Why is My Bread Expanding at the Bottom?

A common problem for new home bakers is the expansion or explosion of bread in the base. It can happen at the side or the bottom, but either way, it’s not rising upwards where you want it to! Is your bread expanding at the bottom? If this is happening, continue scrolling to learn what causes it. This will prevent your favourite bread like sourdough or cottage loaf from looking unpleasant! Yum!!

The process of ‘oven spring’ happens when bread rises after a few minutes of baking inside the oven. But bread doughs are composed of gluten structures that aren’t perfectly linear. When a dough can’t find a way to rise upwards, pressure builds up in weak areas. The gas eventually forces through the base of the bread to create what looks like an explosion

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Why does the bread expand at the bottom?

The burst or rupture of the bread dough will always happen on its weakest point. This often happens as the bread explodes on the surface of a loaf through the ruptures. But if the bread can’t rise up, it has to expand at the bottom.

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To discover the cause of the explosion we need to review the process and techniques used to make the bread. Listed below are some factors or mistakes that may cause your bread to expand at the bottom:

1- The surface of the bread has dried up

The moistness of the surface of the dough is always a big deal in baking. If your crust is too dry, it will harden before the bread actually gets the chance to rise. It will also prevent the bread from expanding inside the oven. Due to this, the gas pressure will find a way to escape. It will then create small ruptures in unwanted areas so it can expand.

2- You are using a fan oven

A fan oven cooks food quicker as it blows away moisture from the surface to intensify the heat. While it’s great for cooking, for bread not baked in a Dutch oven it will dry the bread out and prevent it from rising upwards.

3- There was not enough heat in the oven

One of the common problems is uneven heat distribution. To distribute heat into the base of the bread properly a baking stone should be used. If you have not got one, there are plenty to choose from, here’s the baking stone I recommend as it’s made from the same material used in professional bakers ovens:

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Standard sandwich or artisan bread should be baked at 220-240C (430-460F). If the oven isn’t preheated fully with the baking stone you can also have issues. The bottom part of the oven is not being heated up enough to bake and cook your dough.

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4- The bread was not scored deep enough

As the crust of the bread hardens, the pressure inside of it builds up, which causes the bursting to happen. To release most of the air pressure, loaves of bread are slashed or scored on top. But one of the most common mistakes in doing this is not having a deep enough score. A depth of 3/4 inch is best advised for this.

5- The bread dough was under-proofed

Your bread dough will be under-proofed if you’re not letting it rise fully. This will result in a weak bread structure, which is unable to support the weight of its own dough. Since bread expands when gas is produced by yeast, it will continue to expand at its weakest point.

6- Too much mixing and kneading

Mixing and kneading are important in preparing bread dough. However, over-mixing can make the structure of your bread too tight and tough. This will cause the over development of surface tension. Any water left might not be able to evaporate correctly when it’s inside the oven. This results in uneven heat distribution throughout your dough.

7- There was excessive moisture in the oven

Your bread could be suffering from too much moisture. This is a common problem for people who use a water bath as their method for adding water to an oven. The excess moisture will delay your bread dough from rising. And it can be difficult to predict because it’s affected by the temperature, humidity level, and the flour you’re using.

How to fix bread expanding at the bottom with a loaf pan

Given all the factors above, the simplest way to solve the problem of bread expanding at the bottom is to use a loaf pan. May it be a classic loaf pan, cast iron, or a dutch oven. Rising and baking your bread in a pan will all confine your bread to its shape. They will make the sides and bottom of the bread rigid and strong so won’t allow the dough to burst sideways or downwards. They force the bread to rise upwards.

The only issue this method might have in a weak dough is it can release gas pressure and create a crack on the top crust. This is common for bakers who have just started baking with yeast or making their own bread dough. Not to fear, it can be rectified by using the same methods described above. But alas if not, you’re more likely to have a loaf that you can share with pride anyway!

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2 Comments

  1. My sourdough loaves have good spring, colour, and crumb, but when I turn them over there are divots- pale dents, sometimes 2 inches deep, on the bottom.

  2. Hi Laurie, can you send a picture to the email address I’ve sent to you? What are you using to bake the bread? Dutch oven, baking stone, tin?
    Thanks Gareth

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