Baking bread is a lot of fun, and just the thought of having a nice, warm slice of bread with some melted butter on it is enough to make anyone drool. But sometimes baking the bread does not go according to plan, and the bread can collapse, leaving you disappointed. So, why does your bread collapse?
Several factors can cause your bread to collapse, including adding too much water to your dough, there could be problems with the yeast you used, you may have over-proofed your bread dough, or maybe you did not knead dough enough. It can be difficult to find the reason this happened.
As there are many causes to this particular problem, you may need to go through them all, but how do you fix all these causes that make your bread collapse? Let us find out!
Reasons Why Your Bread Collapses
Having your bread collapse on you can be very disappointing as it takes time to make a good loaf of bread, and now it just seems like that time was wasted. This can leave you wondering what happened to your bread and why did it collapse.
Unfortunately, there are several reasons this problem may occur, and it can be challenging to pin down which one caused your bread to collapse. But let us go through the reasons so that you can maybe find the one that suits your situation the most.
1 – There Is Too Much Water in Your Dough
One of the most common causes for a loaf of bread to collapse is adding too much water to the dough as you mix it. Water is a needed ingredient in the bread dough, as a strong gluten mesh needs well-hydrated flour to be created.
But if there is too much water in your dough, this moisture can cause the bread to collapse as it cools after baking. This is especially true with quickly made loaves of bread as these types of quick bread recipes need the dough to be dryer to avoid shrinking when it’s cooling.
If your bread dough was too wet, then adjust the recipe for next time and see if that helps stop your bread from collapsing, or you can try baking the bread for a little bit longer as this can help evaporate some of that moisture.
2 – Problems with the Yeast in Your Dough
When you are making your bread dough, the most important ingredient is the yeast that you add to the dough mixture, and if your bread is collapsing, your yeast could be to blame.
The problem could be that your yeast is too old; you need to remember that yeast is a living organism, and if it is left in your kitchen cabinet for too long, it can expire, meaning the yeast can die. If you use this expired yeast in your bread dough, your bread will not rise properly and collapse.
So, you should always test your yeast before you use it if you know it has been in your kitchen cabinet for a while. Another issue could be that you used too little yeast in your dough mixture.
If there is not enough yeast in your bread dough, then the dough will need a lot of extra time to proof as the small amount of yeast needs this time to create the gluten mesh that helps the bread rise.
If you use a smaller amount of yeast in your dough and do not give it extra proofing time, then your bread will collapse either in the oven or as you take it out.
3 – The Temperature That You Baked the Bread At
The temperature at which you bake your bread is extremely important, but unfortunately, all ovens are not the same, and they all have their gimmicks that can affect the temperature inside them.
You need to get to know your oven and how it works with all the little tricks it needs to work the way you need it to so you can bake your bread without collapsing. Some ovens will run cooler or hotter than their settings, which can affect the cooking time of your bread.
If your oven runs hotter and you are unaware of this, your bread will come out pretty crispy and brown on the outside of the bread but doughy on the inside, which can cause the bread to collapse when you take your bread out of the oven.
Alternatively, if your oven runs colder than the settings, the bread will not rise in the oven properly, and it will come out dense and sunken. If you do not know your oven well and you suspect the temperatures could be the problem causing your bread to collapse, you need to experiment with your oven.
4 – You Did Not Proof Your Dough Long Enough
Proofing your bread dough before you bake it is an essential part of the bread-making process and should be done with all bread recipes. When you proof your bread dough, you need to ensure you proof it for the right amount of time for the specific type of bread you are making.
The bread dough needs time for the gluten in it to develop as the yeast can then eat the starch that is in the flour. The yeast will then convert this starch into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
The only way for the gluten to develop enough to start this whole process is by kneading the dough and allowing it to proof. If you do not let your bread dough proof enough, this will affect the structure of the gluten mesh in your dough, and the dough will collapse.
When you are proofing your dough, you need to remember that the two crucial elements to make the proofing process work are time and temperature. If your kitchen is cold, the bread dough will need a longer time to proof, whereas if it is warmer, the dough will take less time to proof.
Remember to check on your bread dough while it is proofing to ensure it gets enough to proof properly, which may take longer than the recipe says, depending on your kitchen’s environment.
5 – You Over-Proofed Your Bread Dough
If you notice that your bread dough collapses when you slash the dough before you bake the bread or transfer the dough from the proofing basket to the pan or bread-making machine, this can indicate that your dough is over-proofed.
This is a common problem and generally indicates that the bread dough is over-proofed. The proofing stage is the final stage before you bake your bread, and this is where your bread dough is the most susceptible to collapsing.
Over-proofing your bread dough will result in your bread collapsing or flattening as the bread bakes. The reason for this collapse is that the yeast in your bread dough has exhausted itself, and it no longer has the energy to keep rising the dough as the bread bakes in the oven.
This is also because the bread dough has expanded too much, so when you place it in your oven, the dough cannot rise anymore as the yeast in the dough cannot produce more gasses to help it, so the dough collapses.
This problem is more likely to happen if your bread recipe takes a long time to make, as you can easily misjudge the proofing time of your bread dough.
To stop this from happening, you need to strictly stick to the proofing time mentioned in your bread recipes and set a timer so you do not forget.
6 – Mishandling of the Dough Can Collapse It
There will be a few times where you notice that your bread dough starts to collapse or flatten when you transfer it from one place to another. This is especially true with doughs that have high hydration levels, like a ciabatta bread dough.
You need to always be careful and gentle when handling these types of doughs, as they have a very fragile gluten mesh.
If you are too rough when you handle your dough and knead it, for example, bashing the dough on your kitchen counter can break the delicate gluten mesh and cause gases to escape from the dough. If this happens, your bread dough will either collapse before you bake it or during the time it is baking in the oven.
To help avoid this problem with your bread dough, you need to be gentle with it when you are handling it in any way. Even though most bread dough is pretty forgiving, all bread dough can be damaged in this way if you are not careful enough with it.
So, remember to always have a gentle touch with your bread dough, no matter the bread you are making, and ensure you use the correct tools, like a bench scraper, when moving your dough as this will help avoid putting any pressure on the dough.
7 – You Did Not Knead Your Bread Dough Enough
Kneading is an important part of the bread-making process, so it should not be skipped to save time. Kneading your dough once it has been proofed for the right amount of time helps create the gluten mesh that allows your dough to rise and stay risen when it comes out of the oven.
If this gluten mesh is not developed enough as you did not knead your bread dough for the correct amount of time, your bread dough will rise fast but then quickly collapse when you handle the bread dough after proofing.
This is due to the gluten mesh not being strong enough to hold the gases in the dough after proofing.
With this problem, even though your dough collapses before you even start baking your bread, you will only notice it during the baking stage when the gases escape from the dough, and the bread flattens out.
To fix this problem, ensure that you knead your dough for the correct amount of time and use the right method for the type of bread you are making. You can also test to see if the gluten mesh n your dough is strong enough or if you need to knead it more through a simple test.
This test is known as the windowpane test, and to conduct it, you need to take a small piece of your bread dough and stretch it between your fingers. If you get a nice thin piece of dough where light can shine through it and the dough does not break, then there is a good gluten mesh present.
Why Does Your Sourdough Bread Collapse?
When baking sourdough bread, and it collapses, this is extra disappointing as sourdough bread generally takes quite a few more hours of preparation than normal bread.
So, if you think that your sourdough bread is not collapsing based on any of the reasons mentioned above, then there are a few other things that may be the culprit. The first thing you should look at, though, is your sourdough starter.
If your sourdough starter is young or it is not strong enough yet to bake with, and you use it in your bread dough, this will cause your sourdough to collapse. If you do not feed your sourdough starter enough, this can also affect the bread you make with it.
To ensure this does not happen to your sourdough bread, make sure your sourdough starter is strong and ready to be used in baking. You can do this by feeding your starter once or twice a day for two weeks before you try to bake with it.
More Tips to Help Stop Your Bread Collapsing
If you have gone through and fixed everything mentioned above that could be causing your bread to collapse and you are still having trouble with it, there are a few extra things you can look out for that may help you avoid your bread collapsing next time you make it.
- You can try using different flour, as some flours offer more support to the structure of the bread than others.
- Ensure you shape your bread correctly, as shaping the dough has a big impact on the rising of the bread. If you do not shape it well, it could collapse, especially if you are not using a loaf tin.
- Be careful when you score your bread; if you are too rough, it can cause your bread to collapse.
- Remember to use slat in your bread dough recipe as this can affect the rise of your dough and can cause your bread to collapse if it is not present.
- Ensure you use the correct amount of flour in your bread dough recipe as the yeast needs it to make the bread rise.
- Never add the salt for your recipe directly to the yeast when making your bread dough, as this can kill the yeast.
Baking bread can be a challenging task as so much can go wrong and cause your bread to collapse. There are so many aspects you need to remember to do when you are baking your bread to ensure it doesn’t collapse.
There are many outside factors that can cause this problem, which you also need to account for, but if you go through all the factors mentioned above, your next loaf of bread should be perfect!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Wednesday 21st of December 2022
Can you tell me or do you have a video on when and how to hit an even distribution of add-ins in my sourdough? Such as jalapeños and cheese?
Monday 26th of September 2022
Thank you, this article helped me figure out that my "scalded flour" gluten free millet and corn mixture bread fell, probably due to too much water. The scalded flour plus the same amount of water as always was too much. I'll scale back the moisture. Much appreciated. I'd love some tips on whole grain, gluten free baking. Many such guides have literally contradictory advice. I wish they'd stick to giving advice specific to certain flours. For instance, using quinoa just doesn't work for me no matter what advice. I stick to millet, rice, corn and buckwheat. I'm starting to try some bean flours like garbanzo. But one change at a time, it will take a while.
America's test kitchen supposedly tried some "other" flours, but their recipes are mostly all tapioca starch, etc. I don't like processed starches. I want whole grains. I let the yeast process the starch. :)
Monday 16th of January 2023
@Allia, You sound a lot like me. I’ve been making sourdough bread using a recipe from Bob’s Red Mill. It’s millet and sorghum flours, so all whole grain. I’m not interested in the refined grains either. This morning I made my best loaf of bread so far by reducing the water in the recipe by more than half a cup. It’s the first time it didn’t sag in the middle.