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Over the weekend I made an overnight white loaf, methodology was something along the lines of the following:

  • Activate yeast in water, mix with the bread until well incorporated. Leave for 30 minutes.
  • Add the salt, mix in with the dough. Leave for 30 minutes.
  • "Knead" the dough in the bowl, mixture was very wet and recipe said not to add more flour so this possibly wasn't sufficient kneading. Leave for 30 minutes.
  • "Knead" again, cover and leave overnight. As it was a Sunday and I'm lazy, was left for roughly 12 hours.
  • Place on floured work surface, knock back and shape. Place in oiled bowl. Leave for 2 hours to rest.
  • Oven to 200 Centigrade, container of boiled water at the bottom to make the oven steamy to get a nice crust.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, leave to cool.

The crust was lovely and I'm happy with it, but the interior was rather stodgy, and reminiscent of how it feels to eat a crumpet.
Which steps that I took from the above are likely causes of the crumb being sub par, and what is the correct approach to avoid "crumpet crumb" in the future?

Quantities were:

  • 500g Strong white bread flour
  • 390ml warm water
  • 10g yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Could you please add the whole recipe (ratios are important) and what kind of flour did you use? – Stephie Feb 4 at 10:15
  • Recipe was from a book so I can't directly link to it, but I remember the ratios off the top of my head, so I added them. – adickinson Feb 4 at 10:18
  • 200C is pretty hot, is that what the recipe called for? Did you do fan or non-fan? – GdD Feb 4 at 10:21
  • Recipe called for 400 farenheit, which is roughly 200c. Oven does have a fan option if that's better to use in future but I didn't use it. – adickinson Feb 4 at 10:23
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There are two likely causes:

  1. Insufficient gluten development. Strong white bread flour needs a lot of kneading: I'd recommend at least 10 minutes. For very wet doughs, pouring the dough out of the bowl and using a stretch and fold technique works well. (It is almost impossible to overknead by hand.) But the autolysis and overnight fermentation should have helped here.
  2. Not enough heat in the oven. Did you use a preheated baking tray or a pizza stone? If the bottom of the loaf was particularly gummy, it may be that not enough heat got to the loaf.

Generally it's better not to use the fan in a fan oven when baking bread. You want humidity (hence the container of boiling water), and the fan will disperse the water vapour. An alternative to messing around with boiling water is to use a preheated Dutch oven. This ensures all-round heat gets to the bread, which also cooks in a moist environment.

For more advice on trouble-shooting bread dough, I recommend the serious eats article.

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