The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Scoring, Oven spring and Steam

madruby's picture

Scoring, Oven spring and Steam

Hi all,

I have now moved on to P.Reinhart French bread from his book Artsisan Bread Everyday.  Here are a few things I noticed which I presume affect the outcome of my loaf:

1) Scoring: my loaf has had a decent rise, but when I score the bread, the latter is deflated quite a bit.  I figure I would make it up with the oven spring during the this deflation normal?;

2) Steaming the oven: after I put my bread into the oven, I pour the cup of hot water into the pan and then spray the dough/stone/oven with more mist to help with the oven spring.  But that takes a few short minutes to get all of that done.  By the time I close the door, the initially pre-heated temp of the oven has gone down to a whoppi 425-450 F.

3) Oven spring: not getting much of one, even if I followed many of the suggestions and tricks provided.  Keeping the door open just those minutes has taken so much of the heat out that it must play a negative role in that outcome...right?

Any more suggestions?

arlo's picture

1) Sounds like you are over proofing your loaf. The deflation can be a result of what little gas is left in the loaf escaping when your score it. Try and get your loaf in a bit sooner and see if that helps.

2)Heat the oven a lot hotter than just the 450 cooking temp. Crank the dial to like 500 or 550, then place the loaf, steam, shut the oven and lower the temp. You will still see a drop in temp, but hopefully it will remain in the high 400's still.

3)Like I said, it sounds like you may be overproofing and there is little 'oomph' left in the loaf.

wally's picture

Hi - A few things to consider: 1- Some deflation after scoring is normal with some breads - especially french breads such as baguette, pain au levain, etc.  However, if the loaves are not rising in the oven, then there's a good chance they're overproofed.

2- Pouring hot water into a pan is an acceptable way of steaming, and you'll find a host of others on this site if you search.  Spraying the baking stone with water is a good way to crack the stone and I wouldn't recommend it.  You might instead wait two minutes after the initial steaming and throw ice cubes onto the floor of the oven to create additional steam.

3- Loss of oven heat is a fact of life in home baking.  The best way of offsetting this is to initially heat your oven much hotter than is called for.  This way the temperature drop will still leave you close to the heat you are shooting for.  After 5 minutes of baking, you can reduce the heat and then bake as normal.

BTW- your oven door should not be open for a 'few minutes' when loading your loaves.  The procedure should be quick - bread in, water in pan, door shut.

Good luck!


Radicalkat's picture

After having a very difficult time steaming my oven, I learned this trick...

Get a disposable alluminum lasagna pan or disposable roasting pan (the deeper, the better).

After you slide the dough onto your hot stone, invert the lasagna pan and cover the dough.  The aluminum heats very quickly.  As water evaporates from the dough, it's trapped in the pan.  You'e essentially make a mini-oven within your oven.  The evaporated water from the dough crates the seamy environment you need.


You can do it lightning fast.  Less time to lose heat. 

No chance of cracking your stone or oven glass.

Try it, it's cheap!!


If your try it, post back!



madruby's picture

I have a cold dough in the fridge which I was planning on baking tomorrow am; will definitely try it out.  Prior to putting the dough into the oven and covering it with the pan, should I at least spray the dough with some mist?

re: overproofing

Have not thought of that aspect so will be limiting my final counter rise a bit.  I had let my shaped loaves rise for appx 120 min when the recipe called for only 60 min. 

The reason why I had left it longer is bcuz I was told that I was not letting it rise long enough.  For example, I made another recipe that called for a final proof of 60 min.  The cold dough did not rise very much after that 60 min. in an environment of 74 to 75 F.  It was recommended that I let it rise longer and do the "poking test" (as the 60 min was only a guideline).  In order to successfully do the poking test, the proofing had to take at least another 30-45 min.

My feeling is that I am expecting my dough to give me an outstanding final rise and that may not be the case.  In expecting it so, I end leaving it on the counter for too long.  Will definitely proof the dough a little less longer. 

In the end, baking is really not an exact science...will simply continue to kitchen test my baking until I get things to be consistently right (I get  1 loaf out of 2 baked).

Merci all.

Radicalkat's picture

Regarding spritzing the dough before covering it with the alluminum lasagna pan... I lightly spritz the inside of the pan before inverting onto the stone.  The idea is to get a little more water for evaporation in there without actually wetting the dough.


About proofing on the counter after being refrigerated.  I've read that you can go directly from the fridge to the oven if the dough has been refrigerated over night! (I think I read this in Jeffery Hammelmans's "Bread") I believe the dough has proofed (albeit slowly) already in the refrigerator. So, I think less is more with regards to proofing once the dough is out of the fridge. I had MUCH more luck with oven spring when I eased way back on the proofing time.


Good luck!


Eidetix's picture

Thank you all for news I can use on proofing and oven spring. For me, the business of tweaking the formulae is a big part of the pleasure of baking bread.

madruby's picture

So, after reading the feedback above, I went ahead with baking my last loaf (from the same initial dough batch I mixed on Friday pm).

1) scoring: i went out and bought a real razor lame to help with the scoring.  I was using my kitchen knives and always had a lot of difficulty slashing the dough.  Unfortunately, the lame did not produce any nicer slashes.  I really need to improve this technique.

Furthermore, the dough deflated as soon as I started to score the dough.  It had been proofing for appx 45 min on the counter (recipe calls for 60 min).  I can't really say this time that I had overproofed it....hmmm, not sure how else to go about it.

2) oven spring: I tried the lasagna pan trick suggested by Adam.  Misted the pan (which I did not preheat with the oven), covered the dough and baked for 12 min.  Yes, the dough did rise a little bit (since it substantially deflated after the scoring) but then again, I did not think it rose "powerfully".  Perhaps it's just how it is with Peter's R. ABED recipes (and my expectations are unrealistic).  The bread loooks BEAUTIFUL though (closer to a ciabatta height than that of a baguette).  After the first 12 min, I took the lasagna pan off and baked it for 13 more min to get it fully cooked.  Golden brown, shiny and CRISPY crust.

As for the crumb...what can I say.  The crumb had BIG and IRREGULAR holes, exactly how Peter R. lobbies for them in his book.  The taste of this bread was AWESOME.  Moist, soft, tasty, the usual....


So far, with my overall good successes, this is what I have observed from baking Peter's lean bread and French bread recipes:

His crumbs have always been NO 1 - no complaints here.

The crusts are fairly good for the most part but I have had to incorporate a few tricks to keep them crispy after the cooling off period.

The final rises have always been disappointing.  They are barely noticeable so I never know whether I should keep the dough to rise longer and therefore risking overproofing it.

The oven spring is definitely a hit and miss - never got consistent results.