The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Does your bread do this?

madruby's picture

Does your bread do this?

Hi all,

It's been a while since I have posted something here but have kept up with all the very interesting reading.  My breads have greatly improved in the last few months - shape, scoring and even oven steaming/spring are now very decent.  Actually, my oven spring is pretty good these days. However, I still notice something odd about my breads after I take them out of the oven.   Once I am sure that they are fully baked (I usually have a thermometer), I let them cool on a rack.  Half way through the cooling stage, I saw that my breads would lose a little bit of their volume.  Once the cooling is done, I noticed that they have indeed lost a bit of that beautiful oven spring.  Nothing much, but enough for me to see a slight difference between the once hot breads and the cooled ones.  I mentioned this to my French baker instructor and he said that it is because the breads are probably not fully done and that a thermometer may not be the best indicator of their readiness.

Has anyone experienced this type of situation?  Could my instructor be right?  I think that it is odd that my breads aren't fully baked when my thermometer clearly indicates 205 F to 209 F for french breads.

flournwater's picture

I learned to determine when bread was done by relying on the interior temperature.  What I've learned over these past years is that your instructor is right on target.  Internal temperature is not always the best method for making that determination.  What I am currently doing is reading both the terperature and the residue on the tip of the thermometer probe.  It's very much like the "toothpick test" for determining when a cake is done.  If the thermometer probe comes out clean and the temperature registers within the range that I'd expect the bread to be fully baked I remove it to the cooling rack.  Otherwise I allow it to bake longer.  I had a loaf this past week that registered 115 degrees and was not completely baked.  By the time it was fully baked it registered in excess of 220 degrees.  It turned out to be a wonderfully chewy texture with a nice crisp crust and a fabulous flavor.  If I had taken it out of the oven based on internal temperature alone I'd have had a gooey center  ...  not a good thing.

Chuck's picture

I learned to determine when bread was done by relying on the interior temperature. [But] What I've learned over these past years is that ... Internal temperature is not [emphasis added] always the best method for making that determination.

I'd like to understand more fully.

Is your experience that the temperature you measure is variable (and hence pretty much useless)? Or is your experience that the temperature you measure is always off by the same amount (for example always 25F high compared to expectations)?

And as temperature doesn't seem to be the best  guide to doneness after all, what' other technique do you use instead?


(Also, I previously understood that near sea level the internal temperature of a loaf could never exceed 212F [the boiling point of water] until the loaf was thoroughly wrecked and/or burned, and internal temperatures that seemed to be higher indicated some sort of calibration or measurement problem. As this doesn't seem to be right  after all, what's the real truth?)

flournwater's picture

Chuck, one thing I enjoy about bread making is that every time I believe I've got all the basics down pat I find there is an exception to another rule.  Some years ago I read a popular book (The Best Bread Ever  -  which I've since donated to charity) that emphasized the importance of removing bread from the oven at an internal temperature of between 205°F to 210°F.  I believe the wording was something like " if the internal temperature is 205°F to 210°F, the bread is done".  I lived by that rule and it was working fairly well with artisan loaves but as I broadened my exposure to new formulas, some of which involved baking loaves in those 4x10 inch bread pans, I found that the bread was not done at 205°F to 210°F.  My first evidence was when removing the thermometer probe I found gooey bits stuck to the tip; obviously an underbaked loaf.  I bake at an elevation of 2000 feet, but that's not high enough to necessitate making adjustments in baking times/temperatures.  Also, I had read that the internal temperature of a loaf would not/could not exceed 212°F (the boiling point of water) but I baked a loaf recently (in one of those pans) that reached an internal temperature of 220°F so that information was incorrect.  In his "No Knead" video, Jim Lahey says, "because you're creating an enclosed space, it's 212°".

He is, of course, referring to the enclosed space within the Dutch oven.  I would agree that, in an enclosed space, the water temperature would not exceed 212° because at that temperature it evaporates into steam.  But, based on some of my recent experiences, that doesn't appear to be the case with the actual bread dough.  I must admit that the loaf I used as an example had about 1/4 cup of olive oil in the formula; perhaps it's the oil in the mix that's achieving that 220 degree temp.   I did pay attention in physics class but sometimes the cobwebs in my old head blur the memory.  It's been a VERY long time.

So I'll do a bit more experimentation and I'm sure, if I keep good notes, I'll find some correlation.  My thermometer is calibrated and quite accurate and I am extremely careful about how the probe and related parts are positioned in or near the bread/bread pan so I can rule out any mechanical errors with equipment or procedure.

Chuck's picture

My curiosity continues: Who else  has experienced similar things, such as an internal temperature reading well over 212F?,

G-man's picture

What I can report is that temperature has never been a reliable indicator of doneness for me. I check the calibration of my instant-read regularly, a habit drummed into me by my time in food service. My bread is never done when it reaches 212, it always takes about 10 minutes longer in the oven.

placebo's picture

You often hear, "If the internal temp is 205 F to 210 F, the bread is done." It could be that it's supposed to be, "If the bread is done, the internal temp will be 205 F to 210 F." So a measurement of 205 F to 210 F doesn't guarantee a loaf is done, but if you don't get a measurement in that range, you know the loaf definitely needs more time in the oven.

PlicketyCat's picture

I love reasonable, logical sounding information that is plain wrong. I cook and bake in Dutch ovens all the time and I can guarantee you that foods therein can and do exceed 212F on a regular basis at sea level. Water may turn to steam at 212F, but the other ingredients continue to heat up... but it is at that temperature that you have to start worrying about burning and scorching because the water has steamed away. However, any recipe with oil can normally take the higher temperature without burning and becoming inedible. My rustic italian olive loaf in my oven is normally done (i.e. the probe comes out clean and the bottom knocks hollow) when the internal temp is about 220F and it isn't burnt on the outside (thanks to the olive oil in my recipe is my guess) and doesn't deflate.


lazybaker's picture

My bread collapsed, too. I think it's because the interior wasn't fully baked to the point of dryness. 

It's like with baking cream puffs and croissants. If I don't make sure the interior is fully baked and dry, they end up collapsing because the structure inside is still moist. Whenever they're fully baked and dry, they hold their shape and do not collapse after cooling.

So I have a feeling I may be under-baking my batards. I think I just need to turn down the oven temperature to 350 F and bake the bread more.

GSnyde's picture

I have baked pan loaves (whole wheat or enriched dough) for the specified time and the thermometer says 195 or 200F, and yet the loaves sink a bit and get indented by the cooling rack.  I have taken to baking in Pyrex so I can see that the bottom and sides are golden before considering the loaves done.

I haven't had that problem with hearth loaves, maybe because I usually leave them on the stone for 10 minutes after they reach 205F.


Chuck's picture

I've found that it's quite easy to mis-measure internal temperature and get the wrong idea about doneness. It seems to me there are two critical things that can easily lead to mis-measure:

  1. The temperature sensing point is usually actually back about an inch from the end of the probe (not at the very end)
  2. The probe is metal, and metal conducts heat very well

Particular problems for me are a) letting the top of the probe near the thermometer body touch a sheet or tin or pan, b) pushing in the thermometer so far that the tip contacts the inside of the crust on the other side, and c) waiting for the thermometer to come to a dead stop when it continues to change quite slowly. If the tip contacts the crust, because metal conducts heat so well you'll be measuring crust temperature as much as crumb temperature and so will get an anomalously high reading. If the thermometer continue to change very slowly, I'm probably measuring the temperature of the crust the probe was stuck through -conducted down the metal probe- rather than the temperature of the crumb.

mrfrost's picture

All breads contract, at least a little, upon cooling. That's what causes hard crusted breads to crackle and (some)soft crusts to wrinkle a bit. I'm positive this has been mentioned before here.

I'm convinced that even as it bakes in the oven, just when the bulk of the steam is gone from the bread, just before the crust is really set, there is also a very slight contraction. 

Sometimes it's not so noticeable; bread doesn't always crackle or wrinkle, but the slight contraction is there.

Ford's picture

I believe that "mrfrost" is correct, but it might also be a good idea to calibrate your thermometer.  Heat a pot of water to a roiling boil then immerse the sensitive area in the water.  The temperature should read 212°F (100°C).  You can check the lower end of the scale with a mixture of crushed ice and water.  The thermometer should read 32°F (0°C).  I have found that some of my kitchen thermometers have had an error of as much as 10°F.


asicign's picture

I've never seen a chart of internal bread temperature vs time, but I'd bet that is not linear.  Perhaps a loaf of bread undergoes one or more phase transitions, where the temperature stays constant over a period of time, and then starts to rise again, much like water boiling.  If that were so, perhaps one needs to use other indicators in conjunction with the temperature.

dabrownman's picture

Use Pyrex loaf pans too, for the reasons Glen states.  I also make sure to take the loaves out of the oven the last 10 minutes or so , soI can turn them in the convection oven 'naked'.  Then I make sure to turn the oven off, leave the door ajar and keep the 'naked' loaf in the oven for another 10 minutes. This helps the shrink and the rack mark problem.  I learned this from Glen's brother  David.  The Snyder's are full of bread making knowledge.