The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Low temperature

AnnieT's picture

Low temperature

Today I baked a sourdough bread from another book from the library, Prairie Home Breads. It was published in 2001 and has some intersting recipes. The one I chose is called Hit-the-trail sourdough and begins with an overnight sponge. By this morning it was well risen and I added the rest of the flour and the salt. 2 hours later it was ready to shape and instead of 2 boules I used half to make breadsticks. My question is about the suggested baking temperature which was 375*. I did increase it to 400* and I used the stone and stainless steel bowl method. The loaf rose beautifully but is a pale golden color (with freckles) and it did sing when it tested at 204*. As I was daring enough to bake it "my way" does anyone have an opinion on starting at 500* as I usually do? Was the lower temp. an older method? I can't see that the ingredients are different from many of the other breads I have tried. I'm anxious to cut it to see how the crumb looks. Judging by the taste of the breadsticks it could use more salt - I use kosher salt and didn't increase it sufficiently. Next time... A.


emma's picture

Hello Annie, I'm mostly a lurker here.  I read in your recent post that you are from Whidby Island.  That really triggered some memories as I spent several summers there (Oak Harbor) years ago when I was in school.  There used to be an air naval base there and my uncle worked for the gov't at the time.  Beautiful place.  I remember going camping and finding huge, giant snails on the tent in the morning!  I am from the prairies in Canada so Whidby Island was a very different experience for me; I just loved it there. I'm a bread bakin' nurse and live in Calgary.


AnnieT's picture

Hi Emma, good to hear from you. The naval air base is still in Oak Harbor and in fact that is where I went to adopt my ancient cat Henry a year ago. For some reason a branch of the shelter is on base - and what a hassle to get in! Glad to say he was worth it. I get lots of huge banana slugs in my yard but learned recently that they only eat dead stuff so they are allowed to stay.

Don't be shy - let us know what type of bread you bake and something about your area. I expect you have to battle dryness rather than humidity? I have been fascinated reading about the many occupations of the TFL members - always knew we were an interesting group! A.

holds99's picture


You didn't say how long you baked it or what size boule you made ( I presume 1.5 pounds).  Don't know about the bread sticks but as for the boule, from my experience I think your idea re: temp. being raised to 450 deg. F. is correct.  I think 500 deg. is too high.  Even if you're using a stone it could cause the bottom of your loaf to scorch and the exterior to get too brown before the interior gets completely baked (205 deg. internal temp.).  The only time I have gone to 500 deg. is when I'm preheating a dutch oven in which to place the boule (after letting it rise at room temp. in a skillet lined with parchment paper) and even with the Dutch oven method it calls for immediately reducing the heat to 475 deg. after placing the boule in the preheated Dutch oven and covering it.  I think 400 is too low, particularly during the initial 10 or so minutes.  It will get done at the lower temp. (400 deg.) but that may account for the lack of color/carmelization of the crust.  You can always lower the temp. if, at 450 deg., it looks like it's getting too brown...too fast.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

AnnieT's picture

Good morning, Howard. Thank you for agreeing with me about the low temp. - I wonder why the writer felt it was ideal? I am so tickled with a boule I just took from the oven - same recipe but I stopped adding flour ( as instructed in the book) before the dough reached the "barely sticky" point. I gave it the French fold and stretch and folded 3 times, total time 2 hours. The first boule was shaped and placed in my banneton, proofed again and baked on the heated stone under the ss mixing bowl. The second one went into a parchment lined basket and went into the refrigerator overnight, and that was the one I baked this morning. The oven was preheated to 500* and lowered to 450* as soon as the loaf was in place, again under the ss bowl. The dough had doubled in the refrigerator and I was worried about overproofing but it is lovely, with a deep brown freckled crust and some "singing" as it is cooling. So I have learned that I can tweak a recipe without the sky falling! By the way, this is a sourdough recipe and I think I prefer Susan's. The crumb of the first one was much too "un-holey", can't think of the correct term, yesterday's was better and I have great hopes of this one, A.

koolmom's picture

Interesting recipe.  What I wanted to know from AnnieT's post was:  What is the the stone and stainless steel bowl method?  I understand about a baking stone, but what do you do with a stainless steel bowl.

Many thanks

AnnieT's picture

Koolmom, if you check back you might be able to find the method referred to as Susan's Magic Bowl. Susan from San Diego came up with the idea but she was using a Pyrex bowl - more fun because she could watch the dough rise - but I am chicken and use my biggest ss bowl. All you do is place the dough on the preheated stone and cover it with the bowl which has been rinsed in hot water. After 20 minutes the bowl is removed and the bread is cooked until good and dark. I usually put my kettle over the oven vent to heat the water. The idea is to create an oven inside an oven and it saves having to throw water into the oven and spray the walls to make steam. It is such a thrill to lift off the bowl to find a beautifully risen loaf! Hope you will give it a try, A.

2brownbraids's picture

2brownbraids/ Vancouver, BC

Thanks, I will try your method for larger french loaves. I bake them in the preheated la clouche, the italian bread baker, same idea.  No more spriting and opening and closing ovens.  Works really well, comes in long and round forms.  But they are not long enough for baguette or a large french loaf.   May be one day, steam jets will be put into home ovens ?