Too much oven spring

Alicia Barnett's picture
Alicia Barnett



I've been making sourdough for a couple of years now and absolutely love it. 


One problem that I cant seem to overcome is my loaves always splitting open on the side.


I try to do fairly substantial slashes to avoid this problem, but it doesnt seem to make a difference.


Could the problem have to do with my proving or oven temperature?


I would appreciate any advice! 


Alicia :)

249 users have voted.


davo 2012 July 25

It'd be a bit interesting to know what is your levain to bread dough ratio, and how long you bulk ferment and prove, but if they are splitting and not terribly airy, my guess is they are routinely underproved.


Try extending out your final proof time.


Do you do a poke test to see if the dough is ready to bake? If you flour or wet a finger and push it about 1 cm in to the bread dough, it should only be springing back about half-way, and slowly (or so I reckon, others may differ!). If it's springing back fully and quickly (or nearly so) it's underproved.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 July 26

Hello Alicia,

If your crust starts to dry too quickly, it can prevent the loaf expanding as the heat penetrates and then when the pressure inside builds up, it fails at a point of weakness that often is located near the base of the loaf.  I suspect that this might be due to a combination of the heat from your stone/tray 'searing' the base and some 'shading' of the adjacent loaf wall by the curvature of the loaf shape giving a hard base and a slightly softer band just above it.

Steam in the oven keeps the crust softer for longer allowing it to stretch as the loaf expands.

If you don't use steam in your oven, you might try it to see if it helps.

Let us know how you go.


Graham's picture
Graham 2012 July 27

Hi Alicia,


It sounds like a dough conditioning issue, where the dough has not been acidified enough to give it the stretch (extensibility) it needs to spring without breaking. With natural sourdough we use fermentation to create these acids, in exactly the manner described by davo above.

Conditioning is also called 'ripening'. You need evidence (proof) that your dough is ripe. The levain is the obvious place to develop those acids, but if you only add a small amount of levain then a longer bulk proof (2 - 3 hours) is gain a degree of certainty about the level of activity (gas and acid creation) in your dough.

In my own baking I keep changing the stage where I condition the dough. On a recent bake my balled-up dough's sat for 5 hours at around 10C (current room temp). Even after 5 hours there didn't seem to be much activity, probably due to the low temp. These doughs were then formed into loaves and proofed overnight for about 10 hours next to the oven, at around 13C.

The loaves rose spectacularly and appeared over-proofed before entering the oven. However they still sprung in the oven and the result was amazing, beautifully coloured loaves (probably the best rise, colour, aroma, natural break, we have ever had at this bakery (which is of course the ultimate proof of process!)

So experimentation is the key, playing with your conditions and recognising the stages of fermentation.

Finally i should add that enzymes are still active at lower temps, releasing sugars which are then available for yeast and bacteria to feed on...particularly as temps warm up again and they start to become more active....perhaps explaining the success of my 5 hour intermediate (balled-up) proof.

Alicia Barnett's picture
Alicia Barnett 2012 July 27

 Thanks everyone!


I appreciate your feedback and suggestions, as I am a novice with all this :)


In terms of figuring out where I'm going wrong, I'll briefly tell you what I'm already doing and you can tell me what I could change. I normally use 25% starter and 72% hydration. My bulk fermentation is 3 hours and then overnight in the fridge. I let it rest 30mins before baking. Then I use about 4 ice cubes and some water sprayed into hot oven for humidity. I also use a bakers stone in oven. 


Another interesting point is that sometimes it is just one loaf that splits even though they are both baked next to each other (I usually divide the dough into two batards).


Does this clarify any of the possible causes you suspected?






Graham's picture
Graham 2012 July 27

You could look at partly rising your formed loaves before they go into the fridge. Initially try rising them about half of the way to being fully risen. Hopefully, depending on the efficiency of your fridge, they will be almost fully risen by the next day. Play with the extent of this 'pre-refrigeration rise' until you get the outcome you are looking for.

lamp's picture
lamp 2012 August 9

Hi Alicia, I had a similar problem and looked for all the usual causes to sort it out. I experimented with hydration rates, different  methods of generating oven steam, increased prooving times (including sometimes overprooving) and all sorts of other things. Generally my loaves would still split along one of the slashes I had made...but not always.

Last weekend while baking my first couple of loaves I noticed the usual split in one of the loaves while the other one was fine. The only difference was I put an extra slash in one loaf compared to the other. For the second batch I added an extra slash to both loaves and neither split. to further check this out, I made another batch of 4 loaves on monday/Tuesday and baked them tuesday night. With the extra slash, all 4 loaves turned out perfectly.

I had just not considered I needed to slash more...might be something for you to try anyway....



TonySomerset 2012 September 11

Extend your proving time.

After the initial prove as you are about to shape up be gentle with the dough and tighten up into shape without knocking out the air. Handle the least you can to achieve the shape you want

Sourdough takes longer and is hyper room temperature sensistive.

rist.beck 2012 September 13

all the above avdice is excellant but u may find that if you poke holes along both sides after slashing it will reduce or clear ur wild rip



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