My Bread Collapses in the Oven, What am I Doing Wrong?

Bread is one of the most comforting and versatile foods to make at home. Yet, sometimes, it doesn’t turn out right! Whatever the reason, a loaf that collapses in the oven or right before baking is a big pain! So what are the reasons why bread collapses in the oven and how can we avoid making these mistakes so the next batch is Insta-perfect?

Let’s find out…!

So, what’s the science behind collapsing bread?

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Dough collapses when the gluten network is too weak to retain the gas produced from yeast fermentation and crushes under its own weight. This can be due to weak flour, under kneading, over proofing or manhandling.

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The stages when bread can collapse

Bread can collapse during proofing, slashing, during the first ten minutes of baking or when transferred towards the oven. Usually, the reason the dough collapses is due to a defect in the dough. But, a mistake when handling the dough such as dropping it will also destroy the structure.

Unless the flattening is due to bad handling, the rule is:

The earlier it collapses, the more overdeveloped the dough”.

The most common reason for bread collapsing is being over risen. If you are finding that your bread is collapsing after baking, try reading the Why is my bread collapsing or shrinking after baking post.

What’s happening when bread rises?

When the dough rises, yeast produces carbon dioxide gas and ethanol through fermentation. It also facilitates organic acid development which produces (largely) lactic and acetic acids. These acids, alongside ethanol, mature the dough to make it taste better, keep gas better and help it to stay better (fresh) for longer.

Lactic and acetic acids also produce carbon dioxide gas for the dough. This is prevalent in sourdough starters where they’re responsible for the majority of gas production (not the wild yeasts).

How to stop your dough collapsing

Let’s look at how to fix the problem. Here are 6 ways to stop your bread collapsing and ending up as dense as a brick!

#1 Use good quality flour and work it well!

Cheap, poor quality flour won’t withstand extended rises without collapsing. If you are using artisan long fermentation techniques, a quality artisan flour is generally needed. It is not necessary to use bread flour for every bread, all-purpose flour often works, providing it’s from a reputable mill.

If your first rise is quite short you should knead the dough well to work the gluten so that it is nice and strong. This is important so that the dough can retain the maximum amount of gas possible. This makes for a bigger rise and prevents the bread from being dense.

Kneading with efficient hand kneading techniques or a dough mixer saves you time, energy and makes perfect bread!

#2 Slow down the rise with less yeast and cooler temperatures

Decreasing the amount of yeast or sourdough starter slows the rate of the rise. This is necessary in no-knead bread recipes where the gluten develops naturally over time, instead of mechanical force.

Many recipes combine kneading with a longer rise or a two-stage rise. This provides a stronger gluten network as the dough becomes more mature.

Cool proofing temperatures are used to slow fermentation. We want to allow plenty of time during the first rise for the dough to  mature, whilst stoping it getting too gassy. Too much gas early on, forces the dough structure to collapse if the weak gluten cannot contain it.

#3 Know when to end bulk fermentation

Knowing how long to push the first rise is a challenging skill. For an open crumb, it’s common to want to extend the bulk rise. Letting the dough rise to double (sometimes more) works wonders for an open crumb and more intense sour flavour in sourdough bread.

Letting the dough rise like this can only be executed when using less levain.

If making bread with lots of yeast (1.8% upwards of the flour weight), the yeast is likely to run out of food in the long rise. This will prevent it from rising after shaping and probably collapse when it meets resistance as it goes into the oven.

For bread made with higher amounts of yeast, 50% bulk fermentation growth is satisfactory.

A highly active sourdough or a recipe with a high ratio of starter to flour should rise less before shaping.

#4 Test if it’s ready with the poke test

A good check to know when the dough is ready to bake will stop you from over proofing bread. For this, we can use the poke test.

How to use the poke test

As the dough rises, wet your finger and poke it into the dough about half a centimetre (just under). Pull your finger away and watch how quickly the dough springs back.

Press with your finger
The poke leaves an indent

If it springs back straight away, it’s under proofed. If it stays down for 2-3 seconds before returning, it’s ready. If it stays down for longer or doesn’t return at all it is over-proofed.

It’s better to underproof than overproof.

#5 Careful when scoring!

A delicate dough can also collapse when scoring. If you think that you’ve over-proofed the dough, don’t weaken its structure any further by slashing it. Just slide it straight onto the oven, give it some steam and shut the door.

Bread made with whole grains such as wholemeal, whole wheat, spelt and rye have a tendency to collapse when cut. Don’t slash whole-grain bread unless it contains a high ratio of white bread flour.

#6 Don’t drop the bread!

Poking it, dropping it and general f$%£ ups like when the dough sticks to the peel can cause a delicate dough to collapse. Not putting enough flour on the banneton or peel is one of my most frustrating misdeeds!

Have your working area prepared so you don’t get tempted to “forget” to flour dust or lose your equipment when you’re in a hurry!

Ending thoughts

These top tips should prevent your bread from collapsing in the oven, or just before. Let me know how they work for you in the comments below.

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12 Comments

  1. Well, for the third time in a row I made a wholemeal dough, followed your tips, and third time in a row my loaf has collapsed in the oven. I am a Baker myself and I’ve never had this happen before ,except now I’m doing it at home. I follow the same recipe as I’ve always used, commercially . Any suggestions would be gratefully received.
    Kind Rgds
    John Millard

  2. Hi John, recipes won’t always transfer at home. You’ll be using a different mixer, ingredients, proofing temperature, oven etc. It’s likely the gluten is not developed, some vital wheat gluten might fix it. If you want to share your recipe and method I might be able to help you further.

  3. What is the ideal temperature for proofing? Some oks tell me between 28 and 36 c, other recipes, mainly European say 24 c to 28 c is the optimum

  4. It depends on what type of bread you are trying to make and whether you want the benefits of aerobic or anaerobic fermentation. Anything within those ranges can be good. For slow rising, artisan-style bread I prefer 24-28. But for sandwich loaves or bread rolls I’d rather proof at 36-38C. If you want some more technical info try the The Bread Fermentation Process article.

  5. Hi,

    I’m not a bread baker but I’m trying to make my carb-conscious husband some keto-friendly almond bread. The first two loaves have collapsed in the oven.

    I thought the first loaf dropped because the yeast might have been under developed or that I did not get enough rise when I proofed it. On the second loaf I extended the development time and proofing time. I got a better rise during the proofing but it again dropped in the oven. After reading your article above, I probably exhausted the yeast/gluten.

    Are there special considerations that would help when working with heavier almond flour?

    Thank you,
    Chris

  6. Baking soda is often preferred to yeast with making bread with 70-100% almond flour. Almond flour doesn’t contain gluten to trap the gas and rise. You’ll need to add extra ingredients to form a structure to retain gas – such as xantham gum, eggs and/or Stevia extract (powder).
    This recipe looks like a pretty good one to follow: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/263033/best-keto-bread/ (not mine)

    An alternative is to switch 10-30% almond flour with white or wholemeal bread flour in a more straightforward recipe such as Beginner’s Bread Recipe.

  7. I have a recipe for bread that I came up with on my own. I use a 20 quart mixer with a spiral dough hook. I let it first proof just in the mixer bowl with a cover and after, I put it back in the stand mixer and knead for about 3 minutes then I portion out into buns. I am using about a 3 oz size ball. I put covers on my half sheet pans and let double in size. The buns when baking (commercial single deck oven) will slowly fall and I am not sure if the temperature of the oven has an effect? This evening I made a batch (total 9 pounds flour – 1 pd oatmeal, 1 pd spelt and 7 pounds bread flour) and I started the oven at about 325 because the fan in the oven does bake stuff faster. I used 1.3 oz of yeast. Thanks.

  8. What type of rolls are you trying to make Andrew? Crusty? Soft? Light crumb? Dense?

  9. Thanks for asking, Gareth. I am making a fairly fluffy hamburger bun. When I bake them, they do tend to spread out and touch. I don’t think they are to high of a hydration, 61% (5.5 pounds of liquid, 9 pounds flour). They have a nice open crumb but they tend to fall. I have a cafe/lounge and am baking them for my business. My hamburger patty is 6 ounces. I do need a fairly large and yet soft bun. I don’t want a crusty, crispy bun.

  10. Ok, no I agree it shouldn’t be the water. I’d say the gluten is running out of strength and collapsing. If you are adding 20% in total of spelt and oats it’ll weaken the crumb structure. You need to use a really high-protein flour or add some vital gluten. Some veg oil will get a bit more of an oven rise and as it contains lethin will strengthen the gluten too. If it’s not soft enough, try a little sugar too.

    Regarding the oven, I’m a bit confused as deck ovens don’t have fans at least, I’ve never seen one. You want to bake soft rolls quick to retain moisture. This will keep them soft. I’d be baking at 400-440 ish for 10-15 minutes. Turn the top heat setting on the deck oven up a bit to brown the tops faster if you have that setting, if not raise the shelf closer to the element. It might take a few practice goes to master!

    Not sure if you’ve seen my guide on Writing a bread recipe but you might find it useful.If I were you I’d take a soft roll recipe like this one and switch up the flour. This recipe doesn’t have a bulk ferment as you get more energy and spring when the yeast respires instead of fermenting. For more dough maturity and a softer crumb it’s probably better to go down the preferment route than a bulk rise.

  11. Gareth, Sorry if I am saying it differently. At one time I had a twin stacked convection oven, the paper work said it was a twin deck – I guess it was suppose to be twin “stacked”. I have a “regular” single (has legs) commercial propane convection oven. Most certainly I will look at the resources you listed, thank you!

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