The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Big Holes in Bread

danthebakerman's picture

Big Holes in Bread

Howdy All, 

I seem to have a predicament on my hands. My name is Dan, and I'm a young, and very eager bread-baker. From Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" I've tried the "Pain A L'Ancienne" bread a few times, along with Ciabatta. I get small, maybe 1/4'' holes, but nothing huge and extravagant like the pictures state. I will highly admit, I'm a new baker, I've only been baking for only a few years, I do have the equipment I need, but I will admit that my knowledge and skill are limited. 


Now, when I bake this bread, I have the "Brod and Taylor Foldable Proofer", and I set that to whatever the recipe states. If it says room temperature, I set it to either 80-85. If the recipe says to proof for an hour, I do just that. I also check the "feel" of the dough too. I'm pretty sure when you poke it, it should spring back slowly.

I realize big bubbles are the eye-catcher of this bread, so I try to handle it as gently and as easily as possible. Peter Reinhart suggests to wet everything (hands & tools) with water, and I do just that. I follow the recipe to every word it states, and I still get small bubbles. 

Not trying to sound ego-tistic, but I think my bread looks beautiful, I'm just not getting the hole structure desired. I'll include a few pictures for references. 


dabrownman's picture

room temperature is 72 F.  For final proof I might want 85 F for an hour or so.  If you wnat big holes read dmsnyder's blog  on SFSD or San Joaquin or Pulgiesi Capriosso or txfarmer's blog on 36 hour baguettes or anything else she bakes.  Both helped me a lot.

Doc.Dough's picture

Take dabrownman's advice and read about other folks successful examples of outstanding open crumb loaves, but my guess (from your photo) is that you need to go to a higher hydration dough, perhaps get a higher gluten flour, and mix it longer. It would not hurt to split one batch and mix half of it for twice as long just to see what happens along the way.  You will learn a lot. Each flour has it's appropriate hydration to get what you are looking for so don't trust a given number (e.g., 75% hydration) to be THE  number that works with your bag. You may find that you have to go 5% up (or down) to find the sweet spot for you.

richkaimd's picture

I just wrote a little note to another newbie recommending that he pick up a textbook and work his way through its chapters to learn, gradually over time, the answers to his good questions.  Use the search box with to find my recent note:  richkaimd.



Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

I'm a newbie too, but this is a subject I've read up on.  I agree with the other commenters who talk about hydration.  Keep in mind that the amounts of water needed for a recipe can vary a little depending on your environment and they type of flour you use.  Also, are you slashing/scoring your loaves?  Scoring can affect the crumb, I hear.  The slashes allow the loaf more room for oven spring so the bubbles can expand further.  Good luck with your research!

dwfender's picture

Just like stated above, I can achieve open crumb with higher hydration, proper gluten development and good shaping techniques.  

Hydration will give larger pockets of steam that will open the crumb and good shaping will let you keep those air pockets inside the dough and creating a nice tight skin to control the rise. Gluten development will allow those larger pockets to develop and be able to hold air and shape while the proteins crystallize. 

Doc.Dough's picture

But to make a small point - there is almost no "air" in the "air pockets" and an equally small amount if steam. The foam that is bread dough is inflated by CO2 though there is a very minor amount of ethanol vapor that is released during the oven cycle (comparable to the amount of water vapor).

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Everybody here is sort of correct.  Bigger holes come from less-developed doughs that are well-fermented.  This statement has several implications:  any time you handle the dough, you inherently lose your chances of getting big holes.  Heightened yeast activity here is really, really crucial.  Ferment more, handle less, bake hot.  Extensibility is also key.  The key to really open holes is a very, very extensible and less-developed dough plus heightened yeast activity plus a long proof in shape (< 14 hours, for sourdoughs, at a much lower temperature for maximal results; it's different for commercially-yeasted doughs) plus a really, really hot oven with hearth material.

dwfender's picture

CO2 and fermentation is definitely the largest contributing factor but not the only one. Flat bread can be baked like a pita and will still create a large cavity simply from the steam. 

There are many factors at work. Crystillization of the outer sugars and proteins and crust formation stopping the expansion of the dough during the initial baking phase, hydration of the dough, handling and kneading time and techniques, amount of fat in the dough, gluten development et cetera. 

Maybe my statement was misleading. I was just trying to dumb down the process. 

dwfender's picture

Hey Dan,

Can you post what kneading techniques you are using and for how long? If you're using a kitchen-aid or something like that post which model and which dough hook you are using. 

danthebakerman's picture

Okay so.... I have conducted a small experiment with a decent success. 

I've taken a simple white bread recipe (from Peter Reinhart's "Brother Juniper's Bread Book") and modified it to a higher hydration. I THINK I did this... 

4 Cups King Arthur Bread Flour 

3 Cups Water

2 Teaspoons Salt

1 Teaspoon Yeast 

At my estimation, you're looking at a 75% Hydration

With my "Artisan KitchenAid" I combined the flour & water, mixed on first speed for 2 minutes, then second speed for another 2 minutes (with the dough hook). I let this autolyse for 45 minutes - Then I added the yeast & salt and mixed on second speed for about 3 minutes

After this, I let it rest in the bowl for 20 minutes, then I stretched and folded it at 20 minute intervals for about 2 hours. I folded it in half, then I rotated it quarter turns. So I basically folded it 4 times at 20 minute intervals, I total of 6 stretch and fold sets.

I put it in a brotform & floured it (mistake #1) and refrigerated it overnight

I'm a college student and I live with my parents, they get up earlier than me so I asked them to take my dough out just before they left for work at 6. I let this proof for a good 2-3 hours

About 1 hour before baking, I put my baking stone & a cast iron skillet in the oven and set it to 500. 

Just before baking, I flipped the dough onto a piece of parchment and 1/2 the dough stuck into the brotform (mistake #2) so I wet my hands and got it out, I cleaned it better later. I tried making a loose "ball" with the dough, but with it being so wet, that was honestly difficult.

I scored the bread, loaded it, and poured 1 cup of piping hot water into the skillet. I patiently waited.......

(P.S. my images are a little distorted. It's not my camera, it's the way the site loaded them on the page)

My Results?

dwfender's picture

Looks like some good progress. 

Do you have a scale that works in grams? I would take any recipe that you find pretty successful and start converting them to grams. It will make them easier to replicate in the future. 

Autolyse timing could be your next step to work on....there is a pretty good read here . . and experiment from there.

That's unfortunate about hte brotform. Shaping the dough like that will definitely change texture and crumb. 

Bread looks like a big improvement though! Good job! Good Luck! If you make anymore attempts, post some pictures. 



BobBoule's picture

I wish my crumb looked that good!

ericreed's picture

Hydration levels are based on the weight ratio, not volume ratio. Depending on how you measure it, 4 cup of flour is somewhere in the realm of 500-600 grams. 3 cups of water is 24 ounces = 680 grams, so the actual hydration is 680/600 = 113%. Very very wet even at the high estimate of flour.


Oh, this is very old. Just saw the new post. ;)