You’ve just baked a fresh loaf of bread, and you can’t wait to try it. But as you cut the first slice, you realize that there are large holes going all the way through the loaf!
Many novice bakers have had this experience. While it’s very frustrating, if you can identify the cause, you can stop it from happening again next time.
Read on to find out why there might be large holes in your bread, and what you can do to prevent this baking blunder in the future.
Why There Are Large Holes In Your Bread
One of the most common causes of large holes developing in bread is using too much flour. When shaping your load, you want to use enough flour to stop the bread dough from getting too sticky, but you also don’t want to use too much.
Otherwise, the bread won’t be able to seal into itself, and carbon dioxide gas pockets will form. That’s what causes the holes you’re seeing in your bread.
If you think you might have used too much flour in the shaping process, be sure to slap the bread dough firmly to knock out any air pockets.
Using the wrong flour can be just as detrimental to your loaf as using too much of it. If you use flour that isn’t conducive to density, you’ll end up with the air pockets we were talking about earlier. This leads to big holes forming.
So, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that around 1/3 of the flour you use is whole flour. This type of flour is heavier than white flour and creates denser bread.
Kneading is such an important part of the process when it comes to baking bread. If you don’t knead for long enough, you won’t create a strong gluten mesh.
A gluten mesh is necessary when baking bread because it stops carbon dioxide gasses from spreading throughout the bread unevenly. Without a proper gluten mesh, you’ll end up with big holes in your bread.
Too Much Oil
You’ll also usually use oil to shape your bread during the baking process, but just like flour, if you use too much, you will find that your bread has large holes in the middle.
Only use the amount of oil recommended by your recipe, and if you accidentally overdo it, try to compensate by slapping the dough more aggressively than usual. This will help to get rid of resultant air bubbles and big uneven holes in your bread.
Not Enough Proofing Time
If you don’t give your dough enough time in the proofing stage before baking, the yeast won’t be able to fully expand the carbon dioxide gasses.
This means that the gasses will be released in the oven during the initial rise, and you will have large, irregular holes in your loaf.
You need to give the gluten network in your bread dough enough time to become flexible, since this is what allows your dough to rise without unwanted gas bubbles.
It is essential to create enough tension when you’re shaping the dough for your bread. Insufficient tension results in loose bread dough, and this is one of the main causes of uneven gas bubbles.
The best way to tell if there’s enough tension in your bread dough is to squeeze it and see if it bounces back. If not, you have more folding to do.
More Yeast Than Necessary
It can be tempting to use more yeast than your recipe suggests to make your dough rise faster, but this isn’t a good idea.
More yeast creates more gas bubbles, and the result is likely to be an uneven crumb and larger holes in the bread. You can use a sourdough starter and less yeast to help your bread to rise instead.
If your dough has a high hydration level (meaning you’ve probably used too much water) you will have larger holes throughout your loaf. Aim to keep your hydration levels at roughly 55%.
It’s easy to get this wrong and end up with very high hydration if you’re using measuring cups rather than digital scales. Make the switch now and see if that solves the issue of high hydration.
Warm Water (Or Baking Room)
You should only use cool water when baking bread, and it’s best to try and keep your baking environment as cool as possible, too.
An elevated dough temperature results in a faster release of carbon dioxide gasses, creating large bubbles in your bread dough. So, never use hot or boiling water.
Keep your water temperature low to ensure high heat levels don’t build up in the dough. Your dough temperature can also get too high if you mix at high speeds. Try to mix your bread dough gently and keep the speed low if you’re using a spiral mixer.
If your oven isn’t hot enough, the result can be uneven yeast activation and gas pockets throughout your loaf of bread. To prevent gas pockets from forming, make sure to preheat your oven.
Make sure to score your dough deeply enough before baking, and create enough scores on the surface. If you don’t do this, gas will get trapped inside the bread dough and form a large hole.
Preventing Large Holes In Bread
To prevent your dough from forming large holes, always do the following:
- Allow for a long fermentation process, even if this means a slower rise
- Use 30% whole wheat flour
- Be gentle during the mixing process
- Avoid high-hydration doughs
- Don’t use too much yeast
- Preheat oven before first rise
- Try using a sourdough starter
- Keep water temperature cool
To produce a great loaf of artisan bread without too many holes, try to identify what is causing the holes.
Not all bread can be totally hole-free, but you can prevent large air bubbles by making small changes to your bread making process.