The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

smaller loaves, cooking time and oven temperature

robbor's picture

smaller loaves, cooking time and oven temperature

Hi.          Weekly I make a couple loaves of a white bread that cook for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.  Each loaf is a round comprised of 3 cups flour.  I would like to divide this single loaf dough into 2 pieces so I get 2 small rounds.  This morning I baked 2 small rounds on the 425 degree, preheated stone.  For insurance I checked in on the loaves after 25 minutes of cooking.  They were quite brown and the crust was very hard so I pulled them from the oven.  30 minutes later, the crust was considerably softer, had lost its crispness.  Later I cut one of the loaves and found the interior was not quite done.  Can anyone suggest a new temp and time for cooking these smaller loaves?

Tx much, Rob

Lucifer's picture

Forms are too close together, sides do not get enough air flow. Try convection or set them futher apart.

Crust hardness - not an indicator of readiness. It usually softens after the bread cools.

Dark crust, cold bottom - source of heat at the top.

You should be able to use the same temp with smaller loaves, but the baking time will be shorter.

Nothing's wrong with sticking them back in if you see they are not done. The sooer you check the better.

Chuck's picture

I think your initial approach of same temperature with shorter time for smaller loaves was a good one (only in the special case where the new loaf size is very small might you need to also reduce the temperature by a bit, say 25F, to avoid too-dark crusts). Problem is, how exactly do you gauge when the bread is "done"? Well, here are some options:

  • as you've discovered, crust color and appearance are often not a very good proxy for doneness

  • attempting to calculate (or have someone else calculate) the new baking time using some formula probably won't work very well, as there are too many variables

  • just try a few different times until you get it right - for example if 25 minutes was close but not quite "done" the way you want it, try 30 minutes next time (same temperature)

  • although more than a little inaccurate, the old "thump" test is better than nothing - turn the loaf over and rap it with your knuckles and check that it sounds "hollow"  ...and if not put the bread back in the oven

  • on removing the bread from the oven immediately poke an "instant read" thermometer through the crust and deep into the crumb so the last inch of the probe is near the center of the bread, give the thermometer a few seconds to settle down, check for the desired internal temperature, and put the bread back in the oven if it's not there yet ...ou may need to find out the desired temperature by baking the old larger loaves that come out the way you like once and measuring their internal temperature right when they come out of the oven (the "best" temperature is a rather personal thing - it's likely somewhere around 200F, but may range as widely as 180F-210F)

  • poke an "oven thermometer" remote probe on a long heat-resistant cable into the center of your dough before you put it in the oven and let the cable trail out the closed oven door and bake until it registers the desired internal temperature  ...again the best way to get the target temperature may be to bake the old larger loaves that come out the way you like once and measure their internal temperature right when they're done

(When testing for doneness, take the loaf out of the oven and close the oven door and leave the oven on for the moment. If the loaf needs further baking, put it back in the oven. If the loaf is done, turn the oven off.)

The color and hardness of the crust are controlled more by temperature, while "doneness" is controlled by both temperature and time in combination. You can use this to your advantage: if you want more doneness [and are willing to accept the possibility of slightly darker crusts], just increase the time; if you want the same doneness but a significantly lighter crust, both reduce the temperature and increase the time; and so forth.

highmtnpam's picture

I posted a question on the General Forum under High Altitude and Dry Flour.

Would you mind taking a look see?


robbor's picture

Chuck and Lucifer, Lots of good info and tips. Many tx for your insight and time, I will use what you suggested.

robbor's picture

One more question, regarding the position of the bread stone.  The rack the stone lays on, should it be set to the lowest position in the oven?

Chuck's picture

Yes, start with the rack with the stone near the bottom position.

Once in a while you may need to move it up to halfway, usually if the heat is clearly more top than bottom, occasionally if a cookbook makes a big point of saying so explicitly.

But that doesn't happen very often at all. I started with my stone on the bottom rack, moved it up one because part of my complicated steam arrangement wanted to use the very bottom position, and have just left it unmoved for close to a year now.

The previous poster makes a good point about keeping the loaves apart. If for example you're putting four small loaves on your stone, space them out so the square covers more than half the stone. If your oven heats noticeably unevenly, you may need to trade them around (lightest where darkest was and vice versa) half way through baking.

robbor's picture

Very good, tx Chuck

ronhol's picture

I picked up a small thermometer, and I always pull my loaves, check the internal temp, and if they are less than 210 f I put them back in for a few more minutes.

I've been using a really slack dough, so it seems like I cant keep them in too long.