The Fresh Loaf

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Uneven crumb with big holes, help :(

hey.ryanm's picture

Uneven crumb with big holes, help :(



I’m trying to troubleshoot on getting a better consistent crumb, without these large holes.

This is a 69% Hydrated dough

80% KA Bread Flour

20% Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour

preferment flour is at 10.3% 

(23% bakers percentage) 

This is a 600g loaf. 


Fed the levain at 8am (1:2:2)

Started Autolyse at 10am

Levain and Salt added at 1pm

S&F started at 1:30, 4 folds a set every 30 mins. I did this 5 times and checked window pane, looked great.

Bulk fermented until 5:06pm for a total of 4 hours and six minutes. 

(there wasn't an incredible amount of bubbles, but there were some a couple small ones so I called it because I am terrified of over-fermenting)


I pre-shaped and let rest for 30 mins, 


Final shape and in fridge for cold proof over night at 5:40pm


This loaf was then baked at 8:40am (15hr cold proof) straight from the fridge at 450 Fahrenheit for a total of 40 minutes. 20 minutes with lid on, 20 minutes lid off. 


Baked in an enameled cast iron dutch oven that was preheated for 1 hour at 500 Fahrenheit for dropping it to 450 for the bake. 


I get these large holes in the crump that also seem “long” if that makes sense. 


The crust seems great and I’m getting nice bubbles on the crust and I got a pretty decent ear and a pretty decent oven spring. Everything seems to check out pretty okay except the crumb. I wonder what I am doing wrong?


Is it underfermented?

My shaping not good enough?

Should I try coil instead of stretch and fold?




idaveindy's picture

Welcome (back?) to TFL!

How long since you first made this starter?

This, along with the crumb photos of a few days ago, looks under fermented.  It's kind of on the edge, so I'm not 100% sure of this, but that's my guess.

I'm not so much a "starter helper" like Phaz, and Mini Oven. So hopefully those folks will chime in.


The crust is shiny and blistered to the point where it looks over-hydrated, but 69% isn't over-hydrated.  Did you brush or spray water on the dough, or maybe use ice cubes in the DO?

hey.ryanm's picture

Hi thank you! ( yes I am back :) )
I made this new starter around August 13th and it's been fed daily since. I had another batch in between my first post and this post and I had the same problem with the holes but with the second batch I had a very low prefermented flour  (4.5%) due to a calculation error so the 2nd batch was definitely under-fermented. With this one though, I had the preferment at 10% and everything "seemed" to be going well. I am starting to think my starter may be a bit sleepy (which really saddens me) but it is doubling every 12 hours at 1:2:2 consistently. 

with the bulk, i had some bubbling but it wasn't nearly to the point where I felt I was racing against the clock, but the 4 hour had lapsed and decided to just pre-shape to be safe because I didn't want to over ferment. 

also I did not spray or brush the dough at all or introduce any hydration before whatever steam is created in the DO

idaveindy's picture

"I made this new starter around August 13th and it's been fed daily since"

"... but it is doubling every 12 hours at 1:2:2 consistently. "

As I said, making starters from scratch is not my specialty,  but that sounds like your starter hasn't matured yet.  

I have a starter that I feed with generic Kroger AP flour, and when feeding 1:2:2 it doubles in 4 to 5 hours.   100% hydration.

I'll leave it to others about how to goose your starter.  Or better yet, go to Phaz's user page, then the Track tab and look at what he (she?) has been preaching about starters.

all I can say is use bottled spring water and unbleached flour.  if you have to use tap water, filter it, and let it sit out overnight to evaporate off chlorine.  


Btw, are you counting the water and the flour in your levain when you calculate the 69% hydration?


 Come to think of it, if you feel like it, please flesh out your formula with exact gram measurements.  and break it down between starter and levain.

It sounds like you are actually putting the immature (only 5 hours since feeding, not 12) starter in, not building a separate levain.

Your "levain build" needs to be 12 hours, not 5,  if you are only going to take 1 part starter (that takes 12 hrs to double, when fed 1:2:2) and add 2 parts flour plus 2 parts water and call that a levain.

hey.ryanm's picture

I will definitely look more into it being a starter issue, thanks for showing me the way to some good info on that! I have been using tap water so I'll start keeping some out to evaporate the chlorine and see what my results are. I feed the starter half King Arthur Bread Flour and half Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour, both unbleached. it is 100% hydration. 

the 69% does include the water and flour in my levain 

idaveindy's picture

KA and GM are kinda high priced.


For maintenance feedings, my philosohy is to use cheap AP.  And then use the "good stuff" to build the levain, or, if going directly from a starter, the last feed before using it.

Good luck, amigo. And bon appétit!


1 more thought. If your water utility has a web site, check to see if your water has "chloramines", which apparently is worse for bread than chlorine.  

I forget what the cure/solution for that is, but do a search on TFL for chloramine and chloramines.

hey.ryanm's picture

So yeah, I start a levain from the discard of my starter the night before at 8pm. levain is 
35g Starter, 35g/35g both flours/70g h20

Then I discard and feed the levain the same 70/70 at 8am, 5 hours before it reaches the dough.

I add 145g to the dough which is 23% innoculation and 10.3% prefermented flour. 
Here's the breakdown of the recipe:

504g KA Bread Flour (80%)

126g Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat (20%)

413g Water (65.6%)

145g Levain at 100% hydration (23%) (10.3% Prefermented flour)

12g salt (1.9%)

Dough weight is 1200g and I make 2, 600g Loafs.


I use foodgeeks bread calculator (

idaveindy's picture

This is just a friendly heads-up for when one of the starter experts gets here, you will need to break it down more exactly/precisely and avoid "baker speak" since you probably  aren't using the terms (discard and levain) in the standard generally-understood fashion.

 "levain" is a squishy term anyway which often gets conflated with starter.  some of us directly use "starter" in the dough, and some of us use starter to build a separate levain, and put the levain (not the starter) in the dough.

Please don't take this as criticism. As an "Aspie" (one who has Asperger's) I just have to process things literally, and take them at face value.  Taking what you wrote literally, your starter/levain and discard process seems backwards, or at least leaves me confused as to what you actually did. 

Rather than focus on what might have gone wrong, lets let one  of the others get you pointed in the right direction starting with a more active starter (12 hrs to double after feeding 1:2:2 is where the adjustment needs to start).

(my first three starters were purchased, before i made one from scratch.)

hey.ryanm's picture

I completely understand! Definitely not taking anything as criticism or negative! I'm here to learn and definitely can get confusing when I'm trying to write these things out. 

I have a starter that I feed 40g flour 40g water and keep 20g starter

The night before I make dough I use the discard from the starter when I feed it to start a levain which would be 35g starter, 70 flour, 70 water. 

the morning of making dough I keep 35g of the levain i made the night before and feed it again 35g flour and 35g water from which I will take 145g for the dough 5 hours later

so my starter and my levain are two separate things. I keep only 100g starter which i pull from to make the levain. 

I think you're absolutely correct in starting with the starter. I was directed, by a baker friend, to use a "young levain" for my dough. So I wouldnt be surprised that i'm under fermenting by either not waiting long enough in bulk fermentation stage or that my starter is just not mature enough to create a strong enough levain yet. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

How does the starter taste at various stages?  Before feeding, after feeding, when ready to add to dough?

 How do you define: young starter?  

EDIT:  How does it compare to this?

With the small feedings 1:1:1. or 1:2:2 paired with long fermenting times (temperature?) the method may be doing the opposite of what is desired creating a high bacteria load in the culture and low level of yeast.  Thats why I ask about how the dough tastes.

hey.ryanm's picture

I've never tasted the starter, always went on smell? I usually get a nice green apple smell from my starter when it seems ripe to use.

the starter itself is coming up on a month old (started it august 13th), recently i switched from 100% whole wheat to 50/50 bread flour/whole wheat and started to get a vinegar smell which I read is contributed from changing the flour that I feed with. 

The bread itself after baked has a nice sourdough tang, not too much but definitely not mild. just kinda what I would expect it to be for a standard recipe?

this batch was milder than the rest which I was also contributing to changes my starter is going through from switching flours but I was still getting these large holes when the started smelled of beautiful green apples. 

hey.ryanm's picture

as for young, I was attributing that to adding the levain to the dough far before its usual peak of 12hrs. I was adding it at around 5 hours after feeding and by the time the 4hours of bulk fermentation is done and i'm onto pre-shaping the levain would have been fed 9 hours ago.

hey.ryanm's picture

so my starter itself is fed twice a day 12hrs or so apart

20g starter - 20g KA Bread Flour - 20g Gold Whole Wheat - 40g H20 lukewarm tap water

My levain for the recipe is 35g Starter - 35g KA Bread Flour - 35g Gold Whole Wheat - 70g H20 Lukewarm tap water

If I'm making dough tomorrow I will start the levain tonight and feed it again tomorrow morning, 5 hours before hitting the dough. 

the ratio is the same as the recipe you sent but mine would be 2 hours older when added to the auto lyse to move onto folding and bulk fermentation. 

everything is done at room temp, since I do not have a thermometer I don't have any actually temp readings but I will say my apartment has been drafty and on the chilly side in context of "summer" 

the taste of the bread is nothing out of the ordinary but i am far from an expert at any of this, as you can see hahaha 

hey.ryanm's picture

After some of our discussion yesterday I boiled some water and left it aside to evaporate the chlorine and will be using that in the levain/recipe.

I started a levain last night at 8pm. This is the levain now, 12 hours later at 8am.

It smells a little sweet and has a yeasty bready smell. Much less acidic than before and has almost none of that vinegar smell that it had developed but it also doesn't smell fruity in the way it used to (green apple). 

In the last week the smell went from Green Apple -> very vinegary -> almost "buttery" and now it is a sweet bready yeasty smelly.

I refed the levain at 8am and still plan on adding it to the dough with salt at 1pm which is 3 hours of autolyse and 5 hours after the feeding at 8am. I'm going to add an aliquot jar to the process to keep an eye on the fermentation. it is again, very chilly and drafty today so I will plan on going longer than the four hours bulk fermentation to see if my dough has been under-fermented.