The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread explosion - please help!

lousyreeds1's picture

Bread explosion - please help!

Hello all,

I'm hoping one of the bread detectives on this site will be able to help me out a bit.  I've been baking sourdough for about a year now and have had some nice successes.  I have a multigrain sourdough that I particularly enjoy. When it works, it works well.

Once in a while, I'll bake a loaf that bursts toward the bottom instead of at the scores.  Does anyone know why this might be?  I figure it's got to have something to do with the location of the heat source in my oven (a crappy one), but it works fine sometimes, and I can't isolate any variables.  Unfortunately I can't seem to post pictures, but I'm hoping the description will be enough to give you a sense of what's going on. Help please!

cranbo's picture

I'm thinking two possible causes, possibly in combination:

1. underproofing: bursting is commonly caused by underproofing. Are you using the poke test to determine if your bread is ready to bake? 

2. shaping: it's bursting through a weak spot at the bottom of your loaves; how are you shaping & scoring your loaves?


lousyreeds1's picture

1. I don't think they're underproofed.  I use the poke test all the time, but I admit to not having a great instinct as to what 'coming back slowly' after the poke really means.  For what it's worth, shorter proofing times may actually result in better results for me.

2. I generally shape as a batard, but sometimes a boule or torpedo.  There doesn't seem to be any correlation between the type of shape and the amount of burst. I wonder if I'm not paying enough attention to the seam on the bottom...  It's possible that it's getting caked with flour and not sealing properly.  That said, the bursting doesn't always happen right where the seam is.

Currently I just bake on a baking sheet, no stone, no steam.  This has resulted in some great loaves so far, but do you think incorporating one of those would have a positive effect on consistency?

Many thanks for your help!

flournwater's picture

The lack of steam in your oven means that the crust is forming very quickly (steam helps maintain a softer exterior on the loaf while it's blooming in the oven) so you might want to set up a good steam source and see if that helps.  You did mention that you score the loaf; wondering if you're scoring deep enough.

FoodFascist's picture

I'm not a pro, in fact I have less experience with bread than you do but I recently read that bursting at the bottom is caused by the bottom of the oven not being hot enough. That typically happens with non-tinned breads. The bottom of the oven needs to be its hottest part. Do you use a stone, if not maybe a stone would help? Otherwise something to distribute the heat more evenly, flournwater mentioned steam - for other reasons I know, but steam helps maintain a more even temperature throughout the oven as well. I don't know, can you install a fan in your oven? Would it work out financially?

lousyreeds1's picture

I will definitely try stea mat some point, though I'm very happy with the level of oven spring and the quality of the crust as it is.  I'm interested in the comment that bursting at the bottom can be caused by insufficient heat coming from the bottom of the oven.  That surprises me, as I would assume that the yeast would burst toward the heat source, not away from it.  I've actually tried using convection, and it doesn't seem to have much of an effect other than browning the crust too quickly.

I'm going to try a stone in the near future, as well as steam just for the fun of it.  We'll see what happens.

ehanner's picture

If you are baking on a sheet pan and have 2 loaves next to each other, that might be the problem. The crust in the center between the two loaves will brown up last since it is protected. This allows the yeast to stay active longer, expanding longer. Most conventional ovens heat from the bottom. If you want to try using a hot base to bake on, you can buy a box of unglazed quarry tile at a home supply store for a few dollars. The 6 inch square size work well. Leave an inch or so around the edges so the heat can flow around the oven. You will need to let the tiles warm for at least another 30 minutes after the oven says it is up to temperature.