The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking temperature

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Baking temperature

So, I baked two loaves yesterday with the same recipe - one mixed by my mixer (assistent) adn the other by my breadmaker (Panasonic). In both cases I cooked on a stone using steam on a cast iron pizza pan underneath. Both times I preheated the oven for an hour before baking. The only diference is the first time I baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes like the directions stated and the second time I preheated to 450 for an hour, cooked at 450 for 5 minutes, dropped it down 400 degrees for the rest of the 25 minutes baking. Both cooled on the same rack.

The first one (lower temp) is normal and good. The second is chewier interior and better (both are a 100% whole white wheat recipe). 

Question is - why do all books say to cook for 45 minutes at 350 then? What is the optimal temperature with a stone and steam.... maybe that's the difference?

Melissa

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I think you'll find that everyone does things a little bit different.  For instance you're exploring baking in your oven because there was something about the bread machine bread that you didn't like.

Personally I'm struggling to get a crust that I like.  Here's what I do now, I can't guarantee that I'll still be doing it tomorrow.  Look at my latest post for a photo of last night's bread.  I put the stone on a middle rack in my oven, on the lowest rack I put a pan full of rocks and gravel.  The rocks and gravel make a good heat retaining source so that when I close the oven door the oven gets back to temp quickly, also they lose very little temperature when I use them to generate steam.

oven setupoven setup

I preheat to 500 for an hour.  Once I'm ready to go, I microwave a cup or so of water to boiling.  I then open the oven door, slide the loaf onto the stone, throw the cup of water on the rocks and close the door as quickly as I can.  Last night, following Peter Reinhart's suggestion from BBA I used a plant mister at 30 second intervals to spray the sides of the oven.  Then I turned the temperature down to 425 for the remainder of the baking process.  Also I rotate the loaves after 10 minutes.

I had two loaves, a large (1400 g boule) and a small (400 gm) batardette.  The smaller one was done in 20 minutes (internal temperature of 207 F), the larger one, however had an internal temperature of 108F at that time - I thought maybe my probe had gone kaput, but no, it was just much larger and it took much longer to cook.  I noticed the crust was getting about as dark as I wanted it so I laid a parchment paper hat on top of it to slow any further browning (also from BBA).

If I were doing this again I'd probably do it a little differently as the loaf is a little too dark for my taste.  Although once I eat it I might change my mind.  The point is that it's really an evolving creative process for all of us with a goal of pleasing ourselves.  There is no universal "right" way or "right" end product.  Some like a light crust, some a dark one, some crispy, some soft.  The bread bakers who wrote your recipes had something in mind that they liked, but that might not be what you like.  For me, this is a lot of the fun and draw to this type of baking.

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Thanks so much for the response. I think that's why I lik to cook - so many creative outlets and I'm a creative person with no art talent, so cooking has kind of been my way of being creative. Breads are just something I'm finding the time to do (or taking the time to do) now and I love it.

I read some more lessons (saw in another post to look at the bottom of the page - I was doing searches and such through the top of the page), so I'm learning as I go.

One more question for you. I see in several posts and in the lessons warning about  steam in the oven. My husband will kill me if I kill our stove. Not that I have a love affair with it as we inherited it with the house, but it's fairly new and works fine... but I have to admit... I find my conventional stove a huge PITA and I always find it a pity to heat up the HUGE oven to make something small... we're kind of green people, so to heat an oven for an hour to a high temp just to bake for 25 minutes to 40 minutes DAILY (or at least 4 times a week) seems a huge energy waste. I may have to research that too.

 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I understand your pain.  I, personally, have conciously accepted the tradeoffs.  Bread is just too important.  I've been a vegetarian for 20 years - I figure that gives me some personal credit on planetary impact activities.  I reduce, reuse, recycle at every opportunity.  I bike to town when feasible to do my shopping.  But on this one thing, I just do it.  It's not perfect.  If we lived in the days of community wood-fired ovens I would use that, it's just not the way the world is right now.  Maybe you could get a baking buddy and do an oven share thing once in awhile and that would feel better.

I have a new oven as a result of this journey.  It turned out that my old one was giving erratic results and when I purchased an oven themometer and actually watched the temperature, independent of what the control panel said, I got wildly different results from what it was supposed to be doing.  We're all electric here, so gas was not an option.  I have been worried about the steam harming the controls of the ovens as well - that's what some people have warned about.  I ended up buying a Samsung stove because the oven has a steam-clean feature.  I figured that if it has a steam clean feature, the controls can probably handle the steam from baking bread.  If it doesn't I'll just have to buy another oven.  Independent of the warnings, I don't think much of anyone has actually posted that they've destroyed their oven in this process, and lots of people here bake a lot.  I'd caution against letting the appliances that happened to be in your house scare you away from one of the most fundamentally human experiences,  baking wholesome fabulous bread for your family and yourself.  It's just too important. 

Anyway, if you put your mind to it I'm sure you can come up with creative ideas to minimize your energy use in bread baking.  And when you do, be sure to share them here!

Another idea:  In BBA he talks about large sourdough loaves lasting a family a week.  The sourdough doesn't go stale as fast and people appreciate the changing tastes throughout the week.  The baker said his favorite was day three.  Then you wouldn't have to bake as often, of course everyone would have to enjoy the sourdough.

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

berryblondeboys,

As you noodle around the site, you will find some variations on the "pre-heat for an hour" theme.  Some posters have even experimented with starting their bread in a cold, rather than pre-heated, oven with good results.  Try using the Search tool for topics like "cold oven" or "cold start".  Like the other Paul (Pablo) said, there are a lot of different ways to approach making bread.

Another thing that you may find useful is the practice of making double or triple batches of your favorite breads.  This works better if you are baking your bread in pans than it does if you are baking them on a stone, since you can usually fit more pans in the oven than you can fit loaves on a stone.  That way, you can bake several days' worth of bread for only a little more energy expenditure than you would for use baking a single batch.  If that results in more bread than you can eat before it goes stale, just place the thoroughly cooled loaves in plastic bags and put them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.  Most frozen breads, when thawed out, are indistinguishable from their never-frozen counterparts.  Plus, it's always nice to be able to reach into the freezer for home-made bread when you don't have time to bake up a fresh batch.

Paul

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Thank you both Paul and Pablo (weird - same name diffierent languages responded to me within five minutes! LOL).

Anyway, it's true. There is a line that has to be drawn and good foods has always been ours. We are not vegetarians, but not big meat eaters either. We eat meat about 2 times a week. If it were up to DH and my 12 year old, we probably would be vegetarians, but I have issues with a lot of dairy and while I have increased my tolerance for beans and soy, I can't convert over enough to meet my protein needs (and if I don't get enough protein, I get headaches - yes, some people really do have problems with lack of protein!) But one doesn't have to give up meat completely to make an impact, right? Like everything else - it shouldn't have to be all or nothing.

Anyway, breads. I'll look at freezing some loaves. I cannot stand stale bread so either I'll freeze it or try the extra large breads with sourdough. My 12 year old should get a kick out of starting a sourdough. I haven't done it since before we had kids, so that's a LONG TIME.

Melissa

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hi Melissa,

Like you said "it shouldn't have to be all or nothing".  Another thing you might think of is that between starting with your bread machine dough fresh and going all the way to sourdough, you might try a preferment with your bread machine.  Breads made with a preferment (the extreme being sourdough) stay fresh longer.  You could make a poolish of some of your ingredients (some of the flour, water and a teeny bit of yeast, and let it sit until it bubbles up and then falls again, about 16 hours on the counter) then add that to the rest of your ingredients in the bread machine dough maker or mix it by hand.  The results should both taste better, richer, deeper, and last much longer before becoming stale.

Keep posting on your efforts.  I know I will.  Part of the fun I think is sharing with others and having a sense that there is a like-minded community out there.  It's kind of like sharing the bread itself.  I don't have a family to feed so I'm passing loaves on to neighbors and acquaintances to be able to justify baking more.

By the way, I chose "Pablo" as a username because someone already had "Paul".  I'm about as white-bread (ha ha) as they come.

Paul/Pablo