How to Get Large Holes in Sourdough Bread – Perfect Sourdough Tips

Published Categorized as Beginner Guides

Achieving large holes in your sourdough bread is the goal of many sourdough bakers. Dense textured sourdough is a common problem amongst new bakers, but learning some new tricks will help avoid these problems from arising once again. Especially if you’re wondering how to get large holes in sourdough bread.

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How to Achieve Big Holes in Sourdough Bread

Large crumbling holes in sourdough bread is the ultimate level of perfection. The divine softness, followed by a wide-mouthed hole that indicates its wonderful texture isn’t impossible for many to achieve.

To get bread with large holes you need to create a strong and extensible dough that rises gingerly to form large pockets of gas.

In other words, strengthening your flour, allowing extended fermentation, and gentle handling are some of the ways that you could encourage and preserve large holes in your sourdough bread.

How to Get Large Bubbles in Sourdough Bread

Essentially, you could take a look at your bread and compare its appearance to foam. The holes in the bread are the result of bubbles that have been baked and hardened. These bubbles have to be nurtured in order to hold their shape, so that they remain large without bursting in the oven.

The durability of the holes rely on the status of the dough. If the dough is too weak, the gas bubbles will become too large and burst which will cause the sourdough to emerge dense from the oven.

Similarly, if the dough is too strong with a very organized gluten then it won’t be able to expand and create large bubbles.

Large Holes in Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread with a large open crumb finish can be achieved through strong gas production from fermentation that has its gas intact. It needs a highly developed gluten network that locks the gasses, and an extensible dough that had a lengthy fermentation time in order to achieve a light and super-soft bread.

There are many techniques that can result in a sourdough bread with large holes. If you’re curious, then take a look at these below:

  • Use High Hydration
  • Bassinage Technique
  • Autolyse and Fold
  • Refrain from Degassing
  • Long Fermentation
  • Shaping the Dough
  • Some Steam
  • Avoid Rye Flour
  • Use Old Flour

Use High Hydration

The most important factor in achieving a sourdough bread with a light, open crumb and large holes is through very high hydration. The use of high hydration, sometimes elevating to 100% hydration, allows the dough to be mixed reaching a very high gluten development, whilst remaining very stretchable and supple.

The very developed gluten network entraps the gasses that are released during fermentation. The stretchable nature of the dough allows the dough to extend at its own will, producing very wide holes.

During lower levels of hydration, the dough stiffens, with an elasticity that is obtained when mixed to full gluten development. Despite its stiffness the dough is quite capable of trapping gasses. However it won’t extend as easily, resulting in a restricted expansion with smaller holes of a baked loaf.

The wetter dough is also great during fermentation. Fermentation is a crucial period, during which gasses will be produced, determining the size of the holes, as well as the density of the dough and crumbs, from the consumption of starches and sugars in the dough.

Bassinage Technique

It can be quite challenging to mix dough of very high hydration to adequate gluten development. An effective method for mixing very wet dough is to reduce a portion of the water when mixing, as the gluten develops more effectively in a drier environment. This method is often referred to as the “bassinage.”

When the dough’s gluten has developed to a high degree, make a hole in the centre of the dough, and pour the remaining water into the dough, mixing until the liquid has been thoroughly incorporated in the dough. This step can be repeated several times, for dough of very high hydration, gradually increasing it to the intended level of hydration.

Mix the dough until its surface begins to moisten and glisten. The element of strong gluten is fairly important, when hoping to achieve a baked loaf with large, widened pores. Without this, gasses can escape out of the dough, causing poor loaf volume, and dense closed crumbs with tiny holes.

Autolyze and Fold

High hydration doughs are naturally feeble and require all the strength they can receive. Autolyze and folding are crucial steps that should take place during the baking process, which will initially add essential dough strength on top of the gluten that has already been developed during the mixing stage.

Autolyze takes place before mixing by incorporating only the flour and water minus the salt and sourdough starter, allowing it to rest for 20 to 60 minutes. During this period, the flour fully hydrates and gluten bonds develop despite the absence of mechanical mixing. After the autolyze the dough will have gained enough strength for you to work with.

The wetter the dough, the more fold is required to build its strength. One fold involves the folding of all four sides of the dough into its center. Include one fold for every hour of bulk fermentation.

The length of the bulk, as well as the number of folds, is heavily reliant on the overall result of the loaf and its crumb. With a longer bulk fermentation resulting in a lighter and more open crumb.

Refrain from Degassing

We should refrain from degassing our dough, if we’re hopeful in achieving large holes in the crumbs. The idea is to retain as much carbon dioxide gasses as possible from the fermentation reaction in the dough that will eventually expand, providing you with that airy and light crumb.

The carbon dioxide gasses produced also plays an important role, in helping the wet, weak and slack dough in holding its shape. Very high hydration dough still lacks in strength in spite of good gluten development, which causes its shape to slacken.

The carbon dioxide gasses trapped within the dough would increase the internal pressures of the dough through the baking process, causing an internal inflation.

Longer Fermentation

The next step is letting the dough ferment in the fridge for 12-18 hours. This will encourage the yeast to slow down and continue developing its flavor.

If you are baking in a home oven, it may take up to 2 hours for your dough to warm up enough before baking, so be sure to plan ahead! This is one of the most important steps for getting large holes in sourdough.

You need to maintain a temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a bit cooler than the traditional temperatures for bread baking. But it allows for a slower rise in the dough and hence better flavor development.

The fermentation time at room temperature is fairly short, only 2-3 hours. If you’d like your bread to have larger holes, keep an eye on it. Remove from the oven when its size matches that of your desired loaf.

Shaping the Dough

Lightly flour your hands, and take out the dough from the bowl. Gently round it and place it seam side up in a banneton (a round basket with holes). Alternatively, you can place the shaped bread on a greased baking sheet or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Let rise for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature until doubled in size. This should take around 30 minutes if you have refreshed your starter with water again after shaping.

Preheat the oven to 425 °F for 20 minutes before baking.

As a general rule, the longer you allow your dough to rise, the more sour it will be. The longer rise time also results in large holes and an open crumb.

The ideal time for rising is between 6 and 8 hours, depending on how sour you want your bread to taste and whether you prefer bigger or smaller holes.

Some Steam

Steam is the key to a great loaf of bread. It helps your dough rise and develop, and keeps it from collapsing as it bakes. Steam also helps give your bread a nice crust, which is especially important if you’re using whole grain flour.

In order to get steam into your oven, you’ll have to create some kind of water bath. This will essentially trap the steam in around your baking pan and keep it there until all of the moisture has evaporated.

You can attempt this by putting a bowl full of hot water in your oven with a baking pan on top. The bowl should be deep enough so that when you put another pot or pan on top of it for weighting down everything will be fully submerged.

Avoid Rye Flour

If you are looking for light and airy sourdough bread that has large holes, use strong white flour instead of rye. Strong white flour has a lower protein content than whole meal or plain flour, so it is better at absorbing water and producing an open crumb.

On the other hand, rye flour is pretty good at making a sourdough loaf with larger holes, but it’ll leave you with a dense and heavy bread, which isn’t what you want.

Rye grains

Use Old Flour

One of the essential steps is to use old flour. If you have flour that’s been stored in a cool, dry place, that’s even better. If you can find some in the freezer or fridge, even better.

You can get large holes in sourdough bread by using a mixture of old and fresh flour. The trick is to make sure the dough is not too soft, and to not over knead.

How to Manipulate Sourdough Bread

Since the dough is at the mercy of the baker, it can be manipulated into anything you desire. The way you handle the dough will determine the overall result of your bread, which is quite amazing to say the least.

You can make your sourdough less dense by feeding it regularly, using a standing mixer, and/or adding baking powder. For starters, you should plan to feed your sourdough starter regularly. Sourdough is like any other living thing; if you don’t feed it, it will starve to death!

Feeding should be done by hand or with a standing mixer, simply add equal parts flour and water, mixing until you achieve a smooth consistency. You can use sourdough that has been refrigerated for up to 24 hours as long as you allow it to come back to room temperature before feeding.

If you’re living in a warm climate, use warm – not hot – water when sprinkling in more flour during feeding. This way, the temperature remains consistent.

How Can I Get Large Holes in My Sourdough Bread

There are a number of ways to achieve a loaf with larger crumbs.

Consider using a poolish starter. Poolish is French for “stiff” and its exactly what you’d think it would be – a stiffer version of sourdough starter that you would normally use to make bread.

A poolish starter is a sourdough starter with a higher percentage of water than normal starters – around 60% or more. The increased water content allows more carbon dioxide to form when you bake the bread, which increases airiness in your loaf, creating larger holes in your sourdough.

Here are some other ways to achieve larger holes in your loaf:

  • Freeze your Dough
  • Use a Moist Dough

Freeze your Dough

If you want to get large holes in your sourdough bread, there’s a simple trick. Freeze the dough before baking. It’s not as hard as it sounds—freezing will make the crust crispier and prevent it from shrinking too much when cooked.

To do this, prepare a wet dough with about 80% hydration, by mixing together flour and water with some salt (1% or less). Then place the dough in an airtight container and freeze for at least 12 hours; preferably 24 hours or more for best results.

Once frozen, remove from the freezer and let it thaw for about 8–12 hours at room temperature before shaping into loaves. Bake them as usual for about an hour until done or the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a Moist Dough

The best way to get large holes in your sourdough bread is by making a moist dough, and then baking it in a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet. This ensures that there will be plenty of steam during the first half of baking, which gives you those nice big holes that take so much effort to achieve if you don’t use one of these methods.

You can also use a pizza stone in place of a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet if you don’t have one at hand. It’ll still give you those large holes, but it only works with loaves with sides higher than 1½ inches.

If none of these work for what you need, then try using an unglazed clay pot called a bread stone instead. It’s shaped like an upside-down bowl so that there’s more surface area on top where steam can collect while cooking.

How to Make Poolish Starter?

Poolish is a sourdough starter, and if you’re a bread baker, you probably already know what that means.

If not, here’s the short version: Poolish is a little bit of flour and water that gets fed into the actual dough during mixing. The longer it sits with all those yeast spores (the stuff that makes bread rise) in there, the more sourdough flavor it will give whatever bread you make with it.

Although poolish starter is great for achieving larger holes in your sourdough bread, it is a little challenging to work with. Not only is it delicate but it is also harder than other starters at maintaining consistent flavours in subsequent batches.

Poolish is a mixture of flour and water, with added yeast. It becomes the base for breads and other baked goods. Poolish makes those things better because it’s alive.

You need to treat your poolish right if you want it to be productive and happy. If a sourdough starter gets too cold or too warm, then it can start acting up in different ways. One way might be that the bread will have holes throughout instead of just on top like usual!

To make the poolish starter take 550 grams of flour, sprinkle 5 grams of active yeast and then pour in 550ml of water. Give it a good mix, making sure that the yeast is thoroughly incorporated. Cover this with a lid and leave it to sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours when you’ll catch active signs with an abundance of bubbles.

So, How do I Get Large Holes in Sourdough Bread?

To achieve large holes in your sourdough bread, you should take a look at all of your options, before making your changes. With some trial and error you’ll find yourself luckier than the last time you tried, perhaps with larger holes.

Whether it’s the flour, temperature or extra fermentation time required, it’s important to take care of your sourdough starter like it’s your baby. Maintaining a good and stable temperature, as well as feeding your started at regular intervals, might just be the answer to all your problems.

Sourdough recipes for you to try:


What Causes Big Bubbles in Bread?

The primary cause of large holes in your bread is the carbon dioxide entrapped in the dough. If you wish to avoid getting these holes you need to roll or know them out during the kneading stages.

Why is my Sourdough Bread not Bubbly?

If a sourdough starter hasn’t started to bubble, it could mean that it requires more frequent feedings. Initially, if you’re feeding at 12 hour intervals, switch to 8 to 10 hours.

Why Does my Sourdough Have Small Bubbles?

These are called blow-off bubbles and they are simply carbon dioxide gas escaping from the starter. They may appear randomly or in a pattern, depending on the size of your container and how long you’ve been feeding your sourdough.

By Natasha Krajnc

Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm specialized in home sourdough bread baking and currently based in Slovakia - a very small country in Central Europe. My bread baking story began in 2011 when I decided to give up commercial yeast. I felt tired all the time (especially after eating bread and other foods made with yeast), I wasn’t motivated to do anything, had trouble concentrating throughout the day, my abdomen was bloated and I was like a trumpet on steroids – basically, I was quite a wreck. I was a big bread lover (and still am) and having to stop eating bread was quite hard at that time but I felt I was on a right way to give my body a chance to heal itself.

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