The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Testing for done

Jeff in Trees's picture
Jeff in Trees

Testing for done

I got my first lesson in bread baking in about 1971, from my mother, a few years before she passed away.  One of the tips she gave me was how to tell when the loaves were baked.  What she did was to wet two fingertips with a bit of saliva, and tap gently the bottom of the (metal) pan... if it exploded into steam then the bread was ready to take out. 

This method has served me well ever since, but I've never run into any reference to anything similar in any of the several bread books I've looked at, or any on-line recipes I've seen.

Just curious... does anyone else use this test?  or even heard of it?



DanAyo's picture

That’s a new one for me.

BaniJP's picture

That feels a little strange to me. Isn't the pan always hot enough to evaporate the saliva (or water) immediately?

JeremyCherfas's picture

Thermal conductivity suggests that the pan will be at oven temp long before the bread inside.

idaveindy's picture

If the bread pan is thin metal, the cooler dough will keep the _bottom_ of the pan cooler than the sides for quite a while because "cold sinks."

If the pan is cast iron, then yes, the hotter sides will conduct heat to the cooler bottom. 

Also keep in mind that the "saliva test" requires a temp higher than boiling... " if it exploded into steam then ...".

I compare that description to sprinkling a few drops of water on a hot frying pan, there is a visible difference to seeing the water drops sit and boil, versus having them "dance" around.

It is a very subjective test, one tailored to that size and thickness of steel pan.  it would likely not work for a cast iron bread pan.

I also suspect it was a gas stove that had the flames covered.  Radiation heat from an exposed electric heating element would have made the bottom of the pan hotter sooner.

So, yeah, I can see how it would have worked.

Jeff, was it a gas oven?  If electric, was there something on a lower rack shielding radiation heat from the lower element?

Jeff in Trees's picture
Jeff in Trees

Well, grandma had a wood stove.

But when I learned this from my mother she had an electric oven, as do I (not the same one ;) ).  And, yes, metal pans, not cast iron.  Mom never used to put anything special on the rack below the one the breads were on, although I often do.  And it is exactly similar to the hot frying pan test -- mom used to compare it to testing for correct temperature of a hot iron for laundry.

Thanks, everyone, for the comments!