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I bake my bread for about half an hour. At the 15 minute mark, the bottom is already slightly burnt, but the bread is clearly not done. My oven doesn't have a thermometer, so I don't know exactly what temperature it's at. I preheat it for 15 minutes at the highest setting, and then I drop the temperature when the bread goes in. I also put a container with water at the bottom to create vapor. How do I stop the bread from burning?

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Are you using a baking stone? That's the usual thing to do when you're treating the oven like this - preheating as hot as possible, creating steam, then reducing temperature when the bread's in. (Otherwise, SAJ14SAJ's answer is what you want.) –  Jefromi Apr 13 '13 at 21:14
    
What kind of bread/dough are you baking? –  Kev Apr 14 '13 at 19:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

it's possible that the heat only comes from the burner/element at the bottom. Especially if you have a gas oven.

Try bufferring the bottom of the bread with a pizza stone. A terracotta clay pot saucer, or practically any unglazed natural stone tile can substitute. Marble or granite are not ok.

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My gas oven has the element at the bottom only (except when broiling)--and does not have such large scale problems with heating. I think there is something deeper here. Only the radiant heat is highly directional, and with preheating, all of the oven's walls should be radiating at approximately the same black body temperature. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 14 '13 at 0:07
    
@SAJ14SAJ right. My concern is that if one side is burning faster, then there is more energy coming from that direction and buffering it should help. It's also possible the piece the bread sits on gets too hot in preheating and transfers too much heat. If the whole oven was too hot, then the whole bread would burn (per radiation and diffusion you noted). –  MandoMando Apr 14 '13 at 0:28
    
Interesting point... except we don't know what the loaf is on or in, which may be having an effect as well. Dark metal will conduct a lot more heat into the loaf, and absorb more radiant heat as well. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 14 '13 at 0:30
    
The loaf is sitting on a metal pan. I don't have an pizza stone. Maybe I should get one. –  Martin Epsz Apr 15 '13 at 3:30
1  
@MandoMando Sometimes we get lucky :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 15 '13 at 14:31

It is highly likely that the temperature of your oven is too high. While I would recommend simply buying an oven thermometer, which are not very expensive, if you are in a part of the world where that is not feasible, according to this post at Tip King:

You can check your oven's temperature with this simple test. After preheating it, lay a sheet of plain white paper on the centre rack and leave it for five minutes. The paper's colour will tell you the oven's temperature:

  • pale biscuit, 150°C/300°F or less
  • light brown, 180°- 200°C/350°-400°F
  • golden brown, 200°- 230°C/400°-450°F
  • dark brown, 230°- 260°C/450°-500°F
  • black, over 260°C/500°F

Hopefully, this method will let you estimate the temperature of your oven accurately enough to adjust it within the range that your bread is successful.

Note that I have not verified this method personally.

If this is not the cause of your problems, you will need to describe how you are baking your bread (the recipe, whether you are using a stone, a pan, how you are shaping the loaves, what their size is, and so forth) in much more detail to get a better answer.

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Buying and oven thermometer is good advice. I can't believe how far out the temp knob settings on my electric fan assisted oven were from reality. –  Kev Apr 14 '13 at 19:49
    
I have no idea where to go buy an oven thermometer. I will try the paper method, but I had already tried a similar one one and it didn't work. It asked how much did paper take to become brown instead of asking for the color after a given time, and it didn't work because the paper became brown way to quickly, even if the oven wasn't too hot. The fact that they don't specify what kind of paper to use isn't very helpful. –  Martin Epsz Apr 15 '13 at 3:29
    
@MartinEpsz I went to a certain well-known online trader named after a South American river, searched for "oven thermometer", and they had them for under US$7. –  slim Apr 17 '13 at 8:50
    
I'm in a place that's even more southern than the river you are talking about, and sadly that trader doesn't usually deliver here at anything resembling a reasonable price. But we do have some similar services here and I found some viable alternatives. So thanks –  Martin Epsz Apr 17 '13 at 17:50

Try to put your bread a space more up and in the center of oven. And check if (maybe) the pan is too large for the oven. In this case it wouldn't leave space for hot air to circulate.

This is a matter of examining because the heating acts more on one side than the other. Preheating is irrelevant, because the heat is now distributed evenly throughout the oven.

The problem arises when you put the pan in the oven. The same shape of the pan deflects the heat to the sides of the oven, to raise it again and then gather in the high part.

Usually when the bread, cakes or any preparation made baking are overcooked on the one side, it is because the container is not well positioned in the oven, and is closer to that side. Changing the position of the pot can also compensate imbalances heat inside the oven. But this result can be achieved only through experiencing, every oven is different from any other.

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