The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Trouble with baking 2 loaves..

Paddyscake's picture

Trouble with baking 2 loaves..

I finally made Thom Leonard's French Country bread. Great flavor, crumb was OK..I had a ? about how to shape a "tight boule, without deflating", but I'll work that out. My problem is that whenever I bake 2 loaves I don't have the room to fit them both on the stone at the same time. The first one has a great crust, spring and color. The 2nd one looks anemic. I reheat the oven to 500, refill my pan of water with 1/4" of hot water, the vent has steam pouring out and voila..blah. I'm just wondering what the difference is..the stone has been in the oven for the preheat and bake of the 1st loaf, I bring the temp back up , re-establish the steam..any ideas? This happens any time I bake 2 loaves one at a time.

AnnieT's picture

Paddyscake, you bring up a question I have been thinking about. I love the Dan Lepard book The Art of Handmade Bread, but so often he says to bake one loaf and bake the remaining loaf using the same technique. Never a word about what to do with the second loaf while the first one is baking. Or maybe he does and I missed it? So how do you cope with the second loaf? Could that be causing the difference in results? Looking forward to hearing some experts' solutions, A

bwraith's picture

Hi Paddyscake,

This is just a shot in the dark, but I wonder if the one that is sitting out longer is just overproofing. If so, there are a couple of things that might help. If you shorten your bulk fermentation and final proof by the right amount of time, then the first one may be a little underproofed and the second a little overproofed, but you might get a happy medium where they both turn out OK. If you are doing your final proof at a very warm temperature, like 80F or higher, you could try doing your final proof at a lower temperature, like 70F. The final proof will take quite a bit longer, but the timing will be more forgiving on the first vs. the second loaf. As above, you would want to try to bake the first one a little early, so you don't overproof the second loaf. Another strategy would be to put the loaf that will be baked second in the refrigerator after it is shaped. If you put it in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, then take it out of the refrigerator and let it continue, it should be proofed the right amount and ready to bake significantly later than the first loaf, giving you the time you need to bake the first loaf and reheat the oven for the second loaf.


SDbaker's picture

Bill, I think you may be on point with at least part of the problem.  My first loaves were anemic..  That's even the word I used "anemic."  My baking mentor in San Diego said I was likely overproofing.  I cut back the time and voila.  Brown crusts. I also boost my temp at least 25-50 [actual] degrees above most recipes.

Paddycake, you also may consider all of the heat escaping between loaves.  How much time do you let the oven re-heat?  On average, it takes about 5 minutes between door openings to regain original temp for most  home ovens.  Opening to peek and see the status, or thump the loaf, or take the bread internal temp - minutes have just been added to regain the high temp needed to caramelize the sugars on the surface required for brown crusts.  This problem is very common with cake bakers trying to use a toothpick, or someone trying to cook a roast.  "just two more minutes.." really means five, and opening it before then keeps the temp low and just dries out the cake.  This may not be your situation, but perhaps.

Have a great 4th!

SD Baker

susanfnp's picture

Hi Paddyscake,


I think Bill and SDBaker are right on about the overproofing. What I do in this situation is a variation on what Bill suggested. Instead of refrigerating the second loaf right away, I let it proof at RT along with the first, until I'm about 45-60 minutes away from a full proof. Then I put the second one into the fridge and leave it there until I'm ready to bake it (I bake it right out of the fridge, without warming up first). I have determined by experimentation that 45-60 minutes is the right amount of time for most ~500g loaves with a dough temp off the mixer of about 76F and my fridge at 40F; this would be longer for a larger loaf or a warmer dough. You may need to experiment a little to find out what works for you.



Paddyscake's picture

a few alternatives to try. Thanks for your advice. I'll give both a try and see which works best for me.

Paddyscake's picture

Bill, I think you are right on with the overproofing. I definitely think the 2nd loaf was overproofed. I had to run out in between to pick up my car. When I got back the 2nd loaf had risen signifcantly and collapsed abit when slashed. I didn't realize it would make such a difference in the crust. I think I will try putting the 2nd loaf in the fridge for an hour and see how that works. oven has a digital read out so I'm sure the temp was up where it should of been.

Thanks everyone..Happy 4th !!

zolablue's picture

Thanks for asking this because I often worry about the same thing. I have smaller than normal European ovens so this is often a concern for me as well.  I would love to double batches once in a while but just have not because I'm trying to figure out how much room I would have in fridge and ovens to get the job done with proper timing.

My rectangular baking stone is only 12 x 15 and what I do when I bake Thom Leonard in boules is to make four.  That way I am able to place 2 boules on the stone at the same time by putting them as close to the edge of the stone as possible on diagonal corners.  You might give that a try. 

I've recently discovered I have been way overproofing my dough so I like the idea Bill mentioned of putting the first loaf in sooner and by the time you are ready for the second loaf your oven is probably even hotter and it will spring faster and bake a bit quicker as well.  I often can cut my baking time on the second loaf by up to 5 minutes just because I think the stone has become so much hotter despite the fact I like to preheat it at least 45 minutes before baking.

Susan, I love that you explained how you incorporate the refrigerator to help you keep loaves from overproofing and then bake cold.  That is another great tip from a great baker.  Thanks!