The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Holy Oven Spring!

althetrainer's picture

Holy Oven Spring!

Just made two loaves of sourdough sandwich bread.  I usually use mostly wheat flour but today I wanted to see how big a difference white flour would make.   After six hours of rising (2 hours 1st then 4 hours 2nd rise) the breads only rose up to the rim of the pans.  I put them in a cold oven and turn it to 375F for 40 minutes.  Right before the oven reached its temperature of 375F I looked through the glass window.  Holy oven spring!  The two loaves shot up at least twice of their original height.  I knew I would get some oven sping, but never thought I would get that much.  I had to cover the loaves for the last 10 minutes because the tops were looking a bit brown.  Other than that, the two loaves turned out pretty.


The large loaf:


The smaller loaf:




nijap's picture

Lovely.  I am trying to bake the same without much success.  Is it possible to share your receipe?  Also if you have photos of dough before the rise and after the rise before you put it in the oven, just to compare the amount of rise out side the oven.  I always have problem with it.  Too much rise and it flops in the oven and too little and it does not have light texture.  If there is a reliable indicator to judge when the rise out side the oven is just right, I would like to know. Double the volume, some how does not always work for me.

Any suggestions from the experts out there?

BTW, I hope I can duplicate your results.  It is just beautiful.

althetrainer's picture

Phil & nijap, I don't usully do 100% WW because it tends to be pretty difficult to handle.  I have 20 years of bread making experience but when it comes to sourdough I am green like a bean. At least I can share the recipe with you. The sourdough bread recipe I got from a book "making the Best of Basics"

2 C sourdough starter (I ues 100% hydrattion)

4 C sifted four (more if needed)

2 T sugar

1 tsp salt

2 T vegetable oil

The two loaves in the picttures were not 100% white because I use whole wheat starter.  The additional flour was just unbleached.  When I want higher % of wheat I just use 2 - 3 cups of WW flour then the rest, unbleached.  Also, if I want to ensure a softer crumb, I use vital wheat gluten, about 1 T per cup of WW flour.   I find this recipe rather forgiving.  I can play with the hydration level (which I always do) and flour yet the outcomes are usually pretty good.  I have used this basic recipe to make sourdough herb breads and they turned out wonderfully.

nijap, unfortunately, I didn't take any pics of the dough.  If you look at the smaller loaf you will see a line where the dough being stretched and that's how high the dough was before it went into the oven.  

I have heard using very active starter will make a big difference.  Also, putting the breads in the oven without pre-heating also helps with oven spring.  I never have to worry about my dough rising too high though.  The one time I let a sourdough wheat bread rise for 6 hours and the surface tension becamse uneven but it never flop back down.  But again, I am in Canada and our house is always very cold so you need to decide how long a rise is too long.  Sorry, not too much a help here.


nijap's picture


Since you are experienced baker of yeast breads, may be you can tell me what I can do to get softer crumb similar to store bought bread, without all those chemicals.  Your comment that adding 1 Table spoon of gluten softens up the crumb surprised me.  I am complete novice, but one time I added the gluten and the bread came out like a rock.  But that time I did every thing wrong, it being one of the first try and I just winged it rather then follow receipe, SD of course. 

I have since realized that recongnizing the milestones at each stage is the key, since dough never behaves the same each time ( and have no concern about the timing or the reputation of the auther who wrote the receipe, or the one who is baking it).  I have not tried the non-SD baking yet, but I assume it may be more predictable since the SD starter variable is out of the equation.

To sum, I can use pointers for softer crumb.  I fail miserably there.

althetrainer's picture

If you have problem making bread with soft crumb, you may want to work on controlling the amount of flour used.  Try using a mixer, it will be easier to mix with minmal amount of flour so less likely to add more flour than you have to.  The vital wheat gluten helps developing the volume of the loaf therefore the crumb will be less dense.  I am not sure what you did when you ended up with a brick.  But it's worth giving it another try. 

For someone who just starts making basic bread I would recommend doing a learning loaf.  By eliminating one possible error at a time, you will eventually narrow it down enough to find what makes your bread fail.  Keep practicing (it may be many loaves) until you can tell if the dough is right by feeling it between your fingers (that's what I do).  Once you master that skill you will be able to stretch you imagination and explore various adventures.  For now, just work on making the perfect learning loaf.  I will post the recipe and instructions with this post.

Another way to obtain a softer crumb is to control the internal temperature of a loaf.  I like to use lower temperature to bake it, then allow the bread to cool for a few hours before slicing into it.  By doing so I allow the bread continue to "cook" after leaving the oven, in relatively low temperatures, therefore softer crumb.

Here's the Learning Loaf  from the Wooden Spoon Bread Book by Marilyn M. Moore

Here's an easy-to-handle one-loaf bread recipe that can be used for a learning experience.  If you are timorous about trying your hand with yeast, try this recipe first.  The samll amount of dough is very easy to knead and should give you the confidence for later projects.


In a small, heavy saucepan, heat until scalded

1 cup milk

The milk is scalded when small bubbles begin to form on the sides of the pan.  Combine in a mixing bowl, stonewear preferred

the scalded milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Stir to dissolve butter and sugar.  Let cool until just warm.  Meanwhile, place in a small container, such as 1-cup liquid measuring cup

1/4 cup warm water

The water should feel neither hot nor cold. Go ahead and stick your finger in to see how hot it is.  (We know you washed your hands before you started) Sprinkle into the water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 scant tablespoon (or a packet) active dry yeast

Gently stir the mixture to soften yeast and dissolve sugar, and let it stand for a while.  This is called proofing the yeast.  The yeast mixture should begin to grow, slowly rising in the cup.  When the milk mixture has cooled down to warm (remember your finger thermometer?), stir in

softened yeast mixture

1 egg yolk

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour

Beat well, as this will develop the gluten in the dough.  After you have beaten it awhile, beat it some more  Then stir in another

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour

Beat well.  Stir in 1/4 cup at a time, another

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour

Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl, and stir in thoroughtly with each 1/4 cup addition.  Always stir well before any new flour.  If dough has enough flour incorporated, it will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If not, it is too sticky.  *If it is too sticky, add to dough

1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour

Again, be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.  Repeat from * as many times as necessary until the dough begins to ppull away from the sides of the bowl.  Make an 8-inch circle of flour on a bread board with

1/4 cup uncleached all-purpsoe flour or bread flour

turn the dough out onto the center of this.  rub a little flour between your hands and knead until the dough becomes smooth and begins to spring back when you let it go.  To knead: Lift the back third of the dough and fold it over the remaining dough.  Press this down with the heels of your floured hands.  Turn the dough one-quarter turn.  Lift the back third of the dough again and fold it over the reamining dough.  Press this dough down also.  Notice that you were not told to put any flour on top of your dough as you worked.  You only want to be sure that the surface under the dough remains floured.  If you put flour directly onto the dough's surface by sprinkling, you could force the dough to take in too much floour, resulting in a tough loaf of bread.  When you are through  kneading, the ball of dough should be as smooth as a baby's bottom.

Now wash the bowl in which you mixed the dough.  With warm water, warm the bowl thoroughly.  Dry completely, then grease liberally with shortening (or oil).  Place the ball of dough into the bowl and press it into the grease.  turn the dough over so that the greased bottom is now on top.  Pull the sides under slightly until the ball rounds up again.  Cover the top of the bowl with a slightly dampened cloth of with plastic wrap.  This will keep the surface of the dough soft as it rises.  Place the bowl on a counter away from any drafts.  Let dough rise in the bowl for about 45 minutes.  It should double in bulk during this time.  If not, let it rise a little longer.

Remove the cloth or plastic wrap and knead the dough down in the bowl.  To do this, plunge fist into the center of the dough.  Then use a gentler version of the kneading action to force the large bubbles of trapped air out of the dough.  Take up the ball of dough and form it into a smooth, round shape in your hands.  Using only enough flour on your bread board to prevent sticking, press the dough out with your hands or rolling pin to a 6 x 9 inch rectangle.  Brush off any flour that may have gotten onto the surface of the dough.  Roll the dough up tighly, starting with the 6-inch side.  Place the resulting loaf in a well greased 9 x 5-inch baking pan, with the seam of the loaf facing down.  Cover again and allow to rise for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the dough has risen tothe top of the pan.  Mix together

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

Brush a layer of this mixture onto the top of the risen loaf.  This will produce a nice glaze which will make your baked loaf most attractive.  Save any leftover egg glaze in a small covered container in the refrigerator.  It will keep for several days.  Use it for glazing other breads, or incorporate it into scrambled eggs.  Using a sharp knife, cut a slash down the center of the loaf (if you don't feel comfortable about this, you can do this on your 2nd or 3rd loaf instead of your first).  Be gentle, as you do not want to deflate the risen loaf.  Place the loaf in a cold oven and set it to bake at 375F.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.   Remove from oven.  Put an oven glove over your hand.  Turn the loaf out of the pan onto this hand, so that the top of the loaf is down.  Tap the bottom of the loaf.  It should sound hollow.  If the bottom of the loaf is white, the loaf is not completely done, and should be put back in its pan and returned to the oven to bake 5 minutes longer.  When fully baked, turn out onto a wire or wood rack to cool.  Cool completely before wrapping to store.  If you want to eat some of the bread while it is still warm from the oven, wait until you can handle it without protection.  Otherwise, it will not be firm enough to slice.  Make 1 loaf.

**Although bread dough is easily mixed in an earthenware bowl with a wooden spoon, it can also be made with an electric mixer or a food processor.