The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help, My bread isn't springing and my scoring is useless!

Gan's picture

Help, My bread isn't springing and my scoring is useless!

I'm a new user and a somewhat-new bread baker.  I've been making french bread and have been having problems in the oven.  I don't know if these problems are related, but my bread doesn't rise much in the oven the the scores don't open up when I bake.  Sometimes the bread will split elsewhere while baking.

Here's what I usually do:

Proof yeast (usually one packet, 2 1/4 tsp) in 1/3 cup warm water for ~5 minutes

Mix 3 1/2 cups AP flour (organic Whole Foods brand) with 2-2 1/2 tsp salt and 3 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten.

Add 1 1/4 cup of tepid water and yeast mixture

Knead, adding flour until dough is sticky, but manageable

Cover and let rise for 2-3 hours.

Fold into itself and let rise again for 2-3 hours (sometimes I skip this step)

Fold again and cut in half.  Fold halves and let rise for a few minutes.

Shape loaves (usually baguettes, sometimes rounds)

Let rise for 1/2 - 1 hour on baking sheet.  The loaves usually expand sidewise instead of upwards, though they do spring up a little.

Boil 1-2 cups of water in an oven-safe frying pan and place frying pan on bottom shelf

Score loaves nearly lengthwise using a serated knife (I don't own any razors or sharp knives).

Place baking sheet w/ loaves in cold oven and turn on to 450F

When the oven preheats, drop temperature to 375F (usually 25 minutes)

Leave in for another 25-35 minutes.  The loaves sound solid, but cooking until they sound hollow makes the crust hard and the inside dry.

The bread tastes good, slices well, and the crust browns beautifully, but the loaves look squat and sometimes a bit uncooked in the middle.


I've also tried using a pizza stone in a preheated oven as well as making a sponge starter, but neither changes much.  I've made about a dozen batches in the past few months.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

dmsnyder's picture

First, welcome to TFL!

I see a number of issues with your formula and procedures. The following is an incomplete list ... just a few examples.

1. Measuring ingredients by volume is not reliable or reproducable, particularly for the flour. I strongly advise you to get a digital scale and start weighing your ingredients.

2. You are fermenting your dough an awful long time. This results in all the nutrients being consumed by the yeast. Nothing is left for the final rise and oven spring.

3. Your proofing (the rise after shaping) is also rather long. Same problem.

4. Baguettes need lateral support while proofing to keep from spreading out. Use a "couche" (search for "couche" on TFL) or a baguette pan. Be gentle in transfering the loaves to prevent them from deflating.

5. You are baking at a low temperature for a long time. A higher temperature will result in better oven spring. As a rule of thumb, baguettes should bake in a total of 22-25 minutes. Some find starting in a cold oven works for them. I'm not sure anyone does this for baguettes, though. Usually a temperature of 460-480 degrees F works best.

In addition to getting a digital scale, I'd suggest you adopt a recipe from a reliable baking book and follow the procedures. Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice" is a good one for starters. It also has a wealth of information about baking procedures that will help you problem solve on your own.

Check out you-tube videos on shaping and scoring baguettes. There are some really awful ones, but search for Ciril Hitz. His are outstanding.

Baguettes are one of the hardest breads to get right. It takes a lot of practice (dozens if not hundreds of loaves), but things get better with practice.

I hope this helps.


hanseata's picture

I agree with David in all points.

Too long fermenting time - by what standards do you judge whether your dough or shaped breads have proofed long enough? The rising times you list seem reasonable for wild yeast starters, but not for active dry or instant yeast - unless you retard the dough in the refrigerator.

And why do you use vital wheat gluten? I cannot imagine that the Whole Foods AP flour has so little gluten that this addition is necessary.

I would, also, rather start out with a bread that is easier to make than a baguette. Mastering the shaping, scoring and perfect baking of baguettes is something that even some bread baking seniors are not able to achieve.


Gan's picture

Karin and David,

Thanks for getting back to me and thank you for the very detailed suggestions!  I picked the rising (fermenting?) times based on a Julia Child French Bread video on youtube.  I'll definitely look into a scale, couche, and your other suggestions. I'll leave out the vital wheat gluten for now -- I guess I threw it in there without really knowing what it's for.  I should say that I've had success with other breads made with fat, but French Bread is really challenging me.

Thanks again for your great responses,