Beginner baker here… So far I’ve made two loaves of the traditional whole grain sourdough and one loaf of the easy bake sandwich bread. All three of the loaves have been very dense and the bottom crust of the sourdough loaves are extremely tough and hard to cut through. I baked the sourdough loaves in a Batard and the sandwich loaf in a regular loaf pan. What could I do to make the loaves less dense?
I struggled with dense loaves at the beginning of my sourdough baking experience … what works for me is to lengthen the process. I typically leave the dough at room temp for 4-6-8 hours and then into the refrigerator for 12-24-36 hours. Depending on the type of dough, how it looks, etc., I might shape it before refrigerating and then bake direct from the refrigerator. As I was reading about dense doughs, it was the time (lengthening it) that was a common denominator and eventually solved the dense issue for me.
As far as the bottom crust, I do keep a baking stone on the lowest rack of my oven. Others on this forum have mentioned putting a cookie sheet or something on a rack under your baking vessel to help deflect heat on the bottom … much depends on where your oven’s heating elements are and if you have fan assisted/convection, etc.
The other thing to try would be adjusting temperature and baking time. If I want a crispy crusted “artisan” style loaf, I start at 500 for 10-15 minutes (covered in dutch oven or clay baker), 450 still covered for another 15-20 and the last 10-15 minutes uncovered. For sandwich loves I preheat to 500 but immediately turn down the oven to 450 when I put the loaf in the oven (covered clay baker or direct on a stone) and similar times but turning the oven down to 425. And for a softer loaf, I add some potato flour (just 30-40 g in a total of 700 g flour)
Bottom line, you might have to experiment to see what works best in your own conditions.