Why is my Bread Collapsing or Shrinking after Baking?

As a bread baker, you want to make sure that all your hard work is worth it. If you’re not aware of all the pitfalls, bread can easily collapse or shrink after it’s baked. These defects can be a negligible slight dimple to a giant crater! Either way, if there’s a way to avoid it, you’ll want to know how to prevent your bread collapsing or shrinking! So why does this happen? Well, first let’s look at the overlying reasons for bread to collapse:

Bread collapses after baking due to moisture remaining in the crumb. As bread cools, moisture escapes causing the bread to shrink. As it is released from the crumb, water latches onto the crust, making it heavier. The crust is pulled down by gravity and if the crumb structure isn’t strong, the crumb contracts. This leads to the crust collapsing or wrinkle lines appearing on the surface.

There are several reasons this could happen. The cause could be down to one single issue, but most likely it’ll be a combination of small faults. Fixing collapsing bread may take a handful of test batches. Expect to be patient and keep tweaking, even if you don’t succeed at first!

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Causes of bread collapsing after baking

There are seven things you should consider when fixing bread that is collapsing after baking. Cooling and shaping are important for any type of bread. But, depending on the bread being made there are two main avenues to focus on.

For quickly made bread, a low hydrated dough, plenty of kneading and a high protein flour is important.

For longer proofed artisan bread, give the dough plenty of time to ferment and master the baking temperature and duration.

Let’s look at these solutions in more detail. We’ll cover the reason for wrinkles in the crust afterwards as they are semi-related.

#1 Reduce the water in the recipe

A strong gluten network is reliant on well-hydrated flour. If a dough has too much moisture, it can cause the crumb to contract as it cools. Quickly made loaves generally prefer dryer doughs to avoid shrinkage. If your dough is too wet, lower the amount of water in the recipe next time. Baking for a little longer can also help solve the problem.

#2 Bake for longer

To make a dough structure less moist in an open crumb structure instead of lowering the hydration of the dough, bake it for longer. Use my guide on the ideal oven temperature for bread to see the perfect solution. A loaf with a crisp, set crust is more resistant to caving in as it cools.

#3 Extend the fermentation time

An artisan loaf needs plenty of time for water to soak the gluten. Awarding the dough more time to rest or adding an autolyse step allows it the gluten to. There will also be benefits from the increased amounts of organic acids and ethanol found in extended fermentation. This will strengthen the gluten and make the bread less resistant to collapse.

#4 Reduce the yeast/ more kneading

Bread can collapse if there is too much gas in a dough that is not mature enough. A weak gluten structure can create big irregular pockets of air through the crumb, sometimes called tunnelling. These are often found near the crust area which can cause the crust to sink as it cools. Reduce the amount of yeast used and increase the rise time, or knead for longer to fix the problem.

#5 Switch the flour

A weak crust causes bread to collapse. A common dilemma when commercially baking is when a new batch of flour arrives. The new flour makes the dough behave differently and can lead to more shrinkage or the bread collapsing. The type of flour used is also a key contributor to the chewiness of a loaf.

A strong crust comes from a well-developed dough. To achieve this, a flour with high-quality gluten which is well kneaded is essential. Sometimes lowering the water in the recipe can prevent recurrences. Otherwise, adding a little vital gluten powder or changing to a high protein bread flour can fix the problem.

#6 Work on your shaping

To control the rise of bread, shaping has a major impact. Stretching the outer membrane to create tension will help a lot. This provides support for the dough as it rises. Poor shaping is especially prevalent in bread machines. Here, the bread often collapses as the dough is not shaped. To find out more about shaping, see my shaping and preshaping guide.

#7 The importance of cooling

As the bread cools it needs to expel moisture from the crumb. It’s an important step in baking that is often not taken as seriously as it should. Moisture clings onto the starch particles on the outside edges of the crust as it exits the core of the cooling bread. This allows the starch to harden and burst which contributes to making the crusty crispy.

If the bread can’t escape from the edges because say, the bread remains in the tin after baking, or cooling loaves are lined up next to each other, we will have a problem!

As moisture can’t escape from the sides, it tries to force itself up through the weakest points on the top of the bread. This creates irregular patches of moisture which can lead to random craters on the surface of the bread or the loaf collapsing.

Why does my bread wrinkle on the surface?

It’s common to see bread, particularly soft rolls wrinkling once cool. All bread shrinks as it cools, but it’s more noticeable in soft types of bread. Soft bread contains more moisture, so as it cools the crust absorbs lots of water. This weighs down the crust which collapses as the bread shrinks to create wrinkles. They are not easy to prevent.

To make soft and fluffy bread, we use high amounts of yeast alongside fast mixing. These accelerate the proofing time and retain moisture in the crumb. They are baked quickly, again to keep a moist crumb. The issue of wrinkling occurs after baking when the rigid gluten structure allows moisture to escape upwards. The crust absorbs some of the escaping water and as its weight increases, it contracts. This pulls the crust down and reveals wrinkles on the surface.

How to stop my soft rolls from wrinkling after baking?

The best solution to prevent wrinkle lines on your bread is to give the tray a hard bang on the table as they leave the oven. This sets the crumb and prevents wrinkles from appearing. You can also try using high protein flour or baking for a longer time.

Should I cover the bread with a towel?

Covering the bread with a tea towel or similar during cooling is a popular way of softening bread. It works well for this purpose, but if you are finding wrinkles on the surface you might prefer to let the bread cool for a bit before adding the tea towel.

Other causes of wrinkles include high humidity, high proofing temperature, too much fat, too much sugar or over-proofing.

Why do my cinnamon rolls shrink after baking?

The most common reason for shrinkage is that the dough was chilled before shaping. This will cause the butter to be too cold and stiff, which can lead to a denser dough that doesn’t rise as well. Make sure your buns are at room temperature when you shape them so they don’t get too dense or tight.

Another possible culprit is over-kneading the dough. This could produce an elastic dough that’s more suitable for bread. Firm doughs contract more as they cool so you will end up with shrinking buns. Try and aim for a light and fluffy cake batter texture when you make cinnamon buns.

No-knead bread collapses after baking?

This is likely due to a lack of gluten development as the dough was not kneaded. To prevent this from occurring, place the dough in the fridge overnight. This will allow the gluten to develop in a compact network that doesn’t collapse after baking. 

Why does baked bread sink in the middle?

If there is too much moisture in the bread after baking, or the bread is underbaked in the centre, it may collapse as it cools. Bake for longer, lowering the temperature of the oven if the crust browns before the middle is cooked through.

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11 Comments

  1. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful info, specifically the last part 🙂 Thank you and good luck.

  2. Legend
    I’m off to try less water and yeast
    As I have been adding more
    The bread looks amazing then a big hollow appears in the top

  3. After baking, loaf looks perfect…I add melted butter to top crust after removing from pan, then wrap in plastic…sounds like I may be wrapping much too soon while bread is still warm??? It deflates a bit but tastes awesome..just want the high top crust…could this be my problem??? wrapping while too warm???

  4. Hi Jeannie, yes it could be the problem. I’m not sure what you mean by high top crust but the crumb structure continues to form as the bread cools so it’s best to wait for it to cool before wrapping.

  5. Hi,
    I’m baking a filipino style brioche, my problem is some of the brioche collapse after baking and some don’t. It’s all the same batch.
    What seems to be the problem?

  6. Probably heat spots in the oven and cool areas resulting in some loaves being underbaked. You should identify where the oven the bread is cool and move your loaves around during the last 5-10 minutes of baking. You’ll likely find that you will need to extend the baking time a little to ensure they are all fully baked. Using a probe to temperature check the loaves have come up to temp may be useful.
    Also, are you weighing your dough pieces when dividing? If not this could be a cause?

  7. My white sandwich loaves always collapse on the sides. It looks like it sucked in. Never the crust. What could be the problem? I use 13″ pullman pans without lid. Tried kneading and baking longer. Added Gluten as well with no change.

  8. Hi Neil, are you removing the loaves from the tins as soon as they come out of the oven? If not, you should.

    Aside from this, there are a few things you can try, not knowing the recipe that you are following I’ll just list a few other options to consider:
    – Reducing the water in the dough should help
    – Add more salt perhaps? Aim for 2-2.2% to the weight of the flour
    – It could be that the tin isn’t great at transferring heat to the sides of the bread in the oven. If you are not using a baking stone you’ll find that this will help. Sometimes it’s worth tipping the bread out of the tin and putting back in the oven for a few minutes to crispen up.

    Does it collapse straight away or after it cools?

  9. I use a no knead recipe that typically works well. It’s very cold outside today (-3F) and my kitchen can be drafty. So I put the bread in the oven to rise (using only the heat from the lightbulb). It rose nicely, but when I took the bread out of the oven to pre-heat the oven, part of the loaf fell. I’m guessing this is from the cooler air in the kitchen. Can you offer any suggestions for successful bread baking on a cold day? Thank you!

  10. Hi Marissa, wow that’s cold -ouch! A difference in temperature shouldn’t make the dough collapse, it’ll have most likely collapsed as it is overproofed by the time the oven warms up.

    I’m not sure what type of bread you are making but I would use the oven with the light on again and take the bread out at 1/2 or 3/4’s proof height. The yeast will keep rising the bread for a while anyway. If this doesn’t work you’ll need to strengthen the gluten a little by adding more stretch and folds/kneading to build up strength

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