So, I have had lots of trouble gettting my breads to brown. I hope someone can finally help me out.
I have read many books and posts here and other places, but I can't seem to get it good.
I have a gas oven that only heats from underneath, and I think this oven may be my biggest problem (and this was reassured after I went to a friend's place and baked on her electric oven and got more browning).
So to test things out, and get down to the root of my problems, I bought an oven thermometer and registered it.
For this bread, I followed the Ciabatta poolish recipe from Pete Reinhart's book.
So I put my oven to heat up to 280ºC (536ºF) with a steam pan inside, on the bottom. Waited 55 minutes and it was at 240ºC (464ºF). So as it seems, my oven is completely lying about what temperature it can reach.
After this, I put on my bread (no baking stone, as my cracked) and 1 cup of hot water inside the steam pan. Closed the door, waited 30 seconds and sprayed room temperature water on the walls of the oven. Closed the door, 30 more seconds and sprayed again. And another 30 seconds and one last spray.
After this, I checked the temperature inside the oven and it had dropped to 180ºC (356ºF)!!
The recipe called for baking for 10 minutes, before rotating the bread 180º.
In all of those 10 minutes (with the steam pan inside, and the water steaming) the temperature never rose above the 180ºC.
So after the initial 10 minutes, I took out the steam pan and rotated the loaf. The bread was still quite pale everywhere.
The temperature started to go back up and eventually reached 230ºC.
After about 15-20 minutes in, the bread was just starting to brown a bit on one side. So I decided to leave some 5-10 more minutes.
After this, I thought it would not brown any more and I would only risk burning the bottom, and then took it out of the oven.
Anyway, this bread is the most brown I ever got out of this oven. Normally they are even more pale (probably because I had even lower temperatures?).
Here are the pictures from my bread. You can see one side is a bit brown (not at all ideal though), while the other is pretty much pale.
Side 1 (brownish):
Side 2 (pale):
Bottom (maybe, in the end, I could have even left more on the oven???):
May someone shed some light? Is it my oven the culprit of my problems and I won't ever achieve good results using it?