The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Burnt bread--stone problem?

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Burnt bread--stone problem?

Reliably, every time I bake just about any kind of bread, the tops contrive to darken too much well before the bread ought to be done. Generally I end up pulling the loaves out early, but I always feel like they'd be better baked longer. I've checked the oven temperature with an over thermometer, and it doesn't appear to be at fault.  I generally bake with a 14x16 inch stone on the middle shelf, and a steam pan underneath.  I've tried putting the stone on the bottom rack, but this results in the bottoms burning quite thoroughly before the tops get any color    Lately I've noticed that breads not baked on the stone (bagels, in particular) don't seem to have this problem, and I'm wondering if the stone has something to do with it.

So, my question to the forum is this: What's going wrong here, and how might I fix it?

davidm's picture

I'm wondering if you have a gas or electric oven, firstly, and also how are you setting the bake temps? Some of the newer electric ovens run the broiler element in addition to the bottom element depending on the mode you run them in.

Are you reducing the temp. setting after a while during the bake?

In my oven (electric) I have to start out at 450 to 500, depending on the kind of bread, in "bake" mode (and definitely not "roast" mode), and then cut down to 425 or even 400 after about ten or fifteen minutes, after any steaming is complete. Even lower sometimes, for really big breads, or they will get overbrown before fully baking inside.

LindyD's picture

Is the top of the crust actually burnt or just a bold dark brown?  If you check the photo of David Snyder's bread at the top of the TFL home page, under the scoring tutorial headline, you'll see that the side of the loaf is a rich dark brown, while the lighter area is where the bread was scored.

Are you checking the internal temperature of the bread when you remove it from the oven?  That will tell you whether it is underbaked or not. 

I don't know what breads you are baking, but I do know that some breads shouldn't be baked on a stone.  Generally the recipe will tell you that.  I don't think the stone is responsible for the color of the top of the crust.

If you are baking in a gas oven, then your stone and setup is the same as mine: 14 x 16 stone on the middle shelf with steam pan underneath.  It may be a matter of aesthetics: I prefer a dark crust; others like a lighter color.

I've never tried it, but you might try covering the loaves with a roasting pan to see if that helps.  Lots of folks here do that.  Or turn down the oven temperature after 15 minutes.  You'll have to adjust the bake time, but checking the internal temperature of the dough will be a big help.

JIP's picture

One question, how long are you pre-heating.  A possibility might be if you are throwing your bread on a cold stone it is taking a long time for the bottom to heat up and the top is baking prematurely.  Personally, and I think this is pretty much a general rule I like to heat my stone up a MINIMUM of 45 minutes if not a whole hour.  If you don't do this your stone might be cold and stay cold for quite some time while the rest of your oven is hot.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Let's see, need to fill in a few details, sorry.  I have an electric oven.  I'm pretty sure the broiler element isn't the problem--awhile back the lower coil blew and the thing stopped being able to heat in a reasonable amount of time.  I have started reducing the temperature a bit, I guess I'll keep doing that and play aroudn with the temperature.

They are, in fact burning, rather than turning brown--I've left them in when I thought they were getting too dark, seeking a deep brown, and ended up with black.

And I do preheat thoroughly, at least 45 minutes.

davidm's picture

OK. Unless you have one of the newer gee-whiz ovens I would think it's not the broiler element either.

You moved the stone up to the middle rack from the bottom and that stopped burned bottoms. Mine is in the middle too, and it's fine there. 

I bet if you back off on the heat a little as the bake progresses you'll see an improvement. Often, in my oven anyway, the bigger the breads, the more I have to back off, or the crust will be beyond the right color before the middle is finished baking.

Some recipes' instructions are pretty close to good for my oven, and some are a little off, and I have to experiment to find the right strategy to fit the bread in question. Once I get it though, it's good time after time. I learned to make notes, finally, after repeatedly forgetting what I did the time before. 


PaddyL's picture

Just cover the loaves with aluminum foil and they won't brown too much.