The Fresh Loaf

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Why does this happen? (Photo inside)

Et480hawn's picture

Why does this happen? (Photo inside)


I've been attempting sourdough for awhile now and my results are pretty much always terrible! I'll bake bread using instant yeast and have fine results but sourdough just never seems to work for me. I've tried stretch and fols, and slap and fold. High hydration and moderate. This one was following the classic 3-2-1 ratio. I'm getting disheartened, it's frustrating and through all of my searches online I can never find an adequate solution. Almost every single loaf has a dense crumb with big pockets in it. Please offer some guidance!


Thanks in advance!

Cinnabon's picture

 Hi et480hawn:

Really early in baking bread and like everyone, learning how to perfect sourdough there are many things that could be giving you the tunneling in your loaf.

Without knowing more about your process I would check the following:

Is your starter new? you can test it to see if its strong enough by taking a small bit and dropping it over a tiny dish of water, if it floats its good to go! if not it needs more time to develop the good bacteria!

The other common thing is to deflate all large air bubbles from the dough.  Stretching and folding technique works great for this.  I have had dough so lively that it was popping like that bubble wrap packing film I loved to pop as a kid lol. 

It also can be the temperature of your oven!  Pre-heating at a high temp gives the bread the chance to spring and give you an amazing full loaf.

These are what I can say were my issues back then!  By the pic it looks more like the gas build up and maybe not deflating the large bubbles?


Angelica Nelson's picture
Angelica Nelson

Could you post the recipe, preferably with gram-weights?   I'm guessing it needs to have  third knead/rise.  Or if the garlic in the background is a hint, then if you used garlic, make sure you fully roast or otherwise deactivate the garlic before using in fermented bread.  Third idea is... I've noticed sourdough really likes to chill in the fridge for a long cold rise.  Or even just the starter, it really invigorates it to be chilled and then warmed back up before use.

Et480hawn's picture

The garlic was there just as a bystander! 

So I went with 375 g bread flour 250 g water 125 g starter. The starter passed the float test. I let it chill in the fridge over night, fridge is 37 degrees F. Oven was 475 preheated for about 40 mins with the dutch oven in there as well. I got a new oven and a thermostat in it to make sure it's accurate. 


I took out the loaf this morning and let it sit out at room temp for about 3 hours. 

I've had this same problem consistently for awhile now. 


Thank you all for the replies 

BaniJP's picture

This is an underproofed bread/dough. Especially now during the winter bulk-fermentation can take longer. The large holes are air pockets trapped through folding.

Next time, do a longer bulk-ferment. The dough should grow noticeably in size, be bubbly and jiggly, but still hold its shape together. In my experience, when you think it's ready, go a bit further. Sourdough is slow and the window of opportunity is fairly large.


DanAyo's picture

Hi ET.

Everyone that now bakes sourdough bread has had to over come some obstacles. But, those same bakers would tell you it is well worth the effort. If you stick with us, we’ll help you along the way. We’re here to help.

Since you have succeeded with commercial yeast, you should be well on your way.

  • The first thing is to make sure your starter is active and ready to raise your bread. Tell about your starter. What ratios you feed it. The temperature it is kept. The time between feedings. How much does it increase in height before it is fed. Pictures are often helpful.
  • Once we know the starter is ready, we can help you with the recipe, which we refer to as the formula.

Your first successful sourdough is a memorable occasion.

What do you think?


Et480hawn's picture

Thank you for the encouragement and assistance!

The starter has been going for quite awhile.  I feed it usually about every two weeks now when it's not in use (sometimes I'm traveling during thw weekends and just don't have time to attempt a bake). Saturday morning I out 50 gs of starer in a mason jar with 50 g flour and 50 g water and after about 6-7 hrs it had just about tripled in volume. 

I have always fed kept the starter at 1:1 ratio of water to flour and it is always reactive and seemingly still alive. Its so hard to get the feeling of what the dough is supposed to feel like down because I've never had the opportunity to bake with someone with a lot of experience with sourdough. 


DanAyo's picture

Sounds like your starter is not the problem.

You wrote, “ So I went with 375 g bread flour 250 g water 125 g starter. The starter passed the float test. I let it chill in the fridge over night, fridge is 37 degrees F.”

Tell us about your process, kneading, stretch & folds, room temperature, fermentation timing , etc.. how long did the complete bulk ferment last and at what temperature? How would you describe the dough at completion of the BF?


Krimart's picture

I also see this occasionally. One day the brad is perfect. Next time this happens. I think my process is approx  the same, but still. Maybe underproofing is the reason, but I am not convinced.