The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Time or Temp?

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blackhorse16a's picture

Time or Temp?

Yesterday I Baked Reinhart's French bread from BBA. I took them out after 33 minutes, even though they were nit yet very golden brown (nervous rookie). Also the crumb was a little dense, no big holes.

Should I increase the temp (450º) or  the bake time?



fancypantalons's picture

The BBA french bread doesn't really generate the nice, big holes you see in a lot of the photos you see around here.  And that shouldn't be too much of a surprise if you look at the hydration for that dough:  it's pretty standard, somewhere in the low-70s range if I recall (72%?  That seems to ring a bell, but it's been a while since I looked).

Additionally, in my experience, that bread doesn't develop a really dark crumb... a golden brown is pretty typical.

That said, the BBA recommends an artisnal baking procedure that involves using a high initial temperature + steaming to get a nice, deep, thick crust.  This involves starting at a nice, high temperature (I use 475) for the first couple minutes while steaming.  Then drop down to the recommended temperature for the recipe for the rest of the bake.

blackhorse16a's picture

I did the BBA steaming & temp procedure. My Wolf oven ahs a strong exhaust fan, which I can't turn off, and that does not make the steaming effective, I think.

I had tried the pain l'ancienne recipe (high hydration) with poor results. I really want  an airy crumb and a crispy crust.

Yumarama's picture

you may want to look into doing a "cloche" bake which simply means covering the bread with perhaps


  • a clay cloche made specifically for the purpose (and priced as such)

  • an inexpensive aluminum roasting pan 

  • a stainless steel cover from a serving tray


Basically, the goal is simply to seal up the loaves once you put them into the oven on a flat surface so that the humidity of the bread itself stays in and keeps the loaves soft during the initial baking time, just as would happen if you steamed the entire oven. Except in a smaller space and the bread basically "steams" itself. After 10 or so minutes you'd remove the cover and let the loaves bake as normal. 

The trick will be to find some sort of cover big enough to go over a typically long baguette.

But a question arises: if you oven exhausts the steam, it would logically also exhaust the heat... so how does that work? Just curious.

fancypantalons's picture

Well, if you want an open crumb, the pain l'ancienne recipe is the way to go... it's pretty close to ciabatta, as far as hydration goes, and I get decent sized holes with that recipe.  If you didn't get the same results, I'd suggest taking another crack at it.  Just make sure to adjust the hydration to get the described texture (remember, flour and water vary, so you can't go 100% by the book... around here, for example, I always have to add extra water to get the consistency I want), and ensure you're handling the dough extremely gently while shaping and loading the oven. 

I'd also suggest letting the shaped dough rise a bit before doing the final bake.  The recipe doesn't require it, but if you look at the text, he suggests a bit of a rise if you want a more open, ciabatta-like crumb.

plevee's picture

I learned this manoeuvre from Dom, an Australian baker.

Preheat the oven and stone to 500 or 550F with a cast iron pan or similar below the stone. Slide in the bread, pour boiling water into the heated pan, close the door & turn the oven OFF for 10-12mins. then reset your thermostat to the recommended baking temperature & bake for another 20-25mins. If there is still water in the pan, take it out when you turn the oven on again.

I've been doing it this way for years & get much better oven spring and crust than baking with convection for the whole time because the bread is exposed to steam till you restart the fan. My oven maintains the heat & is generally 425F when I turn it on again.


blackhorse16a's picture

Fancy, I'll try the pain l'ancienne again, but how would you describe the "consistency you want"?

Patsy, it's not the convection fan but another exhaust fan. Not sure how it works, but it continues to run even after I shut off the oven, until the oven cools down! Obviously Wolf was not thinking of bread making when designing this oven.

fancypantalons's picture

"Fancy, I'll try the pain l'ancienne again, but how would you describe the "consistency you want"?"

Hah, great question!  I try to use the descriptions in the text itself to figure out what the dough should feel like.  And then I err on the side of a little more water. :)

Truth be told, though, the only real option is practice and tweaking until you get the outcome you want.  Just don't be afraid to create a *very* slack dough that's really hard to work with. :)