The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No Oven Spring

IndoLee's picture

No Oven Spring

(Originally posted this earlier today as a reply on another thread but have been advised to re-post it here for better visibility).....

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!) I’ve 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 broiler 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 broiler on again - (close enough for government work.)

--- (Mising my Thermador!) ---

2. Flour supply is limited here. Found one supplier ("Bogasari") and made some nice masonry 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 retarding 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 disappointing 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 disappointing 3" or so high and nowhere near the SD I used to make years ago.

--- (Laughing now...) ---

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 utensils 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 humidity. A bit high at 81 F so adjusted room temp with AC during bulk & proof to about 78 F which 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 gaseousness 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 recipe (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 it’s the issue.

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

PS:  Got a few suggestions on my original post (elswhere) so moving the following 2nd post here too:

More on No Oven Spring

 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?

Thanks all!

amolitor's picture

I'd certainly speculate that they're overproofed. The "slashes turn in to ugly scars" is suggestive, although this can also be caused by undermixed dough. Yeast activity isn't linear -- you may be thinking "well, it's a few degrees longer, so I should proof it a little less" but you may be needing to proof half or a quarter as long. Do you "poke-test"? Poke with a finger making a hole mabe half an inch deep in the dough, and if that fills in to just a barely visible dimple in 30 seconds or longer, you're probably ready to bake (or shape, if this is the first rise).

You can also try proofing more slowly using a cooler and an ice pack to create a small zone of cool temperature.


flournwater's picture

Ditto ....

Would like to see the formula outlined without all the step by step details though.  It would make assessment somewhat easier.

IndoLee's picture

Overproofing seems to be the consensus.  I'll shorten the  proof more aggressively.  Recipe is Susan for SD's "My New Favorite Sourdough" (July 8, 2007) - followed her recipe carefully so steps are the same.  Non-retarded loaves started at 2.5 hours proof time and were stepped down in three test batches to 2:15 hrs, 2 hrs and 1:45 hrs - probably still too long - especially at such warm interior (house) temp (Its hot here).  Retarded loaves were refrigerated after 1 hr then put directly in the hot oven - loaf (in loaf pan) was oven steamed with reservoir below of boiling water for 15 minutes , boule had no steaming but covered for 17 minutes with glass bowl.

IndoLee's picture

Thanks for the feed back amolitor. 

Looked at my notes again as was thinking "how can the 1/2 hr or even the 1 hr proof tests I did allow over-proofing?"  Nope.... those were bulk fementation times.  Only shortening of proof time (tests) were 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 45 minutes less than called for - likely not short enough, especially as they were done before cooling the room a bit with AC.  Its possible that inside temp during those shorter proofs was warmer (maybe as high as 83 F - now that I've been regularly monitoring inside temps).  Okay... I'll get more aggressive with even shorter proofs and try a few more batches. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
IndoLee, I think your ash content in flour is too low

for using with sourdough and thus the dough wears out before it can get up.  The gluten just falls apart too soon like it's overproofed.  Have you tried a hybrid using sourdough and yeast?  Let if ferment for about 1/3 the time and then incorporate a good dose of instant yeast.  

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


IndoLee's picture

Thanks for the observation.  Going to stick with this flour and recipe for a bit longer as I am determined to find the culprit.  Yes, I've tried adding some yeast - works fine (but feels like cheating!)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you tried adding some yeast to the sourdough and it worked, then you have your solution.  I know that with a max level of ash at 0.46% (which means it can be less) the dough just can't make the long fermentation you're demanding from it.  I like at least 0.70% You have to come up with some way to buffer the acid attacks on the gluten in the dough.  Maybe someone here knows what more you can do.  

You might be able to strengthen the protein bonds before introducing the sourdough (which eats at them) like developing the gluten and age the dough, adding salt long before adding the starter.  Or beefing up the ash content somehow.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  Cheating?  By adding a boost of yeast?  Nope, I'd call it adapting.   

Another thing you can try is to take part of your sour dough loaf and crumble it and add it back into fresh dough to add the sourdough flavour.  You might not have to ferment for so long.  (Add the extra yeast.)  

IndoLee's picture

Hi Mini...

Really appreciate your suggestions and will resort to supplementing wild yeast with "store-bought" if I can't otherwsie debug the problem

I have the recurring suspicion that its a proofing issue and that maybe the super high temperature/humidity here in Indonesia may require radically shorter proofs (and possibily also bulk times too) - so different than the much cooler S.F. Bay Area environment I am used to baking in.

Will report on progress as its an interesting conundrum.

Thanks again....

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Except maybe in upper elevations of Irian Jaya.  Shortening proofing times is a good place to continue.  You might need a simple gauge for experiments if you are raising dough in bowls or large flat containers which can be deceptive for judging rises.  

Try this:  Take a smaller narrower drinking glass and pack a little freshly mixed dough into it.  Mark it, and mark again double the volume on the glass.   Use this as a guide as to when the bulk rise is over.  That way you can "stretch and fold" the dough without losing track of the rise.  You might get a few folds in before the dough doubles.  Then shape dough and guage sample at the same time and watch it again.  Keep notes of times, temp. etc (and rainy days.)  When the dough in the small glass is half way or 3/4 toward double (between the lines) bake it and examine your results.  

Must get hot in the kitchen!   I had a problem with rats checking out my stove/oven at night.  Pesky critters!  Had to install wire mesh to the back and bottom of the stove.   We also had our storage room "meshed" to keep out the rascals.   Visited Lombok and Bali several times when we lived in Java and Manado many years ago.

IndoLee's picture

Hi Mini,

Great idea - good thinking.  I will "guage" fermentations/rises as suggested. 

Yes... lots of critters of  all shapes and sizes here. I know what you mean about rats - had to put bait outside to keep em honest.  In Hawaii we had cute little geckos. Here they're a solid 2 feet long and fiesty (with razor sharp teeth, I discovered the hard way).  If you ever want to visit again, wife and I have villas in Lombok (stove's in that one) and in Bali - come stay gratis anytime with a bit of notice.

IndoLee's picture

No Oven Spring (Update):

To report back on spring issue, since last post I again turned attention to overproofing as likely culprit (thanks all!) and tried the following (9 total) iterations: Bulk times of 75 minutes, 95 minutes and 105 minutes (original recipe calls for 150 minutes/2.5 hour bulk); proof times of 75 minutes, 95 minutes and 105 minutes (original called for same 150 minutes/2.5 hour proof time). I'd previously done some tests in the 120 to 150 minute range so I cut it even further this time.

All other factors (oven used, baking/steaming cover, boule shape, flour brands, starter, temp, stretch and folds, mix & autolyse times, etc.) same as before. Best results by far were 105 min bulk (not quite doubled in size - maybe 80%) and 95 min proof - great oven spring with good bloom (no "ragged scars").

I'll play a bit more with times now that I have an idea of basic parameters. Pretty interesting to see how much shorter optimum times are for me/here (vs. recipe)

Temp was rather high at 80 degrees as first bulk was at that temp (early morning here w/out AC) and wanted to keep all same; humidity was quite high at 82%!

BTW... looked for link and realized it was on WYB (but still Susan <- SD)at:

flournwater's picture

The only other factor I might add is that you are apparently using the clock to determine your fermentation/proofing times.  You will be more successful if you learn to read the dough and use something like the finger poke test to determine the best time to take your dough to the next level.

You'll find a post by dmsnyder "Watch the Dough, Not the Clock" on this forum that goes into some detail on that subject and it's worth it's weight in gold (Well, maybe not gold.  But a good quality bread dough at least.)