The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Air bubble under top crust

EvaGal's picture

Air bubble under top crust

Many of my loaves have an odd "air bubble" gap just under the top crust.  We peel off the top crust and give it to the dog (he loves it when we hide the bits around the house and has to "hunt" for the treats).  I suspect this is because I am not slashing?  Also, the loaves seem to split just above the pan, so sometimes we peel off the bottom crust too. I use a blend of all the types of flour you recommend, and my dough seems firm.  My teenage daughter is unavailable right now to help me take a photo and post it.

BTW, I've read everything on TFL about slashing "how-To", I just need to know if it will solve my odd loaf issues.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Take a closer look at your big bubbles.  Does it look like they follow any pattern or tend to be between dough layers as you shape the loaf?  Then shaping could be the problem.  If you use lots of flour when deflating and shaping, the dough separates easier.  The mention of "peeling off" the crust sounds like pulling apart cinnamon rolls.  There, it is the fat or fillings that separates the layers.  Try using less flour (no flour if you can) and tighter shaping techniques. 

Whether the dough is overproofed or not is up for debate.  Are you using doughs with yeast or sourdoughs?  How long and at what temperature are they proofing?  It could be a combination of underproofing and loose shape causing your caverns too.  Check out some of the shaping videos.  "Firm dough" sounds more like underproofing or too much flour in the dough, this might also prevent the dough from sticking to itself when shaping.  Does anything sound familiar?

The kids are quicker with computers.  Tip: the photo's will have to be downsized first before being accepted. 


EvaGal's picture

Thanks for all your suggestions.  I use enough flour that the loaf doesn't stick to the granite or my hands.  I bake the sourdough 10" long loaf on a cookie sheet.

I make sure there are no seams on top or on the sides of the loaf.  It "proofs" until doubled in a ceramic bowl covered with a dishtowel in my warming drawer (80 degrees). Then I do a brief kneading and shaping, and let it rise on the cookie sheet in the warming oven covered with a dishtowel until it looks "right". The crumb is tight except for right underneath the top crust.


longhorn's picture

I have had a few caves and they seem to be related to possible underdevelopment (allowing gas to flow more than it should and accumulate against the top "skin" of the dough) and loaf formation. Your description of a tight crumb seems to support possible underdevelopment and gas leakage. This seems to be more of a problem in my experience with certain breads, like Pane Pugliese (made with AP). After a couple of bouts of caves I paid more attention to the development and loaf forming and the problem went away.

Oh, yeah... Don't let it double. Bake it at about 70% expanded. You will get better results in my experience with sourdough at that point.

Let us know what you try and how it works!

grumpidoc's picture

What seems to work for me is to prick the top of the loaf sparingly all over with a fine skewer at the start of the proofing time. Because I do a long overnight proof in the fridge I sometimes have to prick them again in the morning if air bubbles have formed, but it sems to work and the finished product comes out fine.

Yogibaker's picture

I just had a loaf that did exactly that - the crumb underneath was quite dense, and the flavour wasn't so good as normal.  I checked in one of my books, and it suggested underproofing was the culprit.  When I thought about it later, I'd definitely not proofed for as long as usual after shaping.   Could this be the issue for you, too?  The other thing I discovered is that it really helps to be very gentle when folding your dough, and especially when shaping.  I noticed that sometimes the bubbles would come up to the surface of the dough when I'm shaping - now I try to be really gentle, so that they stay inside the dough, and then be careful when tipping out onto the baking sheet/stone.

Good luck!

EvaGal's picture

Thanks again for your helpful suggestions.  I tried using less flour and kneading less at the shaping stage this time and it helped lighten up the loaf and eliminate the separated top crust.  I forgot to slash, so it still split along the bottom sides.

I'm going to take a good look at all my knives, even the serrated "Ginsu" knives my husband bought at the Fair decades ago, to see which is closest to the tomato knife recommended on the old TFL threads on the slashing topic.