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Irregular holes - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community



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Irregular holes

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  • Irregular holes

    I got a banneton for Christmas and tried it out for the first time this past weekend. I used King Arthur bread flour and did not make a poolish. The results were not bad. I used a little too much flour in the bottom of the banneton for fear of having the dough stick. I am going I am going got try a poolish this week because I still don't get the big irregular holes that I want. The dough rises beautifully in the 1st rise and then again in the 2nd. when I gently transfer it to the peel it deflates. Taste is good but I want it to be exceptional.
    I posted 3 pix for you to see. Perhaps I don't punch it down enough after the first rise. This bread is made in the conventional oven because we have over a foot of snow in CT and just too cold for a couple loaves of bread. Any suggestions?

  • #2
    Re: Irregular holes

    Hi Guy!

    Give us some help. Tell us the recipe. What was the hydration? Without details you are asking us to guess.

    So, guesses... Too low in hydration. Too rough in handling, too late in the process. Inadequately developed gluten/poorly formed loaf. Severe underproofing.

    Baking inside has nothing to do with the holes. Nor does the banneton. If you only make a couple of loaves you can easily make better bread indoors than with the WFO. Punching down is not the problem either - at least in concept. Again, give us some help...you have told us nothing about how much yeast you used or what your fermentation or proofing times were or what the temperature was.

    A good chance it is to some extent all the above at some level. Great bread with big irregular holes takes reasonable technique (or seemingly no knead). And that takes repetition and technique.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Re: Irregular holes

      I looked at your photos and I have to say, that other than agreeing with you on the amount of flour you used in the banneton, your bread looks wonderful. I would be very happy with the crumb in the photos you posted. I'm sure if you give Jay some more info he can get you the larger holes you are looking for.


      Originally posted by mrgweeto View Post
      I got a banneton for Christmas and tried it out for the first time this past weekend. I used King Arthur bread flour and did not make a poolish. The results were not bad. I used a little too much flour in the bottom of the banneton for fear of having the dough stick. I am going I am going got try a poolish this week because I still don't get the big irregular holes that I want. The dough rises beautifully in the 1st rise and then again in the 2nd. when I gently transfer it to the peel it deflates. Taste is good but I want it to be exceptional.
      I posted 3 pix for you to see. Perhaps I don't punch it down enough after the first rise. This bread is made in the conventional oven because we have over a foot of snow in CT and just too cold for a couple loaves of bread. Any suggestions?


      • #4
        Re: Irregular holes

        Hi Guy!

        I found your photos...and they help. The crumb is pretty nice and you are close but it would still be nice to know more. Yes, you put too much flour in the banetton but that doesn't have any effect on the crumb either unless you worked into the dough during forming. However, the photo does raise a question...Why is there flour in the slashes? Slashing should be your final act before putting it in the oven, so...what gives?

        With no more information I would suggest the following, shortening the bulk fermentation somewhat (probably 25%). Faster, gentler, but firm hands in forming. Your crumb is not well organized and you did not get good oven spring. If you are using a stone, it doesn't appear to be hot enough (okay, based on bottom browning, but...hotter would help). While the stone doesn't address big irregular holes, forming does and the relatively uniform crumb suggests your technique needs to improve some OR you need wetter dough or both. Wetter dough will also help. I am making my boules at 72 to 75 percent hydration using AP flour. I would guess you are in the 64 percent range based on the loaf profile and the lack of ovenspring (which shows in the lack of elongation of the bubbles in the crumb). Try adding 3 percent or so to your hydration and if it isn't enough do it again. If it gets too wet and sticky either go back down or step your technique up a notch. You need to get more skin tension in the boule during forming BUT without excessively degassing the dough - if you are to get the crumb you want.

        Good luck!


        • #5
          Re: Irregular holes

          Thanks for the response. The recipe is as follows:
          18oz Bread Flour
          1tsp honey or sugar
          2 tsp yeast
          1 & 2/3 cups of warm water
          1tsp salt

          I dissolve the sugar in the water and then add the yeast.
          I wait until the yeast gets a good foam
          I add the flour into the liquid followed by the salt
          I use the Kitchen Aid and dough hook and kneed for 10 mins.
          I remove the dough and roll in a ball and place in an oiled bowl
          I put it in the oven which has been warmed to 100degs but off
          I cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel
          I let it rise for approx 2 hrs
          I remove and place on a floured board where i gently punch it down
          I then form the dough by rotating it on the board while I cup my hands and pull the dough under to get the dough taunt.
          I sift flour into the banneton and place the dough upside down in the bowl and pinch the bottom together if needed and place a cloth over it.
          I let this proof in the micro that has had a ramekin with hot water in it.
          I let it proof for 1hr.
          While it is proofing the stone is heating in a 500 deg oven.
          I gently invert the banneton on a peel that has corn meal on it.
          I score it and then slide it into the oven.
          I keep it there for approx 30min or until the inside temp reaches 205-210 with an instant read thermometer.
          I let it sit till cool and then cut into it.
          The flour was in the ridges because I tried to brush some of it off when it cooled so it would look a little less powdery.
          Do you use a poolish to start your dough?
          Everything is done sith a digital scale and I am determined to kame bread better than you can get in the bakeries around CT.
          More advice is helpful.
          Thank you,


          • #6
            Re: Irregular holes

            Hi Guy!

            First comment is to your question at the end. A poolish is made with commercial yeast so...sourdough and poolish are not consistent. A preferment made with sourdough is a levain. While I occasionally use dry yeast (especially for baguettes) I am pretty exclusively sourdough. I personally don't find the difference all that significant. I simply force conventional recipes into my format and it almost always works...

            My first suggestion would be to use a scale for ALL ingredients, including yeast and salt. It simply reduces the variation which allows greater repeatability. You SAY you weigh, but....you gave teaspoons...so???

            According to your recipe your formula, assuming accurate measuring your hydration is in the range of 75%. Your crumb and loaf profile don't look like it...suggesting something is astray.

            My gut feel is that 2 tsp of yeast is too much for your fermentation period of 2 hours but I need to go back to some of my yeast recipes. I would suggest either reducing the yeast a bit to 1 1/2 t. yeast or cutting the fermentation period to 1 1/2 hours. (the former is better for anything that lengthens the process is good - up to at least 18-24 hours.

            IF your dough really is 75% then your forming is very good and you got a taut skin for you got great shape. But your crumb is pretty wrong for 75% so.... You will probably get bigger, more irregular bubbles if you trade some fermentation time for proofing time...(which we effectively enabled above). So add a half hour or so to your proofing time.

            NOTE: going to 1 t yeast and a longer total time could help also...

            Punch down at 1 hour and not at forming!

            Now to get funkly... reduce your mixing time - I think you are getting things too homogeneous (therefore less irregularity). Forget the windowpane test (if you are using it) To aid in all this, do a two step mix of maybe six minutes total (2/4 or 3/3 or 4/2 minutes don't make much difference IMO) but let it rest 10-15 minutes between. ADD THE SALT AFTER THE FIRST MIX. Salt hinders yeast growth and if it is less uniformly dispersed you will get more irregular crumb.

            The stone needs a full hour of heating. You say nothing of steam (but your bread looks like you used steam so??)

            WRT exterior, try putting flour on the loaf at formation more than on the banneton. If you form well the loaf should not give you too much trouble. And if it does coat it with flour until it seems to obey. You don't want much more flour on the banneton than fits in the grooves.

            Your oven temp is way hot and your time way short. I am going to guess you are making 2 1-1/2 lb loaves. They should bake about 40 minutes at 450 or so. And if you aren't using stemm you need to! You will get much more oven spring and that will help open up your crumb.

            Hope that makes sense!

            Hang in there. Other than the flour you made a pretty good looking loaf!

            The big open crumb is not casually arrived at. You sort of have to work your way there in my expeirence!


            • #7
              Re: Irregular holes

              I usually agree with your suggestions and comments, however, I have found that 1/4 teaspoon of ADY will not show on my Escali scale. So although I measure all other ingredients for my single loaf no knead bread, I have to use a volume measure for the yeast.

              Also, although I have read (and expect that it is true) that salt retards fermentation, I have not found that my 1/4 teaspoon of ADY is hindered by the 9 grams of salt in my no knead bread recipe (these two combined with 600 grams total weight of flours and 450 grams of water). I simply dry mix all ingredients and then add water. I strive to keep the process as simple as possible.

              Attached is a sample photo of my final product. Unfortunately I have yet to match this as a consistant product from my WFO, and certainly not when baking a single loaf of bread.

              Attached Files


              • #8
                Re: Irregular holes

                Jay & Wiley.
                Thanks for the info. I made another loaf today because we were snowed in in CT today. My mother called up and told me that she made Pasta Fagioli. Just had to make bread. Left my camera at work but the overall look was great. Less flour in the Banneton and did not let the first rise go as long as I usually do (2hrs) When forming I made sure the loaf was nice and tight. I preheated to 500 degs for a good 45min. The bread had larger holes but still not there yet. Because the crumb is still a little too dense I think I will not knead as long. It does make sense that if I am combining too long it may get too uniform. I will also try cutting back on the yeast;1.5 oz. As for using the digital scale for all the ingredients....I would have to get another to weigh the smaller amounts. Don't know if that would really make a difference. I always add the salt after it has mixed for a while because I know salt and yeast don't like each other. I made a few loaves in my WFO but I find that unless you do them the day after a pizza outing or you are going to make them for the whole neighborhood it is easier to make them in the oven. No one mentioned what type of flour you are using. I have tried AP and Bread Flour. I do prefer the Bread flour because the AP is a combination of Bread and Pastry flour according to my nephew that did a quick stint at the CIA (Culinary institute in Hyde Park NY) as a pastry chef. He has all these books etc and 100's of recipes but they are for bread for the masses and even though I can do the math breakdown I haven't seen any artisan breads in his arsenal. I am going to try revising my recipe using the information you gave me and this time I will take some more pix and post them. I am going to make one using a preferment as well.
                Thanks for the info. I do appreciate it,


                • #9
                  Re: Irregular holes

                  Hi Wiley!

                  Very lovely loaf! It appears a tad underproofed by normal standards but I love that look and would much rather be 15 minute underproofed than 15 over. Nice look and crumb. I would personally bake it a bit longer - say 5 minutes but...that is totally personal taste and I am on the "dark" side.

                  Since I bought a scale that measures to 0.1 grams (and can be calibrated!) I have made weighing yeast a practice. I don't find weighing yeast to be a big deal because the particle size and density are pretty consistent so a 1/4 t. is reliably 1.0 grams. Salt is more troublesome as its density - especially from one type of salt to another - can vary by 50%. I particularly find sea salts and Kosher salts vary (Hain sea salt looks a lot like Morton regular salt but is a touch denser in my experience (for example). If you ALWAYS use the same brand/type salt, using volume measures should not much of a big deal though I find salt less easy to measure consistently with spoons (than yeast).

                  No knead is an interesting phenomenon that works a lot better than conventional logic says it should. The keys seem to reside in its wetness (in your case 75% hydration) and the fact that the relatively minimal mixing suggests that the salt and yeast are probably not as uniformly dispersed as in more conventional loaves. As your comments imply, holding back the salt in a no knead would not make much sense.

                  It is easy to demonstrate that salt hinders yeast - all you need do is mix with and without and watch them proof. The one without salt will reliably expand faster. Above around 1% the yeast begins to be impaired. As a general practice I don't think it matters whether you hold the salt or not. However, I do find that dough without salt seems to hydrate a bit better and that loaves made when the salt is held seem to have a more irregular crumb. My conclusion is that the salt I mix in late (in real dough) doesn't dissolve as quickly and thus has some variation of saltiness through the bread that creates variation in the yeast activity in the loaf that contributes to the irregularity. It was Guys desire for a more irregular crumb that led to that suggestion.

                  WRT indoor and outdoor baking...I think it is very difficult, if not impossible, to bake bread in a WFO that is as pretty as one can bake in a more conventional oven. The WFO gives a flavor/crust that is unique but the crust appearance is pretty reliably inferior. The only folk that seem to be able to make really pretty WFO bread are commercial bakers who operate their ovens daily and have a set routine. The intermittent baker has much more trouble having his bread and oven arrive at the right point at the right time - and small batches in a WFO face serious oven humidity challenges. Sooo...I make pretty loaves indoors and big batches outdoors.

                  You are doing really good on the no knead, Wiley. You are also shaping well for the boule shows evidence of good tension!

                  Well done!


                  • #10
                    Re: Irregular holes

                    Hi Guy!

                    I assume you read my comment to Wiley! My experience leads me to encourage weighing - partly because I sometimes mess around with different salts and with different batch sizes. As I said above, using volume on dry yeast is no big deal. IF you want to measure salt by volume I strongly encourage you to use one salt - such as Hains sea salt or conventional Mortons or Kosher Morton - so that your measurements will be consistent. (while I know you know this I feel I must mention that Kosher Morton is about 2/3 the density of regular salt so 1 t regular is about 1.5 t Kosher Morton.) (While I like Black Diamond I find it way too irregular and inconsistent in density for volume measurement).

                    I assume you mix the salt in in the mixer....Try doing it by hand once. The dough without salt should be soft and lack strength. Sprinkle half the salt on and squeeze the salt into the dough (save 25 gm water to help in the process). You will feel the dough instantly tighten. After you mix some of that salt in add the rest of the salt and continue. You should only need to knead it for a few minutes (say 3-4) at most. If you are concerned about the mixing give it a stretch and fold at 30 minutes and an hour. Then let it finish the fermentation in peace (no punching down - the S&Fs took care of that). If you are using fine salt, and still not getting the irregular crumb you want try switching to Morton Kosher. Its larger grains should give you less uniform salinity in the dough and encourage irregular crumb.

                    I used KA BF for six years and last year I decided the crumb was just a touch tougher than I wanted so I switched to KA AP as my main flour though I do use GM AP (and even GM AP and pastry flour blends) for some breads when I want even softer crumb (as in banh mi). As I indicated, I am running just under 75 % hydration on my breads. As BF can take more water you can probably up your hydration to close to 80 % or even higher. It will probably challenge your handling techniques a bit but...you seem to have pretty good loaf forming technique so....go for it, it will definitely open up your crumb (but you will have to handle the dough even more gently!)

                    I don't know that ALL AP is blended but...it may well be valid. Last year I helped on a cook book and helped a restaurant with their breads and got into using a variety of flours. Specialty flours like spelt, durum, first clear, rye meal, are really interesting to play with. This spring I plan to order 100# of stone ground AP and see what difference that makes. I should also comment that I have small mill and grind some of my own flour. So I am all over the place - but KA AP is my go to flour!

                    Hang in there! You are doing great!


                    • #11
                      Re: Irregular holes

                      I will get this bread down pat.
                      I made my first coupe of breads the night after a pizza fest and I have to say they were very pretty looking. The crust was nice and crusty with the same (too uniform) crumb I have now. I posted several pix this summer of the bread. It is the one that has a hot pepper and oil in the product shot. Bread making, even though you use the same ingredients, is a lot trickier than pizza dough. We have our dough down to the point that all we have to do is look at it and it forms itself into a nice round and thin crust. As I get closer to what I want to see I will keep posting and asking questions. I'm going to swipe my brothers small gram scale and put that to use as well. I'm going to have to start exercising more or envite my friends over more often as I make more and more bread.
                      Thanks for all the info and I always welcome more.


                      • #12
                        Re: Irregular holes

                        Agreed on pizza vs. loaves! I do believe that making small batches with a specific target time (several hours) for use allows making better pizza dough than big batches with variable proofing times (as at pizzarias) but pizza is pretty forgiving for the toppings directionally cover variations.

                        Bread is naked! It is a lot like being an artist. The first steps are big and relatively easy. As you get better the steps become smaller and farther apart you have to work harder to achieve each step. At some point you "get it" (I am sort of there - but not totally - my "thereness" benefits from having gone through the process in art so I understand "it" and the path). Once you "get it" you have a lot of freedom - not that you quit striving but that there is a serenity and confidence and comfort in understanding. You still aspire but it mostly is for little things like your irregular crumb - little touches, details, and subtleties that give your bread its uniquity. And for each of us that "it" is different. Example: I really believe darker finished artisanal breads have more character than lighter loaves so I tend to push people to bake darker and experience bread "on the edge" (of being too dark/almost burned) but I will never argue with anyone that darker is better IF they have tried it and rejected it for that is a personal value/taste. It is not a universal truth that darker is better. NOTE: there are some breads that definitely should not be darker but...as a general rule...I feel most people will ultimately like most of their artisanal breads better if they learn to push it to the edge wherever they decide that is.

                        When I make suggestions, as I did to you...some of the suggestions are to encourage you to try things in a deliberate manner to help you gain experience to form stronger opinions. Developing soundly based opinions is ultimately what it is about.

                        As I said earlier, you are making really nice bread and have a good hand at loaf formation for you are getting tight boules. Keep after them!

                        As for friends...I typically work out four to five times a week so I can continue to eat bread. I give away a lot of bread. but...the ultimate challenge for me as a baker is the balance between what I give away and what I consume!

                        Bake on! You are so close to the loaf you want...


                        • #13
                          Re: Irregular holes

                          Last nights bread was on the cusp of dark and burnt. I have to agree that, in my opinion, that darkness makes the crust taste so good. Having a vowel at the end of my name and enjoying cooking makes me appreciate bread making. It is an art form as you say. Like wine and grappa (which we have been making for over 40 years ) it is an individual taste. The nuances are what will give each bread it's character. Once I get there I will be the type that will experiment with different flours and other ingredients (olives, herbs etc). I just want to make sure that once I have it down I maintain a consistency. The other great thing about bread making is that they make great gifts.
                          You have to admit that there is nothing like that smell of bread baking. I have to laugh because when I took the loaf out of the oven last night I sat with it in front of my wife and was driving her crazy while she was tying to read. I was waving the smell at her and making her listen to the little sounds the bread makes as first comes out of the oven and rests. She knows how nuts I can be when it comes to food and cooking utensils.
                          Just thought I would share. I'm sure you and others are or have been there.


                          • #14
                            Re: Irregular holes