The Fresh Loaf

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Balloon bread section - good or bad?

codruta's picture

Balloon bread section - good or bad?

I am trying to find the possible cause for this balloon section in a batard loaf. It did not happen to me, but to some of my romanian readers, and I find this to be an intriguing subject to debate. I think the balloon shape is not a quality, but contrary, is unatractive and not to be wanted. Am I wrong?

I tried to figure what are the possible causes for this particular shape and these are my own conclusions:

1) The upper skin on the dough is dryer and/ or thicker than the bottom part of the dough. Possible cause:

a. if the banneton is not completely wrapped in plastic, but covered only on the top (the top which will be the bottom of the bread)- the dough will dry in banneton and will create a skin,

b. excessive flour on the banneton, 

When the dough gets in the hot oven, it will swell from the part where the skin is moist and thin... in this case, the bottom.

(2) a certain technique of shaping the dough encourages this peculiar shape... can it be?!
(3) because of the characteristics of the oven / steaming method/ or because the baking stone is not hot enough ... I do not know exactly ... the dough placed in the oven forms the upper crust faster than the bottom, bottom which is still soft and wet, at which point the dough starts to rise from the bottom up. The top is rigid and will not allow the dough to swell.
(4) the scoring cuts are too small in length (not in depth) and the dough can't expand enough at the cuts, and therefore will expand from the bottom and will deform the section.
(5) a simpler cause, would be insufficient proofing

(6) if the batard is too long in lenght and too small in section, will create a tubular shape, because at the same perimeter, the circle has the biggest area.

Am I missing something? Am I right, am I wrong? Am I the only one intrigued by this subject?

I'm very curious about what you think.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have never seen this with heavier doughs.  I think the round shape is desirable in baguettes and rolls, and flat breads.   Any loaf under 500g may yield a round ballon loaf.  Up the weight and I'm sure they will have a little bit of a flat bottom.   Flat breads will balloon and they are not scored, the air separating the upper from the lower crust so I think scoring depth might have more to do with it.  

The whole idea of a banneton is to dry out the surface to create an exoskeleton type of structure.

breadforfun's picture

This has been something that I have experienced often myself, and has mystified me as well.  I have come up with some similar theories: underproofing was high on my list, as was unsufficiently deep scoring.  But I hadn't considered the temperature of the stone when the dough is placed in the oven.  On my recent bakes I have used convection preheating to heat the stone, sometimes up to 500˚F before turning off the fan during the steam period.  I have seen much less of this balooning effect, so this might be a reasonable explanation.

Another observation that also supports this is that when I use parchment for the final proof and bake, the effect is worse.  My thought was that the paper won't expand with the dough, and is restraining the dough, in a sense, until it reaches the release temperature (not sure what this is, but maybe around 300˚).  This forces the loaf to expand upwards, having even less contact with the stone.  When the dough is placed directly on the stone using semolina or cornmeal to prevent sticking to the peel, the shape is much improved.

Thanks for bringing up the topic, I am interested in other peoples experiences as well.


bakerdan's picture

Hi--my experience with sourdoughs and this irregular cross-section has been effectively traced back to underproofing before baking. No matter what process precedes the final rise after shaping, if the batard does not receive sufficient time to proof before scoring and baking, it's interior will reveal larger and irregular holes.  


The other symptoms I have read--like thick crust and the heat of the stone--become exaggerated when the loaf has not proofed enough before baking.



With sourdoughs, I have found that the loaf appears overproofed, flabby and flat on the peel when it is turned out from its proofing basket or banneton.

The particular type of extensible gluten that develops from long fermentation that sourdoughs receive allows the loaf to rise quite high during the first part of the (steam-injected) bake. In my experience I have seen many "initially flat-looking loaves" spring back to proper shape and height.

I teach my students, "When a sourdough loaf looks like it has proofed enough, give it about 30 to 45 minutes more before scoring and baking." This assurance has helped many students overcome fear of overproofing.

Let me know if this has helped you, Thanks.