Bread sleuthing

What do you look at when you’re trying to evaluate how well you made and baked your last loaf? I’m always wondering what my loaves should be telling me. Here’s the way I’m thinking these days, and I’d love to know what you think.

Personally, I always focus on the crumb, but I do know the crust should tell me a lot too. I like the evenness of colors on this loaf along with a little glossiness. This tells me that I did fairly well judging the fermentation. I’ve been getting a nicer oven spring lately. I still wonder how some bakers get amazing oven spring and ear. I’m not sure, but I always think that I need more practice getting a nice taut loaf during shaping.

This crumb looks nicely fermented to me. It’s open with irregular alveoli. If I look more closely, I see some really deep holes (wild?), which makes me believe I should give my loaves a little more light patting during shaping. The long deep hole in the bottom right near the crust is, I think, due to too much flour during shaping. I’m going to try dusting off excess flour in the future.

How do you define custardy? I’m never really sure myself. How about the weight of your loaf? I know it should feel light in hand which this one did. I’ve never weighed my loaf before and after baking. Do you? How much should the weight of a loaf decrease as the water bakes out of it? Do you tap the bottom of your loaves? I always forget to do this.

Let’s learn to sleuth together because it’ll make us all become better bakers.