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atephronesis 2011 July 10

Not an expert here but...

 Maybe the dense texture with big holes is due to shaping and proofing technique? I used to get similar results in the past.

 When you finish the bulk rise (the first rise), you should "deflate" the dough before shaping it. I take my dough out of the bowl, out it on a floured surface and "punch it down" to pop the larger bubbles. Then I "pre-shape" it into a pretty tight ball. At that stage, the dough would be free of large bubbles, but the "skin" of the ball will expand like a balloon with newer more uniform bubbles. After about 10 minutes, i deflate it again and make the finally shaping. Then I let it proof for another 2 hours.

 One reason for the explosion out of the top may be that the yeast may still be too active when you put it in the oven...in other words, the dough might not be fully risen yet. That is just a guess. Did you slash the top of the loaf to allow it to expand? If not, it will often just break open at the weakest point, again like a balloon.

 These 5 videos were the best lessons I got in making bread: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/videos.html

 Especially check out the one about shaping...

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