The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rising vs Running

JamesG's picture

Rising vs Running

Utter newbie here.

When I make loaves that dont' go in a loaf pan, but are given a final shape and then left to rise on a cookie sheet, they rise ok, but they run a lot sideways too, so the final shape is all wide and flat. Otherwise the bread is great, both crust and crumb. The two I've tried are pain riche and a Ciabatta. Just flour, yeast, water, and salt. King Arthur all-purpose flour. The Ciabatta (a recipe from Cooks', or rather from one of Kimball's books) uses a biga made the night before; the pain riche is made all the same day.

What might cause this?




Tarrosion's picture

There are members here who can give vastly better info than I can, but at the very least I'll say I've run into that problem before. Three of my own errors seem to have caused this in the past:
1) Using funky water. I've heard that some mineral content in water helps gluten form; whether that's true or not, I have noticed that changing between tap / brita filter / reverse osmosis filtered water seems to have an effect. 
2) Insufficient gluten development (from kneading, folding, or time).
3) Poor shaping - having good surface tension and a tight seam will help the loaves keep their shape. I can assure you from experience that not having those can be a bummer.

Good luck! 

JamesG's picture

Hmmm..... I hadn't thought about the water. We have a water treatment/softener system, so the water is a little bit salty (I can't taste it) and rather soft. I'll have to try the alternatives.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Jim.

Welcome to TFL!

The real answer to your question - why does your dough spread out? - is: Gravity.

Stuff needs some structural support to keep from falling down. For breads with low hydration, the gluten network that comes from appropriate ingredients, good mixing and good loaf shaping may provide enough support. With wetter doughs, like your ciabatta, there needs to be additional support during proofing (the final rise). Proofing and baking in a loaf pan is one way to accomplish this. Bannetons (baskets made to hold bread loaves during proofing) are another solution. A third solution which is usually used with ciabatta is a couche. This is a piece of stick-resistant fabric or a piece of parchment paper which you pleat around the sides of the rising loaf to provide lateral support and prevent spreading.

If you need more information about bannetons or couches, please ask. These can be purchased, but perfectly adequate solutions can be constructed from materials you probably already have.

Happy baking!



JamesG's picture


Cool! I imagined  making something with parchment paper to hold it together better, but didn't try it yet because, well, it sounded dumb. I'll investigate couches. 



Chuck's picture

 ... loaves that dont' go in a loaf pan ... run a lot sideways ... so the final shape is all wide and flat.

Flattening during proofing is a very common issue with artisan-style freestanding loaves. If it's extreme ("pancaking"), or it didn't used to happen, a particular cause can usually be identified. But in most other cases nothing's really "wrong"'s just that the "normal behavior" is not quite what you'd wish. If you don't take preemptive action, loaves will flatten - that's just life.

It sounds like you need to put more emphasis on a couple of the large variety of ways to cope with flattening:

  1. choose breads that are "supposed" to be flattish
  2. proof upside-down in a banneton/brotform and turn over/out onto the cookie sheet just before going in the oven
  3. reduce the hydration somewhat (but not too much, else you'll lose your "open crumb")
  4. put a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet, then put the loaf on the parchment paper, then insert rolled-up tea towels under the parchment paper to form a sort of "corral" for the loaf to rise in
  5. get really really good at shaping, including forming a very strong gluten "sheath"
  6. lower your expectations ("at least half as high as wide" may be a reasonable starting goal:-)
  7. put freestanding loaves aside for the moment and produce panned loaves instead
  8. bake in a dutch oven or casserole dish or clay pot that constrains the sides of the loaf
Matt H's picture
Matt H

+1 on the suggestion to use a couche. It's just a piece of fabric, but you can get good results from simple equipment.

hanseata's picture

Jim, I don't know about pain riche (never made it), but a Ciabatta is by nature a flatter loaf. The Italian translation means: "Slipper", and that is a flat shoe.

Otherwise I agree with my esteemed TFL colleagues. All of their advice is good. And an easy way to ensure a higher hydrated bread that doesn't flatten out on you is, indeed, using a Dutch oven to bake it, as Chuck suggested.

Happy baking,


trailrunner's picture

is due more to the fermentation than the hydration. There are lots of threads that attest to this. If you will shape your loaves and then retard in the fridge over night in your cloth lined basket you will eliminate a lot of the problems of spread. The fermentation takes place leading to a more sour open hole loaf. The dough will firm considerably. You remove right before your oven is ready to bake.  Turn out and slash. Lower into the preheated DO or onto the parchment for placement on your preheated stone. The dutch oven will not hold the sides of the loaf as you can use large ovens with small loaves. Depend instead on the chilled dough retaining its shape. Good Luck. Continue reading all the threads on TFL. There is a lot of great info. c