Following my improvements of bread in my recent posts, I bought and read Trevor Jay Wilson’s Open Crumb Mastery. The key takeaway I got from reading it was that I don’t get nearly enough gluten development in my dough.
The lack of gluten development in my dough means that when stretched, the dough will burst rather than bubble. This is what is limiting the size of air pockets in my dough - or the ‘openness of the crumb’. This weak gluten is also a key factor in causing my loaves to spread out once I start to bake them. A stronger dough will hold its shape and stand tall, whereas a weaker one will spread out quickly.
I typically always used two things to develop the gluten in my dough. These were ‘time’ and sets of ‘stretch and folds’. I learnt this from “Tartine Bread”, “The Perfect Loaf” and “Flour Water Salt Yeast”. It’s a really popular way to make bread just now. However, I can’t seem to get the same results as others do with this method. I’m imagining it’s related either to the temperature of my kitchen, the quality of gluten in the flour I’m using, or the technique and frequency of my stretch and folds.
My new approach for developing gluten uses what’s commonly called a “slap and fold” technique. It involves you putting a wet dough on your countertop, picking it up by two sides, slapping the bottom edge down on the counter and quickly folding the bit you are holding down over the top of the dough. You then turn your hands 90 degrees and pick up the dough from the right and repeat the same motion to fold it in the opposite direction.
The results I’ve had with this have been brilliant. My dough feels stronger, shapes easier - with less flour - and holds its shape far better. It‘s even easier to score - giving me the most decorative loaves I’ve done yet.