Baking is a technical process. It is a science, just as it is an art. So many factors come into play in ensuring your bread comes out just right. These include the type of ingredients, the ratio of ingredients, mixing techniques, resting and fermenting times, shaping methods, and temperature. Another absolutely key element? The best temperature to bake bread.
The right temperature to bake your bread varies depending on the type of bread. However, there are some general guidelines to adhere to. Breads with a thick and crispy crust, such as ciabatta and sourdough, should be baked at higher temperatures.
On the other hand, softer bread should be baked at a lower temperature. Generally, the ideal oven temperature for baking bread ranges between 350-475° F.
In this article, we take a detailed look at the role of heat when baking, factors determining the right temperature to bake, and a breakdown of the right temperature for different types of bread.
The Role Temperature Plays When Baking Bread
When bread making, the baking temperature facilitates various physical changes and chemical reactions to bring out the bread’s taste, texture, and flavor. The core reactions include breaking, mallard reaction, and caramelization.
Breaking is the first chemical reaction that occurs once you place the bread in the oven. As the internal temperature of the dough increases, the water and alcohol content in the dough vaporizes. The heat also causes the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation process to expand, resulting in the bread rising further.
The extent of expansion is limited to how well the gluten developed during the preparation phase. Whereby the more developed the gluten, the firmer the structure of the bread, allowing the gas to expand significantly without rapturing the bread. This results in a dense, aerated bread structure.
During this breaking process, several other chemical and physical reactions take place as the internal temperature of the dough rises:
- 80°-120°F. The heat causes the production of more carbon dioxide from the yeast and alcohol. If the bread dough is enriched with fat, the fat releases trapped air and water, causing the bread to rise further.
- 122°-140°F. The higher temperatures kill the yeast cells, and gluten protein becomes denatured, preventing further fermentation that could lead to the bread becoming overly sour.
- 130°-150°F. Starch gelatinization occurs, whereby the starch molecules swell with moisture and burst to create a web of starch molecules. The high temperature also kills any pathogenic organisms ensuring that the bread is safe for consumption.
- At 140°F. An enzymatic reaction results in starch being converted into sugar and proteins and broken down into amino acids.
- 160°-185°F. Protein coagulation occurs, causing the gluten strands to curl up, link, and tighten up, forming an irreversible gel that is tough and stiff. Meanwhile, the naturally occurring and added enzymes inside the dough become deactivated.
- Above 185°F. The coagulated gluten becomes shiny and rubbery.
Overall, the higher temperatures in the oven cause a significant reduction in moisture in the dough. This is because the water molecules near the surface of the dough evaporate.
Since there is low moisture content in the oven chambers, it creates a water vapor gradient, which causes water molecules to diffuse from inside the dough to the surface and then to the oven chamber.
Over time, most of the water in the dough evaporates. In some recipes, steam is introduced in the oven to prevent the bread from drying up too much.
Mallard reaction is a chemical process that results in the browning of your bread. It takes place at an average temperature of 280°-330°F. The sugar in the dough binds with amino acids causing the crust to brown. This process also produces a unique aroma and flavor in the bread.
Caramelization takes place at 350°F. The high temperatures cause the sugar to decompose and break down, resulting in various colors ranging from yellow to brown and burnt dark shades. This process gives the bread a caramel-like flavor and a nutty/toasty aroma. The caramelization process may occur simultaneously with the mallard reaction.
After the bread is removed from the oven, the internal heat begins to equalize. Since the exterior is more exposed, it cools down faster than the interior. This creates a temperature gradient, and over time the internal heat is dissipated to the exterior and then released to the environment until the bread reaches room temperature.
Ideal Temperature for Baking Different Bread Types
For best results, sourdough bread should be baked in a hot and steamy oven. The recommended temperature is 465°-500°F, ensuring a well-cooked and crunchy brown crust. However, most home ovens do not have a provision for such high temperatures. Nevertheless, achieving perfect sourdough with your home oven is still possible.
For a dark and thick crust, preheat your oven to 465°F and bake for 20 minutes. Then lower the temperatures to 430°F and bake for another 15 minutes. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 430°F and bake for 40-45 minutes. This will yield a thinner, light-colored crust.
If you want to delicately develop the crust to ensure it is crunchy and shiny without being too hard, introduce steam into the oven. You can do so by spraying some water on the dough before putting it in the oven, spraying water into the oven, or throwing some ice cubes into the hot oven just after you put the dough in, then closing the door.
The moisture prevents the crust from developing too rapidly and allows the dough to rise and expand fully. It also helps break down the dough’s carbohydrates to sugar to optimize the mallard reaction and caramelization process. In addition, the moisture supports the gelatinization of the starches creating a glossy finish on the crust.
For purists, a cast iron dutch oven is the most recommended method of baking sourdough bread. It yields a moist, soft crumb with a crunchy crust. The design of the oven keeps the bread adequately throughout the baking period. The high sides of the oven trap moisture creating a soft crumb.
If you do not have a Dutch oven, you can achieve similar results by baking the bread in a conventional oven with a lidded cast iron pot for about an hour at 500°F. Once the dough is slashed, remove the pot from the oven and the lid.
Lift the parchment paper or baking sheet, and then replace the bread. Cover the pot and bake again at 475°F for 20 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake with the pot open until the bread achieves a 200°F internal temperature.
Another option for baking sourdough bread is using a pizza stone. Set it in the oven before preheating so that it gets heated adequately. When you place the dough on the stone, heat is transferred quickly, causing an instant increase in internal temperatures, which causes the dough to rise and the crust to start forming immediately.
Brioche is enhanced with butter. Bread made with fats should be baked at lower temperatures than typical artisan bread. The best temperature range for baking brioche bread is 325°-372°F, with 30-45 minutes of baking time. Your bread will be done when it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F.
The perfect baguette has a light, dry, and deeply golden-brown crust. Like sourdough, bake the bread at high temperatures in a moist oven to achieve a crunchy crust. The recommended temperature for baking a baguette is 450° F.
Preheat the oven at this temperature with a pan of water at the base to produce steam. Then bake your bread for 35-40 minutes. If well done, the bread should produce a hollow sound when the crust is tapped.
You can also use a baking stone for baking baguettes. In this case, preheat the oven to 500°F with the baking stone placed on the middle rack. Also, set a pan with water at the bottom of the oven to generate steam and prevent the bread crust from hardening.
When ready to put the dough in for baking, reduce the temperature to 475°F. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the water pan, then reduce the temperatures to 450°F. Bake for another 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Be cautious when opening the oven, as it will be hot and steamy.
To bake Focaccia bread, preheat the oven to 450ۜ°F. Bake the dough at 450°F for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 425°. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown. The bread should have an internal temperature of 205°F when well done. You do not need steaming when baking focaccia.
Preheat the oven to 420°F. Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Lower temperatures to 350°F and bake for another 10 minutes. Or, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the bread at this temperature for 35-45 minutes.
Due to the molecular structure of rye flour, it tends to have a high moisture content. As such, you need to bake the bread at a high temperature or longer to eliminate the moisture. The optimal temperature for baking rye bread is 350°-400°F until it achieves an internal temperature of 205°-210°F.
Begin by preheating the oven at 450°F. Then lower the temperatures to 400°F and bake the bread for an initial 15 minutes. Lower the temperatures to 350°F and bake for 20-25 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake the bread for 100-120 minutes at 350°F.
Before bagels are put in the oven for baking, they are pre-cooked in a water bath. The bagels are boiled in hot water for about a minute. The hot bath cooks the outer layer of the dough and infuses the interior with moisture to keep the bagel soft. Therefore, the main goal of baking is to complete the cooking process and give the crust a shiny, golden brown. Unlike baguettes, the crust is thin and soft.
To bake, preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake at this high temperature for 20 minutes until the bagels are golden brown.
It is worth noting that the amount of sugar used in a recipe affects how fast and the extent to which the bread crust browns. If the bread recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, it browns faster than if it uses half a cup of sugar. Also, dark sugar, such as molasses, causes the bread to brown more.
The bagel recipe uses malt barley syrup for sweetening, though you can substitute it with molasses or brown sugar. Therefore, you may need to lower the baking temperature to 375°-400°F to prevent the crust from over-browning.
Conclusion: We Know The Best Temperature to Bake Bread
One of the most important variables when baking bread is temperature. It determines if the bread comes out well done with the perfect finish or not. Generally, higher temperatures— 450°F and above—are required for crusty bread such as sourdough bread and baguettes.
On the other hand, lower temperatures (425°F) are recommended for softer-shelled loaves of bread, such as regular white bread, bagels, rye, and multigrain bread, among others.
Although most home ovens do not have a provision for higher temperatures—above 450°F—you can achieve similar results by using a baking or pizza stone. It captures heat during the preheating phase. When the dough is placed on it, the heat is transmitted fast, resulting in the internal temperature of the dough rising quickly to ensure the proper formation of the crust.
Crusty bread recipes require that the bread is baked in steam. The steam prevents the bread from drying out. A dutch oven is preferable for making sourdough bread as it keeps the bread moist while maintaining a high temperature.
However, if you do not have one, you can use your regular bread or loaf pan but introduce steam to the moisture. You can also spray water into the oven or place a water pan at the bottom of the oven.
Preheating the oven is required for all bread recipes. Most also require that you start baking at higher temperatures but reduce the heat after 10-20 minutes. Always confirm the recommended baking instructions for the specific bread you are making. Baking bread at optimal temperatures is important to ensure adequate over-spring and crust formation.
FAQs: The Best Temperature to Bake Bread
What happens if you bake bread at higher temperatures?
When bread baking at higher temperatures, it results in an uncooked crumb and burnt crust. The crust may burst open as the interior temperatures of the dough rise too rapidly without allowing time for coagulation. It can also cause the bread to become too dry.
What happens if you bake bread at lower temperatures?
If you bake bread at lower temperatures than the recommended range, it will not rise adequately. The bread may also not reach its correct internal temperature when fully cooked. When you use the wrong bread baking temperature, you end up with soggy, gummy, heavy uncooked bread.
Lower temperatures also inhibit the proper formation of the crust. Therefore, it will have a pale, soft crust. The bread interior may also become lumpy if the oven is not preheated adequately.