The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No oven spring when using whole wheat flour

Vexans147's picture

No oven spring when using whole wheat flour

Hello, I am a long time lurker and first time poster on this forum.

I have been making whole wheat sandwich style loaves and simply cannot get any oven spring. Even when using 50/50 whole wheat/bread flour I cannot get any oven spring.

I think I am developing proper gluten formation; I knead the dough thoroughly until passing the windowpane and do stretch and folds before allowing fermentation to proceed. I then allow an ample fermentation and proofing before baking in a bread pan. The bread turns out very tasty but not quite with the texture I would like. 

Does anyone have any insight on achieving a good oven spring  while using a high percentage of whole wheat flour?


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

You've come to the right place.

What is your recipe and method? 

Neuse River Sailor's picture
Neuse River Sailor

I make 50/50 whole wheat - bread flour and don't expect much if any oven spring. I think it is just the nature of whole wheat dough not to get much spring. I used to proof to just under double the size of the original dough but since I didn't get any spring I started proofing longer and longer, and now proof to well over double the original size. In other words, since I'm not going to get any spring, why not overproof. Now and then I have a loaf collapse, but generally things work out and I get a nice, light loaf.

The other thing to keep in mind is that whole wheat doesn't need the extreme temperatures of white French bread. I start mine at 450 and immediately turn the oven back to 400 when I first put the dough in. If you are baking at 475 or 500 that may reduce the already small spring that you can expect from whole wheat.

Finally, there is no way you will get the very holey, open texture you see in a lot of the bread featured here with whole wheat. If the flavor is right, that's what you're looking for.


clazar123's picture

Whole wheat has some various unique characteristics that will give a crumbly,overproofed brick of a loaf if you don't pay attention and do aa few simple things to get the best of it.

Search: fluffy whole wheat, autolyze and how to tell if a loaf is overproofed. Search my posts (click on my name>track) to see what I have posted on working with whole wheat. It will make a world of difference.

To summarize a few quick points:

WW consists of twigs and starch. Starch is easy to make into a paste to from a nice crumb but the twigs take a lot longer to absorb water and soften. The starchy gel is what forms the "windowpane" between the gluten strands. A WW dough needs plenty of water and should be a slightly wet and sticky dough before doing the MOST important technique. GIVE IT TIME to soak up the water into the bran bits in the form of an autolyze (search this) or a retard (search this,too). A properly hydrated dough should go from sticky before the autolyze to tacky after.If you don't allow the branny bits time to fully absorb the water you will have problems with a crumbly loaf after it is baked. Your nice, moist crumb will turn dry and crumbly after 12-24 hours as the branny bits rob the moisture from the starchy crumb. This is the type of loaf where the sandwich slices crumble as you firmly grip the sandwich to take a bite. Messy.

I want to clarify some terminology of events that I use. Most dough goes from mixing, bulk fermentation (usually this is where recipes say rise to double but some should be less), pre-shape and bench rest( most doughs 5-10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax so shaping is easier), shape/pan, proof(hardest to get right for me), bake. Autolyse or retard can take place in a few places in the sequence.

Another aspect of WW flour is that overproofing is not the answer.

Overproofed bread will either 1.not expand a millimeter in the oven or 2. explode and sink.

Underproofed bread will either 1. not expand or 2. expand very unevenly and even appear to fluff a lot-until you cut into the crumb and you have an expansive, even holey, top with a very dense bottom half of the loaf.

This is a good (albeit long) post on proofing of all AP loaves but the concept is the same.

Here is actually a visual but you have to study the crumb appearance to "see" what the problem is. Look at the distribution and size of the holes. Underproofed shows a dense center and bubbles all around. Overproofed shows how the gluten has weakened and broken so there aren't many larger bubbles. Remember that this is NOT a sandwich loaf-it should have evenly distributed bubbles/holes of various but similar sizes with noticeable but not too much difference in size. That is the "just right". The "misshapen" loaf has areas of density in with areas of nicely distributed bubbles.

Oven heat- the higher the WW percentage and more enriched (milk,oil,etc) the lower the oven temp to allow moisture to bake off properly. 400 with steam for 10 minutes to keep the crust from drying and allow expansion and decrease to 375 for a little longer bake. Everyone's oven performs differently. You have to figure this out with your equipment, generally.

A little eye candy for you. "Holey" hole wheat can be achieved with proper handling.

WW is a learning curve. Have fun!



IceDemeter's picture

would definitely make it easier to figure out what might be an issue, since there definitely should be some oven-spring in a properly fermented / shaped / proofed whole wheat loaf!  It may not be quite as much as you'd get with a full "white" bread (the bran and germ do some damage to the gluten structure, and the overall weight of the flour will mean a lower spring), but there should be some.

I'm just a beginner, but I got this oven-spring on a 100% whole wheat loaf including a whole grain porridge:

I most often bake at 60% or more whole grain, and the only times that I haven't had oven-spring are when I have over-fermented or over-proofed.  I do find that some whole grains really impact the fermentation time, and that I need to watch for no more than 50% rise (and not the doubling that is wanted on white loaves).

Please share with us your recipe and method, and there are lots of folks with experience in using whole grains that might be able to help.

After you've drooled over clazar123's blogs, more eye candy can be found in any of Yogi's blogs: