James MacGuire (foreground) joins Hubert Chiron (right) and Patrice Tireau at Wheatstalk 2018 to discuss the evolution of bread baking in Europe and North America.
Speaking at Wheatstalk 2018 in Providence, Rhode Island, acclaimed French bakers Hubert Chiron and Patrice Tireau addressed the fascinating question of whether “wild crumb” is automatically a guarantee of bread quality.
Chiron talked about the history of bread, noting that the baguette first arrived in France in the 1920s. U.S. mass-produced pan bread and craft European breads from mechanized short processes have a fine, soft, white crumb in common, he said, while traditional French bread was highly recognizable for its open wild crumb.
Today, Chiron said there are four types of crumb structure: brake firm bread, traditional French baguette, overhydrated straight bread and sandwich bread. Pan bread, popular in the United States and the United Kingdom, provided an assurance of final shape and gave a more regular crumb. With pan bread technology, open grain and holes were a nightmare, he said. 
On the other hand, the golden rules to get an irregular crumb include the following processes: moderate gluten development, low energy mixing and folds, long first proof, scaling with minimum pressure, no pan, short final proof, deck oven with strong bottom heat, and high temperature to maximize steam pressure and coalescence. There are some disadvantages with very soft doughs, Chiron said, including stickiness, touchy during transfer and less crustiness.
Their conclusion is that wild crumb is not an automatic guarantee of quality and that pan bread or sandwich bread could be premium quality and fit many uses. “There is no automatic link between wild crumb and taste,” Chiron said. “Wild crumb could mean oversimplified processing.”