The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Well Risen Loaf

albacore's picture

A Well Risen Loaf

Like most bakers, I like to make a well risen loaf; no one like bricks or pancakes.

But what constitutes a well risen loaf? I have come to the conclusion that, at least for me, a well risen loaf made with 900g/2lbs of dough should have a height at the centre of about 10cms/4".

This is a bit of an ideal that I can just about achieve with all white bread flour, but as soon as you add more than about 20% of whole grain, the loft is inevitably decreased.

What I do find interesting is that smaller loaves (specifically boules) always look to be better proportioned than larger loaves. They have what could be termed a better "height to diameter ratio". I'm just wondering why this is; you might presume that a large loaf made with 3kg of dough would be taller, maybe with a height of 20cms, but this does not seem to be the case. It's as if there is some maximum height for a self supported loaf. Why is this?

The other area I am musing over is the shape of bannetons and their influence on loaf height. For instance, I have a couple of the German wood pulp brotforms in the 500g and 1kg sizes. The 500g one (which will actually hold about 750g of SD) is well proportioned and produces loaves of good height to diameter ratio, but the 1kg one is relatively shallower with a flat top and produces loaves with a poor height to diameter ratio - though I'm not clear if this is because of the shape of the brotform, or simply because of the greater quantity of dough. Why did they make it a different shape?

I'm just wondering if the makers of these brotforms and all other bannetons have ever done any research into what is the best height to diameter ratio and even the shape profile, ie hemispherical or otherwise? Or do they just make them the same as they did in year dot? Does it make any difference?

Just a bit of "food for thought" - perhaps the answers are to be found in "Modernist Bread"!


cfraenkel's picture

Interesting questions!  I have two bannetons one slightly larger than the other, and two dutch ovens, and I find I have to put the large banneton loaf in the small dutch oven and the smaller one in the larger dutch oven to make them come out the same size, so I wonder if some of it is in the baking and containers. I'll be interested to hear what others say. (I'm new to this)

pul's picture

It seems that gravity plays a more significant role in height vs diameter as the amount of dough increases. It wold be nice to bake at micro gravity and come out with some conclusions.


suminandi's picture

the force of gravity on the skin of the boule scales directly with mass, while the skin size scales as mass to the ⅔ power. So, the bigger the boule, the more force per unit skin area and therefore more sag, if all else is equal ( i.e. gluten development etc). 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I would think that, if a loaf was 'too tall' it would not cook properly on the inside, right at the middle. The distance to that centre point would be too far from the crust if the loaf was both bigger around and taller, wouldn't it? Not being much into physics I'm not sure about that, but it seems to make sense. Perhaps that's why the banneton makers make the larger ones shallower. How thick is one of the huge Miches that some French boulangeries offer?

albacore's picture

I guess you would have to start hot as normal and then turn down the oven to cook the centre. The outside might need covering to stop it browning too much.

My 3kg/20cms loaf was a rather extreme, hypothetical example; it would indeed be interesting to know the height and diameter of the big French miches - and the bannetons they use.