The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advice needed on overbrowning

butterflyblue's picture

Advice needed on overbrowning

So I spent what seemed like a large portion of my day making this bread (any portion over 15 minutes is pretty large, sometimes, since I have a three month old baby).  It's a basic sort of french bread recipe, using a poolish, from the Fresh Loaf Pocket Book of Bread Baking.  It says bake for 20 minutes (rotating halfway through) at 465 F.  I usually check about 5 min. before the stated end time of a recipe because my oven can tend to run hot, but I got busy and figured it would be alright because the last bread I baked (the non-poolish french bread from the book) took longer.  At 20 minutes, I tested with a probe thermometer and it didn't quite reach 200, while the recipe says it should register slightly over 200 if they're fully baked.  Since they were already overbrowned (and nearly burned in places) I took them out anyway.  As you can see by the stub of loaf that is left, we could barely choke it down. :)  But I would like to figure out the problem and not repeat it.  I really don't like my breads very browned.

Now the bottom crust is overdone in places which I think is because I used a cookie sheet and not my baking stone this time.  My cheapo oven only has 25 degree increments on the knob, so I sort of guestimated between 450 and 475.  I'm just puzzled how the outside can be overdone and the inside temp is still reading a little low.

I would be especially appreciative of suggestions that don't involve buying new equipment. 

TerryD's picture


... an oven thermomenter.  You say "my oven can tend to run hot" and that seems the most likely cause for a loaf that cooks like this.  Get an oven thermometer and see if it agrees with the dial on your stove. You could also bake a loaf with the dial set  lower (try 425) and see how long it takes to bake.


Yerffej's picture

It was baked either too hot or too high in the oven, or both.  Next bake, put the loaf in at this temperature and immediately turn the heat down by 30 or 40 degrees.  That should help.


Syd's picture

What Terry and Jeff said and, just to mention that if it happens again that your loaf is sufficiently browned but still not cooked, just cover it loosely with tin foil (shiny side up) and continue baking.  That should prevent it from getting over browned.


Broc's picture

Well... I don't claim to be an expert... but I deal with similar issues.  I am using hi-hydration modified PR recipes with 2.5 lb boules.

I preheat to 450, with a clay cloche in the oven while it's heating up.  I use parchment paper in a second cloche while proofing.  When ready, I simply use the "handles" of the parhment paper and transfer the boule into the pre-heated cloche... quickly score... put on the top, and bake away @450F... for 6 minutes.

Then, I lower the oven temp to 410F for another six minutes.

At the 12 minute mark, I remove the top from the cloche and lower the oven to 375F.  By now, we're done with oven rise and the crust has begun to set up nicely.

After another 12 minutes, I check the internal temp.  Estimate the time needed to finish off the loaf, and reduce the temp to 350F.

I tend to use honey and butter liberally and always add eggs when mixing dough.  I'm not fascinated by big holes in the crumb... and in fact, with such added ingredients, the crumb is always rather even... soft, pillowy... similar to a sandwich bread [but tasting much different].

With egg and honey and oil, the crust will darken quite a bit.  Challah actually pushes towards a mahogany.  But -- There's a difference between burning and caramelization.

Oh -- One more thing... I don't push the internal temp beyond 200F.  190F is just fine... but be sure to get past 185 so the crumb can completely gelatinize.  And, of course, there's that slow, slow cool down before digging in!


gerhard's picture

One thing that can cause burning of the crust like you experienced is if the broiler element stays on while the bread is baking.  Generally taking enough time for the oven to come to temperature turns off the broiler element.


butterflyblue's picture

Thank you for the suggestions.  I think an oven thermometer might help. I've thought that before, but there are a lot of things more fun to buy than a thermometer (like cookbooks!).  Anyway.  May have to grit my teeth and do it.

Jeff- you may be right about too high in the oven, too.  I cooked it in the exact middle, and then last night as I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep I thought "Haven't I read something about using on the lowest rack possible?"  Which I am very gun shy of, since I've burned several pans of rolls that way.  I always bake rolls on the middle or top, only put them on the bottom when I'm doing a big batch with two big pans.  But maybe if I used my pizza stone for free form loaves, I wouldn't have that problem (of burning)?

Aagh.  There are so many factors to try to keep in mind at once. I'm not totally new at bread baking, but totally new at doing anything remotely artisanal.

Yerffej's picture

Using the lowest rack position is generally done to heat the stone as much as possible by putting it just above the heat source.  You want a fully heated stone for optimal oven spring.  Fulling preheating the oven at 475-550 degrees F for at least an hour will bring the stone and the internal parts of the oven up to temperature.  Then when the loaf goes in and you immediately turn the oven down, there is less need for more heat to recover lost temperature because you just turned the temperature down.  Less heat demand equals less chance of burning the crust but yet still in a very hot oven.   By the way, this advice is for a home oven only as they lose so much heat when you open the door.

If you are not using a stone, then I would preheat for 30 minutes and then double your sheet pan so that you create an insulated pan that is far less prone to allowing the bottom to burn.

Happy Baking,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

so that the top edge of a standard bread pan is "the middle."  For a fee standing loaf "middle" would be the top of the proofed dough.  So the rack tends to be lower than middle but not on the bottom.  :)

I also think the oven is too hot.  I would go with 425°F.

HeidiH's picture

I find I don't like too dark a crust so I bake most breads somewhere between 350 and 400 -- usually about 375 for an hour for a loaf with 600 grams of flour in it.