Underbaked! My loaf didn’t bake through to the center. What am I doing wrong?

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When we talk with people with a loaf-center that won’t bake through, it’s almost always one of these explanations:

  1. The oven temperature is off: Usually it’s running too hot, and the outside looks brown before the center is baked through.  But a low oven temperature can fool you too– you think you’ve baked long enough, but it’s actually running 50 degrees too cool.  Home ovens can be off by 50 to 75 degrees F, so check with an inexpensive oven thermometer like this one on Amazon.
  2. Inadequate oven and stone pre-heat: This can be an issue for really large ovens and thick baking stones. Some professional-style ovens (Wolf and Viking, for example) may need up to an hour of pre-heating. If you are using a thick baking stone, it may also need up to an hour of pre-heat. Even thin stones will benefit from a longer preheat.
  3. Measuring flour incorrectly: The most common mistake is that someone isn’t measuring the way we describe in our books.  We use the standard scoop-and-sweep method.  See our video on this for proper technique.  Do not spoon the flour into the measuring cup before sweeping– if you do, the cup will be too-lightly filled, and the dough will be too wet, leaving you with a center that won’t bake through.  Consider weighing flour if you want to get away from the uncertainty of volume measurement, see the post…

If you’re really struggling with underbaking, you can try an instant-read thermometer.  For lean breads (no eggs), the temperature at the center of the loaf should be 205 to 210 degrees F (96 to 99 degrees Celsius).  For egg-enriched doughs, the temperature should be about 185 degrees F (85 degrees Celsius).

One other thing– thanks for a great review of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day on Mary Hunt’s EverydayCheapskate.com, click to view.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

162 thoughts on “Underbaked! My loaf didn’t bake through to the center. What am I doing wrong?

  1. Hi Jeff and Zoë!

    I can’t tell you just how much I’ve LOVED having your book (ABin5), and I can’t wait to get the other(s).

    I’ve been attempting to bake up the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread found on pp. 76-77 of Artisan Bread in 5.

    Though I’ve had really good success with other loaves, this one never seems to turn out quite right for me. I follow the recipe meticulously, down to resting times and the type of pan to use, but the bread seems to have a problem rising (or getting any “oven spring”), and the bread ends up being very, very dry after just a day. The first day, immediately after slicing, the bread seems to be soft and flexible, but by the second day it’s heavy and dry.

    I can’t tell if I’m not cooking it long enough, cooking it too long, slicing it too early (not letting it cool down enough) or storing it improperly (I usually wait till it’s at least 90% cool, slice it, then put it in a ziploc bag and put it in the fridge).

    It also has a stronger yeast flavor than the other loaves I’ve tried. Do you have any ideas as to what I might be doing wrong?

    • Hi Joy-Renee,

      Some of what you describe can just be the difference between the way whole grain flour and all-purpose flour behaves. The 100% whole grain recipes will have less of the stretchy gluten and therefore will not rise as much. Having said that, you may want to try letting it rest longer before baking to see if that improves the rising power of the loaf.

      In our second book we introduced a product called vital wheat gluten, which adds some of the protein back into the dough and allows for better rise in the loaves. That is something we often recommend to people who are experiencing what you describe. This is often the case when people are using freshly ground flours as well. Here is a post about VWG: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=1087

      The other issue with day old bread can be that you are refrigerating it, which will tighten up the crumb and make it seem dry. It is like eating cold cake as opposed to one at room temperature, very different texture.

      The yeasty flavor is perceived more strongly by some people than others. I poke a small hole in my lids to allow the gases from the yeast to escape while the dough is storing. This seems to help for me. You can see my buckets here: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=2358

      Thanks, Zoë

  2. Zoë,

    Thanks! I’ve been tossing around the idea of adding gluten, and I think I’ll go ahead and give it a shot now that you’ve mentioned it also. I will also try the overnight/refrigerator resting method and hope that both of those things will fix the problem!

    After commenting, I also noticed that my bread didn’t seem to be cooking all the way through on the bottom, and that the bottom crust was considerably lighter than the top crust. I’ve decided on my next loaf to move it to the bottom rack, switching the “steam pan” to the top.

    Just to clarify, I generally refrigerate all my breads that I’ve bought from the store with seemingly no adverse affect. Is there something different about this bread that makes it more susceptible to drying when refrigerated? Also, if I allowed the bread to sit at room temp for awhile, would that fix it?

    I don’t mind leaving the bread in the pantry, but I assumed that it would keep its freshness a little longer if kept cold, especially since our little family of 2 doesn’t go through a loaf very quickly. If I give it a shot, and it seems to be just fine, then I may just stop refrigerating altogether.

    • Hi Joy-Renee,

      You may need to preheat your baking stone longer before baking if the bottom crust is pale. The thicker stones can take up to 45 minutes to really get up to temperature. This can greatly help your breads if they seem to be under baked or are not getting the rise that you should.

      The texture of your breads may be a combination of things, but refrigerating a bread will make it more brittle. The dough and bread may also be too dry to begin with. But try both and see what results you the best loaf.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. I just made the Za’atar flatbread from ABin5 and it looked more like a boule loaf than flatbread, so I know I didn’t flatten the ball out big enough.

    For making a 1-lb ball of dough inti flatbread, what should the approximate dimensions of the flattened dough be?

    • Andrea: We say 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, I think that’s about 12 to 14 inches across. Depends on how thick.

      Try slashing the loaf with a serrated bread knife, might keep it flatter. Jeff

  4. I have been trying to deal with a low-tech gas oven (Crosley)–no electrical temperature gauges whatsoeveratall–for bread baking. This hasn’t been a problem for my braised dishes, pizza, cornbread, brownies, etc., but your book advises that a thermometer should be used to determine accurate temps for bread baking. I have tried several thermometers that sit on the oven rack, but opening the oven to check them interferes with accurate heat levels and, thus, temperatures. I have tried a baker’s thermometer, but in keeping with all the reviews of it on Amazon, it did indeed cease to work after a couple of weeks. What, short of investing in a high-end oven, do you recommend?

    Thanks for all your attention, care, and help!

  5. I am loving your HBin5 book! We primarily eat our bread in sandwich form and I am wondering if the baking temperature and times are the same for free-formed loaves and loaf pans? I am currently about ready to throw Betsy’s seeded oat bread into the stove. I’m trying to keep the crust as soft as possible.

    Thank you!
    Sheri

    • Hi Jen,

      You just need to make sure they both have plenty of room to expand in the oven. Usually it requires no more time to bake, but you should rely on the color as you normally do, if they are too pale, let them go a few more minutes.

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. I have a question about the English Granary Bread recipe. I have made many of the recipes in your book, but the granary bread just seems to be gummy — when I slice it, it coats the sides of the bread knife. It also is somewhat denser than other breads (doesn’t seem to rise as much). I don’t think it’s oven temperature — none of my other loaves are like that. Is it the malt powder? Or is this just a characteristic of this kind of bread?

    • Mary: I just made this and didn’t have that experience. Malt powder isn’t the explanation. What kind of malted wheat product are you using; from where? And have you checked your oven temp with something like http://bit.ly/czmco2 . Most importantly, this bread (but really all our loaves) need to cool completely before cutting — otherwise they’ll be gummy, esp with the heavier ones like this one. Jeff

  7. The last several loaves I’ve made (light wheat) from ABin5 have blown out at the bottom. what do you suppose the problem is?

    • Hi Joe,

      How long are you resting the loaf? You may want to try letting the loaf rest another 20 to 30 minutes before baking?

      Thanks, Zoë

  8. Thanks Zoe. Ive been letting it rest right at 40 minutes, so I’ll increase the rest time on the next loaf.

  9. I tried my first batch of Gluten Free Olive Oil Bread and it’s got the consistency of muffin batter rather than dough. I wasn’t able to use Tapioca so used Potato Starch, recommended by Bob’s Red Mill staff. I can’t use Tapioca flour or Corn Starch, is there a good substitute?

  10. Is it possible to bake loaves for later enjoyment? I am planning on having 20+ loaves available for an event next month. If I were to bake them now and freeze, what is the best way to do that?

    • Mary: We’re not crazy about pre-freezing bread, but it’s OK— wrap it as airtight as you can get it, and try to use within a week. Other option is par-baking; instructions in the 1st book–has instructions on how to do that.

  11. Hi Jeff (& Zoë too!)- I really wanted to come to your demonstration today in Stillwater- so bummed it’s all full! Anyway, I was hoping to par-bake a bunch of loaves for a weekend event… but I’m having trouble with the center of the loaf not being done enough, while the crust is getting too dark too quickly. We tested our oven, and it’s pretty much right-on (with 5 or so degrees wiggle room). Essentially, I’m ending up needing to bake the loaf almost the entire way before being able to take it out (and the crust is getting too dark), and I’m concerned it’ll dry out if it’s mostly done, then frozen, then baked for another 10 mins or so in a week. Any thoughts on the best way to do this? I know you’re not a huge fan of par-baking, but am wondering if there are any “tricks” or things I should be doing differently so it comes out more consistently. I want to have the freshest bread possible, but yet can’t bake 40 loaves within a 24-hr period, and was hoping par-baking would be a good solution. Any thoughts? Thank you for an awesome way to make bread, we love it!!

    • Are you using convection? That would explain this. Do you have the book’s directions for par-baking?

      Otherwise, turn down the oven temp and increase the baking time, should solve your over-browning problem. Decrease 25 degrees and increase baking time 10%? WIll have to experiment.

  12. I’ve made 5 batches of the master receipe bread and only 1 came out correctly. First was too tough/dry. Second was too wet. Third was perfect. Fourth was again too dry and Fifth was too wet. My oven temp is correct (put two thermometers in it), I let it rise 40 mins, preheat oven for at least 20. Scoop and sweep flour..even tried weighing it once. Watched several of your videos (not doing anything different that I can see), read your website, followed the book exactly. I just can’t seem to get this right.

  13. A few people asked for tips to soften the crust. I bake my own bread on a regular basis, and the trick I use is to place the loaves in air tight containers shortly after they come out of the oven. The heat from the bread mixed with the moisture in the air will dramatically soften the crust as it cools.

  14. I love the recipes that I’ve tried in the HBin5! I love rye bread. I would like to make a 2 lb. loaf of the Dilled Rye w/White Whole Wheat so I could use for sandwiches. How long should I bake a 2 lb loaf? I don’t want to have a problem of it now being done in the middle. Thanks!

    • Joan: Go by the color, should be same as what you’re used to. But be suspicious if it’s looking the right color after 30 minutes. Probably needs more on the order of 50 minutes. Check your oven temp with a thermometer if you’re interested in big loaves…

  15. Hi Guys..I am trying to make bread for my wife..I seemed to have done everything right, except for the bread coming out with the pizza stone. I couldn’t get the off the pizza stone. What did I do wrong. It completely cooked on the bottom and I couldn’t remove it. Thanks…help!

    New Baker in training – Bruno

  16. Thanks for the excellent book!

    I’m just wondering that if I can put hot water in the tray when I start pre-heating the oven and the stone? It will save time when opening the oven door to put the dough on the stone, and it’s also convenient. Will that lead any different result?

    • Jennifer: Have to say I just don’t know. Traditionalists would say that it’s the burst of steam, suddenly appearing when you drop in the water, that makes the difference. But I have to say that this has never made sense to me– we just didn’t challenge this particular tradition.

      Potential problems: If the water’s mostly gone when you’re ready to bake, won’t work. Also, might slow down the pre-heating process. But worth an experiment. Jeff

  17. Hello,

    I got your making bread in five mins a day a little while back and its amazing.
    I have been reading the posts and FAQ and try everything about under cook bread.
    I live in Canada and use Robin Hood bread flower. I called them to know the % of protein and they told me because of Canadian standard its at 13%.
    So as in the faq I raised the quantity of water accordingly, I even use a scale as suggested to measure the flour.
    I have an over thermometer so the temperature is perfect, actually my stove is very accurate.
    But no matter what I do the doe isnt fully baked inside, even tried the raising over night in the fridge and the 90 mins out of it, followed pretty much everything in the FAQ. I then came across a comment about the spring of the bread in the over and where it says that after 20 mins the over wont have time to reach the 450F and that is fine because it allows the spring thingy as I understood it.
    Then something stroke me my over for some reason seems to be very efficient, in the 20 mins pre heating time you are suggesting its already at 450F. So is it possible that might be my broblem, should I put the bread ealier and if yes around what temperature ?

    Thank you for your help and sorry for my bad english.

    John

    • Hi John,

      Which recipe are you baking? This will determine how I answer the questions you have asked.

      Are you making a loaf that is larger than one pound?

      Are you baking on a stone?

      Are you allowing the bread to cool completely before cutting into the loaf?

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Hello Zoë and thanks for comming back to me so quick !

        Right now I am still at the master sour doe recipe, the first one in the book :)

        I use an electronic scale for the doe, so it is a 1 pound boule I make and it takes me about 30 to 40 seconds to make it and I go very gently as recommend with the doe so the bubble of air doesnt go pouf.

        I tried both with the stone and without the stone, I get the same result, well except for the crust, but the crumb is still not fully cooked.

        I tried to give the bread a cooling rest long enough that its is room temperature before I cut it, sometime it still a little warm but not out of the over hot. But no matter room temp or a little warmish cause eating warm bread is so yummy, the crumb inside always is sticky, as in not fully cook.

        Thanks again for your help.

        John

      • Hi John,

        I would try preheating your baking stone for a little longer before baking the bread. Add about 8 to 10 minutes to the baking time of the bread and see if this helps the interior crumb.

        The steam you add to the oven should evaporate about 1/2 way through the baking process. It helps to soften the crust to allow it to rise better, and it makes the crust have a nice shine. After the steam evaporates the crust will get crispy.

        Thanks, Zoë

      • Hello Zoë,

        If you would be infront of me I would hug and kiss you !
        It worked !!!
        I let the stove preheat the full 20 mins even tho after 10 mins it was at 450F and I baked the bread 8 mins longuer and the crumb is now perfect !

        Thanks again !

        John

  18. I am curious about something about the cooking stone ,
    It says the stone is there to absorb the extra humidity so the crust would be crispy, so why is it we have to add water for steam, I would think that the water would counter effect the stone purpose.
    I actually get a cryspier crust when I forget the put the water, but my wife likes it better when I put the water cause the crust is a little bit softer.

    Thanks

    John

  19. Hi Zoe and Jeff!

    Ok, my dough is turning out better today, I got up at 5 this morning and made a fresh batch. My next problem is the bottom of my finished loaf is not like the rest of the bread, it and the inside of the loaf is kind of doughy, not real bad, but a little doughy and on the heavy side. Thanx in advance, Helen

    • Hi Helen,

      This is usually fixed by a longer preheat of your baking stone. You should try letting it preheat for at least 30 minutes, but even longer if it is 1/2-inch thick or more.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Thank you, it worked out much better :o)
        I preheated the stone for an hr. and let the bread bake an extra 15 minutes, thanks for your advice :o)

        Helen

  20. Hi Zoe,

    I have been baking your flaxseed bread for about a year now (AB in 5, p. 86). I usually make them into rolls then freeze them, but the other day I tried to make it in a loaf pan. I halved the recipe and put all of the dough in a loaf pan. I let it rest for about an hour and 45 minutes. Then, I baked it at 400 for about 50 minutes and then let it rest for about an hour and a half. The interior of the bread was gummy and separated from the crust when I cut into it. What can I do to prevent this from happening and get a nice interior?

    Thanks!

    Lindsay

    • Lindsay: First, check oven temp with something like http://ow.ly/8CVPU. Loaf breads are more temperamental about exacting temps; you can get away with a lot when you make rolls– they’ll bake through no matter what. You may just need a longer pre-heat to reach target temperature.

      Or a longer baking time, even though you did what we said. If all else fails, dry out the dough by increasing the flour slightly (1/4 cup)?

  21. Hi Jeff and Zoe

    I’m trying the gluten free Artisan boule recipe from your site. Read all the comments first, have a thermometer in the oven, measured my ingredients twice before combining and my bread came out doughy, both times I tried it. The crust was the most beautiful golden brown, crunchy, and tasted really great. Just didn’t cook on the inside. I’m not doing something right cause when I tried the recipe with regular AP glutenous flour it came out perfectly. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Ann,

      Did you watch the video I did on using the gluten-free dough? Did your dough look the same as mine? It could be that your dough is too wet or that you just need to bake it a bit longer? Did you let it cool completely before cutting into it?

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Hi Zoë.

        I watched the video as I was making the dough to be sure I did it right. It rose like yours and was all bubbly when I took it out, but where yours held together when shaped mine was not as smooth, looked rough and crumbly. I don’t have a baking stone either. I will try it again and let it cook longer as you suggest. A nice side benefit is that I scooped out the inside, cut it into cubes and toasted it. Made great croutons.

      • Hi Ann,

        You may also want to let it rest longer before baking, about 15 minutes. This often helps to get a better interior crumb. And, make sure it is completely cooled before cutting it.

        Are you using an oven thermometer? It may be that your oven is running a touch cool?

        Let me know if the next batch seems better.

        Thanks, Zoë

  22. Thanks for your wonderful book (Healthy Bread in 5)! I am new to artisan bread and am making the 100% whole wheat. I have a convection gas oven and purchased an oven thermometer as you said. I have a 7/8” baking stone (actually two layers of quarry tiles). I let the dough rest on the peel for 90 min. to 2 hrs. I preheat for 25-35 minutes. At 425 degrees, the thermometer reads 450. When I bake at this temp. for 35 min., the crust is good but the inside is doughy and gummy and tastes yeasty. At 41 minutes, the crust is quite brown and getting hard, and the crumb is still somewhat gummy, but it tastes less yeasty. I am not taking much time at all to shape the bread (as you said!) I would appreciate your advice. I am so grateful that you have published this book so we can have high-quality whole wheat bread, which is actually hard to find in bakeries, especially in my home town.

    • Hi Mary,

      Is it possible to use the oven without the convection heat? If so, I would try that and see if you like the results better. The convection tends to brown the crust quicker, which means the interior is not necessarily done, even though the color on the outside looks great.

      I would also let your tiles preheat a little longer, especially if you have them doubled up. The heat they conduct is key to the rise and baking of the bread.

      Thanks, Zoë

  23. Do you have suggestions on speeding up the cooling process after a loaf is removed from the oven? How long do you typically let your loaves cool?

    It’s so hard to resist the incredible smell (and my dinner guests are always so eager to try some) that, against my better judgement, I sometimes cut into the loaf too soon and the crumb is still gummy.

    I usually put the finished loaf on a cooling rack on top of the pizza peel, and sit it on a table (away from the stove/oven heat).

    Thanks!

    • Hi Martha,

      The larger the loaf, the longer it will take. The steam has to be released from the interior of the loaf, which is why it seems gummy when you cut it warm. This goes a bit faster when it is in a cool spot, but only a little bit. It can take an hour or two to be fully cooled off. It may be a comfort to know you are not alone in your inability to resist cutting into the warm loaf! ;)

      Cheers, Zoë

  24. I have been trying to locate the caramel colouring. I found something called “Browning caramel” from Grace foods. Would this be a good ingredient to use in the dark rye and pumpernickel braided bread. Hope you can help.

      • I will try making the bread this week. I’ll let you know if worked out.
        Thanks for the reply,
        Susan

  25. Baking gluten-free bread is definitely a challenge. Do you know what the proper temperature of correctly baked gluten-free bread should be?

    Thanks
    Lori

  26. Hi: making boule bread and french bread
    Bread comes out crisp and cruncy initially
    Later starts to soften crust wise; doough is baked through. I have to toast bread to get crunchiness to return. I let it sit 20-30 min. before baking, using stone which has been heated for 30-40 min. with steam.
    How come can’t maintain crunchy bread after 2-3 hours?

    • Which book, which recipe/page number? Many different kinds of books and baguettes in our books.
      Have you checked oven temp with something like http://ow.ly/8CVPU ? You’re temp may be low, even though you say it’s baking through, and that’ll give you a soft crust. Any chance you’re in a very humid environment? Impossible to keep crispness there.

      But 2 to 3 hours may be expecting a lot. Staling begins at 2 hours and the first thing to go is the crust.

  27. i’ve been making the basic recipe using whole grain, unbleached white and a mixture of the two. I’ve even added wheat germ. My results have been great as far as crust, crumb and texture but my bread doesn’t have much flavor. Any hints on what can be done to make it a little tastier?

    • See if you like the dough later in its batch-life–stagger your batches so that you’re never baking on days 1, 2, or 3. Another option is the pate fermentee method in all our books in the Master Recipe chapter.

  28. Hi, Zoe & Jeff :)

    I love love all of your books and have been enjoying your recipes all the time.

    I have always problem with baking in a loaf tin. About a half inch of the bottom is under cooked—although Brioche and Challah are totally fine in the dish. So, I usually make breads directly on the stone (with parchment paper)—pizza, other flat breads etc—then I don’t have the problem. Recently, I started making Ciabatta bread (New AB in 5 Pg. 71) and we all love so much that I’m making it more than twice a week! However, I have this under cooked problem even though it’s on the stone directly. In the book says, bake for 20-25 minutes until it’ deeply brown. I usually get “deep brown” after 28 minutes. If the dough/bread size is about 1 lb, 28 minutes or so and it’s all cooked. We have 3 kids who LOVES bread and I wanted to make it bigger size. if it’s bigger than 1 lb, should I add more minutes?! How can I prevent from having under cook problem?!

    Thank you for your time!
    Remi

      • Thank you for the site for the baking a loaf.
        Sorry! I wasn’t clear enough for my question.
        I’m making Ciabatta bread from New AB in 5 Pg. 71.–bake directly on the stone. The instruction says bake for 20-25 minutes, but I have to bake it at least for 28 minutes. When I tried to make it bigger dough than 1 lb, the bottom of bread about a half inch was still doughy. Is this problem happening because the dough is too big?

      • Hi Remi,

        Oh, that makes more sense, thanks. If you are stretching the dough to the proper thickness, then the baking time shouldn’t change by much for a larger piece of dough. Are you using a baking stone? If so, how long are you letting it preheat? Do you have an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is running at the correct temperature?

        Thanks, Zoë

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