The Fresh Loaf

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Big Air Pocket Problem, Ideas?

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bavetta's picture

Big Air Pocket Problem, Ideas?

Hey, I made a sourdough starter over about a week.  I then made a sourdough bread (Pain au Levain) with it.  Interestingly, this is what ended up happening to one of the loaves:


A giant air pocket!  

I am baking in a home oven.  This was the first out of two loaves to go in the oven.  The second came out much better - less dense overall and no big air pocket.  The taste of both was good sourdough.

Any idea what happened here / what went wrong?

Maverick's picture

Next time, try slashing/scoring your dough. This might help. There are other possibilities (under proofing, oven temp, etc.), but this would be my suggestion. Others may have other ideas.

flournwater's picture

Ditto  -  by Maverick

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, bavetta.

I have never personally experienced your problem, but it has occurred to others. My recollection of the responses they received is that this is usually a problem with shaping the loaf. I'm not sure of the mechanism.


althetrainer's picture

Just have the opposite issue.  The air pockets are not very big.  Not that I mind because my husband and son are not too crazy about big air holes.  What contributes to those big air holes, anyways?

bavetta's picture

Hey, I'm new to this so I'm not too sure.  It would be best if someone more experienced could answer.

Maverick's picture

The easiest way to get big holes is use a wetter dough (slack dough). The biggest issue for most people is adding too much flour while kneading. Especially since dough can be sticky at the beginning of kneading. If you knead by hand, resist adding more flour until a few minutes have passed.

The other possibility is the handling of the dough going from proofing to baking. If you degas it too much, then the holes might be smaller.

The final thing I can think of is if there is not enough moisture in the oven so that the crust sets too quickly and the holes cannot develop. Usually you do not have this problem with a wet dough, but I suppose it could be possible.

If I had to venture a guess, I would say that the dough is not wet enough. Hopefully others will pipe in on the subject.

dausone's picture

Awesome. I have been having a similar problem. Its almost like an unconscious action to add more flour as the dough really loves to stick while kneading. I'd love to hear other recommendations, and techniques on how people are able to tough it out when kneading by hand. Also, I have been using bannetons to proof my bread and when I carefully flip them out onto my peel I notice some flattening even though oven spring brings it back but would love some advice there as well.


Renee72's picture

How old is your starter?  If it's pretty new, it might not be robust enough to rise the bread very well.  

althetrainer's picture

Renee72, is that question for me or for bavetta?

Renee72's picture

Oops! Sorry, the question was for bavetta.  I'm still trying to get the hang of posting! 

Paddyscake's picture

Here is one of many discussions ... poor surface tension appears to be the culprit


Maverick's picture

On page 90 of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart writes on scoring the loaves:

The cuts are both functional and aesthetic. Often, they protect against trapped gas making tunnels or caverns in the bread ("the room where the baker sleeps," as this flaw is teasingly called among bakers).

edit to add:
In Crust and Crumb, page 46, he writes about Ciabatta having "spider-web-like strands of gluten barely holding the loaf together. Sometimes the strands stretch beyond their ability to hold and snap, leaving a big-tunnel-like hole. (Some old-timers call it "the room whre the baker sleeps.")

The above quote could mean that either the gluten was not developed enough, or it is possibly the surface tension mentioned in the other thread. However, if you are not scoring a pain au levain, then try it out. If you are making a ciabatta, then I don't think those are normally scored and I would look eslwhere.

What formula are you using?

bavetta's picture

We did score the loaves prior to baking, which is another reason I find this peculiar.  

I think the gluten not being well developed sounds most likely - perhaps some of the bubbles from the bottom portion popped (forming an open cell foam-like structure) as opposed to holding their form (closed cell foam).  All of the gas from the bubbles then could have escaped to the upper region but could not escape the loaf entirely because the oven had already started to harden the outside crust.

Perhaps the lower bread portion additionally actually rose to a greater extent before "collapsing" inside the loaf as the structure between the bubble cell walls broke down.

So, longer mixing time may be the answer?  

I used the recipe from page 158 of "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes".  

There was one complication in my preparation: I stuck the dough in the refrigerator during the middle of the first fermentation for a couple/few hours to "slow/delay" the rising as I had to run an errand.  I exchanged the 2/3 hour refrigerator time for 50 minutes of rising/fermentation time.  (There are a total of 5 hours of bulk fermentation in this recipe.)

Dorrington64's picture

Hi everyone I'm from Shrewsbury England and I've been making bread on and off for the past 45 years. My query is I was taught to make bread(always by hand), by turning , folding and stretching the ball of dough for at least 10 minutes. Reading TFL and other sites, nowadays it seems OK just to fold the dough.No kneading after the preliminary mixing.Are we talking just about sourdough; and what is the difference between the kneading/folding methods. I have become quite proficient at a Poilane miche  and a high extraction sourdough. Last week I tried the Norwich from WildYeast but it had very large holes. Is that my mistake. Finally is it correct that UK/European flours are different from US.

jembola's picture

Hi dorrington 64,

You might want to post your comment again under a separate thread, so it won't get lost in the "air pocket" discussion. (I'm pretty new so I really can't comment.  But my husband just got back from England yesterday and commented on all the great bread he had "as a matter of course" as he put it.  So I'm intrigued about what a Poilane miche is.)  This is a great site for all your questions in any case.