Why Is My Sourdough Bread Full of Holes? Exploring Possible Causes

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Sourdough bread has become increasingly popular in recent times, and it’s not hard to see why. There is something irresistibly delicious about the combination of its tangy flavor and rustic texture. However, it can be frustrating when your sourdough loaf is full of holes, leaving you wondering what went wrong. In this article, we’ll be exploring the various possible causes of holes in sourdough bread and what you can do to avoid them in the future.

Understanding the Basics of Sourdough Bread Making

Before we dive into the possible causes of holes in sourdough bread, it’s essential to understand the basics of sourdough bread making. Sourdough bread is a type of bread made using a sourdough starter, a mixture of flour and water that has been left to ferment for a specific period. The fermentation process creates a bubbly, acidic mixture populated by naturally occurring yeast and bacteria, which are essential for the bread’s leavening and flavor.

The process of making sourdough bread involves combining flour, water, and salt with the sourdough starter. The dough is left to rise for several hours, and then it’s shaped and left to proof before baking. The proofing stage is crucial as it allows the dough to rise, develop texture, and mature in flavor.

One of the unique characteristics of sourdough bread is its long shelf life. Due to the fermentation process, sourdough bread can last for several days without going stale. This makes it an excellent option for people who want to reduce food waste and save money on groceries.

Another benefit of sourdough bread is its nutritional value. The fermentation process breaks down the gluten in the flour, making it easier to digest. Additionally, sourdough bread contains beneficial bacteria that can improve gut health and boost the immune system.

The Role of Yeast in Sourdough Bread

Yeast is an essential component of sourdough bread, responsible for the bread’s leavening and flavor. Yeasts are microorganisms that convert the sugars in the flour into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol, which makes the dough rise. However, the right balance of yeast is necessary as too little yeast will result in dense bread, and too much yeast can lead to an over-risen, holey loaf.

How to Create the Perfect Environment for Your Sourdough Starter

The right environment for your sourdough starter is crucial as it affects the health and balance of the yeast and bacteria within it. A healthy sourdough starter will produce good bread, and an unhealthy one will lead to off-flavors, poor texture, and even worse, gaping holes.

The ideal conditions for a sourdough starter are between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 50% to 75%. You can achieve these conditions by using a proofing box, a warm oven with the light on, or even a simple cardboard box with a lightbulb.

The Importance of Proper Fermentation in Sourdough Bread Making

Fermentation is a crucial component of sourdough bread making. The long, slow fermentation process allows the yeast and bacteria in the starter and dough to break down the gluten and sugars in the flour, producing flavorful acids that give the bread its distinct taste. However, over-fermentation can lead to a holey, gummy loaf.

To avoid over-fermentation, keep a close eye on your dough during the proofing stage. The dough should be plump, but not overly bubbly, and still hold its shape when you poke it gently with your finger. If the dough looks like it’s starting to collapse or loses its shape entirely, it’s over-proofed, and it’s time to bake it.

Common Mistakes That Lead to Holes in Sourdough Bread

Several mistakes can lead to holes in sourdough bread. One of the most common is the use of too much water in the dough. The dough should be sticky but not overly wet, or else it will be difficult to shape and result in holes. Another common mistake is not allowing the dough to rest for long enough, leading to under-proofing, which can cause dense, undercooked dough.

Another common mistake is using a dull knife or dragging the dough during scoring, which can cause large pockets of air to escape from the dough, leading to holes. Finally, over-kneading the dough can lead to a tough texture, which can also result in holes when baked.

Overproofing: The Main Culprit Behind Holes in Sourdough Bread?

Overproofing is a common cause of holes in sourdough bread. As mentioned earlier, over-fermentation can cause the dough to become sticky and over-expanded, leading to gaping holes when baked. To avoid overproofing, keep a close eye on your dough during the proofing stage, and make sure to follow a recipe’s instructions carefully.

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Holes in Your Sourdough Bread

Here are some tips and tricks for avoiding holes in your sourdough bread:

  • Use the right amount of water in your dough.
  • Allow the dough to proof for the recommended time in the recipe.
  • Use a sharp knife to score your dough and avoid dragging or tearing it.
  • Don’t over-knead the dough.
  • Keep an eye on your dough during proofing and fermentation.
  • Use a Dutch oven or a steam injection oven to control the baking environment and aid in steam production, which can prevent holes and create an even, airy crumb.

How to Achieve the Perfect Crumb in Your Sourdough Loaf

The perfect crumb in sourdough bread is a balance between a soft, springy texture and small holes that are evenly distributed. Achieving the perfect crumb requires careful attention to proofing, fermentation, and baking.

During the proofing stage, make sure your dough has risen sufficiently but is not overly bubbly. During the fermentation stage, pay attention to the dough’s smell and adjust the temperature and humidity levels to achieve the desired sourness and flavor.

Finally, during baking, make sure to control the oven’s temperature carefully and use a Dutch oven or steam injection oven to keep the environment moist for a consistent, even bake.

Troubleshooting Common Problems with Your Sourdough Bread Dough

Here are some common problems you might encounter when making sourdough bread and their solutions:

  • If the dough is too sticky, add more flour a little at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
  • If the dough is too dry, add more water a little at a time until it’s sticky but not overly wet.
  • If the dough doesn’t rise enough, make sure your starter is active and that you’ve allowed enough time for proofing.
  • If the bread is gummy and holey, it’s likely over-fermented, proofed, or baked.

The Science Behind the Texture of Sourdough Bread

The texture of sourdough bread is a result of the interaction between the gluten structure, fermentation, and baking. Gluten is the protein in flour that gives bread its chewy texture and allows it to hold its shape during fermentation and proofing. When the dough is allowed to ferment, the yeast and bacteria in the starter break down the gluten, creating pockets of air that lead to a light, airy crumb.

The baking process finishes the fermentation, causing the bubbles in the dough to expand and set, resulting in the final texture of the bread.

Understanding How Temperature Affects Your Sourdough Dough

The temperature of your sourdough dough can affect the fermentation process, proofing, and ultimately the texture of your bread. A colder environment slows down the fermentation process, while a warmer environment speeds it up. A cooler proofing stage will result in a denser texture, while a warmer proofing stage can cause over-proofing and holes in the loaf.

The Role of Humidity in Making Perfectly Textured Sourdough Bread

The right humidity level is essential for making perfectly textured sourdough bread. A dry environment can lead to a hard, crusty exterior, while a humid environment can create a soft, chewy texture. However, it’s essential to find the right balance between humidity and temperature as too much moisture can lead to a gummy, undercooked center, while too little can result in a dense, dry loaf.

Can You Salvage a Hole-y Sourdough Loaf? Expert Advice

If you do end up with a holey sourdough loaf, don’t despair. There are ways to salvage it. One method is to cut the bread into small pieces and use it in a bread pudding or savory stuffing recipe. Alternatively, you can toast it and use it as a base for a delicious bruschetta or crostini. Just be sure to store the bread in an airtight container to prevent it from going stale.

Creative Ways to Use Hole-y Sourdough Loaf

If you’re feeling creative, you can use holey sourdough loaf to make delicious croutons, breadcrumbs, or even bread pudding. Holey bread can also be used as a fun charcuterie board base or as a vessel for a hearty soup or stew.


There are several possible causes of holes in sourdough bread, from overproofing and under-kneading to issues with temperature and humidity. However, by understanding the basics of sourdough bread making, following a recipe carefully, and paying attention to the dough during the proofing and fermentation stages, you can achieve the perfect, airy texture in your sourdough bread every time. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to get creative and put that holey bread to delicious use!