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I've taken to using my go-to Honey-Oat Pain de Mie recipe to make sandwich buns. I just separate the dough after the first rising into eight dough balls on a sheet pan. As a loaf, I always make this bread in a Pullman pan, so the crust isn't an issue. As buns, this dough browns quite a bit (not surprising considering all the honey) which would be fine if it browned evenly. Unfortunately, the bottom of the buns (in contact with the pan) don't brown at all. In contrast to the toasty tops, that isn't a nice effect. I've tried flipping the buns halfway through baking, and that helps a bit, but the bottoms of the buns never get as brown as the tops. If I flip sooner, I end up up with even browning, but flattened buns. Can anyone help?

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What kind of tray or sheet are you using when you bake them as rolls? –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 16 '13 at 2:00
    
@SAJ14SAJ I use a standard half-sheet pan, ungreased. –  Jolenealaska Nov 16 '13 at 2:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You may wish to try a dark colored baking sheet, such as this one from Chicago Metallic (not an endorsement, I haven't tried it.)

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The dark finish will help absorb radiant heat, which is a major mode in baking, and better brown the bottoms. In fact, such a tray probably would bake too fast for the bottoms of cookies.

Buttering it will also help conduct heat from the pan to the bottom crust, although you will also get a touch of that almost-fried texture (I like it, but it might not be what you have in mind).

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The only dark thing I have that might work is a big cast iron skillet. What do you think of the idea of placing the fully raised buns on the skillet, pre-heated with the oven and lightly buttered? –  Jolenealaska Nov 16 '13 at 2:15
    
I was going to add putting the tray on top of a pizza stone; an inverted cast iron pan could work similarly. Putting the buns directly in the skillet could work, perhaps too well. You know you want to do 18 trials for each possible variation... –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 16 '13 at 2:17
    
Of course...with pictures! :) –  Jolenealaska Nov 16 '13 at 2:18
    
The cast iron skillet worked! Preheated it browned the buns a bit more than ideal, starting cold worked perfectly. –  Jolenealaska Nov 17 '13 at 0:27

For creating a nice and brown, even, crust on bread:

  • best tip: use a baking stone or a pizza stone that can store a lot of heat and transfer this to your dough
  • if you don't have that, baking in a pot (lid on for moisture when rising, later removing it) or on a skillet can work too
  • if that won't work (too large a bread or a shape that won't fit), at least preheat your baking tray
  • (and I often put my bread in on the higest temperature possible, lowering it after about 5-10 min)
  • but, even with these tips, you can't bake too many breads at once: a domestic oven simply cannot cope; I'm guessing probably because the steam from the buns will cool down the sides and bottom on the other buns, inhibiting browning and a dry crust forming; too many breads will also make it harder for the oven to keep it's temperature
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