We received an email question today from a member who has bee following my bread quest who was interested in hearing more on bread baking temperature. It’s a really good topic; one that deserves a lot more attention.
One of the habits I have developed over years of wood-fired bread baking is a general (and probably misguided) disregard for oven temperature accuracy. Pizza ovens (and all wood-fired masonry ovens) are very forgiving in terms of the acceptable temperature range. The moistness in the oven chamber gives you a lot of wiggle room. So while I have some general rules ,I have never put a lot of stock into the differences between 425F and 450F in a conventional oven. And I think to become a better baker, that is something I need to develop.
So, going forward, I will start taking better notes on the oven temperature, both at the start of baking and at the finish. That will be helpful.
Here are some general rules that I try to follow:
You can start baking bread in the high 500F’s in a pizza oven. Remember to allow your oven to sufficiently cool before loading your bread; or you will burn the outside while the crumb is still doughy;
You should start baguettes first if you are baking multiple loads from a single firing (they bake more quickly and can take the higher heat);
If your oven temperature is well balanced (top and bottom) and within the general range required for bread baking you can roughly gauge whether your bread is done (or close) by the color of the crust;
Your finished bread should have an internal temperature of about 200F-205F;
If you are baking in a conventional oven, you should pre-heat your oven to 50-75F higher than your baking temperature. For baguettes, you can start baking at 500F, and then lower the temperature to 425F when you load your bread. Try 475F and 400F for a larger, whole wheat boule that requires a longer baking time;
Be sure to let your bread cool before you cut it and start eating it. The crumb needs to cool and finish baking for quite a while after you have removed the loaf from the oven;
Don’t eat warm bread!