The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Diagnosis Request

joshgartner's picture

Diagnosis Request

One of these loaves came out looking good, with nice color, sheen, and nice blistering. The other looks like it has a smallpox infection. I would love to know what causes those nasty-looking popped white blisters on the second loaf. I don't want to tell you too much about the recipes used because I'd like to avoid biasing anyone's opinion straight away. But if someone could tell me at a glance what is causing the ugly blistering, I'd sure appreciate it. Both breads are sourdoughs and both contain relatively high proportions of levain (about 25% of total flour weight). Both were baked under identical conditions in the same Dutch oven with the lid on for the first half of the bake, then removed to allow browning. Any ideas?


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Did you retard the dough during the bulk fermentation, or final proof in the refrigerator?  This can cause the small blistering, but I'm not sure what would cause the big blisters on the bottom photo...

joshgartner's picture

Oddly enough, it was the second loaf that went in the fridge. The top one with the small blisters wasn't retarded.

clazar123's picture

I wonder if there was a condensation or just moisture collection on the surface as a result of the refrigeration. If so, then these small drop areas caused the small gas bubbles under it to expand quickly and break.

My theory.

inlovewbread's picture

looks like condensation spots- did you put this in the fridge with a lid over it where the moisture could have collected on the lid and then fallen onto the loaf before baking?

Did you bake the first loaf and then the one with the blisters? How much time elapsed before you put it in the oven? Was there enough time for it to have sweated in the warm dutch oven before baking?

I don't know- just guessing. When I've cold retarded loaves in the fridge they have gotten white spots on the top (while still cold but warming up) because of condensation. Now I cover the tops of the loaves while they are in their brotform and then put a plastic bag around that. 

What made me think of this is pumpkin pies- if you put them in the fridge after they have been baked, they will develop white spots on the top.

Franko's picture

It appears to be from lack of humidity in the fridge. Even the top one seems like it may have dried out a bit. If it's a fairly lean and livley dough this will happen quicker than if it was a dough with a higher lipid content. How long was the initial fermentation? My suggestion would be to get the dough into the proofer sooner after fermentation. The recipe may not suggest this but sometimes you need to make adjustments for your particular environment and equipment.

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

In my experience baking at home, if i get iregular blisters its cause i was inconsistant on my steaming.

If you use the spraybottle method and water hit the loaf directly you can get some ugly bubbles, if your method differs, then i have no idea!!!


joshgartner's picture

Thanks for the great thoughts. I think you all are really onto something with the condensation drips. Here's a little more backstory...

The two doughs weren't from the same mix and they were baked on different days. The first loaf was 60% hydration in the final dough. The second was 70%. They were both proofed at 76F in the Dutch oven (though I can't tell you for how long because I didn't note it). They were both baked in an unpreheated oven, ie. the dough came up to temp slowly with the oven.
The second loaf was refrigerated during primary fermentation, not during proofing. So if it got dripped on coming out of the fridge (quite possible) it seems that the free water would have been incorporated into the dough during final folding and shaping. By the time it went in to proof it was at room temp.
My new theory is that as the wetter 70% dough came up to temp as the oven heated during the bake that the humidity inside the Dutch oven exceeded 100% and drips from the underside of the lid may have hit the top crust.

clazar123's picture

I think that may be the answer and should be able to prevent, if you need to.Still looks like a great loaf.