The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can you over bake bread?

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dvuong's picture
dvuong

Can you over bake bread?

I was just curious to know if it's possible to over bake breads like you can with cakes muffins, resulting in a very dry product. Any thoughts?

jcking's picture
jcking

A thermometer is a good friend for the baker.


Jim

Chuck's picture
Chuck

if it's possible to over bake breads ... resulting in a very dry product[?]


Yes. Bread  is somewhat more forgiving of overbaking than cakes  ...but it's not infinitely forgiving. Inedibility might be ten minutes away rather than only five, but it will happen.


As crust color is such a lousy indicator of doneness, the clock only works the second time, and even the old "thump" test is not very accurate, measuring internal/crumb temperature with an "instant read" thermometer is by far the best way to go. Pick your favorite temperature (205F is often used). If the loaf is "done", turn off the oven. If the loaf isn't done yet, remove the thermometer (don't put it in the oven) and put the loaf back in the oven to bake some more.

ericb's picture
ericb

While I suppose it's possible to "over-bake" bread (i.e., dehydrate it), I think you would really have to try. Under normal baking conditions, the crust will simply burn long before the loaf dries out.


The inside of a loaf of bread is very moist, so it will never get hotter than 212 F. The crust, however, being dry and in contact with the 400-500F air inside your oven, gets very hot.


I suppose you could intentionally leave a loaf in a low-temperature oven, say 200-300 F, for an extended period of time. I'm not sure why one would do this, unless baking a very moist, dense volkornbrot.


Just my opinion / educated guess. :)

dvuong's picture
dvuong

Thanks for all of your responses.  I am using a meat thermometer at the moment and not sure if I should be using a different type of thermometer?  Looks like King Arthur Flour sells a nice thermapen Instead Read therm but it's so pricey!  Will any thermometer work?

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Lots of different thermometers will more-or-less work. If the one you have is easy to use, hasn't melted, and seems to read relatively accurately, that's good enough.


My personal favorite is an el-cheapo mechanical instant-read  ...although asking TFL what's the "best" thermometer may be inviting a religious war:-)


Many cooking thermometers expect to have their probe but not their dial very hot, and will screw up (even melt) if placed in an oven.



  • Separate in-oven meat thermometers are sometimes rather heavy and want to be vertical, so it's hard to poke them into a flattish dough and have them stay upright (especially staying away from the inside of the crust on the other side).

  • The pop-up meat thermometers used for Thanksgiving turkeys have some problems:

    • They're probably not quite accurate enough

    • They're fixed to one particular temperature, and that temperature isn't the right one for bread

    • They're almost impossible to get outside of holiday season



  • Some of the newer meat thermometers have two parts - a sensor that goes in what you're baking and a readout/alarm part that stays outside the oven - connected by a cable that can take the heat. In my experience these may bring up either of two problems:

    • The cable can be a major pain. I caught it on the oven door and pulled a lump of fresh dough onto the floor of my oven just once  ...that was enough for me. (others may feel quite differently though)

    • The metal temperature sensor tends to conduct a little bit of heat from outside the loaf (for example from your baking stone), and so read a few degrees too high. When you're trying to differentiate 204F from 207F, a thermometer that sometimes reads up to eight degrees too high can be quite frustrating.(IMHO, this is what leads to those puzzling reports of internal crumb temperatures well above the boiling point of water:-)



  • "Instant read" thermometers are made with three  different technologies, and so come in three quite different subtypes. In every case though, be sure to take the loaf out of the oven to measure its temperature, and never put the thermometer in the oven.


    • One technology uses a thermocouple; the Thermapen brand currently has much of this market. It's very fast, settling to its final reading  in only a few seconds  ...but it's rather pricey too. Watching for sales is a good idea, but even at a sale price they cost more than many home bakers want to pay.

    • The other electronic technology uses a thermistor. It's much much cheaper (often less than $10, I found one for less than $4!), but it takes longer: up to10 seconds to get "close" and up to 30 seconds to stop changing altogether.

    • There's also the old non-digital technology, just a mechanical dial. In my experience these work surprisingly well  ...but many stores don't carry them any more.



  • Candy thermometers expect to clip to the side of a pan.

  • Refrigerator/freezer thermometers won't register high enough temperatures.

  • Oven thermometers usually have either a stand or a hanger (or both) but not a long skinny probe, so there's no way to poke them into the inside of a loaf.


 

jcking's picture
jcking

How often you bake is a factor in deciding which thermo you purchase. Bake alot, buy a nice one, bake once a week, buy a cheap one.


A thermo can also be useful to see what the temp of your dough is after mixing/kneading. Many books will give you an hour of rise for a standard loaf. This assumes a dough temp of approx. 75F. If your dough temp is higher a shorter time will give a doubling, whereas a lower dough temp will increase the rise time.


Jim