Breads

No-Knead Bread – Ideal Baking Temperatures

Comparing several references (see below, just to list a few), I realized that the ideal baking temperatures and the timing for each phase of baking depends on the following factors:

  1. Size and type of oven
  2. Material of baking container
  3. Gluten strength of the dough/gluten content of the flour
  4. Open or enclosed baking container

Basic Concept:
1.  The bigger the oven, the more capable it is to maintain the initial “firing” temperature when we open and close the oven during dough loading.  The “firing” temperature is required to boost the last activity of the yeast to produce a good dough rise and spectacular cracks.

2.  Thick cast iron and baking stone pot/slab are heat-traps, and help to retain the “firing” temperature even though the temperature of the air in the oven may fall quickly for a while during dough loading.  They are instrumental to good initial dough rise.  When using other materials like stainless steel or non-stick pans, the preheat and initial baking temperature needs to be higher.

3.  Dough that has undergone prolonged proving and has reduced in volume prior to baking is considered tired and will not rise as well.  A good indication would be a collapsing dough when it is scored.  Increasing the preheat and initial baking temperature may be able to improve dough rise.  It is recommended to use flour with minimum 12% protein (gluten) for long proving (flavorful) bread.

4.  Supplying steam bath or covering the pot in initial baking is to produce the signature thick crust of Italian breads.  Choose either option.

My Toaster Oven Experience:
1.  Because my oven cannot accommodate the height of the cover of my stone baking pot, I bake the bread uncovered.  So I cannot bake at 515degF (270degC) for 30+15min without burning the bread.

2.  However, when I adopted Jeff Hertzberg‘s 450degF (230degC) for open-baking, the bread did not rise at all!  Perhaps my dough gluten strength was too weak, or my dough size was too large (double his recipe), or my oven is too small to retain/regain the temperature after opening and closing.

3.  I discovered the ideal temperatures (2 phases) on my 15th try –

  • Preheat to 500degF (260degC); add boiling steam bath 5min before loading the dough
  • Load the dough, wait for oven to steam up again, say 3 – 5min
  • Turn down the temperature to 464degF (240degC) and bake for 40min

4.  When using other materials like stainless steel or non-stick pan, I need to preheat to 515degF (270degC).


References:
The Original New York Times No-Knead Bread by Jim Lahey:
Preheat and bake first 30min (covered pot): 515degF (270degC)
Last 15min (open pot): 450degF (230degC)

Eric from Breadtopia:
Preheat and bake first 30min (covered pot): 500degF (260degC)
Last 15min at 450degC (230degC)

Jeff Hertzberg, author of Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day  :
Preheat and pre-steam oven to 450degF (230degC) and bake for 30min (half size loaf)

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