The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Half-cooked bread

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Hallux's picture
Hallux

Half-cooked bread

This seems like it would be pretty basic, but a search of the forums didn't find an answer.


Usually the way to tell if bread is properly cooked is to time it (if you really trust the recipe) or to thump it on the bottom and see if it sounds hollow.  I've gotten a number of false-positives from the last method, especially when I'm making deep/tall loaves.  It's cooked a couple inches in on all sides, but the middle is kind of gooey and falling in. 


How can I rescue such loaves?  I cool the loaves before I cut into them, and even then, the first few slices look okay.  I'm left with a part-raw loaf that is both cool and cut open, and putting it back in the oven gives it a funny texture.  Can loaves like that even be saved?


Perhaps an even better question is how can I be sure tall loaves actually are cooked all the way through?

Caltrain's picture
Caltrain

Do you have a themometer? If not, an instant-read thermometer is an invaluable tool; just poke 'er in and make sure the middle of the bread registers 190-195 degrees F, or 205+ for lean doughs.


If I'm afraid the loaf might scorch if I bake it further, covering it with a piece of aluminum foil does the trick nicely.

pancakes's picture
pancakes

Timing is not really an accurate way to tell if bread is done.  Like the first response says, a thermometer is the best way to tell if it is cooked all the way.  I have never been let down by it. 

Chris Scherer's picture
Chris Scherer

I use a probe thermometer, but I don't insert it until an estimated 3/4 of they way through baking. It beeps when it hits the temperature I set. You will have a small, unsightly line in the bread where the thermometer was, but I think its worth it.


I find if I insert the thermometer too early it does more damage to the internal structure.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have a meat thermometer and a metal candy thermometer, both work just fine for testing the inside temp.  The candy one actually has a clip on it I can move up and down the probe and use it to keep the probe from over shooting the middle of the loaf.  I test when I think the loaf is done.


If the outsides look done to you, and yet the insides are not, then perhaps the oven its set too hot and should be reduced.  That way the inside of the loaf has a chance to bake and get done as the outside in browning.  Try lowering the oven temperature.


 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I recently baked a sourdough pumpernickel in a clay Romertopf that was a hefty 3.8 pounds.  Also, I had purchased an instant probe thermometer and had used it perhaps 6 times before taking a reading on this loaf.  The left side of the loaf which was toward the back of the oven and measured at about half the distance into the loaf came up to 204.  For some reason, I took another measure on the right side  about 3/4 of the way through and toward the front of the oven.  I was quite surprised to see it barely reach 185 and I let it sit for at least 20 seconds thinking it needed more time, but it never went any higher.   I decided to let the sit in the hot oven, which I had turned off, with the lid of the clay pot off, as well.  After about 5 minutes I extracted the loaf and it sounded hollow when I tapped it.  And no, I never did probe the loaf again after the 185 reading.  


The end result was that slightly more than the upper half was done perfectly, the bottom was another story.  It was quite a bit more dense than the top, and it was quite damp.  I have had to toast each slice to help remove some of the moisture.  My concern is why would this loaf read and bake in such a strange way, i.e., nicely risen and done on the upper half, and very damp and dense on the lower half?  What was the significance of the two readings: upper at 204 and lower at 185?


My guesses are that the oven cooks unevenly with more heat on the left side than the right; secondly, the dough was too wet too begin with.  I recall the loaf was tacky, but not sticky.  Oh, one last thing that may be significant,  I put the loaf into a hot clay pot of 450 and then after 5 minutes realized it should have been put in at 485 and then raised it to that temp.  I then lowered it after 30 minutes to 450 for ten minutes.  The outer crust seemed to be on the verge of burning---that's when I took it out and gave it the hollow thump test.


If anyone has some tips or other illumination that my explain these anomalies, I would greatly appreciate hearing them.  Bernie PIel

Caltrain's picture
Caltrain

Have you tried adjusting the rack to a lower position? It sounds like the heating is not only uneven from the sides, but from top and bottom as well!

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Yes, the Romertopf was on the lowest setting.  Also, in response to Mini-oven, I did not soak the clay because as the last commentator states, the steam generated from the moisture inside the bread dough should remain in the clay and effectively cook the dough.  Also, there would have been an abundance of steam due to the moisture inside this loaf.  I think though that all of you have hit upon the right solution which is, in a phrase, "to even hot the cooking process both in temp and time".  What that equates to is to move the clouche to avoid hot spots, and I'm pretty sure this oven has a hot spot on the rear left side; secondly to cook longer and at a slightly lower temp to avoid the possible burning issue, which didn't happen in this instance but was a minute or so away from reaching the burn stage.


I think one of things I want to do is to review the recommend oven temps for the wetter "NK" recipes because I really thought the wetness of this heavy dough could have been a major contributor to its wetness.


Finally, I just wanted to say thanks for the great tips and taking your time to help me on this bread making journey.  I will definitely try the tip about testing the probe temp from the bottom of the loaf--that was novel to me.


Bernie Piel


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Soaking the Römertopf is not for the bread directly but to distribute the heat inside the clay structure of the pot itself so it can transfer the heat more evenly.  Rotating the pot also helps but with heavy doughs like pumpernickel, a lower heat is best.  Try 450°F for the first 25 min and then lower to 425°F for the rest of the bake.  It will take a little longer but be more even and thoroughly baked.


I repeat what I said above, when the outside seems to be baking faster than the inside, when the outside is done but not the inside, the oven temperature is too high.   Lower it a little and bake a little longer to see if that helps.  Then make a mark your recipe to note the changes.  There are no prizes for using the hottest oven.


On the heavier breads, it is important to take a temp reading about 1 - 1 1/2 inches up from the bottom.  That is the zone in these breads that seems to take the longest time to bake.  When reading the probe, if the needle doesn't go up to 170° quickly and seems to go slowly, more reason to stick it back into the oven.  Don't let the loaf cool down waiting 5 minutes for the needle to reach actual temperature.  The last 5°F take longer to make the needle move, so it should rapidly move up to within 5°F of your ideal.


Mini

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I didn't soak it because it was preheating in the oven for 30 minutes, so I thiink the steam would have been evaporated by the time I put the loaf into the hot clay.  I think the idea of starting at 450 and lowering to 425 for a longer bake is a really good idea with these heavy loafs, Mini. 


My oven stones were delivered the day after this loaf was baked, so I'm very interested in cooking on the stone.  I like the round loaf shapes, especially for these heavier doughs.  Have any suggestions before I try that.  Would you still bake at 450 and drop to 425 when you are cooking on a stone?  Also, since there is no place to "encapsulate" the moisture, would you spray water inside the oven, or have a water pan on the bottom of the oven?  In that regard, can you have too much water for steam?  Should the steam remain duriing the total cooking time, or just in the first 25 or 30 minutes?


Thanks for the help, Mini.


 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

That was an interesting thread, Mini.  Thanks. 


Well, the guessing is over, the loaf is out of the oven and I just wish I knew how to upload pix of this beautiful loaf.  It measures 11" in diameter and 4" high and the crust is golden brown.  I scored a circle around the top and it stretched a tad, but not dramatically so.  I'm letting it cool and can't wait to try a slice.  One interesting thing here, Mini, I did discover that my oven was much hotter than the digital read out on the oven,  I'll call the repairman to fix it tomorrow.  I felt this loaf, because of its size would require at least an hour to cook.  But after 30 minutes, it was browning much faster than I expected so I took your advice and put a tent of aluminium foil over it to prevent scorching.  I also turned the loaf and moved it to a couple of different spots in the oven to keep the heat more even.  I think this worked quite well.  Finally, because the thermostat was not working properly, I would turn the oven off and on to try to keep a more even temperature.  This too will be checked out with the repairman.  What I'm worried about is that I added two bakers' stones to the oven that leave a 1" gap all around the front and both sides and slightly more in the back.  I'm wondering what the repairman will say about this vis a vis my warranty.


If you know how to upload pix, please let me know and I'll add some to this thread.


Finally, Mini, you have been most gracious and helpful--I appreciate it more than you know.


Bernie Piel

Broc's picture
Broc

Suggestions --


Pre-heat cloches to 425+, then put the dough in, score, cover -- and place the whole thing into the oven.


Rotate the pan/dough estimated halfway through the bake.  All ovens have hot spots.


When testing with a thermometer, remove the bread from the pan entirely.  Insert the probe into the bottom of the bread, into the deepest part.  Estimate the time to finish the bake, return the bread to the container and put it back into the oven.  The short time the bread is out of the oven won't hurt the bake.


Why the bottom -- ?  So, if you bake more, steam isn't released from the loaf.


Not sure I fully understand you -- so maybe this won't make sense:  Preheat -- Bake about 12 minutes with lid on, then remove lid and continue baking to target temp.  In the first few minutes the escaping mositure from the dough will be encapsulated by your cloche -- this is what gives your bread that wondrous crust.


The second half of the bake isn't as subject to moisture when using the cloche.


Good Luck!


~ B


 


 


 


 


 


 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Thanks, Broc.  I did preheat the clouche to 450 but when I reviewed a video from another website, the recommended start was at 485.  I probably should have left the temp at 450, but I actually kicked it up to 485 after the loaf had been baking for 5 minutes.  The lid to the Romertopf was on for the first 25 minutes, then I took it off and kept it off and continued baking for another 20 minutes.  Also at the same time I took the lid off, this video recommended lowering the temp to 450 which I did.  I liked your idea of testing the temp from the bottom side of the loaf and will try that tomorrow or Monday. 


I really do think the problem will be resolved if I cook longer and at a lower temp and move the baking vessel around to even the cooking temps inside the oven. 


Thanks so much for your help, I appreciate the wisdom.


Bernie


 


 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Thanks, Broc.  I did preheat the clouche to 450 but when I reviewed a video from another website, the recommended start was at 485.  I probably should have left the temp at 450, but I actually kicked it up to 485 after the loaf had been baking for 5 minutes.  The lid to the Romertopf was on for the first 25 minutes, then I took it off and kept it off and continued baking for another 20 minutes.  Also at the same time I took the lid off, this video recommended lowering the temp to 450 which I did.  I liked your idea of testing the temp from the bottom side of the loaf and will try that tomorrow or Monday. 

I really do think the problem will be resolved if I cook longer and at a lower temp and move the baking vessel around to even the cooking temps inside the oven. 

Thanks so much for your help, I appreciate the wisdom.

Bernie



Hallux's picture
Hallux

Thanks, all!  Looks like I'm not the only one that needed it...


Mini, you said a candy thermometer works?  I probably would not have thought of that. How long does it take to get an accurate reading?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

if the inside crumb is up to temp.   About 10 sec to get within 5°F.  It is metal and not a glass thermometer, glass would break.  It has a plastic sleeve cover for the shaft and so I wrote my basic bread temps (rye and wheat) write on it and covered that with a piece of see thru tape.  Some even have a movable metal marker on the dial.


Mini