The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Unwanted crust cracks and bursts; any ideas why?

davidg618's picture

Unwanted crust cracks and bursts; any ideas why?

Today I baked two loaves of Jewish Rye following Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker, with a few minor changes.

1. For the third stage build of the Rye Sour I used whole rye flour rather than the prescribed white rye flour I used for all previous stages.

2. I reduced the salt to 3/4 Tbls from 1 Tbls.

3. I preheated the oven to 450°F, loaded the loaves, and immediately reduced the oven temperature to the 375°F prescribed.

I used steam for the first 15 minutes, then removed the steam source, and vented the oven. Baked for another 15 mins.The crumb is closed, but has excellent mouthfeel: slight chewiness, not gummy or wet. Flavor is all I could want.

I shaped the loaves folllowing Greenstein's directions, paying particular attention to his comment. "...the dough should be tight.". I didn't draw the skin any tighter than I do wheat flour sourdough boules or batards.

I was a little concerned I was underproofed, but went with them anyway, having recently overproofed a couple of high hydration wheat loaves. My "poke" test was still springing back, but very slowly when I glazed, slashed and loaded the loaves in the oven.

You can see in the photo both loaves developed unwanted cracks in the crust, and the one loaf burst. I think it may be due to underproofing, but I'm not at all certain. Any alternate ideas, and recommendations to avoid them in the future will be appreciated.

David G

Kingudaroad's picture

Have you tried making your slash cut long ways instead of cross ways? It might give the dough more space to spring. This is not an expert opinion mind you.

joyfulbaker's picture

David, it's possible underproofing would lead to huge oven spring, but I've never come across this personally and am not a professional.  I don't think changing the direction of the slashes would make a difference, but the length and depth of them might.  But congratulations on beautiful breads.  I like that Greenstein book, but the only "Jewish" style rye I've made is from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread," p. 197, called "light rye," with sourdough starter, which is then used to make rye starter, and then a little "instant" yeast in the final mix.  It came out very tasty, but it didn't have the height of your breads.  I think that, sometimes, even commercial bakers have split loaves (they probably take them home).  Keep on truckin'!

hutchndi's picture

Never experienced underproofing causing huge oven spring? These loaves were rather underproofed, and it contributed considerably to the result...

Later attempts with similar method but longer proof rose well but did not result in such dramatic oven spring. Neither was this the first time I have found underproofing to cause exceptional oven spring, even without the use of the pot. Whenever I want to bake loaves that really explode and make a bold presentation, a little underproofing goes a long way. On the other extreme, proof to the limits of your dough type and scoring may not even be needed while crust may still remain intact. 

joyfulbaker's picture

David, maybe the reduction in salt also resulted in less inhibition of yeast growth, hence a huge rise in the oven.  It's a thought.

LindyD's picture

From what I've read, underproofing is the main cause of such splits.  That, and improper shaping, but it sounds as if your shaping was fine.  

In spite of the cracks, they are fine looking loaves and must taste great!

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, David.

First things first: Your ryes look delicious! The cracks and bursts will not detract from their eatability in the least.

Second, I have abundant experience with sour ryes bursting like yours, except mine have been usually considerably worse. Lindy is spot on in her diagnosis. I've had better success with erring on the side of over-proofing this bread - not so much that it collapses, but more fully proofed than a white sourdough or one with  < 20% rye or whole grains. I don't look for as much oven spring with this bread as with a pain au levain or pain de campagne.

I can't get your second photo to fully load, so the only crack I see is at the end of the loaf on the left in the first photo. This is a weak point in the loaf. I suspect it is a "proto-burst."  A very thin, crackly crust is desirable in this type of bread. I've never achieved it.

As much as I can see, your crumb looks perfect for this bread.

BTW, I believe Greenstein recommends steaming this bread for 5 minutes only.


davidg618's picture

Thank you all for your advice, and praise. Based on your inputs next time I'll run the risk of overproofing. I also intend to return the salt to the original recipe's 1 Tblsp. The flavor can handle it.

Joyfulbaker, I too became suspicious my slashes might be too hesitant as I watched them open in the early baking minutes, but by then it was too late.

David, you've been my inspriation and online mentor frequently. It's nice to know my bursting loaf matched one of yours; believe me, the one you can't see is a Grand Cayon crack compared to the one you can see ;-)

I've baked Hamelman's 40% rye and we liked it very much, but I like this better. I think it's due to the Rye Sour flavor being more of a kick than simply building a rye levain from a wheat seed starter. And I wanted a sandwich loaf crumb and flavor reminescent of my misspent youth in eastern PA. Greenstein's Jewish Rye comes close, first time I tried it.

Thanks again,

David G

ehanner's picture

David G,

Your breads look very nice and I too am frequently the recipient of similar bursting. I agree with David above in that Lindy is probably right about the cause being over proofing. The one additional comment I would make is that you might lower the yeast quantity a little to lessen the energy of the final rise in the oven. I find it's a fine line to walk between the right aeration of the crumb and getting blown out crusts. Simply proofing longer might give you larger air holes than you would care for.

No matter what, they look great.


Yerffej's picture


I would say that you have got your answer in underproofing.  However, it is mild and not severe so do not go to far beyond this in the final proofing.  It is also possible that more agressive scoring would have prevented this.  Make minor adjustments, not large ones, as you are very close to the loaf you desire.


ananda's picture

Hi David,

I think you've had the key advice from Lindy, Eric regarding a slight degree of underproof.   Reducing the yeast may be a good idea.   There is mention of more boldness in the cuts?   I actually think you could alter the angle, so the cut is more on a diagonal.   That way, the cut will cover more of the surface area of the dough, making it less likely to burst in a different part of the crust as in the photo.   Had the loaf "skinned" at all prior to loading in the oven?

Please can I also echo what fine looking loaves these are.

Best wishes


davidg618's picture

Thanks for the good advice. Turns out I angled the cuts on my second try for the very reason you offer.  Check out

Jewish Rye: second baking I incorporated all the recommendations TFLer's offered, including yours even though I hadn't read it yet;-)

I proofed the torpedo shapes on a floured couche, seam side up, covered with a towel. The dough's surface dries out a little--the couche is always a little damp where the proofing shapes have lain--but I don't think any significant skin forms. I flour the couche with straight brown rice flour or a 50/50 mix with AP, or in this case a 50/50 mix of brown rice/first clear flours. I switched to brown rice flour after I had two high-hydration batards stick to the couche; hasn't happened since then. I use the same flouring approach with proofing baskets, and unlined or lined brotforms too. I haven't experienced what I'd call "skin" in any of these cases.

David G