The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

What did I do wrong?

pear_tart's picture

What did I do wrong?

I'm an experienced bread baker, but am just starting to play around with sourdoughs. I'm also just getting used to a brand-new grain mill, and have been baking with 100% whole wheat, which may or may not have something to do with my problem.  This morning I used Peter Reinhart's recipe for San Francisco-style sourdough, from Artisan Bread Everyday. I had two loaves, each about a pound and a half. The recipe calls for hearth baking, with an initial oven heat of 500, and a pan of hot water. The oven temp is dropped to 450 after putting the loaves in, and a baking time of approximately 40 minutes.  Well, after about 20 minutes, I noticed that my crust was turning black, so I put tin foil over both loaves, and let the bread continue to bake for another 18 minutes, at which time I took them out of the oven because they were obviously starting to burn.  The crumb is fine though a little more dense than I had expected, and the taste is superb. But the crust is a lost cause - it looks and tastes burnt, is very thick and hard. What did I do wrong? Any recommendations for next time? I'm thinkin' lower oven temp - maybe 375, and a slightly longer baking time.

pear_tart's picture

I forgot to mention that I used the convection feature on our oven - should I have just used the non-convection setting?

pmccool's picture

Sorry to hear about the burnt crust, pear_tart.

The convection setting may be the problem if you used the normal temperature settings.  Most oven manufacturers recommend that convection baking be done at temperatures 25F to 50F lower than for non-convection baking.  For instance, if your oven's manual indicates a 50F reduction, your 450F temperature for conventional baking should be changed to 400F for convection baking.

I scorched one side of a couple of loaves this weekend because I forgot to select conventional baking after I had preheated the oven on the convection setting.  It does make a diffference!


Yumarama's picture

I've had this problem myself with two ovens: once with my old cheapo GE standard (it got the boot and replaced with a much better Whirlpool) and once with my MIL's disfunctional Kitchenaid oven. 

In both cases, the culprit was oven malfunction, not a problem with the recipe. In the latter instance, it turned out that the KA oven's bottom element (it's hidden) wasn't even firing up. Only the top element was going so all the heat was coming down. The crust darkened and began burning well before the loaf was due and the insides, when cut, showed the dough not entirely well baked.

So I'd suggest before you do much else with the recipe, that you check your oven to make sure that, when you switch it on, the elements are firing up properly.

All we did was turn the oven on for a few seconds - with convection turned off - and noticed, by keeping a hand on the base for those few seconds, no heat at all from the bottom plate while the top element was turning red and warming the space up.

You may want to use the convection feature to pre-heat the oven faster but switch it off while baking the bread as you want the crust to stay moist and expandable; actively blowing hot air on it kinda defeats that goal.

Baking Mama's picture
Baking Mama

Hello, I am currently enrolled in a Artisan Bread class and we did SF Sourdough last week and we use a deck oven in class, however with that being said, we presteam our oven just before putting our dough in and once its placed and the door is closed we steam again. We only preheated our oven to to 425 degrees and then reduced the temperture to 375 degrees when bread was placed in oven. We baked it for about 45 mins or until internal temp was 200-205! The bread turned out wonderfully brown on the outside! I hope this helps you!!


pear_tart's picture

thanks for the feedback. I'll try this bread again, without the convection on, and at a slightly lower temp. Baking Mama, your range of 425 - 375 is what I'm used to for bread baking, so I'll probably go with that. .