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!