The Fresh Loaf

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Troubleshooting to adjust cooking temp/time

erock's picture

Troubleshooting to adjust cooking temp/time

I baked my first loaf of sourdough last weekend.  I more or less followed the Breadtopia no knead sourdough recipe. All in all, I really liked the bread, but there is certainly room for improvement.  It was denser and gummier than I hoped for, but I am certainly willing to chalk that up to inexperience and figure I knead (pun intended) to bake a few more loaves to learn more.

I was hoping you might be able to help me approach adjusting my temperature and time.  I baked the loaf inside a heavy cast iron dutch oven.  I preheated the oven to 500F with the dutch oven inside. Then baked at 500F for 30 minutes with the lid on and then 15 min at 450F with the lid off.  

While it was not burnt, the bottom crust was very dark and hard.  The outercrust was hard as well, but not too bad.  I checked the internal temp with my thermapen and it was 210F.  My oven is very accurate. Since the internal temperature was spot on, I am thinking I should cook at a lower temperature, perhaps for a longer time?  Any thoughts?




Arjon's picture

What did you change from the recipe and method you sort of followed?

erock's picture

I probably should have been a little more clear.  I tried my best to follow it exactly.  By more or less, I was referring to my inexperience.  His recipe uses cups with an ounce conversion.  I've read here and elsewhere that grams are the way to go for accuracy.  

1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups purified water
1/4 cup starter

Here is the recipe.

dosco's picture

... since you are trying to hit an internal temperature of the finished loaf of 205dF.


Perhaps your yeast or starter wasn't active enough?




Katnath's picture

i used to have similar problems - bottom crust dark and hard. I've modified baking now and preheat to 500, then turn down to 475 as soon as I pop the loaf back into the oven. Proceed as normal from there. 

erock's picture

Like probably a lot of folks, I was excited to get started and my starter was young.  I think it was about 6 days old, just like you Jim. That's why I was less concerned about the texture.  I figured my impatience was part of it.  Going to bake another load this weekend so it'll be curious to compare.  Katnath, I will try lowering to 475F and give it a shot.  Thanks, folks!

Arjon's picture

a couple of ways I've used that produce a less hard bottom crust:

- put the rack that the pot sits on higher up in the oven

- put something on the next lower rack to block some of the heat from the bottom. I use a pizza stone

colinm's picture

I agree with the previous comments. My experience is that dark bottoms occur when the oven is heated from below. For example, if I use pure convection ( with hot air only ) the bottoms are much better than when I use convection bake ( which adds some direct heat from below). Shielding the heat source, as Arjon says, is another way, and my guess is that starting with a very hot oven may work by reducing the amount of heat the oven needs to put out during baking.

a_warming_trend's picture

I came across that same Breadtopia recipe when I was first trying to imagine how I might carry out a no-knead sourdough loaf. 

Although I really, really prefer metric measurements, I do think that the 1/4 cup of SD starter in place of 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast is an effective swap. 

This doesn't really address your burnt bottom issue, but I will say that my low-levain-percentage loaves have benefited from stretch-and-fold every half hour for the first 2-4 hours. The rest afterward is between 8-12 hours...but that initial gluten-strengthening really helps with crumb texture and overnspring.

For instance: One of my favorite loaves of all time used about 50g of levain, with a few strech-and-folds for the first few hours of bulk fermentation, with a 12 hour room temperature bulk. Shaped and did a long, cold proof. Really wonderful. 

I think that no-knead can yield a nice crumb, but I don't think that it can develop the gluten quite in the way that even a few stretch-and-folds can. 


erock's picture

I think I can move my rack up one more slot in the oven, so I'll try that as well as lowering the temperature. My oven does have a convection setting.  Is that generally better suited for baking bread?

Perhaps I am missing the boat trying the no knead method.  I picked it because it just seemed so much easier.  Is there a "go to" classic and simple recipe you might recommend instead?

erock's picture

Thanks, Jim!  I am going to give it a shot tomorrow.  I'll be sure to post back with my results.

doughooker's picture

If your main problems are a dark bottom and a hard crust, try the following:

Put a SILVER cake pan, pie plate, what-have-you under your Dutch oven to reflect some of the bottom heat. Alternatively, try putting a baking/pizza stone under it.

Try baking with the lid on the Dutch oven for the entire time.

erock's picture

Thanks, mixinator, I will give that a shot.

erock's picture

So, Jim.... I have a confession to make.  I really, really meant to try your recipe.  I was all set to make the levain Saturday night and instead fell asleep on the couch.  Completely forgot about it as I stumbled upstairs to bed.  (I think it's a sign I've been thinking of bread too much.  At 4am or so I woke up and my first thought was oh no! the levain!)

So instead I tried a recipe that I'd be able to accomplish in the same day.  I tried this one, . It was also nearly no knead.  It came out great!  Cook time was 400F for 20min lid on, then 40min lid off. It came out at 205F with that bake time. I learned I need to score the bread deeper. This dough was really easy to work with.  I liked not having to preheat the DO.  

I would have liked a slightly thicker crust. What tends to contribute to that? Higher hydration? Higher temps? More time covered?

Jim, your recipe is on the docket for next weekend.