Monday, January 31, 2011

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.

The inner texture of the bread beneath the crust is called the “crumb”  Open crumb and closed crumb  is used to describe density of the bread.

Closed crumb breads are likely to have a more delicate crumb and the bread is denser. Run of the mill(1) white and wheat bread are typically closed crumb breads.   Bread dough that contain egg, like challah, tend to be denser and close crumbed.


Open crumb bread tends to have an open airy texture, and is often chewier than closed crumb bread varieties.  Open crumb breads are often breads like French and Italian breads.  Sourdough breads are almost always open crumb breads because the sourdough starter traps air.

Open crumb bread  generally has a higher moisture content, a gentler handling process and a longer fermentation period . . . see my recipes for magic bread and sandwich bread. 

A closed and open crumb loaf of about the same size could be compared in weight. The open crumb bread weigh much less since the dough is not as tightly packed together when it is baked. The closed crumb bread loaf will have more actual bread per square inch than an open crumb and will generally be softer and denser instead of chewy and light.

Closed crumb bread is often the best choice for sandwiches and open crumb breads are good for dipping in oil or spreading with butter or cheese.

Getting the perfect texture bread takes trial and error and practice, practice, practice.  Luckily, even your less than ideal loaves will taste yummy!

French Bread
  • 6 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 (.25 Ounce) Packages Active Dry
  • Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 Cups Warm Water (110 Degrees F)
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornmeal
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
 In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Little by little, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball.

Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush on. 

Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.  With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. 

Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

(1) In the old days, a mill was used to refine grain into flour. Each run had the same result: a certain quality of flour. So, run of the mill means that something is very standard and usual--no exceptions.

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