The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Optimum temperature

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sadears's picture
sadears

Optimum temperature

After several nasty results years ago, I attempted yet again to bake a decent bread. I have had massive success...

I use a very wet dough and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn it for another 15-20 minutes.

Just one problem...

Obtaining the optimum temp of 200 degrees.  I do one of two things...take it out about 198 degrees, or leave it in for what seems forever and if I'm lucky it reaches 200 degrees.

What should I do...lower the temp for longer or raise it.

 

Today, since I normally use a very wet dough I attempted to bake it in a pot. I read that the temp should be about 210. Still I couldn't reach 200, much less 210. The second loaf is baking now.  The first turned out great, I took it out at 198.

Same question...higher temp or lower temp for longer? AND...why 210?

 

Thanks. 

 

 

jcking's picture
jcking

How accurate is the thermometer is the first thing that comes to mind. Test the thermometer in ice water and boiling water. 2nd guess; high altitude? If the crumb isn't wet don't worry about it. Professional bakers rarely stab a loaf with a thermometer.

Jim

sadears's picture
sadears

High altitude...about 6700 feet...The Rockies!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...optimum temp of 200 degrees...

Partly I think there's a misunderstanding here. There's no such thing as a general "optimum". The internal crumb temperature that indicates 'done' varies a whole lot with different types of breads. It also varies according to your tastes. For example some bakers like their lean breads above 200F, while others prefer them around 210F. There's no one "right" answer for everybody.

And partly, it sounds like something is very wrong with your measurements. Does your thermometer accurately measure the temperature of boiling water? Do you stick the thermometer deep into the loaf so you can imagine the tip (actually about 1 inch back from the tip) being in the very center of the loaf? Does the thermometer not touch anything else at all, only the loaf and its crust? And do you leave the thermometer in place until it stops changing and use the last reading?

(Despite what their advertisements say, my experience is even the best digital "quick" thermometers may take somewhere around twenty seconds to completely settle down; of course the "initial" reading will be way low and should be discarded. Thermometers such as the Thermapen use a different technology that settles down much quicker  ...but they tend to cost significantly more too:-)

jcking's picture
jcking

Another thought; if you're baking the wet/holey bread you mention in the other post, your thermo is probably landing in a hole and measuring air/hole temp - not dough temperature.

sadears's picture
sadears

my mind hadn't even wandered anywhere near that idea.  I will also check the thermometer.  But what about rolls? That goes back to the thermometer though. It just seems that less than 200 it seems that the crumb, while not wet, is more moist.  I think I prefer a dryer crumb. So to achieve that, I go back to my original question...should I keep it at 450  for the time I have been baking...total of 40ish minutes, or raise it for the same time, lower it for longer...?  

jcking's picture
jcking

If you're happy with the crust color/depth go longer and lower. If your crust is light go a little higher for the same amount of time. Temperature sets the crust and length of bake sets the crumb. Go a little lower in finished temp for the rolls unless you like a thick crust.

Jim

Chuck's picture
Chuck

If your altitude really is 6700 feet, that explains everything!!! (Cooks at your altitude are usually very aware of the need for high-altitude adjustment. From that, I infer that not only is your adventure into baking just beginning but also that you don't otherwise spend time in the kitchen:-)

Wherever recipe books give a temperature around the boiling point of water, subtract 13. (For example: where recipe books say 212F, for you translate to 199F; where recipe books say 210F, for you translate to 197F; where recipe books say 205F, for you translate to 192F; where recipe books say 200F, for you translate to 187F.)


To try to directly answer the question you asked immediately above: raising the oven temperature a little and shortening the bake time enough to cancel out the difference will produce the same crumb, but probably a darker crust. Similarly, lowering the oven temperature a little and lengthening the bake time enough to cancel out the difference will produce the same crumb, but probably a lighter crust. So to spell out the implications:

  1. if you have an issue with "doneness" of the crumb, varying the baking temperature is not a solution
  2. if you have an issue with "doneness" of the crumb, vary the baking time

You can change your "goal" temperature a little up or a little down until the bread comes out the way you personally like it. Until you get it like you like it, your clock will probably be of little use. Once you do get it like you like it, you can then use the clock (and the same oven temperature of course) to do the same thing again without having to fuss so much over whether or not the loaf is "done". Forget about what temperature is "theoretically right". If you like the result, the temperature is right, period. 

(If you're willing to bake several batches, of which many are failures, you can even use the clock [alone] to figure out a baking time. Bake and note the time. If too moist, add five minutes next time; if too dry, subtract five minutes next time. But many bakers can't afford all the failures, so they use the crumb thermometer [and other indications too] to get it right the first time.)

If you're worried about the temperature that's "right" for you not being anywhere near the temperature that cookbooks typically recommend, you need to first adjust for altitude then second check the accuracy of your thermometer. Until you do those things, everything else will be at best pointless and at worst downright harmful.

(While measuring a "hole" temperature is an interesting idea from a theoretical standpoint, I personally doubt it explains your results. Lots of other people use the crumb temperature to judge doneness all the time, and none of them are bothered by erratic temperature measurements.)

SCruz's picture
SCruz

At 6700 ft elevation, the boiling point of water is 198.8 degrees. At lower elevations where the rest of us live, and water boils at 212 degrees, we figure the bread is done when it is in the 200-210 range which is a few degrees short of boiling.

Like the others said, does the bread seem done?

sadears's picture
sadears

a lot of time in the kitchen, but I never thought about lowering the temp number in my head... I've never seen it put that way.  I add extra water. So if 187 here is really 200 at sea level, then I'm golden. Yesterday I started out at 500 for 20 minutes then lowered it to 450 when I turned it. Turned out great. Think next time I'll lower it sooner, but still...

You've all been a great help!

Thanks.

Steph