette/torpedo (long, narrow) baskets, or you can rig up something less formal. – Ecnerwal Oct 25 '15 at 2:19
  • @Ecnerwal I have these coated metal rising racks, but admittedly my baguette shaping skills could use a bit of work. I'm also slightly confused as to whether I'm supposed to bake them in this rack, or just proof them. So I usually just bake them without the rack, because I've never seen anyone do so. – tsturzl Oct 26 '15 at 5:00
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A few rules for bread with big holes:

You need a good gluten network, so:

  • Use bread/strong flour or add a spoonful gluten to all-purpose and be generous with the water.
  • Do not knead (or at least as little as possible) after the first rise. Consider the stretch-and-fold technique instead. Give the gluten time to develop. (The alternative to mechanical kneading). There is a reason baguette dough is made one or more days prior to baking - a refrigerator is your friend here.

You want to keep the bubbles that have formed during the first rise, so:

  • Do not punch down your dough. Punching down is done to ensure even, small holes, exactly the opposite if what you want in this case.
  • For baguette, you need surface tension without much "rolling with flat hands" (like you would for a log of cookie dough). So shape it by first rolling it up to a fat cylinder (seal the seam), resting a bit to relax, then stretching the dough carefully over your thumb (positioned along the long edge) and sealing. Rest in a floured linnen cloth pulled up between the loaves. This video shows a few different methods.
  • For chiabatta, you simply pour the dough on your well-floured work surface, cut into pieces, rest and bake. Chiabatta is typically flat - not higher that two or three fingers wide. Lack of surface tension doesn't allow it to go higher.

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