My dough is cracking while it rises.

The Bread monster
More details of the rips.
See how flat it is.


I have been baking sourdough bread for almost a year, mostly based on the advise I have found here. From the very beginning I started baking sandwich loaves in a pan, but just recently started trying an old fashioned miche. I tried all sorts of recipes and all sort of hydrations but my bread would come out of the oven flat and spread, so I decided to try the Pan a la ancienne recipe from this website, thinking that the foldings would give my bread a structure.


I have tried it many times and even if I get decent looking bread, it is still spread out. However my main problem is that after the few foldings one hour apart from each other, when I start letting the bread rise, the top of the dough starts ripping open, creating all sort of wholes, and of course letting the dough go all slack. At first I though it was overproofing  but it really happens regardless of how long the dough has been rising.



I have baked all the loaves regardless and I get a nice bread, but since I have to put it in the oven before the rips totally destroy the loaf, I think I am baking undeproofed bread.


Why is this happening? How can I prevent it? How can you guys get such tall and round loaves without using a banneton?


All help will be deeply appreciated. 

396 users have voted.


Gamya 2010 July 11

I think the sponge is underprepared and you have used more water than required for a proper dough. Also it may be overproofing.

Johnny's picture
Johnny 2010 July 11

I'm wondering if you are letting the dough autolyse long enough and before adding salt.  After first mixing up the dough let it stand covered for 20-30 mins. Autolyse allows for better absorption of water and helps the gluten and starches to align and so help with shaping. After autolyse I usually mix and fold my dough a few minutes in the bowl while I'm folding in  the salt. This helps develop the gluten strands which are the structure of your bread and will help your bread hold it's shape and have more volume. See these links also:


You might also have a look at your slashing method. If you slash long strokes down the length of your loaf then it will naturally spread out even more. Try some more shorter slashes on an angle on either side of the loaf (sort of like gill slits) and slash upwards as this helps it keep the loaf shape.

Lastly, the time between slashing and placing into your oven should be as short as possible. Any dough will spread out after slashing so that is why you need to be quick to get it into the oven.

My experience is that rather than underproofed dough it is overproofed dough becomes too slack and won't hold a shape (Something to do with the enzymes having broken down too much of the starches which are what help with structure).


dukegus 2010 July 19

Many things could have gone wrong. Give as a full recipe and technique so we could decide more accuretly what the problem is.


The gluten in degraded for some reason. Maybe long fermentation and high acidity, maybe the flour is not top quality and has many proteases, maybe your don't develop the gluten correctly, maybe the hydration is too high and you need a good scale... :)


I had this problem reasently and my problem was the flour. When I tried a simple bread flour I had 100% success, but the one I bough that was strong flour from a local mill was always a failure...

Adam T's picture
Adam T 2010 July 30

 when are you adding your salt? When you see the cracking at the sides during proofing, stick your finger in there and taste to see if it is salty. Could be that the salt is not incorporated enough. At work we call them salt veins. 

Or could just be too acidic.

Millciti's picture
Millciti 2010 August 5

 To me just guessing and that is all I can do yet ... Is that there are several possibilities.

1- too much starter to dough ratio

2- like Johnny said, autolyse or salt too early

3- over proofed or proved at too high a temp (i guess that might be two different guesses!)

4- too much liquid to dry

5- are you using a lot of rye?  Or Spelt perhaps?

So spill it if you really want us to help.  You've got our attention we need your help now:)


 Okay - Please spill it! We need details :)

dukegus 2010 August 2

I'd suggest first find some very good quality flour, I had a problem recently and it was the flour...though it was strong flour it was from a local mill and full of protease that broke down my gluten.


Then I'd weight my ingredients with a good scale(that weights 1gr) and watch the things millciti says.

Millciti's picture
Millciti 2010 August 5

 Hope we didn't scare you off!   Actually I think you may have updated your original post explaining part of your process..   I really think the problem is Temp related or your starter is more active than it was to start with, and you may have less than perfect flour.  When you fold and stretch the dough, if your temp is too warm your dough may be developing too much between folds.  This could be allowing too much protease development as Dukegus said.  I found this article at the fresh loaf which is very interesting about the problem and the process...

When I switched seasons this year going from  cool to toasty I needed to switch up something.  I tried a few different things - different flour combinations,starter hydration levels and amounts.

Try changing one factor at a time taking note of what you try.  See what works and what doesn't.  What worked for me was a combination of less starter and a higher hydration starter I went from 75% to 100% mostly.  I have 2 starters.  Also another thing that I am doing right now is shorter stretch & fold times, a short rise in the bowl, form loaves and another short rise and overnight proof in the banneton in the Fridge. The whole process is under 12hours.  With the heat in full swing here I set the timer and pre-start my oven in the morning and bake before work.

I actually refresh my starter when I bake and store in the fridge - less than 12 hours on the counter.  Then I warm it up for an hour or so before I bake.  But I bake every other 1-2 days, so my starter is still very active.

This was this mornings bread... Hopefully will post picture later.



Polenta 2011 August 12

 Just looking at your pictures I notice that while your dough looks mixed - It just might not be mixed enough.

You kneed (pun intended) to kneed it well to let the gluten do it's job.

While saying that - if you have mixed it cotrrectly then it might be that your flour is inferior.

Looking at your baked photo.... It looks like it has overproofed. Too much steam/ humidity while prooving.

It almost looks like it collapsed while baking. 

If you do not have the luxury of a proover and the humidfying elements then I would definatly say that it's flour problem.

And maybe just a tad too much water.

Please consider all before me. Their comments bear great weight.

Just a matter of elimination my dear Watson.

tantan93 2016 August 23

I've been having the same issue. My last four sour doughs looked just as yours, with cracked open crusts even before going into the oven.

It looks perfect during the first rise and then when I pre shape and then shape it, the crust already starts to look like its about to crack open. And when I keep it for the second fermentation it does.

Neil Lambert 2020 April 19
I've had this exact problem. It has to do with your starter. I would suggest making a new starter. Search for making a starter with pineapple juice. Because right now your sourdough is breaking down the gluten.

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