Beating 'the bulge' and 'the handbag' - any thoughts?


Confession time...

I have been baking, but not posting pictures for a while. Too little time.

This weekend the loaves have been frustrating me.

The first bake was a version of Dan Lepard's Mill Loaf using 6 grains (White, wholemeal, spelt, rye and barley flours with some millet flakes)

from one side looks OK


but the bulge is obvious on the other...


(Not all bad, crumb is fine - taste is fantastic)


This bulge is something that I associate with loaves that have been in the fridge. This dough had a period in the fridge after mixing, then a few stretches and a couple of hours of rising at room temp, then 24 hours in the fridge after shaping. Dough was taken out of the fridge when the oven was turned on, and baked ~50 min later.
I think that the problem is that the top of the loaf cooks before the base, and there is still some rise left in the loaf, which can only get out through the still incompletely cooked base.
I associate this in particular with loaves from the fridge, and I wonder if it is more likely if the dough temperature is not even (outside warmer than inside?)

My theories to fix this include slashing deeper (more room to expand?), not allowing the dough to warm before baking (even dough temp), or leaving the dough longer out of the fridge before baking (risk of overproving though...)

any one else have this problem?

The other loaf was a try at King of Glop's [url=]sourdough ciabatta[/url]

This is an 80% hydration loaf with 260% starter! I hand-mixed using Dan Lepard's technique

I haven't tried this recipe before, but have had a few goes at sourdough ciabatta, as well as other high-hydration sourdough white loaves (eg pane pugliese). The result inevitably seems to be a 'flying top' (also memorably described as the 'handbag defect').


This isn't a classic 'flying top' underprooved loaf, with a dense lower crumb and a big bubble under the top. It is more that the air bubbles form unevenly and coalesce, lifting the upper part of the loaf.

Is this inevitable with ~80% sourdough loaves?
I wonder if machine mixing would distribute the air better and avoid this? (I don't have a mixer, and only mix by hand, so it isn't really a solution, just a theory)

any other ideas?


262 users have voted.


SourDom 2006 October 14

No arrivals yet, so here is another attempt at the 6 grain loaf.

It isn't very scientific, as there were too many different variables. It was much warmer this weekend, and the formula was a little different as I didn't have enough starter. Anyway I tried to slash more deeply, and I think that the loaf was more prooved (much flatter this week)


no bulge


for anyone who is interested this week's recipe was

180g starter
340g water
10g barley malt
300g white flour
50g wm flour
50g rye flour
50g spelt flour
50g barley flour
50g millet flakes
10g salt

3 quick kneads at 10 minute intervals etc
Folds every hour for about 4 hours
Shaped and put in the fridge
Taken out of the fridge when the oven was turned on in the morning
Baked when oven hot


Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 October 14

Good loaf Dom, nice crumb considering some of the heavy sharp ingredients.
You will have plenty of time to bake soon, eg. sleepless nights

jacklang 2006 October 9

Not sure I can help. I agree retarded, underproved loaves baked from cold tend to bulge more. but that may be because they have more expansion capability.

a) You can try slashing more agressively. I find a single slash along the length of the loaf works better
b) I also find more bottom heat gives less bulge
c) Prove more.

Your cibatta look like..cibatta should

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 October 9

Hi Dom,

You know I can be of no use to you at all in your quest for the perfect, bulge-less bread.

I just wish my best bread was as good as your bulge-y bread!


nina 2006 October 14

Delicious-looking loaf... I can almost smell it *snif snif*

When I had my daughter we lived off delivered pizza for the first month!
(Ok, maybe it was only the first week...)

SourDom 2006 October 15

Here is yesterday's handbag...


it was [url=]Jeremy's formula[/url] for sourdough ciabatta

tastes great, but the flying top is back

the dough was mixed, folded, bulk for about 4 hours, then in the fridge overnight
In the morning it had 1 1/2-2 hours before going into a hot oven (~240, turned down to 200 when the bread went in) on a preheated stone

what am I doing wrong?


SourDom 2006 October 9

Thanks Carol, Jack.

If events do not supervene I will have another go at the recipe on the weekend, and perhaps try a couple of different things

don't know how much baking I will get done once the new baby arrives...


Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 October 15

dunno I made it too, no handbag, made the mistake of not having enough flour and substituted with some spelt!


Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 October 10

Hi Dom, deeper longer slashes mate, sort of like the diagonal ones I did in my demo some time back. The loaves look great but your slashes look more like a razor nick rather than "Jack the ripper".

Like the centre one.


Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 October 10

Good to be back, been eating commercial bread for four days, YUCK! Will be starting a four loaf batch this afternoon for a bake tomorrow morning.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 October 10

Can't wait to see the results, yuch commercial bread, reading Bread matters by Whitley, scary what they put in that stuff!

Happy baking, are you for Oz Fest 2007?


SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 October 10


I'm sure your baby will be as beautiful as your bread!

But fancy having a paediatrician for a father ... poor thing will never get the chance to behave in a wild, crazy and careless fashion!!! And I'm guessing bungy jumping will be completely verboten!

When are we expecting the new SourDom-lette loaf?


SourDom 2006 October 10

any day now...

only allowed to bungy jump if she takes her father (but doesn't tell her Mum)

Bill - thanks. I agree. more slash needed.


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