The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Loafs done extremely fast or?

NoNeed's picture

Loafs done extremely fast or?

Hello everyone,

My loafs seem to be done in half the time recommended by recipes. I use a meat thermometer set to F203 / C95 degrees. It's hard to smell or taste the doneness for me because my nose isn't working like it should. How else can I tell if it's done?

No matter what kind of bread I bake; it always seems to be done in half the time. What can be the reason for this? If a a loaf needs 48 minutes at F446 / C230 according to the recipe, it needs only 22 minutes in my oven! Some variation is to be expected but 22 minutes seems very short to me. I included some pictures. The whole levain wheat loaf might look a bit pale, but I rather aim for moist and pale in stead of dry and golden. My meat thermometer said it's ready..

I use a good modern household oven and I use a baking tray with lava stone and towels for steam. It's a very well insulated oven; It takes ages to cool down after I lower the temperature during baking.

Does anyone have an additional tip or recommendation for me? How do I make sure it's perfectly done?


pmccool's picture

First, the oven may be running at a higher temperature than the set temperature.  Example: if you set the temperature at 400F, the actual temperature may be 430F or 450F or some other temperature.  You could check this with an inexpensive oven thermometer.

Second, the oven may utilize a convection baking or fan-assisted baking mode instead of a conventional baking mode.  This would lead to shorter bake times.

The pictured loaf looks very good.  I'd prefer a darker crust but that's a matter of my personal taste.


Davey1's picture

A fan (on while baking) would cause this. Enjoy!

NoNeed's picture

My oven runs five to ten degrees °C hotter than it indicates. depending on the thermometer and location of measurement. My laser thermometer tels me the baking steel is exactly the right temp. I might try to lower the oven next time and turn it up at the end to get some color... Thanks, I am going to experiment with that!

I am used to baking 70% rye so this was a whole new experience. I didn't dare to score till the very ends of the loafs. That was a "mistake" I see now. It looks a bit like a humpback whale now.

tpassin's picture

 I might try to lower the oven next time and turn it up at the end to get some color.

You can turn the oven down or off after you put the bread in and generate steam.  That's what I have been doing lately.  I turn the setting down to 300 deg F for 5 - 10 minutes.  The exact setting and time probably isn't important.

Generating steam - if you toss water in after inserting the bread, at least - cools down the oven a lot and the heating elements of typical home ovens can't catch up for some time.  Meanwhile, the baking steel keeps pumping a lot of heat into the loaf while the cooler air in the oven helps to slow down the setting of the crust.

When I do this, my overall baking time is either the same as or within a few minutes of what it would be without turning down the setting.  The final baked color is at least as good, too.


NoNeed's picture

Hey Tom, what was your reason to decide turning down the temp? And what is your start temp for whole wheat levain bread?

That's an interesting suggestion. If it works for you It could definitely work for me too. Thanks..

Turning the heat up seems more logical to me, especially with a well insulated oven... It would mean more heat when you want to achieve the final coloring..

Lot's of tuning possibilities...

tpassin's picture

 what was your reason to decide turning down the temp?

I had noticed that the lower space in the oven, below the baking steel and the lower heating element (it's an electric oven) stayed cool enough so that more water thrown in didn't turn to steam. In fact, I would see standing water in the steam pan. Then I measured the temperature of my steam pan with an IR thermometer and sure enough the temperatures were barely over the boiling point of water.

That got me thinking that the usual picture of what goes on in an home oven from steaming to the end stage of bakes might be different from what we usually think.  I had already realized that the initial burst of steam served to both gelatinize the surface of the bread and to keep it relatively cool.  Cool is good because once the crust heats up too much it will set and resist expanding further. Too cool for too long would probably lead to a loaf softening and spreading sideways so there is probably a balance to be found.

Note that I proof and bake most of my loaves free-standing on the steel.  I hardly ever use a proofing basket.  I like the appearance of a free-standing proofed loaf better.  They are often glazed or glossy, and that led me one day to realize that the initial steam was condensing all over the surface of the cold loaf and gelatinizing it. Once the surface of the loaf heats up very much, water will no longer condense the same way.  So that initial burst of steam is very important in setting up the loaf for the rest of the baking period.

So I just tried it out - turning down the temperature setting - and have been getting good results.  Later, as long as the temperature setting is at or above around 400 deg F or 415 deg F you will have no trouble getting enough browning.

With a professional bread oven, or an oven that can retain the steam and moisture for much longer, the results might be different.  For most (US style, anyway) home ovens, turning down the temperature setting at the beginning should work well, and it makes the timing of the bake more forgiving.

And what is your start temp for whole wheat levain bread?

I don't usually bake 100% WW bread, though I have. For WW-heavy breads I'm more likely to bake 50 - 70% WW, often with the biggest bits of bran sifted out.

I usually preheat, including the steel, at 450 deg F for at least an hour.  Actually, the steel is likely to be hotter than that according to the IR thermometer, but in that range, anyway. I preheat for such a long time to make sure the entire oven and steel gets well-saturated with the heat.  In practice, I usually start to preheat soon after starting the final proof.  The final baking temperature setting depends on the size of the loaf but is typically a setting of 415 deg F after that initial cooler setting.

tpassin's picture

It occurs to me that if your oven truly is good at keeping moisture in, as you wrote, that very humid air would transfer heat more effectively than drier air.  Most home ovens have vents to let moisture escape.  Perhaps your doesn't.  Perhaps it's a one of those "steam ovens" that can also bake at a high temperature.

This is the only thing I have thought of that could plausibly cause your loaves to bake so much faster than most folk's, yet not have the crumb and crust be very out of whack - I mean, having the crumb undercooked while the exterior is overcooked, or the other way around.

It might be worthwhile to check and see if there is a way to open a vent to let  moisture out partway through the bake.

fredsbread's picture

If you like the bread, I don't think you need to worry about it baking faster than expected. If there's something wrong with it, then you can look into how to improve that aspect.

How are you steaming the baking environment for the first portion of the bake? It looks like the crust is forming very early and the loaf can't expand as much as it would.

I think your definition of "done" is also a big factor. If you like it more on the pale and most side then you won't be baking it as long as someone who likes it dark and dry. Internal temperature also isn't necessarily a good measure of doneness, as baked goods can sit at their final internal temperature for quite a while before most people would say that they're done.

NoNeed's picture

Thanks Tom, that's a detailed analysis of what can be going on in a home oven. You always keep me thinking further. I like that. BTW: it's not a steam oven but it is able to reach a temp of F932 / C500 for pyrolysis cleaning. I think that's why it's so well insulated.

I steam with a baking tray full of lava rocks that gets pre heated from the start. On top of that a few rolled up wet towels. Twenty minutes into the bake I remove the baking tray and towels and see some steam escape. Sometimes I open the oven a few minutes before the end of the bake to let moist air escape if there is any. I see nice oven spring happening even after the first 20 minutes.

Air gets blown out of my oven but I can't tell if it's coming from the casing for cooling the oven itself or from the baking compartment. It does smell like the ingredients. It seems strange for an oven in conventional mode to be blowing air out of the baking compartment. I mean that would mean it's convection isn't it? I mean when air gets blown out, air must be sucked in. But again, I can't tell where the air is coming from.

Unfortunately I can't tell what's going on. I can not contact the manufacturer because they don't answer questions. I have been trying to get answers but they just don't have any service towards customers!! That route is absolutely closed.

@Fredsbread: What I meant by "being done" is the crumb. I can't really tell if the crumb inside is done. The nuance between done or just not done is too subtle for my nose.

You said: "Internal temperature also isn't necessarily a good measure of doneness, as baked goods can sit at their final internal temperature for quite a while before most people would say that they're done." That's interesting, I thought core temperature is a good indicator.

By measuring the core temp I found out I always over baked my rye loafs. Since then I bake them about half the time I was doing before and have a wonderful moist crumb that's nicer to eat.

tpassin's picture

I see nice oven spring happening even after the first 20 minutes.

Aha, there's a real difference.  I've never gotten much more rise after the first five minutes or so.  That's with three different (older) ovens over the years. I also use a pre-heated cast iron pan filled with (non-lava) rocks, but not wet towels. It sits on the lowest rack position, underneath the baking steel.  There's just enough height for me to toss in the water.  I don't ever take the steam pan out.

I typically throw in 10 - 12 oz of water to make a cloud of steam.  After the first few minutes I see water in the pan, and it's not bubbling or visibly boiling.  If I throw in some more water, no new visible steam is created. At that time the IR temperature under the baking steel will be around 220 - 235 deg F.  Even by the end of the bake the temperature under the steel may not have recovered all the way.

It does seem like your oven can hold the moisture much better than any oven I've baked with and that's why your bakes go so fast.  That's really interesting. I wonder if it leads to paler, softer crusts.

Why don't you try starting without the moist towels and with less water, and see what happens?  And please let us know.


Moe C's picture
Moe C

How peculiar that "a good, modern, household oven" manufacturer has no customer service. What kind of oven is it?

NoNeed's picture

You might be right Tom! I couldn't understand why my loafs where ready in half the recipe-time but with pale crusts because it's a kind of contradictory. But now I am getting a hint of what's going on, it seems.. 

I do have a soft crust with some kinds of bread. I often need to up the temp at the end of the bake to get some color.

I use about 150ml of water. Next time I will try 50 ml and without towels... You might have solved my puzzle. I will definitely tell you guys the outcome of my next bakes!

@Moe C: Yeah, very disappointing. It's a AEG 6000 series surroundcook.

pmccool's picture

Here's what the manufacturer says about the cooking modes the oven can perform (bolding added by me): "Bottom heat, Conventional/Traditional cooking, Defrost, Fan cooking, Grilling, Light, Moist fan baking, True fan cooking, Turbo grilling"

Your oven, at a minimum, is fan assisted.  And, if I understand correctly that "True fan cooking" is convection baking, then it is also a convection oven.  It makes sense now that your baking cycles are much shorter if the oven is set to a convection mode or a fan-assisted mode.

Here's what the owner's manual says about the available cooking modes:
7.1 Heating functions
To turn on the lamp.
Fan Cooking
To roast or roast and bake food with the same cooking temperature on more than one shelf position, without flavour transference.
Moist Fan Baking
This function is designed to save energy during cooking. When you use this function, the temperature inside the appliance may differ from the set temperature. The heating power may be reduced. For more information refer to "Daily Use" chapter, Notes on: Moist Fan Baking.
Conventional Cooking / Aqua Clean
To bake and roast food on one shelf position.  Refer to "Care and cleaning" chapter for more information about: Aqua Clean.
Bottom Heat
To bake cakes with crispy bottom and to preserve food.
True Fan Cooking
To bake on up to two shelf positions at the same time and to dry food. Set the temperature 20 - 40 °C lower than for Conventional Cooking.
To grill thin pieces of food and to toast bread.
Turbo Grilling
To roast large meat joints or poultry with bones on one shelf position. To bake gratins and to brown.
To defrost food (vegetables and fruit). The defrosting time depends on the amount and size of the frozen food.

I anticipate that if you select the Conventional Cooking mode or the Bottom Heat mode, you will see that baking times are more in line with what you would anticipate.  If you have been using any of the Fan modes, it no doubt has contributed to the shorter baking times, particularly if you haven't lowered the temperature by 20-40C as instructed in the manual.


NoNeed's picture

Thanks a lot for taking the trouble Paul, I really appreciate! I've been using the conventional mode (bottom and top heat.) So there should be no circulating air. Although at first I thought air is blown around the food for the "surround cook" function in conventional mode because so much air is blowing out. It lead me to a frustrating phone call mission with AEG. AEG ensured me there is no fan assistance in conventional mode - it's the only service they gave me and I don't trust it 100%. I am still doubting. Maybe I should employ some colored smoke to test. I am serious. I want to know for sure. It's pretty ridiculous.. There could be food safety concerns with smoke though.

I guess Tom could be right about the moisture staying in... It could explain the short baking times and pale crust which normally don't go together. I am determent to find out. Will let you guy's know. Thanks for your help so far

Davey1's picture

Top and bottom on = faster. At least for the bread. Enjoy!

NoNeed's picture

Hi Davey, faster? Compared to what? 

The bread recipes I make are mostly made for bottom and top heat: In other words "conventional mode." And my baking times are much shorter then the recipe time.

Davey1's picture

Compared to bottom only. Enjoy!

onionsoup's picture

I'd recommend using a separate oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is accurate. You might also want to try lowering the temp and increasing the bake time a bit, to give your bread enough time to fully cook through.