Baking Your Sourdough Loaf
Some people prefer to bake in a pre-heated oven, others prefer putting the loaves into a cold oven and some use a Dutch oven. What’s best … well the jury is out! Experience will tell you which works better for you. Hot oven temperatures are usually at least 190ºC/374ºC
Creating steam is essential to help with oven spring. How you do that depends on your own circumstances.
As an example, we would generally expect to bake a 450g loaf at 190ºC/374ºC for around 45 minutes, but if you want to be more precise, most breads are ready when the internal temperature reaches around 97-98°C/208-210ºF. Breads enriched with butter, eggs or milk need to reach around 94°C/200ºF. It is better to slightly overcook than to undercook.
Bread dough loves moist air in the oven during the first minutes of baking, this allows the surface of the dough to expand rapidly during the initial oven spring it experiences when it hits the heat. Steam also contributes to a crisp crust.
Once the loaf has risen, you may need to let some steam out to prevent the crust from becoming chewy and overly thick.
Here are two baking methods, use the one that suits your circumstances. Some people’s ovens cannot create enough steam so using a Dutch Oven becomes vital.
Baking in a Dutch Oven
Dutch Oven baking is helpful if your oven is not good at creating and holding steam. You are basically recreating a steamy oven in a smaller environment. This can be any container that can be covered and will accommodate your bread giving it space to grow – it doesn’t need to be a traditional Dutch Oven, it can be an enamel roaster with a lid, a covered pyrex dish, a tray with a bowl over the top, etc.
- You can bake from cold if your dough is slightly underproved. Otherwise, pre-heat the oven to at least 200°C/392ºF (follow your recipe, eventually experience will let you know what works best for you),
- Line the Dutch Oven/container with lightly floured baking parchment and carefully place your dough in it, or if baking in a pre-heated Dutch Oven, turn the dough out on to the parchment and carefully lift it, and the dough, into your Dutch Oven; slash/score the dough quickly, cover and put in the oven. Some people put ice cubes in a small container inside the Dutch Oven to help with steam generation.
- Remove the cover after about 15 minutes, or once the dough has fully risen, to release excess steam
- Bake for a total of approx 45mins to an hour (this varies according to the type of bread and loaf size) until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped, or to be more accurate, the internal temperature reads around 97-98°C/208-210ºF. There are some great food thermometers available.
Baking on an Open Tray
- You can bake from cold if your dough is slightly underproved. Otherwise, pre-heat the oven to at least 200°C/392ºF (follow your recipe, experience will let you know what works best for you), once heated, place some cold water or ice cubes in a dish on the bottom rack, this should start to create some steam which helps the bread to rise usually during the first 15 minutes. You can also spray some water into the oven.
- Carefully turn out your dough out onto a lined/floured baking tray, score/slash and place in the oven for approx 45mins to an hour (this varies according to the type of bread and loaf size) until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped, or to be more accurate, the internal temperature reads around 97-98°C/208-210ºF.
45 mins to 1 hr
Probe thermometer. Tray of water.