The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Uneven browning on my sourdough loaves

Tam1024's picture

Uneven browning on my sourdough loaves

I have been baking with sourdough for about 3 years now and have managed to make well structured and yummy bread.  However, I cannot seem to get pretty well browned loaves like I see in most of your pictures.  Mine come out spotted and unevenly browned.  I usually use steam five minutes apart for the first 15 minutes of baking.  What could be causing this?  Does anyone have an answer?


cranbo's picture

If your loaves are spotted (like a cheetah), it's likely that you're overfermenting your dough. That means there are few sugars left for caramelization to take place. Don't let your dough rise as long before baking it. Read about the "poke test" to determine when a bread is ready to bake; it should expand to no more than about 175% of the final shaped dough size.  

The steam shouldn't hurt it at all; a lot of people steam here and have evenly brown crust. Steaming really just aids in oven spring and crust texture, less so for browning. 

What temperatures do you bake your sourdoughs at? Higher temps (400-450F) will give you substantial browning.

And have you tried baking your bread in a cast iron (or enameled) dutch oven? Like many others, I have found that this helps contribute to even baking, and the self-steaming helps generate wonderful oven spring. 

Doc.Dough's picture

I think Cranbo has nailed it. If a higher oven temperature and a slightly shorter total fermentation time don't get you where you want to be, try adding a little milk or malt. Five-carbon sugars seem to enhance the Maillard reaction that is the basis for browning. As a last resort brush the loaf with unsweetened condensed milk just before it goes into the oven.  Because browning increases the emisivity of the crust, the oven delivers more heat energy to those places that have begun to take on some color.  Thus anyplace that is short of residual sugar but begins to brown because it is backed by a bubble will tend to get darker and create the mottled/spotted appearance.