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 significant 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…!
What is the science behind collapsing bread?
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 poor handling.
When can bread collapse?
Bread can collapse during proofing, slashing, when transferred to the oven or during the first ten minutes of baking. Usually, the dough collapses 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:
Yeast produces carbon dioxide gas and ethanol through fermentation when the dough rises. 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 good (fresh) for longer.
Acetic acid fermentation also produces carbon dioxide gas to boost the dough’s rise. This is prevalent in sourdough starters, where they’re responsible for around 50% of gas production (alongside 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 use artisan long fermentation techniques a high-quality artisan flour is generally needed. It is unnecessary to use bread flour for every bread. All-purpose flour often works, providing it’s from a reputable mill.
If your first rise is relatively short, you should knead the dough well to work the gluten so that it’s nice and robust. High-protein flour is also best used as it contains more gluten. This is so important as the dough needs the structure to retain the maximum amount of gas possible for a more significant rise and prevents the bread from being dense.
#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 for 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 stopping it from getting too gassy. Too much gas early on forces the dough structure to collapse as the weak gluten cannot contain its weight.
#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 using less yeast or a weaker levain such as sourdough. 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 is likely to 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 recipe with a high ratio of starter (~40%) to flour should rise less before it is shaped.
#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.
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, it is over-proofed.
Note: If you are not sure whether your dough has finished proofing, it’s better to underproof than overproof.
#5 Careful when scoring!
A delicate dough can also collapse when scoring. If you think you’ve over-proofed the dough, don’t weaken its structure 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 has 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 in the banneton before it goes into proof is one of my most frustrating misdeeds! Also, in my aim to reduce dry flour on the base of the loaf, I sometimes under-flour the peel making the dough stick to it. Very frustrating!
TIP: 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 on bread collapsing in the oven
These top 6 tips should prevent your bread from collapsing in the oven or just before. Which ones will you try? Let me know in the comments below or ask any questions!
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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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Have you done any testing with an extensograph or anything to determine the properties of the flour? It could be that the mixing times used by the bakery are not suited to the wheat. It could need more kneading, or, (more likely) suit a more artisan, gentle mix with a medium length bulk. Bread tends to collapse if it has been “pushed” too long in either mixing or bulk fermentation.
This information has really helped! I am new at this and didn’t know I should not slash my whole wheat bread. I will know for next time and hopefully it won’t collapse when baking! I will also be mindful of the other tips as I go along! Thanks again!
I’m so frustrated. I’m coeliac so am experimenting with a combination of gluten free flours. It always rises well but within 15-20m of hitting the baking heat it loses its dome shape and sinks through the centre. Still has a nice texture and tastes great but it looks awful. I’ve tried a little less moisture same problem. Then I tried a little less yeast, same result. I’m thinking a tiny bit more sugar to feed the yeast and prove less time??? Any suggestions gratefully received.
I have a 4-loaf whole wheat honey bread recipe (7-1/2 cups whole wheat, 6 cups white flour). I use a hand cranked bread mixer. The recipe says to mix for 10 minutes, let double, knead with the mixer for 10 minutes, then form into loaves. Let rise in the oven with a pan of warm water. Starting in the cold oven, bake 15 min at 400° then 15 minutes at 350°. It falls during baking every time. I’ve tried mixing longer, kneading longer, kneading by hand… it still falls. Help!
It’s unusual to suggest that you knead for ten minutes, let it double in size and then knead again for ten minutes. In fact, it’s a crazy idea! Try kneading for 10 minutes, leave it to naturally ferment in the fridge for 2 hours, and then at room temperature until it reaches a 50% rise. Then shape, proof and bake as described. This method is pretty reliable, you can then try doubling in size before shaping, or kneading longer if you want to experiment/improve it.
Hi Amit, this is a very complex recipe, so it’s a bit hard to advise as every ingredient will have certain benefits and drawbacks. Where did you find it? Salt looks quite low, I’d be using 2% – 20 grams which would strengthen the protein. 3% yeast is a lot, and 30 minutes is a very short rise. What happens if you use less yeast?
Hi Gareth, thanks a lot for your reply. Ijust tried to make a Multigrain gluten free vegan bread hence choosed this blend of flours. Salt i can increase to 2%, but if I drop yeast to 2% than it’ll take more time to rise.
That slower rise might provide time for the structure of the dough to strengthen and not collapse in the oven. This is true in wheat flour, but I’m not 100% sure how the proteins and binders behave that are used in this recipe. I’d try using half the yeast if I were you anyway and see if it helps.
Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baking coach, head baker and bread-baking fanatic! My aim is to use science, techniques and 15 years of baking experience to help you become a better baker.