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Since several weeks I'm trying to get my bread to rising more in the oven. I experimented quite a bit but the results are still far from perfect. Everything goes fine until the shaping of the loaf. Although my dough has developed a proper gluten structure, it just falls flat during the final rise and has almost no oven spring (I'm pretty sure that it is not overproofed). Furthermore, when scoring the dough my knife often gets stuck which therefore leads to more of an tearing than cutting of the dough. I wasn't able to find any useful tips on the internet which is why I'm asking here for advice now. Has anyone of you had similar problems or knows the reason why this is happening?

My recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 225g white flour
  • 175g whole wheat flour (spelt)
  • 10g salt
  • 288g water
  • about 7g dry yeast
  • some bread spice

(room temperature: 22/23°C)

  1. about 6-7 min kneading by hand (passes windowpane test)
  2. 1:40 h bulk fermentation, with 2 folds (after 30 min and 1h)
  3. preshaping the dough; letting it rest for 15 min before final shaping
  4. preheat the oven with a try of water at the bottom to 250°C
  5. score the dough after 50 min and spray it with water
  6. bake it for about 50 min; remove the water tray after 15 min and turn the temperature down to 200°C

In the second picture you can clearly see that the bread didn't really expand during baking (maybe a little bit). Even though the crumb and the crust look good and it also tastes pretty good, I would still like my bread to be taller and not to look like a pancake. (Sadly I have no pictures of the dough during rising)

finished bread finished bread top

Update

I made another bread today and tried to apply some of the advices. Sadly, the shape of the bread basically turned out the same (even though it tasted much better :D). Here is what I changed:

  • Reduced the yeast to 2g
  • Increased bulk fermentation to 4h
  • Increased final rise to 2h
  • Increased fold count to 5
  • Used a banneton (in this case a metal bowl with towel) for the final rise
  • Baked a little bit longer and put the bread under a metal bowl for the first 25min

Some further information which might be useful:

  • Bread dough passed windowpane-test
  • Dough wasn't overproved or underproved (As far as I can tell)
  • Dough passed poke-test after final rise
  • When putting the dough on the baking sheet it spread out into a puddle (not enough dough strength?)
  • Dough didn't rise at all in the oven (at 230°C - 250°C)

After thinking a bit about the result I came up with the following ideas:

  • Dough isn't strong enough
  • Oven too hot
  • Not enough steam

Is it worth pursuing these thoughts any further?

Lastly, here are some images of the second bread: second bread 1 second bread cut open

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    Are you sure this is a recipe intended for a free-standing shaped loaf, rather than being baked in a tin? It might be that this set of ingredients will never have the strength to hold up its mass without flattening, even if you do everything right.
    – dbmag9
    Oct 11, 2021 at 21:26
  • Maybe your oven is too dry causing a crust to form that would then prevent the crumb from expanding. If you're using a convection oven, make sure you turn off the fan. If possible, try a dutch oven - that made the most significant difference for me.
    – cr3
    Oct 15, 2021 at 1:25
  • At 72% water (bakers' percentage) it looks to me like you're too wet and likely not kneading long enough to compensate, so not fully forming the gluten network, so coming out dense and flat. Reduce water, knead long enough to bring dough internal temp to 25 oC. Don't go above 25 oC or the gluten will start to degrade -- use colder water if needed to extend kneading time. Windowpane is a reasonable test, but subjective -- you'd need an alveolab to remove that subjectivity. Real test is final bread, and the results are pretty clear.
    – stevegt
    Nov 21, 2021 at 21:25

3 Answers 3

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I can't see anything that wrong, it looks like you are getting a decent crumb and crust so you probably aren't that far off. Here's a few thoughts:

  1. The middle looks denser than the outside, I suspect you under-proofed it before baking, which is easy to do when you work to a time rather than a result. In home baking you can't control for all conditions so your final proof may take 40 minutes or an hour and a half depending on the day, you need to give it as long as it needs until it gets to the right size
  2. Your dough is somewhere around 72% hydration, so it's going to be a bit gooey and not hold shape very well. Unless you get the proofing in the right direction it's going to expand out, not up. This is often done with bread pans/tins, or if you want a traditionally shaped loaf you use a proofing basket in the shape you are looking for, in your case it's a batard (I think). A proofing basket will hold it in that shape as it proofs, then you turn it out just before baking. I'm partial to natural materials rather than plastic because you can turn the bread straight onto a stone and the basket won't melt. Another advantage of a proofing basket is that it's much easier to see how much the dough has expanded in proofing
  3. Bad scoring can cause dough to collapse, it's important to have good technique and to use a razor. I have a box cutter reserved for this and only this purpose, but you can get a baker's lame which is a razor on a stick. Start the slash before you reach the bread so the razor is moving when it hits the dough. You can practice on un-proofed dough and then simply knead it a bit and re-shape. A few drops of olive oil on the blade just before you slash help as well. Your slash could be deeper too
  4. 15 minutes may not be quite enough steam to get full oven spring, I would go for half the baking time
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    For an impromptu lamé, an old fashioned razor blade (the kind with the series of holes/wavy slit down center) on a thin chopstick works quite well.
    – Stephie
    Oct 12, 2021 at 12:14
  • Thanks for these tips. I've tried every one of them except the 3rd one so far, still without success. I will later post a photo of my latest bread.
    – Creepsy
    Oct 14, 2021 at 15:30
  • Can scoring really have such a huge impact on the outcome? That absolutely no oven spring takes place at all?
    – Creepsy
    Oct 14, 2021 at 15:31
  • It's not a huge factor @Creepsy, although it does help some it's also an aesthetic thing.
    – GdD
    Oct 14, 2021 at 16:07
  • Yeah I will try to get some razors for scoring. I also added some information about my second "experiment" to my post; maybe that helsp for identifying my mistake.
    – Creepsy
    Oct 14, 2021 at 17:45
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Based on the description of your recipe, I would guess that your yeast is not fully activated and/or did not get enough time with the autolyzed dough.

Some possible direct causes:

  • Dry yeast is getting old
  • Dry yeast has not been fully activated before being mixed (give it 10-15 min in a small 100% hydration bowl, made from portion of flour/water in your recipe)
  • Dough was not left to autolyse (15-60 min) before adding yeast/starter. Autolysation also releases some sugar from the starch making it available to yeast for gas production, and activates the gluten.
  • 1:40 is not a long fermentation for sourdough at all. If you want really porous crumb structure, try 6 hours with around 5 folds.
  • Combination of above.

Smaller contributing factors:

  • The ~40% whole wheat flour which has less gluten in it. I’d start with maybe 10-15% until you get your fold and shaping technique down. This flour has a strong taste and you don’t need a ton of it to impart that earthy flavour. While it isn’t impossible to get a tall loaf at 40%, that much whole flour doesn’t make it easier.
  • If you want a tall sandwich-style shape with this flour mix, consider a Pullman loaf pan.

Finally, one way to think of a 72% hydration dough is as an 80% dough that has its remaining flour added during the folds. This means you have more moisture in the dough during bulk fermentation, but by the time you get to final shaping the dough is easier to work with and “plump up”. This gives you the advantages of both wet dough (more effective gas formation) and dry dough (easier to shape gently).

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  • Thanks for these tips, I will definitely give them a try. Should I reduce the amount of yeast in case of a longer bulk ferment so that the dough doesn't overferment?
    – Creepsy
    Oct 11, 2021 at 22:01
  • The amount you suggested is only slightly high but by no means out of proportion. Some artisan sourdoughs have a 24 hour bulk ferment.
    – ChalkTalk
    Oct 11, 2021 at 22:43
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    Sorry, these instructions are really confusing, or irrelevant. Dry yeast does not have to be activated, it is unneeded to harmful depending on the type. The dough doesn't need to autolyse before adding yeast either - the most common way to work with dry yeast is to mix it into the flour and then make the dough with the mixture, and it gives great results. Also, this is not a sourdough recipe, so the 6 hour suggestion is out of place. And finally, the "adding" of flour during kneading is something that is usually accounted for by a recipe
    – rumtscho
    Oct 12, 2021 at 6:42
  • He had asked for bread that expanded more and a longer bulk ferment (and hence a sourdough) is a valid way of achieving this.
    – ChalkTalk
    Oct 13, 2021 at 1:21
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72% hydration might be a bit too much if your flour is weak. Spelt is often weaker than modern wheat varieties.

I would try to reduce hydration to e.g. 67%, keeping all other variables intact, and see if it helps. Also, try to bake this bread in loaf form - fill the dough about 50% and, if your dough raises well, you have too much hydration for hearth bread.

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