The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Cavern

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

Bread Cavern

I've seen posts about holes on this website.  All agree that we like holes not too large, not too small, we want them JUST right.  Well, most of the time, my sourdough bread holes are just right.  But every third or fourth time, I get the same problem: Bread caverns a speelunker would have a joy exploring.  The bread has risen in the dutch oven, but not evenly.  Bread tastes OK, but is useless for anything besides toast.  I'll try to enclose a picture.  I'm posting this b/c none of the posts seem to address the problem I'm having.  Thanks in advance for your help. I'm using a sourdough starter, 500 grams whole wheat, 500 grams AP, 24 grams of sea salt.  Basic Tartine Bread recipe, more or less.  Bulk fermet for four hours at room temperature. Then formed into boules and ferment in the fridge for eighteen hours.  (I've done four hours with the same results.)  750 grams filtered water.  Thoughts???

 

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

It may be over proofed. Was making a 100% whole wheat which was yeasted with commercial yeast and it was doing a similar thing. Realized that it was over yeasted. In your case it seems as if it was potentially over proofed. I have never had this problem with my sourdough. Which is a 100% hydration, 45% unbleached white 45% whole wheat and 10% whole rye.

Another thought could be that the dough didn't get enough development in surface tension - ie. tartine calls them "turns" or as I refer to them as folds. It may have needed more gluten development.

Hope this helps, and I hope some others ponder this as well,

Cheers,

B2B

Lloyda's picture
Lloyda

So I baked my 4th or 5th sour dough loaf yesterday, and have ended up with a similar texture.  Also, the loaf seems to have burst out of the side?  I suspect my slashes are not deep enough, and the loaf looks a little underbaked. But do you think it is over proofed?  I struggled with my last loaf 67% (it spread too much as I transferred to the over), so this one I dropped to 60% as an experiment. 

Any thoughts?

placebo's picture
placebo

When it blows out like that, it's typically a sign that the loaf was underproofed.

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

I doubt the issue is your slashing.  Did you "turn" the bread a la Tartine or knead on a counter? How delicate or tough are you being with your dough?  And what are your times for bulk and proof? 

Lloyda's picture
Lloyda

I'm nowhere near my notes at the moment, but from memory my method was:

  • sponge made from starter, left overnight in cold kitchen (prob 11 hrs), and then placed in warming drawer on lowest setting for an hour or so.
  • Remaining flour and water mixed with sponge. Left for 30 mins.
  • Salt added, and kneaded for about 10 mins.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold and then Hour in the warming drawer (probably around 25c)
  • Second stretch and fold
  • Another 2 hours in drawer.
  • Form into round, leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Form into boule and place in banettone for around 2 hours.
  • Baked at 220c for 25 minutes.

Am I being rough with the dough?  To be honest I've no idea.   I was accused of that my a baker I was volunteering for a couple of months back, but I find it very difficult to judge.

Thanks for any comments

Lloyd

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

When you do the final shape, make sure you are gently patting the dough out, before you shape.  If you fail to pat out those big bubbles during the final shape, you will get them in your final loaf.

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

if you do not de-gass before your finial shape they can tend to have "caverns" , simply pat gently breaking any large pockets of fermentation build up and it should correct the cavern.

The blow-out could be due to not enough steam, just a thought. Slashes look good tho.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Another term for this is flying crust. Search TFL or google images to see lots of examples. 

I have seen a lot of potential causes listed, none too definitive. Most common appear to be related to overproofing or shaping, or a combination of these two. Less common appear to be underproofing, poor gluten development, or even the crust drying out too much during fermentation. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as it should have been in the mixing stage.  When the yeast numbers caught up, the handling was ahead of the dough.  The bulk rise becomes too short.  (does that make sense?) This is where watching the dough not the clock makes the difference.  The loaf looks more like a cross section of a bulk rise not a final rise.  So I have to go with the underproofed opinion.  

The dense area on the bottom is not overproofed fallen dough, it is the middle of the loaf being pressed against new crust formed when the bottom burst.  The pressure compacted the wet dough resulting in crumb we see.  To me it could have used another stretch and fold before shaping.  

Sourdough Sammy's loaf looks different.  A Q: How much salt was in the loaf compared to the flour amount?

Mini

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

How much salt in my loaf?  Most recipes seem to call for a 2% salt percentage. 

Or...200 g starter, 1000 g flour, approx. 750g H2O, and 20g salt.

I use sel gris, gray salt.  It tastes SOOOO good.  However, it has lots of minerals in it besides NaCl, so I go up to...in the above example...23 or 24g of sel gris. 

Yet, I must say, when I took this picture, I was only using the standard recipe quantity of 20g.  I've just increased salt quantity b/c everyone agrees the bread tastes better.

I know salt is found in caverns.  Can it make them in bread???  thanks

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

btw  2% would be 22g you forgot to figure the flour in the starter...

Davo's picture
Davo

Lloyda - I am in the underproofed camp. So how the big hole - I suspect an entrapped air bubble during kneading/folding/shaping - rather than gas produced by bugs. I don;t suspect the effect I am going to mention below re Sammy's loaf.

Sourdough sammy - without knowing too much about some of the details, here's my guess. If anything, overproofed - mostly based on the slumped-out flat loaf shape . Why the big hole? - one guess of mine is around how the loaf came out of its banetton/cloth-lined bowl/whatever. Sometimes loaves can be sticky in coming away from that receptacle or the cloth that lined the receptacle (which will often happen in a fridge retard if a bag is used to stop it drying, because it can instead sweat), especially if it was on the over rather than under side of ideal proofing. Then it can take a bit of "work" to get it off the cloth/banetton by hanging/pulling/peeling, with the loaf's upper skin being pulled around, with the loaf weight sagging down away from that sticky pull force. I may be way of the mark and maybe this never happened. But if it ever does, what can happen is that you shear the upper loaf skin from the body of the loaf just below it, and then when you bake it seconds later, guess where it comes apart...

The answer to avoid this for me is to add some rice flour to the rye flour that I usually use to line banettons - that stuff never sticks - in fact I use it as a small proportion (maybe 1/4 rice flour to 3/4 rye) to avoid the loaf dropping out too easily and flopping heavily on the peel. Or if I have no rice flour, I try and gently roll the proving loaves once or twice during their stay in the fridge so that the sides come away from the banetton- just for a second before they go back in - this usually ensures that the final drop onto the peel is stickiness-free. For example, if I retard in banettons loaves late one night to bake the following evening after work, I will roll them to free up the sides the next morning before work, and then as soon as I get home, when i check if they need warming-up time out of the fridge before I switch the oven on. Then when I go to bake, there is no stickiness to cause shearing of the top skin - and that big separation up there.

As I say, this effect may have nothing to do with what has been shown, but just in case, because I have had similar results after ugly wrestles with sticky-in -the-banetton loaves...

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

I started the thread up above:

...yes, I'm doing a fridge proof.  The sticking theory is interesting were it not for the fact that I once made seven small church communion loaves...all around 225 grams.  And they ALL had caverns. Other times I've had perfect bread proofing in fridge.

As to the proof.  I use a basket and a real linen, i.e. FLAX,  towel.  I do use brown rice flour ...tho...I may not be using enough. Fridge proof usually about 12-20 hours.

I have to say I find it interesting that theories abound as to why there is the cavern affect:  underproof, overproof, let's call the whole thing off. 

Still, I think the answer might be: excessive gas in the dough.  Why say this?  B/c I did three loaves last week...the first two had caverns, and the last...I pressed out the dough before the final rise.  The third loaf was less "hole-y" and ever so slightly more "brick-y", but there was no cavern.  All tasted good!!!  :-)

Which raises my next question:  To de-gas or not to de-gas?  Chad Roberston of Tartine says de-gassing takes out prescious gas AND....very important....flavor!!!! 

Anyway, thanks all for your opinions.  It's very informative. 

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

In my opinion the gluten was seriously underdeveloped.

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

But I proofed the dough for twelve hours in the fridge.  Isn't that enough time for gluten to develop???

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

by the theory that gluten develops on its own accord. Maybe with strong- and high-gluten flours it does (maybe simply because they have much more gluten), but I can assure you that weaker flours (such as durum and soft wheat) don't develop acceptably with that method, not even remotely. In those cases there's only one way to get a good gluten development: give a lot of energy, thus knead, knead, knead A LOT.

I am very strongly against the no-knead approach.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Nico, it's been a mild peeve of mine that the word "develop", with respect to gluten, has at least two meanings.  And I have to admit that I am as guilty as any in how I have used the word.

Meaning 1: Gluten development = a chemical reaction that occurs when glutenin, gliadin, and water are brought into contact with one another.

Meaning 2: Gluten development = the organization and alignment of randomly distributed gluten fibers into a coherent structure that posseses greater strength.

You are apparently speaking of the second meaning.  I'm not sure which meaning the previous poster had in mind; perhaps the first meaning.

"Development" seems like a good enough word for the second meaning.  Perhaps we need to assign a different word to the first meaning; "formation", maybe?

Paul

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi Paul, you are right. By development I mean the construction of a coherent and  strong structure that can bear deformations without collapsing and/or tearing. I like to call "cohesion" what you identified as meaning 1: "formation". It's just a matter of personal preference, of course.

I may be totally wrong, but the more I handle doughs the more I realize that no strong bond is created with little energy, that's  why I'm so fervently opposed to no-knead stuff. There are other bonds in gluten than disulphide bonds, but not equally strong and resistant. I tried many times to create with just folds a structure as resistant as one made with a lot of  kneading, but the failure rate was exactly 100%. In short: no knead => total failure and tearing, much kneading => huge rise, success and resistance.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi sourdough sammy,

If you use cold retardation there is a risk that the dough will burst like this I'm afraid, although it is not guaranteed to happen.

When you put your bread into the oven the yeasts are being given a sudden wake up call, and the result is a rapid burst of activity.   That is also why Nico is suggesting your dough is under developed, because the gluten is insufficiently strong to be able to stretch to accommodate such rapid expansion.

To clarify, this is not really a flying top.   A flying top is a term applied to a loaf which is underproofed, leading to the lid of the loaf lifting on one side.   However, the causation is exactly the same....over active yeast activity and insufficient dough rheology to cope with the sudden lift.

If I use overnight retard, then I do that with the dough in bulk.   I then scale, divide and shape straight from the fridge, and allow time for the dough to come back to room temperature before baking.

Best wishes

Andy

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

Hi Andy

Thanks for your reply.  Let me see if I can say this in my own words: 

You believe that FIRST, the dough was under-developed. 

Then, SECOND, b/c it was in the fridge, the yeasties were a little slugglish and then when thrown into the oven, they sort of couldn't keep up with the rising roof of bread and as a result, sort of stayed where they were...on the bottom of the loaf, which was indeed brick-like.

To ameliorate this, I assume I should knead/turn more...or at least to proper development.  AND when bringing out of the fridge, make sure dough is room temp.  Correct???

Thanks

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi sourdough sammy,

I would concentrate on the main advice I offered to shape the dough after refrigeration, and, yes, allow time to recover to room temperature.   You can monitor the behaviour of your dough in this final proof stage and judge for yourself whether or not the dough has sufficient strength.   The burst in your photograph is so exagerated that it is no wonder Nico suggested underdevelopment.   But, actually, and the accompanying photos in this thread from Lloyda show this equally well, but maybe happened for different reasons.   If you get a blowout like this the affect on the finished loaf is really dramatic.

Your own interpretation of my thoughts is not quite right.   The dormant yeasts have suddenly burst into life in the early phase of the overn as the dough warms up rapidly...to the point where the dough temperature right through exceeds 53*C and the yeasts die.   The sudden activity causes that explosion, and the dough bursts at its weakest point.   You end up with that big cavern at the top, and the dense crumb beneath forms because the dough then collapses.

Best wishes

Andy

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

Andy, this is very VERY helpful.  I don't fully understand your second paragraph.  Would you be so kind as to elaborate?

BUT, you have explained the "syndrome" perfectly.  That is exactly what happened.

I don't understand how "the sudden activity" is different from the usual situation when making break that is successful. 

So you will do a long fridge bulk?  And then a shorter proof at room temp?  Very interesting.  I've been following the Tartine recipe and Chad Robertson does a bulk at RT and then proof in the fridge. 

Are you a professional baker?  You seem to know your stuff.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi sammy sourdough

No I don't do overnight retard because I have had exactly this sort of thing happen to me.   I live in Northumberland, UK, and it's very cold most of the time.   So the retarded dough takes an age to warm up.

Anyway, most people seem to opt for overnight retard for one of two reasons.   The first is to suit their own time schedules...absolutely fair enough, but this method does not suit mine, because I use a wood-fired brick oven and thast needs a long fire before I can use it.   The other reason cited is for flavour.   I'm very happy with the flavour profile of all my bread without retard, so I don't need or want to use this process.   Were I running a larger commercial bakery, I would probably integrate retarding of some sort into the operation, as it allows for greater productivity in a shorter timespan.

The only explanation I can offer to further help you is that refrigeration will retard yeast activity.....but by how much???   If you are using a leaven, then the effect of chilling will be variable as your levain will perform slightly differently, your dough temperature may vary, the ambient temperature at which you prove will be different and the degree of dough rheology achieved within the time framework will also vary.   What I am trying to say is that I haven't found a way to counter this problem myself which works everytime.   Since it's a process which is of little use to me right now, that is quite simple: I just don't use it as part of my baking routine.   I have offered my best thoughts on how to deal with it by shaping from the fridge and allowing recovery to room temperature during a period of final proof.   That is my best advice.

Yes, I've been baking professionally for nearly 25 years, and am also a qualified baker and lecturer.

Best wishes

Andy

Davo's picture
Davo

Andy, I'd be really interested in any actual data there was about how much of oven spring was actually due to yeast respiration rather than from the increase in pressure (leading to increase in volume because of dough elasticity until the crust hardens) on existing gas bubbles, from the significant suddeen rise in temperature. Reason I ask is that stuff I have read suggests that the optimum temps for yeast respiration are in the range 30-40 deg C, and with time to peak rate of CO2 production by a yeast population being over 100 mins - and this is for fresh flour, not depleted (by significant prior fermentation) dough. I really think that while there might be a little bit of spring from some yeast respiration in those first 10 or so mins in the oven, mostly it's just the expansion of the existing gas bubbles in respponse to Boyle's law (well, Boyle's law states the relationship between P and V assuming a constant temp, but you know what I mean).

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Davo,

Out of respect for the OP, I'll stick to the subject originally up for discussion.   What I am suggersting is that the retarded dough  loaded to the oven cold has the potential for extremely vigorous yeast activity.   And the dough temperature is still low....way below the 30 - 40*C peak you mention.   In fact, unless you are working in a commercial environment or using some kind of prover which maintains the dough at c.35*C, I really don't go with the focus of your question.

But the main point for sourdough sammy is that this dough in question is cold, and there is great potential for sudden yeast activity.

Best wishes

Andy

Davo's picture
Davo

Not wanting to go too far off topic (maybe should start another thread!), but I don't get how dough being cold suddenly gives it greater potential for sudden activity. Surely the maximum potential for activity happens with the greatest number of active bugs at the optimum temps (like where the graphs show the max ml of CO2 per time being produced). So, ignoring the retardation factor for a minute, imagine you take a fermented levain at around 30deg C - maximum bug numbers, and all those alive are not dormant from low temperature, although they are running out of food. Now you mix in a bunch of fresh food - like mixing levain into bread dough, at around the optimum temp. What happens in those first 10 -15 mins (or any such short period during the bulk fermetation/proof) - the equivalent time that oven spring occurs in, when conditions couldn't be better for respiration? Not much,  for me anyway! And what is happening in an equivalent 15 min period at the end of a longish proof - not much again - even though bug numbers are maximal. Of course cumulatively over several (typically say 5-10) hours there is significant rise - it might be optimal for bug growth, but that rate is slow over small fractions of that total time, whatever way you chop it up. But take that loaf at around optimal temp for bugs with it's big bug numbers and not much food left, that is still rising very slowly, and chuck it in the oven. Assuming it's not overproofed and losing structure - what happens? It suddenly balloons up 1.5 or 2 times in 15 mins the oven, even though it was already fermenting at around optimum conditions for the bugs. I would agree that until the heat goes up and kills all the yeasts, some respiration will still be occurring, but surely not significantly more than was happening in that warm rise. On the other hand it simply makes sense that gas bubbles in an elastic casing will expand - quite a lot - with heat.

I don't see any particular difference for a retarded loaf - certainly I get similar results in terms of oven spring with reatrded versus non retarded loaves, so long as they are proofed to the same poke-test/loaf-size maturity. I happened to bake four loaves cold, straight from a 22 hr retard last night, and got pretty much the same spring as my previous non-retarded batch, and the same as my more typical 22 hr retarded loaves that usually need an hour or two of warming up (last night's had gone a bit further in the bulk than typical for me, and so were ripe when still cold).

I actually think it's interesting to watch a loaf that goes in, because initially it flattens out quite a lot - a bi depressing if you didn't understand that all will come right in a few more minutes. I am guessing that what initially happens is that the outer skin of the loaf is softened by the heat (feel cold versus warm dough at the same stage of fermentation (or simply autolysed dough with no fermenting at all)). While this happens, hardly any of the total volume of the loaf has actually warmed yet enough to expand. The point of the water vapour or cloche (and slashes) at this stage is to allow persistent softness so that as the balloons buried in the loaf warm such that they want to expand (from the skin progressively inwards to the core), they can. If the crust forms too quickly, they dough might want to expand, but can't - it will either burst the skin, or build pressure that remains to an extent unrequited by expansion, until that pressure simply seeps out. Anyways, that's the way I look at it.

Sorry if I'm harping on - just too much an engineer I'm afraid!

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

I agree with your first sentence totally.  Not sure how cold temp affects the "sudden activitiy"???

That said, I've only had this problem with fridge proofed loaves.

I do however think the dough was under developed. 

Question:  has anyone had this happen with room temp proofed doughs?  Or is this just a fridge phenomenon???

Thanks all

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Question:  has anyone had this happen with room temp proofed doughs?  Or is this just a fridge phenomenon???

I have had this happen on a loaf that had 100% of its fermentation (pre-ferment, bulk, proof) at room temp.  However, I still think my "cavern" loaf agrees with what Franko and Andy are saying, because it was also a loaf capable of sudden expansion in the oven.  It was very high hydration (ciabatta), so the expansion came from the high water content rather than uneven or sudden temp changes.  Different cause, same effect. 

For me, the key to fixing this type of issue has been to be sure to have enough gluten development.  I must be wimpy at doing stretch and folds because my doughs always seem to need a few more than are called for in recipes.  But then I rarely refrigerate my doughs, perfering instead to reduce yeast or levain and let it go longer at room temp.  So bringing a loaf back to room temp hasn't really been an issue.

I have two reasons for prefering room temp ferments to refrigeration, first is that I prefer the cleaner taste of a bread with less yeast/less dead yeast (dead yeast comes from refrigeration, cold water, or using active dry instead of instant), and second, I like to get as much oven spring as possible.  My experience has generally been that both sourdoughs and commercial yeast doughs are less active, even when fully warmed, after refrigeration.  So if a loaf is headed for the refrigerator, it needs more yeast than one fermented at room temp, and some of that will die when chilled, changing the flavor and dough handling characteristics.  Some people like that change in flavor- pizza makers come to mind- but it just isn't my choice.

sourdough sammy's picture
sourdough sammy

Thanks for these comments Flourchild.  And also Andy and Franko.  After my last couple of baking experiences, one of which the bread didn't taste that great and one in which I had a cavern again, my confidence has been shaken a little to be honest.  I'm going to give it a go again this weekend.  Going to  do all room temp.  Bulk and proofing.  And....I'm going to be more diligent about paying attention to my dough, i.e. instead of just looking at the clock.  I live in San Francisco.  I think I am probably ready for classes at the Bread School down the road...I forget the name.  Mistakes happen.  It's a matter of how one responds to them.  And learns from them.  I have made some superb bread too....so I need to remember that too.

I'll let everyone know how things go. 

I'll say this tho:  I find it interesting to note that there is so much debate as to the cause of this cavern phenomenon.  Which suggests maybe that it is unusual.  Which I guess is a good thing.  In any case, hopefully, I'll leave the speelunking to real cavers from here on out.  Sam

Franko's picture
Franko

 Hi sourdough sammy

My best take on this problem, from all appearances, is that that the dough temperature at bake time wasn't uniform, however some other issues, such as dough development, are at play in this loaf as well. If your dough doesn't have a uniform temperature somewhere in the 70-78F/21-25C + range when it's baked off, whatever C02 is  available will seek the path of least resistance. Think of it as a layer, or bubbles of gas trying to expand, trapped between a tighter, cool dough and a warmer, more fluid dough near the outer layer of the loaf. I agree with Andy in that trying to bring the dough from a retarded state using ambient temps to achieve a uniform dough temperature takes forever and can often be deceiving if you're not checking with a thermometer periodically. Really feel the dough during molding to give you a sense of how lively it is. If it doesn't feel uniformly warm and supple, hold off molding and final proof until it does and you should see better results from the bake.

All the best,

Franko