The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Those holes in great bread

danmerk's picture

Those holes in great bread

How do I get those huge inconsistent holes into my bread? I assume you do not punch down as much and have a softer wetter dough?

sphealey's picture

=== How do I get those huge inconsistent holes into my bread? I assume you do not punch down as much and have a softer wetter dough? ===

Well, one could say that is essentially the topic of this entire site, so it is a big question!

First I would recommend reading Floydm's basic lessons, starting here.

Then try Floyd's Daily Bread recipe once or twice and then read the discussion.

But if I were to dare to try to summarize, I would say that the artisan crumb is possible when you:

  1. Use only flour, water, yeast, and salt
  2. Use good-quality ingredients
  3. Have a high percentage of water in relation to flour (high hydration)
  4. Use a poolish
  5. And a relatively small amount of yeast
  6. ...leading to a long, slow rising (sometimes called "fermention" here)
  7. a relatively low temperature (my bread maker rises dough around 90 deg.F; I try to keep my artisan doughs around 70 deg.F)
  8. Gentle folding in place of punching down
  9. Gentle shaping (this is the hardest part IMHO)
  10. Fairly cool final rise
  11. High heat to start the bake
  12. ...with steam

Sounds hard, but it really isn't. If you can borrow the King Arthur _Artisan Bread_ video from someone it goes over all these steps in very understandable format.




sphealey's picture

Hmm - I remembered a 1A:

1A. 1-2 tablespoons of whole grain rye flour per every 4-5 cups of white. According to the books this is a trick that many French bakeries use and is specifically allowed under the "Baguette Law".


bwraith's picture

The one biggest difference for me has been to use higher hydration dough. For me, that has gone along with less early mixing and more stretching and folding in the early stages of the bulk fermentation. Also using less strong flour may help, such as AP flour instead of bread flour.

michaeld's picture

I go along with pretty much everything already said. The important points for me are:

Higher hydration. Which for me meant having to learn new ways of handling the dough. That included different kneading techniques. Richard Bertinet has a good demonstration of this on the DVD that comes with his book "Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread". And learn to let the folding do its work. I found it easier to deal with smaller batches when learning about higher hydration as it is a lot easier to control. The no-knead technique relies on a high hydration and can be useful introduction to working with this kind of dough.

Don't use a high protien flour. I go for 11% protein.

Provide the right kind of support while the dough is proofing. Don't let the dough spread out while it is proofing. Support the sides so the dough rises up. I proof on parchment paper and have the two long sides pushed up against supports. Then if I find that the dough is too delicate to handle after it has proofed (perhaps because it has over proofed while waiting for it's time in the over) then I can just slide the dough and paper straight into the oven.

I have very good success without steaming the oven. So I'm not too sure just how important this is to getting an open crumb. I reckon hot oven at the start is pretty critical. I find the bread does all it's rising in the first 5 to 10 minutes.

Oh yeah... taking notes about what I did was pretty useful. I often look back to see what did and did not work.

By far the most successful recipe I have used is the Gleezer/Ponsford ciabatta from "Artisan Baking" by Maggie Glezer.

newbiebaker's picture

i am mildly confused here... so should i be using AP flour, or a mixture of AP and bread flour to get that nice open, chewy crumb in my sourdoughs and other more artisan style breads? and if bread flour is not meant for such an open crumb structure, then is it only for things like sandwich breads or what?


im still in the process of learning how all this stuff works, so i apologize for the many questions... i dont want to be the kind of cook/baker/chef that just reads a recipe and follows it, anyone can do that, but if you know HOW stuff works and WHY it works, then you  can truly start getting creative, and i havent quite figured out the baking and pastry world yet and am merely looking for a better understanding.


oh, and a note to the moderators... great site, one of the most comprehensive and explanatory sites about breads i have seen... ive already learned a bunch from this site. thanks alot.

sphealey's picture

=== i am mildly confused here... so should i be using AP flour, or a mixture of AP and bread flour to get that nice open, chewy crumb in my sourdoughs and other more artisan style breads? and if bread flour is not meant for such an open crumb structure, then is it only for things like sandwich breads or what? ===

The higher-protein bread flours, such as King Arthur's, were really designed for bread machines (and/or mixer kneading) where very strong gluten is helpful. Many home bakers think that all-purpose (AP) is better for most artisan breadmaking. You are trying to strike a balance between enough gluten to form a strong dough, and not so much gluten as to make the crumb tough.

There is also the issue of the different manufacturers: King Arthur's AP has about the same amount of gluten as most generic bread flours.

All that said, for starting out you won't find much difference between any of the good national brands (King Arthur, Gold Medal, etc) as long as they are hard wheat general purpose (that is, not cake, pastry, or self-rising) flours with minimal additives. The only people in the US who seem to have a problem finding a good flour for bread are those who live in the South away from the big cities; in that region weaker flours seem to be preferred and the hard wheat flours are more difficult to find.

=== im still in the process of learning how all this stuff works, so i apologize for the many questions... ===

I think Floyd would say that is what this site is for. Ask away!


Sylviambt's picture


You've hit the holy grail straight on the head - we're all searching for the perfect crust and crumb.  Welcome to the club.

I can only say "ditto" to the points made by others: wetter dough, weaker flour, gentler handling, less mixing and more folding.  Lots of great books out there to here, among them Glezer's, Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice, and Hamelman's Bread.

Have fun baking.


ehanner's picture

My advice would be to purchase a name brand All Purpose flour from a store you usually shop at and stick with it. If you can get King Arthur AP fine but Harvest King in the green bags is also good and a buck cheaper. The main thing is you have to learn to know how the dough is responding to your kneading and handling. If you switch around thinking maybe you will discover the one flour that makes great crust and crumb, it will take you much longer to understand the process.

If you haven't watched the Julia Child video yet, do that right away and save it so you can go back later. It's a 2 video demonstration on how to make Baguettes that explains a lot of the issues you are wondering about. Here it is.


newbiebaker's picture

now im really lost, in the video the lady did everything almost the opposite as has been suggested... she beat the living tar outta her dough!!! so is it more good technique and steam than the flour and so on? and i will check out those books soon, thanks alot... im guessing i will just have to wing it and experiment like no tomorrow until i get it right, right?

bwraith's picture

The problem is that there are a million ways to make a loaf of bread. The variations are so great, that any advice almost always has underlying assumptions. Yes, she does advise a lot of early kneading. I never do that if I'm trying to get "big holes". I think you will find that books describing breads like ciabatta, which is a bread with big holes, emphasize high hydration, little early mixing, and lots of folding. The video you watched is good for understanding the techniques, not necessarily the way to maximize large holes. She is making french baguettes, which normally wouldn't be very high hydration of aiming for very large holes. I agree with those who have said high hydration, low early mixing, and folding are the key to large holes. Steam is generally more important to crust and oven spring than irregular holes.

Good luck figuring it out. Yes, you have to just dig in. Get a good book or two and have at it.


sphealey's picture

Agreed. One marketing decision I really don't understand is why King Arthur prices their "Artisan Bread" video so high. The cost of making DVDs is trivial and it seems to me that if they sold more of those videos via a lower price they would in the end sell a lot more flour and stuff. But in any case I think the techniques in that video are essentially those that most people here think of as "beginning artisan method", so it is worth trying to track a copy down through a friend or library.


gianfornaio's picture

I'm inclined to think that because that DVD's audience is fairly limited, they wouldn't sell that many more by lowering the price-- and I'd bet a bag of flour that a breakdown of the bakers who would actually seek it out probably confirms that most of them-- err, us, I guess, even though I don't have the video-- have the dough-re-mi to throw down, be it on $300+ flour mills, $50 La Cloches, $200+ Le Creuset pots, $275+ Kitchenaid mixers, $50+ digital scales, et c... Not to mention 50# bags of flour, which are obviously cheaper in the long run, but you've gotta have it together up front to save it.  

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to insult anyone-- I'd love to have all these things, right down to the video. Given our demonstrated penchant for hoping that purchases will give us the jump on our technique when we're running low on time, patience and practice (which we all know will do the job), well, I can see where KAF's decisions are sound.

All that said, touring KAF instructors give free classes, too-- I know that I just missed two within 120 miles of me (one within 10) last month. So I don't get the impression that they're just shameless opportunists.

And regarding the flour-- if you don't have a good feel for your dough or other bread principles, you can make an equally bad loaf with the best and worst flours on the market. KAF flour is pretty pricy for learning, IMHO.      

newbiebaker's picture

with a very wet dough, how do you get it to hold its shape during the second rising period? because, while letting a loaf do its second rise, it turned into like a giant pancake almost... or was this too wet?

bwraith's picture


If you provide more details on the recipe and procedures you're using when you have the problem above in a new thread (I took the liberty to start a new thread w/link shown below - hope that's OK),,

you should get some answers to your questions.