Time, temperature and bread: Baking rustic and artisan loaves
In our last post, we learned how a fast and accurate thermometer can make all the difference when you’re attempting to bake the perfect loaf. From the yeast, to the rise, to the oven, a thermometer can mean the difference between an edible masterpiece or a desk-top paperweight.
We asked the question, “What happens when your loaf of choice is a rustic bagel or an artisan baguette?” When it comes to rustic and artisan breads, is internal temperature (by itself) sufficient proof that your bread is fully baked?
In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen placed temperature probes in the center of two loaves of rustic Italian bread and monitored them as they baked. Halfway into the bake, the internal temperature of the loaves had already passed 200°F, and they reached the optimal 210°F a full 15 minutes before the end of the recommended baking time.
They pulled one loaf from the oven as soon as it neared 210°F and left the other in the oven for the recommended baking time. (Interestingly, the temperature of the longer-baked loaf never rose above 210°F, because the moisture it contained – even when fully baked – prevented it from going past the boiling point of water – 212°F.)
There were marked differences between the two loaves. The loaf that was removed from the oven solely based on temperature had a pale, soft crust and a gummy interior, while the loaf that baked the full hour had a nicely browned, crisp crust and a perfectly baked crumb.
It turns out that when baking rustic and artisan breads, internal temperature is only one aspect of a more complicated baking process. You must also factor in time and appearance. America’s Test Kitchen found that bread can reach the optimal temperature for doneness well before the loaf is actually baked through. Taking the temperature of your bread is a very important step, but you must also consider the recommended baking time and make sure the crust has achieved the appropriate color before removing the loaf from the oven.
Consider other factors also. Depending on your oven (conventional or convection) you may also have to rotate the loaf to achieve uniform color across the top, or utilize a probe/meter combination (like the TW362B) to confirm that your oven is – in fact – running at the temperature it says it is.
Take away -
Leaner breads, with golden brown hues and crispier crusts require more than temperature to dictate their doneness. You’ve also got to watch the clock. However, when you’re dealing with moist centers and thinner outer layers, like those found in richer breads, temperature is a more accurate indication of doneness.