The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can anyone please help

Jmarten's picture

Can anyone please help

I am a recently new home bread baker and I'm happy and proud to say, I have not bought a loaf of bread from a shop since Jan. this year. I have mastered the artisan loaf with the very crusty outside but I just can't get the wonderful large holes inside. I have been using the pre ferment method. I would really appreciate any advice. Also, does anyone have a good, easy sourdough starter recipe that doesn't require taking half out and so on, I can't understand why the recipes don't just give half the quantities in the first place.

jcking's picture

Please don't rush into sourdough it keeps quite a few of us here, awake at night. Artisan Bread doesn't mean big holes. Holes should be appropriate to the bread. First Rule; flavor rules! You can by loaves at the grocery store with big holes and no flavor. Bakers at one time made the big holes with less ingredients and made more money. Wanna get the big holes? Talk to some body with a brick oven; perfect environment. Please continue to bake and enjoy life.


Doc.Dough's picture

Please describe what kind of flour you have and what kind of mixer you have, or if you knead by hand only.

If you want big holes you will need a high hydration dough, around 75% or higher.  But you can't go there without a flour that will go with you, and that means one with fairly high gluten content.  And you will have to develop that gluten pretty thoroughly which means a lot of mixing and stretching and folding. And you will have to learn how to handle a really wet dough so you will need a smooth working surface (i.e., not tile) to do your stretch and fold on (I use water on my hands and on the dough to keep everything from sticking instead of oil or flour since the dough just gets wetter but continues to stick to itself), a good amount of flour to help when you divide the dough, and at least in the beginning a certain tolerance for imperfect loaves since they will be whatever size and shape you cut them to since you can't do too much shaping when the dough is that wet.  Later you will figure out how to shape wet dough too.

Here is a link to some photos from four years ago when I was just beginning to be successful with ciabatta.

In the captions there are hints and in the album description there is a formulation that worked.

Please take it all with a grain of salt.

Others will chime in with their $.02 and you get to choose the bits and pieces that fit your case.



holds99's picture

If you haven't done so already, I suggest that you consider purchasing a  good bread baking book e.g. Jeffrey Hamelman's excellent book - Bread.  Read and learn the first 90 pages of Hamelman's book, which thoroughly explains the 11 systematic steps involved in baking.  This will answer most, if not all, of your questions.  Dan DeMuzio's book, Bread Baking, is also excellent and covers the same information.  Both books are great for learning and reference and both have numerous recipes.  I have both books along with a number of others.  My favorite is Hamelman's book, Bread.  It's an old friend, and I have highlighted and underlined the important information in the first 90 pages and occasionally reread it for a refresher on the basics.

From my perspective learning the craft of baking is an ongoing process of reading, experimenting and exchanging ideas and information with other bakers on sites like TFL, and, of course, practicing.  Like the old joke, where a tourist stops a New Yorker and asks: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"  The New Yorker replied: "Practice."

Best wishes in your baking endeavors,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I can't understand why the recipes don't just give half the quantities in the first place.

Sourdough is not a flat ingredient like milk or sugar where it can be simply bought and measured.  It is a growing culture of bacteria and yeast which is fed and kept alive and happy so it can flavor and raise dough.  It is important to save part of it and feed it (keeping it growing) while using the other part (or discarding) for a recipe.  When added to a dough, that sourdough feeds on the flour and grows more -- a byproduct being CO2 gas.  When we judge the dough to be risen enough, we bake it killing the little wee beasties that were so helpful.  

Now growing a sourdough culture can go quickly as in a few days to taking several weeks.   A lot depends on ingredients, temperature and patience.  

If you want to understand the process, look up Debra Wink's blog on Pineapple juice #1  and #2.  You can start out with just a few spoonfuls of flour to get started in making your own or you can purchase one and feed it.  Either way, feeding and removing "half" or a large part of it and keeping some left over is part of keeping a live sourdough starter culture and you can't get away from it.  It can be like keeping a pet.  


fminparis's picture

I don't understand the obsession with large holes.  If you take a slice of a baguette with a great, large hole, you're getting 1/2 the bread to eat than if there were just a bunch a small holes, or very few. Taste and chew, that's what it's about.  Why spend all that time baking to eat a lot of air?

alittlesquirrely's picture

All  new bread bakers listen up! You experts...close your ears for a moment please. Janemarten, I was and still am a new bread baker. You need a success to boost your ego. Search for ciabatta on the home page and use Jasons Quick recipe. No sourdough, no trying to make what I call "intermediate or expert breads". Make this bread with 4 cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water plus the other stuff he lists. Follow the directions exactly and you will have GREAT HOLES in your finished bread! Make this several times and then venture into adding stuff to it, or changing the flours. Get this:  I substitute a cup of flour for 1 cup of oatmeal, add chopped apples, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon to this recipe and its the best bread I ever ate! (Some holes will be lost due to all the ingredients), but the ciabatta shape allows me to get more great crispy crust when sliced horizontally. This bread is best toasted.  After many successes with this recipe, I then started reading all the advanced stuff like more accurate measuring with grams etc. Don't forget: even "failures" taste good!  P.S. there is an overnight ciabatta recipe on the internet that works mixing at all.

jcking's picture

Yeast produce CO2 gas that migrate into air pockets present in the dough and enlarge them. Make sure the mixxing and kneading provide the air pockets needed.


flournwater's picture

Having once been obsessed with the "large hole syndrome", allow me to share with you what I learned.

Large holes have no texture, they contain no flavor, they do nothing for the bread except to allow whatever you spread on it to leak through onto whatever if may be resting upon.  Large holes are, therefore, useless.

jcking's picture

Holes can be a good thing. Just ask a worm. {:-)))