I placed a loaf of bread into a a 350 preheated oven with a rack directly below the pan containing two wet towels to create steam. It sprung up beautifully but the bread has been cooking 40 minutes and the inside is gooey @ 140 degrees F. I have made this loaf before consistently without the wet towels. Did I miss up the loaf or does the steam result longer cook time? Or does the steam cause the internal temperature gauge to be inaccurate?
I'm actually more concerned about baking bread at 350F. What kind of bread are we talking about?– Stephie ♦Dec 10, 2016 at 18:45
cinnamon raisin cranberry bread. I usually bake @ 350 what else would you recommend?– sammarcowDec 10, 2016 at 18:49
1Cinamon raisin hints at a slightly sweet bread? Ok, that probably explains the temperature. (Posting a recipe here is never a bad idea, btw.) fFor classic "artisanal" type breads, the rule of thumb is "as hot as your oven will go"...– Stephie ♦Dec 10, 2016 at 18:50
1Do you have an oven thermometer? This might be a sign that your oven's not keeping the right temperature. ... and steam will slow down the cooking some (evaporative cooling, less browning)– JoeDec 10, 2016 at 18:55
Creating steam at the beginning of the baking cycle has one goal: to keep the crust soft and pliable to allow for maximum oven spring.
Most breads are supposed to expand during the first phase in the oven. If the outer crust is already hard, it will prevent the expansion, either causing a dense interior or uncontrolled tearing of the crust - and in the worst case, both. Apart from steaming, slashing a loaf causes intentional weaknesses in the crust that allow expansion.
So how long should you steam?
Once the internal structure has started to solidify, the steam is no longer necessary. For my average two-pounds free-form loaf on a baking stone, I pour a generous cup of boiling water in at the beginning and then after about fifteen minutes I open the oven door wide to let the excess steam escape. Typically I also lower the oven temperature at this point.
For loaves in a pan, misting the loaf surface or adding a wash will also keep the crust pliable, similar to steaming.
But if I read your question correctly, I actually have another suspicion, why your bread stays cool inside or bakes longer:
If you used wet cool towels, they will
- absorb a lot of energy from your oven and
- act as a kind of "shield" or "barrier" that unintentionally protects your bread from the oven's bottom heat.
1As mentioned above. The wet towels absorb a great deal of heat, keeping the temperature down while the water vaporizes. This will happen whether the water is boiling or ice. see "latent heat of vaporization". Dec 10, 2016 at 23:04
1An example; Heating lb. of water from 32ºF to 212ºF takes 180 BTU's. Heating the same lb. of water from 212º to steam at 212ºF takes 970.4 BTU's. A large amount of energy is needed to change the liquid to vapor. Dec 10, 2016 at 23:35