Oven spring is the rapid expansion of bread dough in the first few minutes after entering a pre-heated oven. This swelling is caused by increased fermentation as the yeast react to the higher temperature, the heat-expansion of the carbon dioxide gas in the dough, and the outward pressure caused as water in the dough turns to steam and escapes to the surface. The amount of oven spring will determine the texture and volume of the finished loaf.
Oven spring can cause the crust of a baking loaf to break open; bakers deliberately slash some types of loaf to allow the crust to break in a controlled way.
Want to find out more? Look at the chapter on baking in the book flour and water.
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