The Fresh Loaf

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Test Tube Baking [1] continued: White French Bread - overproof

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Test Tube Baking [1] continued: White French Bread - overproof


In my blog entry Test Tube Baking [1]: White French Bread I investigated how the final proof  affects the outcome: Where does underproof end and where does overproof start, and what are the symptoms in the finished bread...

I chose to make batards proved seam-side up, and I think the choice of this method somewhat carmouflaged the effects of overproofing: Because the loaves had to be turned over onto a peel the fragile areas just under the skin collapsed, resulting in loaves with a surprisingly even texture. (this is my interpretation)

I wanted to see those big holes!

This time I decided to make 200g boules and avoid all handling during and after the final proof: after shaping I put them on buttered baking trays.

3 boules at 200g each, proved for 60, 120 and 160 minutes. The environment was slightly coolet than last time, about 22 to 24C.

At 60 minutes the boules seemed well risen and the poke test showed a slow response.

At 120min the remaining 2 boules had spread quite a bit, and when poking the dough it didn't resist any more.

boule raw 60 min


At 160 min the piece of dough which had been a boule looked more like a focacia, but it had all those bubbles. Poking the dough created bubbles places far away from the dent.

boule raw 160 min

A sad sight.

Here is a picture of the baked loaves:



Oven spring: the 60 min boule had good oven spring (30%), the 120 min boule had little oven spring, and the 160 min boule had no oven spring at all.

Blowouts: The 60min boule had a blowout near the base.

All loaves had fairly weak bottom crust due to them being baked on baking sheets, which were cold.

Some crumb shots:

crumb 60min

A big hole! at 60 min proof!

proof 120min

A different kind of a hole at 120 min. And quite a different crumb. Signs of gluten breakdown.

proof 160min

Total gluten breakdown at 160 min.

The crumb of this last specimen is more like the crumb I know from 100% hydration rye breads, just much dryer. The bubble structure of a bread at 60 min has turnted more into a complex structure with no distinct air pockets: everything is connected. There is no springiness, and the feeling in the mouth is more like cake, the taste a bit yeasty.

Here a direct comparison of the crumb:


The huge blowout at 60 min was a surprise, I attributed it to a lack of slashing.

So I made 2 more boules with 60 min final proof, on buttered cold baking trays, one slashed, the other not.

slash 1


Both had blowouts of some degree, and the area under the skin was still very weak in the slashed loaf, while the unslashed loaf had a big hole.

slash crumb


I attribute this crumb to the cold baking tray- when put in the oven the top of the boules start fermenting immediately while the bottom gets going only after the baking sheet gets hot.

So many things to consider.


In this experiment I produced some overproofed loaves with visible effects of gluten breakdown.

The reference loaves proofed at "optimum" time showed blowouts and flying crust which (I think) are effects of not slashing, and using cold baking trays.

I hope you find my investigations useful.

My family found these experiments tasty, and you will be glad to hear nothing has been wasted.






ehanner's picture


Looking at your crumb images, I am left wondering what kind of flour you are using? In your first post, you mention Bread Flour but all of these images look like a weaker type of flour to me. If I had to guess I would say a softer spring wheat was used. Also the dough doesn't look like it was developed well. The Bertinet slap and fold method works well usually. If you continued with the slap and fold until the dough was smooth and well developed, you may not of needed the later folds. It is possible to over develop the gluten and tear the strands.

Your crumb looks more like a cake consistency to me. It is lacking the random open aeration I would expect from your process. The bottoms are so pale, I wonder if the oven shelf could be lowered one level? Have you checked the actual temperature with a thermometer? At the temperature you are baking at, 12 minutes is probably not long enough for a boule of 200g. I would think more like 18 minutes for the 200g pieces.

I'm trying to be constructive here Juergen. Not knowing what your flour options are, I would say try another brand of flour and attempt to obtain a high gluten bread flour to experiment with. Instead of bulk fermenting for 1 hour, try letting it go until it doubles. Then gently shape and proof. You should be able to proof seams up and roll the dough over without it collapsing unless it is way over proofed.

Give these things a try and check back to let us know how you are doing.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Eric,

Thank you for your comments.

I have been baking all our family's bread for about 3 years now, but since participating in TFL (a few weeks now) I feel like on a roller-coaster ride. I am learning such a lot every time I get into the forums, and quite often I find several quite contradictory techniques and solutions to a problem, all of which are valid.

With the test tube bakes I wanted to vary the process in a controlled way one parameter at a time - and do things purposefully wrong.

(For the physicists: the theory of dynamic systems showed us how tricky and misleading this approach can be.)

Therefore I am very grateful about your comments.

Now about my process:

Flour: I used Shipton Mill 701 Organic Strong Plain White throughout. This flour is "of the rare English wheat, Maris Widgeon combined with top quality strong organic Canadian flour" according to the miller. I don't know yet how much protein it contains. I was using this flour during almost all by (3 year) bread baking career. I noticed from the beginning that the texture came out quite even, it migt be aimed at making English breads, such as bloomer and cottage loaf. Possibly not the best choice for French bread, but very tasty.

Your post certainly compells me to look at the flours I use in more depth.

Dough development: That is the area I am learning most these days. Having played with no-knead recipes recently I noticed how easy it is to overdo it, and I don't want to rule out that my handling affected the results, especially for the blog entry above.

I work best with dough amounts of 1000g to 2000g. For some of the follow-up tests I made batches of 400g and 600g, and I noticed that I went too far with the 600g batch (the one where the blowout occured after 60min proof).

Furthermore I tried something new when I shaped those boules (bad science!). I think the big hole for the 60-min-boule is actually due to bad shaping (I did another micro-series to investigate that, and the influence of cold baking sheet vs. hot baking stone, picture will be up tomorrow.)

Bulk proof: My kitchen was about 24 to 26C, and after 1 hour the dough seemed well fermented.

Need to leave now, more thoughts tomorrow.


Thanks again,



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Eric,

I did a bit more research about flour and found that French T55 flour has about 10% gluten. The flour I used has certainly more than that. I made white bread with a similar consistency from Leckford Estate strong bread flour, which has - I think, 12.8%.

I ordered some T55 and will let you know how it's going with that.

I also asked Shipton Mill for the specs of their flours.

Baking: My oven only gives me about 230C fan assisted, measured inside. Crust development is another hing I have yet to explore in more depth.

On Monday I made another couple of test boules to see the effect of baking on a cold sheet vs. baking on the hot stone, proof 1 hour. Here is the result:



There is no hole - this proves to me that the hole on the 60min proofed boule above was simply poor shaping.

Thanks again for your inspiration,

I'll be back,



teketeke's picture

Thank you for posting this interesting experiment, again Juergen! And I also thank Eric to observe and report remarkable points. I apprecitate all your work, Thank you  Juergen and Eric

Best wishes,


ehanner's picture

You latest bread looks like it is more well developed. The random mid size holes are spaced well, through out. I see you still have a mild crust on the bottom. Have you moved the shelf down? The higher heat on the bottom will help your spring.

I suggest you bake with the fan off. Some folks use the fan to pre heat and then bake in conventional mode. This has the effect of taking longer to brown the top and increasing the time and lower crust color.

Make sure you are bulk fermenting to double volume. I find it very helpful to ferment in a transparent container. This way I can see the bubble structure. If after 1 hour you don't see a well established network of bubbles, stretch and fold and continue to ferment. Disregard the clock. It is the gas production that matters. A stretch and fold every 45 minutes or so helps build activity. OK.

  1. Lower shelf
  2. Fan off
  3. Watch fermenting dough for bubbles.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


Thanks for the hint with transparent container. I used to proof my dough in an earthware bowl, it is quite tricky to judge the expansion in there.

I take great pleasure in watching my sourdough starter bubbeling... I'm (re)learning that yeasted bread needs the same kind of attention.

With regards to my oven: I had to buy this after christmas 2009, in a rush and after buying all those presents ... It's the most basic BEKO, can't switch the fan off, and I don't think there are heat elements under the bottom.

I'll check that out and lower the shelf.



ehanner's picture

I have found that by keeping an eye on the bubbles in the side of the fermenting container, you really can control the outcome. A nice collection of 1/4 inch or1/2 inch bubbles is a sign that my bread will be nice and aerated after proofing. Every time you fold, the bacteria are redistributed and provided with a fresh source of food. So, at the first folding time there won't be many bubbles. At the second folding time, you should see many more pockets. If not, wait until you do. That will show you the effect of the correct dough temperature. After a while you will learn to watch for just the right time to end the bulk ferment and divide/shape, gently to preserve those pockets.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Eric,

I haven't been idle...

I tried to follow your suggestions as well as I could and learned a lot on the way.

I made several batches of white bread (same recipe as before) using different flours and bulk proof times.

1. My usual Shipton Mill 701 flour, with 100 min bulk proof and 40 min final proof (panic, therefore underproof)

bake 1

2. SM T55 French flour, 90min bulk, 60min final



3. Waitrose Organic plain white (11.3% protein), 90min bulk, 60min final


Noticeable is that the crumb varies very little.

What I learned:

a) My oven is rubbish. It only has a fan and no heating elements on the bottom. I can have 250C in the top left hand corner, and 90C in the bottom right corner at the same time. With a proper juggling of baking pans and stones this can be somewhat equalled out.

b) I tend to underproof and underbake!

On Tuesday I got Hamelman's "Bread", read some crucial bits on the way home from work and set up a poolish right away, once at home.

I understood that I was pre-shaping too strongly and didn't allow for the dough to relax enough after that.

There is plenty of space for me to improve on shaping.

The results of my first Hamelman poolish baguette are encouraging:

(made with SM T55 flour)

poolish 1


poolish 2


I think I still worked the dough too hard when pre-shaping and shaping.

Also, the taste was not as rich as I expected after my previous experience with the T55 flour.

I might still be overworking the dough ( by hand - I find slap-and fold rather powerful)

But these loaves have a real crust! Crackling and crisp!


teketeke's picture

Hi,  Jeurgen and Eric

Thank you for the points, Eric.  I have made baguettes a lot again, then Now I realized what you wrote below are very important.

Make sure you are bulk fermenting to double volume

A stretch and fold every 45 minutes or so helps build activity.

Thank you so much,



ehanner's picture

Glad to hear you are understanding fermenting better. I have such beautiful bread bowls made of porcelain that I no longer use since I have learned to watch the dough progress in a transparent bowl. It is such a simple thing, I am surprised it took me so long to discover the need.

The stretch and fold essentially eliminates the requirement for kneading. Again, this has simplified my baking remarkably. Please post your results of your Baguettes.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Akiko,

I looked at the photos of your baguettes - they look amazing!


teketeke's picture

Thank you, Juergen!

Your new post is very helpful, too. I was just wondering about what you tested !! I couldn't figure it out how much rise in the bowl container. Using cylinder is easy but I use the other container for making baguettes.

Here is  the one Japanese woman's baguette that is truly amazing.

This is the site:

I will translate her formula then I want her to take a look at it before I post her baguette's formula.

Here is my result.  I am still trying to get the crumb like hers....


Happy baking,



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Akiko, in my other blog entry I put thesame amount of dough into 2 very different vessels - a cylindrical vessel where the doubling in volume is obvious, and a mixing bowl.

Usually home bakers would use a mixing bowl for fermentation starting with a ball-shaped piece of dough.

Both pieces will have expanded the same amount. Having the cylindrical vessel, you know exactly when the dough doubled in size. The dough in the mixing bowl will have doubled as well, and I was interested in what that looks like. Probably different from what you would expect.

I wasn't concerned about the dough consistency in this experiment, just the volume increase.

Akiko, Thanks for posting the links, Those baguettes look amazing. Your baguette has a slightly denser area down the middle - could it be that you incorporate some unfermented flour (from the worktop) when shaping? I look forward to the translation of your recipe.


teketeke's picture

Hi, Eric

I will post of result of my Baguettes soon. :)  I am slow to write up in English...

P.S I got " The taste of bread" by Professor Calvel last Christmas as a gift from my husband. I really love his book. Thank you for mentioning his amazing book on my post before.  I really appreciate it.



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


I did a new experiment - which is related to some posts in this thread, so I post it here.

In search for the holes I decided to get low protein flours and bake some loaves to compare.

I made three 500g batards according to the Hamelman poolish baguette formula, using the following flours:

1. Shipton Mill T55 (10.7% protein)

2. Morrisons plain flour (9.4% protein)

3. Waitrose essential plain white flour (10.5% protein)

The T55 was the dryest dough as could be expected, but the waitrose flour absorbed far less water than the Morrisons. This is reflected by the flatter appearance.

All three loaves had great oven spring, and they all have the kind of crumb we know from my previous posts.

I think, something is wrong with my baking / oven. Looking at the photos after p128 in Hamelman's bread it looks like my bread doesn't get enough consistent heat at the start of the bake (compare my texture with Hamelman's photo 6)

My oven is ok for sourdoughs, I'll post a picture of my Hamelman levain, made today.

But the white batards first:

plain flours




Here my first Hamelman levain, I am quite happy with this:

I learned a lot about white bread from responses to this thread so far,my bread is lighter, my process more controlled and my bread crackles when it comes out of the oven. I am not unhappy with my results - I just try to understand.

Thanks for your inspiration,



teketeke's picture

Hi, Juergen

Thank you for your kind response on the other your post. :) This is another good progresses. Great work, Juergen!  To get light crumb, I am focus on the dough temperature and to get fully  fermented at bulk fermentation right now. 

Do you have a thermometer that you can measure what temperature in your oven? Do you have something keep your oven hot ?  I can't preheat more than 470F (243.3 ℃) but I use rocks and some bricks to keep my oven hot. I also use SylviaH's steaming method is very helpful.

All of your crumb look very nice, especially Hamelman's levain!  It looks very light !!  

Thank you for all of your work!

Best wishes,





Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


Thanks for your kind reply - the levain is delicious and has a crumb I know from German Weizen-Mischbrot, something I was aiming for.

I have to try out that seaming method, and more stone in my oven - looks like it could work.

I have an oven thermometer, but as I pointed out elswhere I don't get a consistent heat profile not having heat elements under the bottom of the oven - just the fan. More stones might help.

Great inspiration again,



teketeke's picture

Sorry, Juergen about you were talking about " consistent heat profile".  Many TFLers are pleased with Sylvia's steaming method that will be a good experiment for you, too :)  I hope that you add more stones in your oven will help!

Thank you, too!