The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

oven temps?

bakebakebake's picture

oven temps?

Hi again,
I posted a couple days ago when I was having trouble getting my 1st seed culture to come together.. Well, I finally got it to hold its rise and made the barm (starter- I'm using BBA). Today I took it out of the fridge and made a loaf.. It turned out very, very dense and never did get to 205 degrees.. in fact the crust is almost impossible up cut through without a chisel and the very middle is pretty raw..
Am I correct to think that the starter will become stronger as it gets older? When it was rising (both when the barm was trying to double, and when the bread was trying to 'almost double' today) I felt it was more relaxing and spreading than rising in all directions..

More importantly, I'm having trouble with my super, super cheap oven getting up to 500 degrees- only got to about 425, 450- and when I opened the door to put the bread in it went down to about 375 and never got back to 450 as it was supposed to (in the hour I spent baking it). BBA put the bake time at 20-30 min total, but I was not even gone at 1 hr.

Can anyone advise me how long I should expect to bake a 1 1/2 lb boule at 350?

I may try some rolls tomorrow, or another loaf using a longer rise time and less-interrupted bake at 350. I made a second bach of firm starter today..

Thanks in advance for any help..

verminiusrex's picture

My default bread recipe has me bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes for a loaf using 1 lb of flour (a little over 1.5 lbs after adding liquids etc), and they turn out perfect.  I bake for 20 minutes at the same temp when doing dinner rolls. 

 From what I read when the bread is around 200 degrees internal temp it is done, and remember that caryover heat will cause it to rise another 5-10 degrees.  

 You might also want to check your oven with an oven thermometer, make sure it's baking at the temp you are setting it to.

I'd try 400 degrees for 40 minutes, and set the loaf in the middle to lower part of the oven. 


bakebakebake's picture

okay, thank you. The main temp trouble was that I lost too much heat putting her in.. I had a steam tray disaster then and dropped from about 450 - 350-- way too cool.. Then I was opening and checking every 5-10 min, losing more heat.. I'll try again today or tomorrow and let you know how it goes...

Thanks again!!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

First, an annoying aside - barm is not a sourdough process. I have been told that Reinhart has said he regrets using the term barm in connection with sourdough. Barm is an old practice of harvesting yeast from fermenting beer to raise bread dough. It is virtually the antithesis of sourdough. It was mostly used in Britain.


So, when Reinhart called it barm, he was mistaken. He's recanted. Let's stop calling it barm. your issues. I had a note from someone with a similar issue yesterday. Turns out she hadn't protected the dough as it was rising and the surface dried out. How important it is to protect your dough depends on your relative humdity and the length of the rise. If you are letting it rise a long time or if the relative humidity is low, you need to protect your dough. I suggest using an oil cloth or plastic wrap to protect the dough. You can use a bit of oil or flour to keep the plastic wrap from clinging to the dough.


I assume you are using an oven thermometer so you know what temperature your oven is really at. I'll suggest putting some quarry tiles in the oven and baking on them as they help maintain oven temperatures.


I'll suggest you also get a chef's thermometer so you can measure the temperature inside the loaf. I'd shoot for 205F on most breads. Adjust the target temp to suit your tastes. It is more consistent than thumping the loaves.

Next, baking is a balancing act. It takes time to bake the center of the bread. Heat has to penetrate the dough, and the dough has to be heated to a critical temperature. Temperature, however, is what gets the crust done. The crust is a surface thing.

Our goal is to get the crust and crumb done at the same time by juggling the time and temperature. It's a balancing act because the two are related. If the temperature is raised, the center will heat up somewhat more quickly. If the temperature drops, the center will heat somewhat more slowly.


If the center is underdone, it needs to stay in the oven longer, If the center is overdone, it needs to spend less time in the oven next time you bake.


If the crust gets done too soon, you need to lower the temperature of the oven next time, and cover the bread with some aluminum foil to keep it from burning this time.


If the crust is underdone, you need to raise the temperature next time. And you can bump up the temperature a bit to brown the current loaf.


Some people kick up the temperature for 10 to 15 minutes and then drop it to finish the loaf. This makes it tougher to do a second batch after the first as you have to wait for the oven to warm up again. Face it, it's an oven, not a sports car. It doesn't accelerate all that well. I prefer to play with the time and temperature and find a single temperature that will do the whole job.


Hope this helps,



bakebakebake's picture

thanks again Mike..

1st off: yes, I am using an oven thermometer & a thermometer for taking the internal temp of the bread.  I was aiming for 205 last night, but it never got there and I did take it out because I had been at it an hour and the crust was burning (and I had run out of al foil!! (and I got impatient) )

I am oiling the bowl I am raising the bread in, putting in the bread turning it and turning it over, so it shouldn't be drying out... I'll double check as I've got attempt #2 (I'll call her Charley #2 - yesterday's flop was Charley) just put to rise now..

I know I shouldn't be changing 2 variables at once, but I am.  

#1:The Rise.  This time I'm allowing the bread to raise over night (out of the fridge) it'll be about 14 hours - then I'll shape it in the morning (and let it proof for 1 hour - is that enough??). Charley #1 rose for 4 hours, then she was shaped and proofed for 3 1/2 hours.

#2:  The bake.  Since my oven is not capable of holding a super high temp, I'll try for 40 min at 400 degrees.. - and this time I will leave the door CLOSED so as not to let the temps into the kitchen.. 


Okay, if anyone has input or thinks that I'm heading down a rough road, please let me know - otherwise I'll let you know how she turns out tomorrow...


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I think you should reverse the order of your rises.  A 14 hour first rise followed by a 3 1/2 hour second rise has me worried.  After a 14 hour rise, I fear your dough will be quite fragile and reluctant to rise again.


I'd probably try for a 3 or 4 hour first rise, form the loaves, and then give the bread a 14 hour rise.  Or, better yet, give it the rise it needs.


Also, oiling dough is not always enough to keep it from drying out.  Oil can get absorbed into the dough and then it is no longer a barrier to dehydration.  I suggest oil cloth or plastic wrap.


In the end, a baker has to pay attention to the dough and give the dough wnat it needs.




bakebakebake's picture


So, I left the sourdough out overnight to rise - for a total of 14 hours, then I formed it into a loaf (did not punch it down) and let it proof for another 5 hours.  I preheated the oven to 450, put in the loaf and sprayed the insides of the oven every 30 seconds for the first 1 1/2 min.  I tried to maintain 400 degrees and baked 20 min, turned it, then another 30 min total.


1 edible loaf.  Good taste.  Could have had better texture, a bit dense (due to my long rise, I'm assuming).  Evenly cooked.  Happy with it.

Now I have my starter in the fridge and am looking for recipes for quick breads to use some of it up.. 

I'll do another sourdough loaf next week, once this one is eaten and try for a smaller first rise time before forming the loaf.

Thanks for all the help.  I'll keep posting my questions (which I'm sure there'll be many...)