The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Failing miserably at big holes/open crumb

leafmuncher's picture

Failing miserably at big holes/open crumb

I have been baking bread for about six months now, so I'm still a complete noobie, but really enjoying myself. I've been making Reinhart's San Francisco sourdough a lot, and I've recently tried his Ciabatta (in the Apprentice book) a few times.

I cook in an electric oven, weigh all my ingredients, have used KAF and most recently the high gluten Giusto's.

The main problem I'm having is that I want my bread to have a really open crumb with big, irregular holes. I've tried increasing the hydration on Reinhart's SF sourdough recipe with a bit of improvement, but nothing major, and tried the Ciabatta recipe with 9 oz of water and 4-5 folds and I still can't get it to look like his photo. (My latest theory is that perhaps I didn't flatten the dough enough, mine went into the oven about 3-4 inches high.)

Anyway, I would appreciate any tips you might have that would help me accomplish my dream of yummy sourdough/artesian bread with enormous holes. I've seriously tried varying proofing time, oven temperature, quantity of steam, mix time, all without any luck. Any sort of tips in terms of the factors that play into big holes would be much valued.

(Also, just in case it matters, I live in a tropical climate (Hawaii) which is pretty hot and humid most of the time.)

Thanks in advance!

jdunivan's picture

Try degassing your dough with your fingers and working the dough as little as possible. By doing this you are causing the small pockets of gas to join together to form larger pockets. So if you completly degass the dough you lose those pockets. I like to let my doughs rise 3 times so the first 2 I just use the tips of my fingers and degas a little but mostly to move the pockets of gas around.

Now I could be looking at this wrong but it has worked for me.



leafmuncher's picture

Thanks for the comment! Do you perform the degassing in conjunction with stretching/folding?

halfrice's picture

If you are talking about your ciabatta being 3-4 in. high when it went into the oven, then it is way under hydrated.

leafmuncher's picture

It started super soupy, but after 3-4 folds it lost some hydration because of the flour I used during the stretch/fold cycles.

davidg618's picture

Does this imply you use a lot of flour with each stretch and fold? If so, you're probably radically changing the hydration. Try S and F not dusting with flour, just use your dough scraper to recover the dough that sticks to the board. Also, I do two or three S & F at each interval when I make ciabatta, totaling a dozen or more individual folds, by the end of bulk proofing. Except for dividing the dough, I only gently shape the loaves for final proof--only then is when I sprinkle the board and the top surface of the turned-out dough with flour--I do final proof on parchment paper rectangles: one for each loaf, and load the paper with each loaf.

For doughs at 68% hydration, or lower, (typical for sourdoughs) there is no need to dust with flour when stretching and folding.

David G.

LindyD's picture

Hi Leafmuncher,

Have you tried retarding the dough overnight, to slow down and extend the fermentation?

leafmuncher's picture

Thanks for your reply. The PR Sourdough recipe I use the most spends two nights alone in a cold fridge :-)

SallyBR's picture

Reinhart's recipes (from BBA) always call for extensive kneading - either by hand or using a mixer.


I've made the exact recipe for sourdough bread kneading in the machine versus folding the dough and the difference in crumb texture is amazing!  Very closed crumb in the bread kneaded by machine, versus open and airy with folding (just three folding cycles, spaced throughout the first 2 hours of fermentation - If I remember correctly, the recipe calls for a 4 hour total rise)