The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Disastrous overlarge holes

TheBrickLayer's picture

Disastrous overlarge holes

Trying to figure out what's going on here. Maybe someone can help me out. 


Leaven: 39g stater (starter = 1:1 water/flour); 237g water; 191 flour; overnight. 

(NOTE: It seemed to me like this particular leaven didn't show as much activity as I'm used to seeing when I inspect it in the morning. Usually I see a lot of bubbles on the surface; not so much this time. It still floated in warm water, though, which is usually enough for me.)

DOUGH: 1178g flour; 700g water; 4tsp salt

Mixed leaven and dough together this morning. Autolysed around 45 minutes. Transferred to big bread bowl; stretched and folded every half hour for four hours. Temperature in the house around 68 degrees. 

Spilled onto lightly floured work surface; degassed somewhat assertively; shaped into boules. Shaping wasn't *great,* but far from the worst shaping I've done. (I'm still learning.)

Placed into cloth-lined bannetons with 50/50 rice flour / APF mixture. Placed one in the fridge (it's still in there now); let the other one rise for 1.75 hours on counter (again, it's about 68 degrees in house0. Baked 20 min in cast iron combo cooker in 500 degree preheated oven; uncovered and baked for 25 more minutes. 

Holes are by far the worst I've ever had. Just terrible. Flavor is not bad but the holes make this totally unusable for sandwiches. 

A few ideas: 

1) Could it be shaping? That's really my weak spot. But I've shaped worse than this before and haven't gotten these gaping holes. 

2) When I dumped the dough into the combo cooker from the banneton, the loaf kind of caught on the side and briefly spread out into an oblong-ish shape. I jiggled the skillet around and it turned back into a roughly circular loaf. You can see the obvious flaws in the curvature, though. Could that incident have caused these holes to form somehow?

3)  Too much fermenting / proofing? Not enough? 


MichaelLily's picture

Most likely underproofing.  Could possibly be overproofing, but not in this case since you say your starter was barely ready. dropping a baked and still warm loaf right out of the oven can exacerbate the problem (I just did That today).

I have learned over time to not use a starter if it’s not frothy, and most of my problems went away.

TheBrickLayer's picture

That seems the most likely explanation. I probably didn't make the leaven with the starter at the heigh of activity. Silly me!

BetsyMePoocho's picture

You might already know all this, but it never hurts to see shaping from a different view.  He shows shaping for the three most popular forms.....

Just a suggestion & good luck..... but most of all have Fun!!

Queen of Tarts's picture
Queen of Tarts

I agree that shaping could be the issue here.  I remember experimenting once with not degassing my sourdough and handling it as little as possible, and I always ended up with these tunnels and giant holes.  Any gas-filled holes created during the bulk fermentation would survive shaping and continue growing during the proofing phase.  Of course you don't want to pound the dough and flatten it totally.  Instead, degas it delicately and make sure you fold the dough when shaping a loaf, so the gasses are distributed more evenly. The video enclosed by Betsy above shows it perfectly.