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I see this instruction when making rye bread: let it proof until soft. How can I tell when it's soft? I keep baking Jewish rye and letting it proof longer and longer and it certainly starts to feel pillowy and smooth (not sticky) but I don't know how long that should go on for. I ask because my bread is splitting down the sides which suggests to me that it's under-proofed. It tastes good and isn't gummy but the loaf is flat(ish) and splits.

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I wonder if it's worth mentioning that I'm proofing this loaf in a parchment paper 'couche' supported by kitchen towels. I pick up the paper and set it on a baking sheet that goes into the oven. The paper is typically at least a little stuck to the sides of the loaf when it goes in.

  • Could we get pictures of the loaf, please? – Stephie Jul 26 '17 at 14:34
  • @Stephie I don't have any handy but I will try to get some. – sirdank Jul 26 '17 at 15:57
  • @Stephie Picture added. – sirdank Jul 27 '17 at 19:58
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Having your bread split isn't necessarily a sign that your dough is underproofed. Many breads get considerable oven-spring, that is expansion due to the expansion of air and last gasp of yeast from the heat of the oven. If your crust hardens before the oven spring is complete the loaf may split to release the pressure. There's a couple of ways to prevent this:

  • Slash your bread more deeply before baking. The goal of slashes is not just cosmetic, it allows the bread to expand
  • Introduce moisture into the oven to keep the crust from hardening too quickly. A pan of water works well for this, you put enough water to last for the first 20 minutes of baking. After 20 minutes the oven spring should be done and you'll want the crust to harden. You can also bake the bread in a closed pot in the oven for the first 20 minutes to trap moisture, then take the lid off for the rest of the baking
  • I have been meaning to try deeper slashes. I'm misting the oven pretty heavily just before it finishes preheating and then again when I put the bread in which I would think should be enough. The crust is not nearly as hard as it might ought to be. – sirdank Jul 27 '17 at 15:54

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