Ultimately we are all looking for a loaf of bread that is baked to perfection, right? When you really get into making and baking bread, the temperature is everything. From the water temperature to the dough temperature during the proofing stages, throw in the oven temperature, and finally the internal temperature of the finished product. It all counts towards baking the perfect loaf of bread.
The ideal oven temperatures for baking bread ranges anywhere between 350 and 475°F (180 and 246°C), optimizing both caramelization and the Maillard reaction (which we’ll get into) providing the perfect color and texture in the final product. The range of temperature can be fine-tuned to suit the type of bread you’re baking.
Whether you are baking a loaf of sourdough bread, a high-fat bread, a sweet bread, or a rich-dough bread, each has its ideal oven temperature to produce the heavenly results we all strive for when baking bread.
A cute unwritten rule to be aware of is soft crusted bread should be baked at a lower temperature while thick and crusty bread should be baked at much higher temperatures.
Caramelization and the Maillard Reaction
First and foremost, it is crucial to understand how caramelization and the Maillard reaction work. Without the intricate play of the two, color, texture, and flavor would be lacking.
What is caramelization?
Caramelization refers to an elaborate group of reactions that take place when using sugars. It’s the decomposition of sugars at high temperatures.
How Does caramelization Work?
Caramelization occurs with most sugars. The required temperature can vary with the type of sugar used (i.e., sugar, honey, etc.) and occurs at higher temperatures. At about 350°F (176.6°C), sugars start to break down, and depending on the time and temperature, caramelization can produce an array of colors; ranging from yellow to brown, to burnt black and any shade in between.
Caramelization effect on Bread
Accounts for the caramel flavor (ha!), nutty and toasty aromas of baked goods, as well as the caramelized color.
What is maillard Reaction ?
Similar to caramelization, the Maillard reaction produces the browning of baked goods.
How Does Maillard Reaction Work?
Foods with sugar, whether being baked or cooked, bind with amino acids creating a variety of unique tastes and aromas. The average temperature for the reaction to occur ranges between 280 – 330°F (137.8 – 165.5°C).
Maillard Reaction effect on Bread
The curst is where the magic of the Maillard reaction takes place, making the bread crust brown and tasty
You’ll note that for the Maillard reaction to take place, the temperature is lower than that of caramelization. This doesn’t mean that the Maillard reaction won’t occur in conjunction with caramelization, because it will. This is why it’s important to ensure you’re baking your bread at the temperature most suitable to take advantage of caramelization and the Maillard reaction to achieve optimal tastes, texture, and overall look from both.
Not All Bread is Baked at the Same Temperature
So, now that we have gone over both caramelization and the Maillard reaction, you can see why some types of bread might need to be baked at either higher or lower temperatures (clearly sugar plays a role). Sugar, however, is not the only big player here, there are, of course, other factors such as fat content, sourdoughs as well as using rich ingredients like milk, butter and, eggs.
Word on the street has it that to bake an awesome loaf of sourdough bread, you need to bake it hot and steamy. Doing this assures you a crisp and crunchy crust with great oven spring. How high, you ask? Well, we’re talking as high as 500°F (260°C), though not all ovens are built to get this hot, especially a non-industrial one. You can get exceptional results, however, in one of two ways:
|1||Preheat your oven to 464°F (240°C) bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 430°F (220°C) and bake for another 15 minutes.||Gives a darker, thicker crust.|
|2||Preheat to 430°F (220°C) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.||Creates a thinner lighter colored crust.|
TIP: To check if your loaf of bread is completely baked, flip over to its underside and knock on it, if it feels soft and hollow, you’re done. If it doesn’t, you can put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
Creating steam in your oven, before as well as during baking, creates a nice crunchy and glistening crust. Steam in the oven hinders the crust from progressing too quickly, allowing the dough to continue expanding and rising to its maximum. It helps produce a nice deep golden color to the crust, as well as creating a nice shiny coat. You can encourage steam by placing a pan with water in the oven, spraying water on the side of the oven and closing the door, or even putting a bowl of ice cubes in the oven.
If you want to learn all the best hacks to produce the perfect steam for your bread, all super easy-to-follow tricks, I suggest you check out this post right here.
Cast Iron Pan / Bread Stone
Placing a cast iron pan, bread stone, or pizza stone in your oven while it preheats and then placing your dough on it before baking, gives the dough an immediate blast of heat. This helps the dough begin to rise before the crust has a chance to form.
Personally, I always prefer to use a cast iron pan when baking bread. I have had quite a few of them over the years, some were more expensive, some were cheaper. In recent years I have been using A pot that I highly recommend. It gives you great value for money plus and super tasty results. If you want to read more about it check out this post.
If crispy crust is what you’re after, look no further than this super informative post right here.
Bread Made with Fats
A bread that includes a fat, such as oil, butter, or another type, is known as “rich-dough” bread. Fat plays several roles in baking, it coats the flour and bars water and the proteins from interacting causing the development of gluten to slow down. Not only that, bread that contains fat doesn’t have the long gluten strands that you would normally find in bread made with no fat.
A rich-dough bread is typically baked at a lower temperature than your regular run-of-the-mill yeast bread. Keep in mind, however, that as with any bread recipe, it’s best to follow the suggested oven temperature of the recipe to ensure you get optimal results. If you use a thermometer – which you should, more on that here – in your bread baking, consider that rich-dough bread should have an internal temperature range of 180 to 190°F (82 to 88 °C) at the end of baking.
Bread Made with Sugars
Sugars in bread, such as white and brown sugar, honey, molasses, syrups, etc. are used to add flavors, such as through caramelization, and sweetness. Not only that but in a loaf of yeast bread, sugar serves as food for yeast during the fermentation process. Bread baked with more than a ½ cup of sugar, tend to be baked at 350°F (177°C), while those that require less than a ½ cup of sugar typically bake higher, at around 375°F (191°C).
TIP: Keep in mind that the darker the sugar you use (i.e., molasses, brown sugar, etc.), the quicker your bread is going to brown during baking. If you preheat your oven, and then bake at a slightly lower temperature, by about 25°F (14°C), or carefully observe the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking – you can somewhat control the resulting color and prevent it from getting over-browned.
A rich bread dubbed as such on account of the rich ingredients the recipe requires; such as milk, eggs, and butter, varies in oven temperature according to their recipe.
The brioche is considered a Viennoiserie, a baked good leavened with yeast similar to bread, although with added ingredients to enhance the end product. A fusion of bread and pastry, the brioche calls for butter, eggs, and milk (or cream, water, and occasionally brandy) in particular. Oven temperatures vary from 325 to 375°F (163 and 180°C) and a baking time ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the recipe. If you have a handy dandy bread thermometer, then once baked the goal is an internal temperature of about 190°F (88°C).
Hokkaido Milk Bread
Also known as Japanese milk bread, or Shokupan more colloquially is soft and airy as a result of the unique involvement of a roux-type starter called a tangzhong. The tangzhong, a simple combination of flour and water, is whisked together in a saucepan and cooked at a temperature of 149°F (65°C) causing the starch to become more gelatinous. The ideal oven temperature to bake Japanese milk bread is at 350°F (180°C) for anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes, depending on your oven. The digital thermometer should read 190°F (88°C) when the bread is perfectly baked.
When baking, we often automatically set the oven temperature to 350°F (176.6°C), in a set-it-and-forget-it kind of mode. Or maybe it was obvious to you that different types of bread call for different oven temperatures, either way learning the complexities of what exactly baking bread is, along with the variety of desirable results, can’t hurt knowing the reasons, right? We all want our bread to turn out amazing, and knowing the intricate differences between various types of bread can make all the difference.
When it comes to the baking stage, the oven temperature is key, and knowing how it all works is clearly a step in the right direction.
If you want to be consistent and accurate and achieve great baking results that you can recreate over and over again, I highly recommend you should invest in two inexpensive tools that can upgrade your baking process. I’m talking about dough and oven thermometers. There are many reasons to use them. They can really help you out and make sure you won’t experience a baking disappointment. If you wish to know more, simply click and read all about it right here.
Obviously, the oven-required temperature will vary depending on the type of bread you’re baking. Knowing how your particular oven works, following the recipe and, and as I already mention owning a digital thermometer are key when pursuing the ideal baked loaf of bread.