I have been trying to make sourdough on and off for a few years and only recently have I found it's working out a bit better - I keep finding my loaves busting out in a weird way, like they have an air pocket that explodes in the oven. Am I just not prooving for long enough, or perhaps not warm enough environment? Anyway - I am so glad to find this website so now I can continue my journey with more than just a cook book for company!
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Hi salty dough,
Yes it could be under proofing or your loaf forming technique. It could also be how you are scoring your loaves. If you think its proofing, try extending your proofing time by 30 min. per loaf until you get the results you're looking for.
Crumb pictures could help us to determine the cause.
Possibly one of the obvious ones from your pictures is the way you slash the loaves. Firstly, the cuts are varying depths and of varying completeness. Second, on the batarde, they are made across the loaf - generally they are best run pretty much along the long axis, slightly inclined to the centre-line. The other thing that you generally should try to do is the under-cut the dough - that is incline the blade at a relatively low angle to the surface of the loaf. The basic idea of the slashing is to give you control of how the loaf splits and you maximise your chances of achieving this if your slashes are correctly oriented and are of uniform depth and continuity. It does take a bit of practice to get it right. There are any number of videos out there that demonstrate different methods used by various bakers.
Another cause of splitting during baking is down to the formation of a 'crust' too early in the baking that resists the expansion that is taking place and the skin fails at a point of weakness (that is what the slashes are supposed to provide). The 'crust' can start during proving if the humidity is too low and the skin of the loaf dries out a little. The same can occur in the early stages of baking if the humidity in the oven is too low. The latter is one reason why people use steam in the early stages to keep the crust softer for longer.
A similar result can occur if the loaf is under-proved and the loaf tries to compensate by over-springing when it is in the oven. Up to a certain point there seems to be an inverse relationship between degree of proof and oven spring (lower proof-more oven spring, higher proof - less oven spring, over-proof - no oven spring)
So, in the absence of further information about your technique, my first move would be to work on your slashing technique but keep in mind the other principles of proper proving in the right moisture environment (temperature affects the speed at which things happen) and maybe consider one of the methods of introducing steam into your oven in the early stages of baking.
Good luck with your projects.