Loaf Troubleshooting - Two Ways To Screw Up The Shape

homemade bread loaf
It's 'that lid-lifting thing'. Alas, I've often had this problem but now I have a solution.

I call it 'lid-lifting' - when the loaf rises more on one side than the other and does a big split along one side where some of the middle tries to splurge out.

It's so annoying, sometimes. You've followed the recipe perfectly, you've done your absolute best but the loaf still manages to morph into a treasure chest with a dodgy lid.

homemade bread

Not only does it look bad, it makes the loaf frustratingly difficult to cut.

So, I'm glad I can finally bring you The Answer.

It's thanks to my mum, really. She made a suggestion ages ago, in a comment on an article about Baking Brown Loaves. The same solution is also mentioned in a Fabulous Baker Brothers book I was browsing through at the weekend.

It's all to do with the proving. And there are two ways to get it wrong. You might end up with lid-lifting or you might end up with something worse. Let's look at both errors.

Two Ways To Screw Up The Shape Of Your Loaf During Proving

Proving? What's that again?

Proving - that second rising stage, just before baking, seems as if it should be the easy bit.

It is easy, in a way. Just leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size or reached the top of the tin and then bake it.

That is fine. I haven't noticed my family having any difficulty devouring my bread, however strangely it may be shaped.

But mis-shapen loaves won't win any beauty contests.

To make beautifully shaped loaves, you've got to be a bit more savvy with the proving.

If your loaves are looking ugly, you may be making one of these errors.

Over Proving

If you leave your dough to prove for too long, the pockets of gas that are responsible for the rising become unfeasibly large. The gluten structure of the dough is no longer capable of holding the gas. On baking, when the gas expands even further in the hot oven, the gluten bubbles burst like over-inflated balloons and the bread collapses.

The result is the 'something worse' I was alluding to earlier: a dense loaf with a sunken top. I've made my fair share of these, don't worry, I've just been too vain to take pictures of them. If it happens again I'll be sure to let you see :o)

Under Proving

When the dough isn't given enough time to rise, the uneven heat from the oven can cause the process to happen unevenly by speeding it up in some parts of the dough more than others. This is what creates the lid-lifting effect and results in a loaf with a split along one side and some of the middle splurging out. You've seen plenty of pictures of that round here, I know.

Perfect Proving?

You could try my prod test (disclaimer: I wrote that post before I discovered the Formula For Great Dough and everything changed around here) but perfect proving is probably just a matter of trial and error.

As a guide, here's what my bread looks like, when it's ready to go in the oven:

homemade loaf proved

Those baking brothers, mentioned above, suggest that you let the dough rise just to the top of the tin the first time and see if that works perfectly. If not, let it rise well above the tin the second time and see if that's better. If not, let it rise to an in-between point and see if that's a success. Chances are you can have it sussed in just three tries, which isn't bad going.

Need More Tips?


  1. Thanks for the help! I grew up baking bread with my dad but now that I've grown up and moved away I can't seem to make it right :)

  2. My dough on second proving is going over the sides instead of rising above the tin. Do I a) stiffen the dough b) buy taller tins, c) use baking paper to make a collar or d) scream out loud!

    1. I'm going for option a) combined with option d) maybe bake it sooner. Could it be over-proved?

    2. ^^ Think I meant combined with option e) but a little d) might not go amiss ;)

  3. Thank you, now i know what is going wrong maybe it is not proving long enough in the baking pan, although i am folowing the instructions, but i think the visual check will do it.

    1. Good! I hope your next attempt will be a step closer to perfect!


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