The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Batard Blowout - Underproofing?

Mr. Keith's picture
Mr. Keith

Batard Blowout - Underproofing?

Maybe someone can help me with a problem I have been having with my batards (and to a lesser exten with boules).  Recently, during oven spring my bread has been expanding to such a degree that it spills out from the docking and frequently tears the corners of the seams, making for an unsightly loaf.  The bread tastes delicious and I am really happy with the crumb.  There is a nice, airy matrix of holes through the loaf and there isn't a ring of dough around the edge (this one is actually a little more dense than my others because it is 1/3 wheat flour).  

Is this a sign of underproofing, or is there something else going on?  Is it my batard shaping method?  Is there too much surface tension from the final shaping?

To give a little background, I have recently been using a high hydration, semi-no-knead bread recipe (though I have had this problem with batards I have made with conventional recipes that started from a biga and with the Peter Reinhart no-knead recipe, among others).  The recipe originated with Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman, but was adapted by Kenji at Cook's Illustrated and called "No Knead 2.0".   You can find the recipe below, among other places:

I have been doing 12 hours of bulk fermentation, 30m bench rest, 90m final rise.  Is the final rise not long enough?  I was thinking about increasing it by a half an hour the next few times I bake to see what happens.

Anyway, I would really appreciate some guidance and your hypotheses.





pmccool's picture

If temperatures in your kitchen now are cooler than they were a couple of months ago, proofing for the same duration will likely lead to underproofing because the yeasts grow more slowly at the lower temperatures.

The question that you need to ask when deciding whether or not to bake your bread: Is my dough telling me that it is ready for baking?  There are different means of gauging a dough's readiness but almost all of them require that you understand how your dough feels and how it should feel.  One reasonably helpful method for making the determination is the finger poke test.  You can search for that term on TFL to locate the instructions.


CelesteU's picture

I'm also wondering about your shaping and scoring methods.  Rather than the bread expanding equally along the score, it seems to be spewing out in one central spot.  Proper shaping will build up internal structure, which encourages the loaf to expand equally along the score, rather than booming out like a volcano.  Also, is your shaped loaf forming a too dry skin?  This will cause the crust to set quickly in the oven, forcing all of the expansion into the weakest spot.

Mr. Keith's picture
Mr. Keith

Thanks for the feedback.  

I have tried the finger poking method, and I just don't have a sense of what it means for the dough to slowly spring back.  I few loaves ago I thought I had nailed it, but it split open like the others.  I'm sure it takes more practice and more experience, but I haven't produced a nice looking batard yet, so I don't know what good dough feels like.   Can you put a finer point on the finger method for me, or is it really just feel.


With regard to shaping and scoring, I follow these helpful videos from King Arthur pretty closely:



I wouldn't doubt that I need more practice pre-shaping and shaping, so the internal structure probably has some irregularity to it.  

As for scoring, I was doing a long score on one side to try to get it to open outward with a nice ear.  But I have had the same problem with splitting when I do more conventional diagonal scores.

I haven't noticed a crust forming on the loaves.  I proof them in floured couches and when I take them out, the consistency feels pretty good.


The problem is most evident with batards, maybe because it is a more challenging shape.  My boules seem to be okay, but definitely underproofed.  I am going to bake again tomorrow and give the loaf an hour more of proofing time.  If it collapses or doesn't spring, then I know the sweet spot is somewhere between 1.5 and 2hrs, depending on the kitchen temperature.  Of course I'll test it with my finger as well before it goes in the oven.


thanks folks!


Mr. Keith's picture
Mr. Keith

Wow, it's been a few years since I posted this problem with underproofing, which I have gotten much better at diagnosing.

I have been baking Sam Fromartz's baguette recipe recently, which always tastes great and seems to come together easily (it's a combo sourdough and yeast bread, with a 24hr retard in the fridge.  Mostly white AP flour with a little wheat.

I think I am having the opposite with this loaf than I was before.  I am so gun-shy of underproofing that I think I am letting the bread proof too long after shaping.  Although the loaf doesn't collapse, I am not getting any kind of ear, and I do notice that the shaped loaf is fairly floppy when I am moving it onto my peel, and it definitely deflates after I slash it.  I rarely nail the timing, so I can't tell when I am doing it right.  I am still really struggling to get a feel for dough.  When I did the finger poke test, it sprang back very slowly, and it felt pretty puffy, not taught like an underproofed loaf.

Here's a shot of the baked loaf:

Now, there's lots wrong with this loaf:  we had a condo association meeting right when the bread had to go in, so I couldn't watch it, so it got too dark.  I did a poor job sliding it off the peel, so one end flopped off the end of the stone.  I also didn't do a great job docking the loaf.  So, yeah, there were some problems that make it a sub-par loaf, so just focus your attention on the proofing issue if you can.  

Does the loaf look over-proofed to you?  The slashes didn't really open up and bloom, but rather spread out and filled up with bread even though I slash them normally, about 1/4" deep.  The crumb was also a little weird.  the only way I can describe it is, 'lacy.'  It had a very fine and light crumb, and it doesn't hold up well to smearing butter on it.

I've had so much trouble proofing consistently in my kitchen.  I probably bake 2x a month, and each time the conditions are a little different, so the timing is all messed up, so I have to go by feeling, but I haven't got the feeling and judgment right yet.  

Anyway, take a look at the picture and diagnose.