The Fresh Loaf

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Holes in top of whole wheat dough

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lpenney77's picture

Holes in top of whole wheat dough

Relatively new to bread making. I have become fixated on making a whole wheat sandwich loaf, and this is the second time I have tried a similar recipe. The taste is good, 80% whole wheat with a little honey and some oats. Both times I have made it though, the loaf isn't smooth on top. It gets holes. Is this a sign that it is over proofing? Or is it possibly too little kneading? Something else?

I get nervous about overproofing when i see it and throw it in the oven, because it is usually at a point of a good rise, but if it can get more rise in it, i wouldn't mind waiting. It just feels too risky.

Any thoughts or advice are welcome.  

breaducation's picture

Do the holes on top look like tearing? If so you might want to try shaping a little less tightly. Whole wheat dough has a tendency to tear easily because the bran in whole wheat flour shreds gluten strands. I've had many whole wheat loaves look great until they get close to being oven ready and just suddenly tear on their own.

Also, how much oven spring are  you getting? If it's not very much then you are probably judging your proof time accurately. Just shape a little less tight and see how it goes.

lpenney77's picture

Thanks, breaducation. Great name, btw. 

There is some tearing, and I had yet to hear or read about "tight" shaping. I am not sure what that means. Can you give some advice on loaf shaping? I guess shaping it for baking isn't something that i have considered much. I usually don't slice the top of a loaf because i don't have a knife that i think is sharp enough to slice the top and not make a mess. 

Mostly what I was asking about though look more like air bubbles in the top of the dough that popped. It doesn't gain much at all in the bake, so maybe both these things are working against me. The bread seemed to shrink a bit this time. I wasn't even sure that was possible. It just came out lower in the pan.  

I am just really hoping to get to that smooth beautiful texture at some point (and know how i got there!). They taste good though, so i can't complain too much. This one really was awfully heavy though. 

breaducation's picture

Ah I get what you are saying now. That definitely sounds like over-proofing. Try proofing for a bit less time. You are using up all your fermentation potential before the loaf gets in the oven so the loaf has nothing to do but collapse on itself. A well proofed bread is probably only 85-90% inflated by the time it goes in the oven. If it's at 100% then it's going to collapse.

 You should get less air bubbles if you adjust your proofing down a bit. Remember that baking with whole grain flour increases fermentation activity which means you need to shorten your fermentation times. I created a lesson on whole wheat baking here if you want to read an overview of the subject.

Tightness on the shaping is something you definitely have to get a feel for with practice. I wouldn't worry about it too much at this point. It's just good that you are baking regularly!

lpenney77's picture

Thanks for the link. Very helpful. I have made at least 5 or so whole wheat loaves, and only one (a hot dog bun) actually ever rose with the beauty it should have in the first rise. It was lovely, but a very different recipe from the ones that I have been using for sandwich bread. I think these taste much better (the ones i like are very similar to the one you sent). Although I am adding some rolled oats just because i love them. 

I am getting a bit discouraged because only one of these loaves I have made were 100 whole wheat. The rest I added some white flour to develop gluten--usually less than 50% though--but still something is going wrong. That is always the first piece of advice, and i have been doing that without little change. It is hot here in the summer, so maybe i am just letting it fully proof in the first rise. I am not sure that can be all that is going on because it isn't getting the double or near double i am looking for in that first rise.  Could that hurt the second rise?

I have yet to let it rest immediately after the mix, so i will try that next time. I have also read something about soaking the whole wheat before mixing. I am just at my wit's end about it, though! I feel like the more i bake, the worse i get at it!

AW's picture

Hi lpenney77,

Though this recipe is not 100% whole wheat, a lot of people have had success with it and enjoy the flavor. I make it fairly frequently:

Jeffrey Hammelman suggests soaking whole grains to prevent tearing; I don't know if this will be prudent advice based on your recipe but thought it was worth mentioning. Keep up the good work!


golfermd's picture

I use this one and everyone loves it. It's Floyd's recipe:   I don't do the soak in hot water, just add room temperature water. I also use plain milk. When I first started I was overkneading and overproofing the dough, coming out like bricks. As my partner says, "It's just bread".