The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lost my oven spring

Mylissa20's picture

Lost my oven spring

Are there any particular methods or techniques or advice of any sort for getting great oven spring out of  my bread?  At one point I had beautiful oven spring, around 2-3 inches, but not any more.  My dough rises beautifully on the counter, then only rises about 1/2 inch or so in the oven.  The bread is nice with a fairly open crumb and fluffy inside.  What I'm saying is, the bread is very nice without the oven spring, but it bugs me that I lost it and don't know how to get it back.  My start is whole wheat, as are all my loaves.  Any suggestions?

Syd's picture

Are you, perhaps, proofing more than you used to?  If you loaves have risen to very near their full capacity before you put them in the oven, then there won't be much left to give over to oven spring.  The trick is to get them about 7- 8 tenths of the way before baking and then leave the rest for the oven.  That way your slashes will open nicely, too.


IndoLee's picture

Hi Guys...  My wife and I moved to Indonesia (islands of Bali & Lombok) a year ago and  I've been trying to make SD as its little available in Bali and not at all in Lombok.  (As are most of even the simplest things we are used to having in our USA kitchens  - either extremely hard to find or simply not available here!)  Ive spent several months now attempting to correct my low oven spring - all to little avail. 

Here's my (3rd World) Odyssey....

1.  I have one of the few gas ovens here in Lombok (I bought it for bread making) as most Indo's only use stove-top gas burners.  From day 1 bread was pale and not browning so. 
     a. Started using a thick 18" x 18" marble stone - no change.
     b. Suspected low oven temp and got an oven thermometer (yup... temp on full Hi maxing out only 300 (-) F! 
     c. Started using broiler too for last 10 minutes of 1 hr preheat and now can get to 500 F!  (Turn it off a few minutes before loading loaf as, even using lowest rack, top overcooks if I leave brolier on).  Okay... so now I can start at around 460 - 475 F after opening/loading bread and temp drop after loaf loading is no less than to 450 -460 F which I can maintain w/out turning brolier on again - (close enough for government work.)

2.  Flour supply is limited here.  Found one supplier ("Bogasari") and made some nice masonary products. Found a different Bogasari flour (this time a "Bread Flour" according to label - no other info on content.  Continued making bricks.  Found a 3rd (local) flour - same result.

3.  Made same recipe many times (not switching as attempting to rule out issues one by one and wanted fewest variables @ time).  Finally gave up on original recipe and used David's "Unoriginal" adaptation of Susan from SD recipe (thanks S & D!) and tried both retardating before bulk ferm, retarding after bulk ferm (i.e. after various proofing times of -  1/2 hr; & 1 hr; & 2 hrs); and also w/out retarding - no real change in oven spring , regardless.  Tried baking retarded loafs cold from frig and also allowing more proof time before baking. Boules continued to look like steroidal pancakes.

4.  Spent a day searching for and finally found some crazy looking grey parchment (thanks Bill from Carrefour!) in my attempt to lessen handling by using a paper peel. Started using a banneton thinking that containing the dough while proofing might help keep shape and thus better spring.  (I'm making smallish boules and using a 7" wide bowl with good shape & fabric liner (an old T Shirt!) with good helping of rice flour/bread flour mix - works fine.  A bit less horizontal "rise" and a touch more height to loaves but still dissappointing looking 2 1/2 inch high pancakes.

5.  Decided flour may be the issue so travelled to Bali and visited several bakeries. Found "Sriboga" "Hime" flour ( with "Mositure <14%"; "Protein - Min 12.5%"; "Dry Gluten - 12-13%"; "Ash - Max .46%"  (great!!).  Had to buy minimum 25 kilo sack so also bought a vacuum sealer and a small freezer so I could store it long-term.  Loaves look a little better with new flour but still a dissapointing 3" or so high and nowhere near the SD I used to make years ago.

6.  Starter (100% hydration) seemed fine but turned my attention there.  Started a 2nd batch to use as a control (this time with both addition of both a little organic ww and some organic whole grain ww flour as well as a bit of rye to make sure I got good mama critters in 2nd batch .  Both batches look really healthy - doubling or tripling in about 8 hours or less depending  on feeding and temp.  Changed my feeding from 1:1:1 (S:W:F) to 1:2:2 to make sure starter was good and active (and peaking) at time of incorporation into dough mix.  Added about 10% Rye for next 10 days or so of feeding original starter to give it an extra bump.  Both look happy as clams - lots of activity, good bubbles, perfect smell not over or under fed or used at off-peak and both performing similarly in breads -so ruling  out starter. 

7.  Using bottled water only and scrupulously careful with sterility of prep untensils and starter containers.  Tired 2 different bottled waters.  No change. 

8.  Tried a variety of mixing methods (bought only mixer I could find in Bali with bread hook - 2 funny looking hook/"screws" - but works well enough.  Compared hand mix to machine mix - with varying lengths of gluten development & mix times with both methods.  Tried autolysing and not autolysing for various times after initial mix.  Do let dough rest a few minutes after bulk F and first gentle forming into rounds (before final careful/gentle shaping into boules).

9.  Tried bread pans to "force" more vertical rise.  Still little oven spring (see comparison photos of last ones)

10.  Got a thermometer which measures both inside temp and humidty.  A bit high at 81 F so adjusted room temp with AC during bulk & proof to about 78 F whcih should be fine.

11. Played with a few different fold techniques (used number/times David called for in his recipe first, then tried more and less folds - always doing my best to handle dough very gently at all stages - without loss of gaseousnesss from bulk and/or proof ferments.  No real change.

12. Played with a few different stretching techniques for final boule shaping.  No change.

13.  Adjusted both bulk and proof times up and down, hoping I was overproofing.  No change (rats.... really hoped that was the culprit!)

14.  Made sure my water temp and flour temp were good (was using the flour from freezer without letting it come to room temp first) - stopped doing that.  Same results

15.  Switched to Susan from SD's "My New Favorite Sourdough" recipe (July 8, 2007)  thanks again S!  A bit quicker and easier prep on this receipe (vs. David's marvelous 3 build protocol) Still have spring issue!

16.  Have tried both "magic" cover technique and various others (pan of hot water in bottom of oven, spraying with mister, etc.)  No change.


Note slashes - no ears, just ragged scars that did nothing (I'm thinking probably the result of so little spring)

Tried various baking regimes (including on the stone w/out pan) - settled on this one as easy to get from banetton to oven with least handling.

So much trial and error... so little spring!

17.  Bought a new oven but have not had time plumb & install it (in our other/Bali house) - will try but doubt its the issue.

I am plumb out of ideas on how to fix this.  So dissappointing - not used to this kind of baking failure.  Any ideas anyone?

RobynNZ's picture

Hi Indolee,  Welcome to TFL

I am very sympathetic to your problem and can see you have tried many sensible permutations. Such persistance. I'm sure your tenacity will reward you eventually.

Because you have added your post as a comment on someone else's thread not everyone will see it, this is a very busy site and many of the best bakers only scan new topics, not old threads. I think you will have more chance of getting a response to your request for help if you copy your post to a new topic under the forums. You will see 'forum' beside 'home' on the dark banner at the top of the page. After you click that choose a forum and then start a new topic. 

Have you ever tried baking with familiar flour in your Lombok setup (ie flour from home you are used to using successfully)? If so, what happened? What were the breads in Bali, made with the flour you purchased there, like? Were the bakers there willing to discuss your difficulties? I have no recollection of any bread when I visited Bali some 30 years ago, so I'm assuming bread there is not traditional but 'recently' introduced........ perhaps you could answer these questions in the new thread to keep everything together.

Cheers, Robyn


IndoLee's picture

Thanks for the suggestion on how to post and questions.

(OOps... did not see your reply till after I responded to another TFLr (and asked if I posted in the right place - which I now see I did not).

Don't have any flour from home but am thinking that, after same issue with 4 different flours (the last of which appears from specs to be a perfect bread flour for SD) its something I'm doing (or not doing correctly).

I'll try to copy the post site-wide so others will see it.  Thanks for the welcome - what a marvelous resource (full of such marvelously savvy and sharing bakers) TFL is. 

CaperAsh's picture

The higher the hydration the higher the temperature should be, otherwise the weight of the not-yet-steam-producing water might be preventing oven spring.

DiMuzio talks about how when you retard the dough some elements (either yeast vs bacteria or bacteria vs yeast - I think it's the yeast...) are slowed down and sort of frustrated, so that as the dough comes up to warm 70F+ temps they go into a frenzy which increases oven spring, but it seems like you (second poster) have played with retarding and that is why I suspect you still might be having a hydration issue.

Suggestions: bake in a casserole or cloche which has been heated and try to get it up to around 500F. Or try reducing the hydration.

I bake SD all the time and have found it important to get the bread in early enough, usually when I think it is too early is the right time. My rule of thumb now is to bake when the dough is plump but not puffy. I can still get oven spring because I use a wood-fired brick oven and bake most of my hearth loaves at 700-550F and because of the radiant heat given off by the bricks, which penetrate to the core of the loaves in a way which convection heat does not, I can get away with it. But even with this advantage, too many batches have disappointing oven spring simply because they have made it into the oven too late.

So the first thing to do is to try baking an hour or two earlier than you are used to doing and see what happens (assuming you have about an 18 process).

IndoLee's picture

Hi CaperAsh....

Thanks so much for your suggestion - most appreciated. It's interesting because in looking at my post pictures I noticed that the only large holes in the bread were at the top of BOTH loaves. So...I did and "autopsy" (or maybe it was a crustectomy?...[smile]) on those two loaves (one a boule and the other made in a loaf pan) to see if it was coincidence or not. I discovered that it is in fact consistent through the entirety of both loaves - big bubbles at near the tops (and lots of them), none very far below that - anywhere else in either loaf. Leads me to think you are right and that, despite my experiments with shorter fermentation periods, they are in fact still over-proofed. Does this logic make sense - that the loaves have in fact deflated(i.e. the larger bubbbles/holes which might have been in the dough earlier during proofing have collapsed due to the relatively greater weight of the (more) dough above, and thus only the upper bubbles/holes made it through to the finished loaves? If so, my guess is that too long a proofing (not bulk fermentation) is the culprit. Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Also... can you guys tell me if I put my original post in the correct place? Should it have been "site-wide" vs. a "reply" to an existing post? Thanks all!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

for sourdough and the dough wears out before it can get up.  Have you tried a hybrid using sourdough and yeast?  Let if ferment for about 1/3 the time and then incorperate a good dose of instant yeast.  

Have you tried to make pandan bread yet?  I would certainly be tempted.  (It would be a TFL first too!)