The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No matter the recipe, I get no or little oven spring with whole grain bread

berryblondeboys's picture

No matter the recipe, I get no or little oven spring with whole grain bread

I bake 2 times a week, so it takes a LONG time to perfect a recipe! But I seem to come upon the same stumbling block over and over again, so it must be something I'm doing.

I bake by "feel" and with using freshly ground berries, this is especially true as I'm told to use more water. Don't ask me what hydration it is, because I don't know. The recipe says to add water until it feels right and gives some guidelines for that, so that is what I did...

Anyway, I have some rye flour to use up, but the wheat flour I used freshly milled hard white. Like every time I bake with whole grains, the first rise always seems a bit fast, the second rise about right, but after the shaping, the last rise it always takes longer it says it should and I usually go by clock versus actually how much it has risen because I'm afraid I'll overproof it, and that is exactly what I think I did? Why does it never rise much on the last rise and why do I not get oven spring?

For this particular bread, I let the last rise be in the refrigerator overnight. It started to grow initially and then stayed the same overnight and it never grew, even with it being out of the fridge for hours this morning as it came to room temp. There was no oven spring either.

After spending all that time, it's so disappointing when it just doesn't SPRING open like I see so many loaves of bread do on this forum. 

I know I'm leaving a lot of options of where things can go wrong, but this is a pattern! So it must be I'm doing something wrong.

It tastes very good, but it's very dense. The recipe is from Laurel's Kitchen Bread book. It is the peansant's hearty rye. It is all rye and Whole wheat.



Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

"...the first rise always seems a bit fast, the second rise about right, but after the shaping, the last rise it always takes longer it ..."

How many rises are you doing? 

When troubleshooting I'd break a recipe down and keep it simple. Don't go for anything fancy, you aren't aiming for the perfect airy crumb just yet but rather just concentrating on getting a well risen loaf. 

When it comes to hydration aim for tacky but not sticky. Shouldn't come off in your hands but it's not too dry either. Take out anything like autolyse and stretch and folds for now. They can always be added back in at a later date when the problem is solved. 

Form the dough and knead till fill gluten formation. Difficult to over knead by hand so don't worry about that. Get some elbow grease in there. Then leave to rise (this is the first of two rises called the bulk ferment) till the dough is billowy and aerated. Because it's a lot of wholegrain you don't have to aim for doubled. Just look for about a 50% increase and a good matrix of bubbles. Once the dough feels ready then go onto the shaping and second rise. This is the final rise aka final proofing. I do believe in some recipes one can knock back a few times and do an extra rise but this is not common and certainly not for a wholegrain and when you are eliminating any issues. So shape the loaf and final proof till about 80% risen. Again you're looking for puffiness but don't overdo it and better to err in the side of caution. You want the dough to still have strength in it. If over proofed it will lose this strength and therefore height. Bake with plenty of steam for the first 20 minutes then continue without steam till ready. 

Btw for an all rye and whole wheat loaf I think it looks excellent. Remember that you'll never get as much height with the flours you are using. In fact after having written all of the above (after not taking in properly the exact recipe you are following) I think you have a big success.

berryblondeboys's picture

The standard number of rises - the first rise, then punch down, then the second rise, and then shape and do the last rise, which I did in the refrigerator and then bake.

And perhaps I'm lazy, but I do not want to be kneading by hand. I keep my hands in and on the dough all the time which is one of the reasons I love the mixer I have as I can do that. (AEG - Anskarum)

And yes, for the last rise, that is what I do - I TRY to err on the side of underproofing versus overproofing, but it doesn't matter, it just doesn't GROW in the oven. Now, when I do WHITE breads or mostly white breads it does, but not these whole-grain ones or even 50/50 ones. Maybe I'm being a glutton for punishment, but other people manage it, so I should be able to too!

And, yes, that is how I do steam in the oven too.

BaniJP's picture

Is it supposed to have oven spring (on the photos in the book)?

I have two ideas what the problem (or at least part of it) might be:

- rye flour has very poor gluten quality. Whole wheat flour has plenty of particles that can damage gluten structures - rye and whole wheat loafs are quite dense anyway due to these properties. So combine these two and you have a quite delicate dough that can deflate quite easily if you don't handle it gently.

- the yeast or starter (which ever you are using) might not have enough food in the final proof to generate much gas anymore. Maybe shorten the bulk ferment and make the final proof longer.

I also read somewhere that you have to score rye doughs before the final proof (so right after shaping) to not damage the delicate skin later.

berryblondeboys's picture

The book has no photos - just a few hand-drawn images. it doesn't even say if it should be in a pan or free-form.

And yes, perhaps the bulk ferment was too long. It was doing SO MARVELOUSLY up until the end and then quite literally pffft...

And, good to know about the scoring on rye. I will probably give this recipe one more go, but when I run out of rye flour, that will be it and I will move on.

BaniJP's picture

Weird that your book is so vague about those things, usually they recommend something. With rye bread I would probably use a loaf pan since it forces the dough up. Maybe that results in a slightly more open crumb (just a theory, I don't bake with rye at all).

Just remember, rye bread is naturally quite dense, so don't expect a lot of lift/oven spring from it. I think anything above 20% rye flour (might be even less) will result in a denser crumb. As you said yourself, when you bake white breads, they grow quite a bit and that's because it contains much more gluten that can trap the gas, resulting in much more lift. With rye flour you don't have that.

berryblondeboys's picture

Ok, I grabbed the book now that I have some time to sit and write in peace. So, this bread is made with commercial yeast. It makes two loaves. It has: 4 cups of whole rye flour and 3 cups of whole wheat flour which I ground myself (hard white). It has some water and molasses and cider. Then, at the end for ingredients, it says, "1 to 1/2 more water (450ml or more). since this is made with freshly ground flour, I added more water. I let it rest a few minutes towards the end of the knead and then added a bit more water. I think I got that right as it felt really good.

Thinking back on in now, I think I know where I went wrong. I put it in the oven to speed up the second rise so I could get it in the fridge before going to bed. I had it at a super low temp - like 100 degrees and then I turned it off and opened the door for a few seconds), but it really grew. I bet I overproofed it then in my haste to get to bed around midnight. I still haven't found a way to do this on a good schedule yet.

berryblondeboys's picture

And now that I have corrected the name of the bread and did a search on it and up pops a bread from this site from someone who is a MUCH Better baker than me and guess what, my bread looks pretty darn good - not that different from this other person's. They just made it differently shaped, but the crumb looks about the same:

BreadLee's picture

Being a self proclaimed rye bread expert, when I read your first post and viewed the pics,  I said that looks fantastic.  What's wrong? You should be proud of those loaves.  If you want them taller,  maybe look at a smaller proofing vessel,  bowl etc. 

Nicely done!

berryblondeboys's picture

Wow.. thanks so much. I have only worked with rye once and it was like a few flakes (ok, exaggeration), but the percentage of rye was SUPER low. THIS was a lot of rye. It tastes very good and now that I know that speeding things up is not in my favor, I will do it differently next time.

Except for a couple of different recipes, I've always done 100% or at least 50% whole grain bread.  White bread is like eating candy - doesn't do a heck a lot for you nutritionally, so I really try to limit that and I am STILL learning. Recently I learned that I was probably under kneading AND under hydrating most doughs. And yes... I'm also probably putting the dough in too big of a vessel too for the final proofing. 

Thanks for your help and kind words.

isand66's picture

First, if you really want to get consistent results and/or figure out where you need to improve, you need to weigh your ingredients and keep a record of them.  While it is true that freshly ground flour will be more thirsty, you still want to have a base to start from.  I have been doing this for a long time now, and always use my basic formulas and adjust as needed.  For instance I will add 3/4's of the water in my formula in the first mix and let the dough rest before adding the rest, plus or minus depending on how the dough feels.

If you don't weigh your flour and other ingredients you will be way too inconsistent and it's hard to make adjustments correctly.  There is a big swing when using cups versus grams or ounces.

It looks like your dough is over-proofed which is why you are not getting any rise when you put it in the oven.  While the poke test doesn't always work, it does many times.  When you poke your dough it should still spring back slowly.  If you poke it and it has no spring you probably over-proofed it.  If you are taking it out of the refrigerator already shaped, then this will not work.

Feel free to PM me and I can help you one on one if you are interested.


berryblondeboys's picture

I do weigh things and I do write down what I do for a recipe I repeat. About a month or so ago, I made the best pain de Campagne bread from the same recipe I ALWAYS use. I thought I repeated it exactly the next time, and it went back to looking as it usually did. It was FINE, but very little oven spring. My books are full of notes and scratched out things.

In this case, as I was diverting from the recipe, I had to wing it a bit (and the recipe is a bit vague). I wrote what I did down, but next time I will still have to guess at what to do differently (as I have detailed above - don't rush the proof, perhaps use a smaller banneton/proofing basket, slash it earlier, perhaps).


louiscohen's picture

Your bread looks like the best i have been able to do with up to about 66% whole grain and 75% hydration.  The oven spring is disappointing and I never get ears or a crumb more open than what you show.

Annoyingly, the results with a no-knead technique and baking in a dutch oven without scoring  are much better.  I just baked a multigrain loaf:

  • 50% whole wheat
  • 12.5% chickpea flour
  • 12.5% rye flour
  • 25% high gluten flour
  • 90% hydration
  • 2% instant yeast (I meant to use 1.5% but goofed)
  • 2% salt

I just scaled and combined the ingredients (no attempt to develop gluten) and put it in the fridge for about 1 1/2 days. 

  • Preshaped a boule with 20 min rest
  • Shaped a boule
  • Proofed in a basket for 2 hrs
  • Misted with water and sprinkled caraway seeds on top
  • Pre-heated oven to 525 F
  • Baked in a dutch oven at 475 F 15 minutes covered
  • Baked 15 min open
  • Baked 10 minutes with the oven open slightly to vent steam

It's now cooling but the oven spring was much better than usual.  


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

try skipping that second rise. You know how it looks when it has finished the first rise, try not letting it get so puffy and knock it down early with a shaping.  Then let it retard. (Do keep in mind that the higher the % of rye, over 50%, the less chance of it rising after retarding in the fridge.)  Dock or score and bake from the fridge.  

The crumb looks good with the exception that it looks too wet to me.  Rye & whole wheat do make denser loaves and great open faced sandwiches!

joe_n's picture

Did you try Elly's 100% ww sd at youtube?  (Cold autolyse)

Her recipe works for me.