The baking temperature affects many aspects of bread. Taste, texture, smell, keeping quality and appearance characteristics are all affected by the chosen temperature of the oven.
In most cases, it’s best to stick to the baking temperature recommendations of a recipe. But, if you think better bread can be achieved by adjusting the temperature of the oven, in many cases, it can!
This write-up not only covers the best temperature to bake bread, but you’ll also understand what happens when bread bakes, why particular baking temperatures are selected and advanced oven baking techniques.
For standard bread, the best baking temperature is 220-230C (435-450F). Midway through, the heat can be turned down to 200-210C (390-410F) to dry the core of the loaf without risk of burning. Bread containing sugars or fat requires a cooler baking temperature. Otherwise, it will burn.
What happens when bread bakes?
As soon as bread goes into the oven, the first thing that happens is moisture in the dough evaporates into water vapour. Yeast cells rapidly feast on the available sugars, creating gas at a rapid rate as they become hotter. These two actions combine to make the dough rise rapidly in the oven, called “oven spring”.
Once yeast reaches 64C (148F), the active fungus dies. This deactivation of the yeast cells happens around 15 minutes into baking and is called the “yeast kill point”.
Around the same moment of yeast kill, the crust will have dried out and become rigid, preventing the dough from rising. We call this the “crust set point”.
Enzymic reactions (Malliard) and caramelisation occur on the crust, providing colour, flavour and deep aromas.
For the remainder of the bake, moisture is lost from the gluten proteins, which form the aerated structure of the crumb and capture starch particles. As baking continues, moisture escapes the bread’s core to dry the crumb, and the crust hardens.
What impacts the choice of baking temperature
When it comes to deciding on the perfect baking temperature for your bread, 5 things need to be considered in line with the baking temperature:
Power of the oven
Humidity/use of steam in the oven
Number of sugars in the recipe
Inclusion of fat in the recipe
Each of the above points impacts the other, so there is no perfect baking temperature for every type of bread. Here are some combinations for the most common types of bread:
Temperature in Celsius
Temperature in Fahrenheit
Soft farmhouse tin loaf
Now, let’s look at the five points mentioned above that contribute to deciding the baking temperature:
Using steam in the oven
Baking bread in a humid environment delays the setting of the crust, which promotes oven spring gains. It also extends the baking time, resulting in a drier crumb and a perfectly crispy crust.
Without adding steam, the bread is ready in half the time. This is useful for soft loaves or rolls where the extra moisture retained in the crumb is appealing but not crusty bread.
There are many ways to create humidity in an oven. The easiest solution is to use a water mister to spray inside as the bread goes in to bake. You can see other methods in my adding steam to an oven guide.
Power of the oven
The speed your oven regains temperature after your bread is loaded is a contributing factor to the baking temperature. Once loading your oven, it can drop by as much as 60C! How quickly your oven can return to temperature and taking steps to reduce temperature loss, make a massive difference to bread quality.
Commercial bakery ovens use 3-phase power to reduce the recovery time of the oven, at home you can preheat baking stones, lava rocks and baking trays to retain heat and reduce recovery time if your oven lacks power.
What many bakers do (including professionals) is preheat the oven 10-20 degrees higher than the ideal baking temperature. Once the bread is loaded, the thermostat is lowered to compensate for the expected drop in temperature.
The baking time
A longer baking duration is handy if your dough is particularly wet or large and requires time for the extra water to evaporate. Larger loaves or “miches” require longer baking times to bake the centre, which requires the baking temperature to be reduced to prevent the crust from burning.
Shorter baking times usually require a hotter baking temperature to colour and set the crust – whilst retaining moisture in the crumb for a soft, moist eating experience.
Neoploititean pizza is a great example where bread is baked in a very hot (420C at least) wood-fired oven for around 1 minute. The pizza’s outer crust and base colours impart smoky aromas throughout. Whilst the outer areas of the crust remain soft, the inner section of the crust is moist.
The number of sugars in the recipe
Sugar caramelises in the oven. This produces a darker crust which, in many cases, should be avoided. The baking temperature should be lowered when baking bread that contains lots of sugar or sweeteners, such as brioche or pain de mie.
You may have noticed that long-fermented bread doughs have a darker, more mature colour compared to quickly-made supermarket loaves, which are more orange in colour. This is largely because the long fermentation facilitates more starch to be broken down into naturally occurring sugars which caramelise during baking.
Note: Extra sugars found in sweet dough feed the yeast, so it rises rapidly during oven spring.
The inclusion of fat in the recipe
Fats lowers the burning point of the bread, making it brown quickly in the oven. When baking with fat, it’s wise to reduce the baking time and/or drop the baking temperature.
Eggs are fatty items that are also high in protein which lead to further Maillard reactions and extra colour.
How Maillard reactions create colourful bread
Maillard reactions are chemical processes that occur when an amino acid and a reducing sugar are heated together. The sugar’s reactive carbonyl group interacts with the amino acid’s nucleophilic amino group to create new molecules with intriguing yet poorly described odour and flavour compounds.
The net result is more complex flavours, and new aroma molecules appear which are not unrelated to the raw ingredients, including raw flour.
Maillard reactions explain why roasted coffee and peanuts taste so different from their raw form!
The Maillard reaction also produces enzymatic browning, which makes food turn brown or black. This reaction and caramelisation should not be confused.
Caramelisation occurs when heating sugar to the point that it burns.
Caramelisation and the Maillard reactions are used in conjunction with one another to change the properties of bread. The variables that contribute to the amount of caramelisation and the Maillard reactions include:
The temperature of the oven
Number of available sugars
Type of amino acids (protein) available
PH value of the dough
Tips for baking the perfect loaf
1) Decide on your baking process
Using the guide above, decide which baking method you’ll follow. It’s best to have a clear plan before your bread goes into the oven so you know what texture you are aiming for.
2) Check on your bread (at the right time)
Don’t open the oven door when baking bread in the first 15 minutes unless your baking time requires. At this point, the dough is very delicate, and the humid and high pressure of the baking chamber is supporting its structure. Opening the oven door during this time can lead to your bread collapsing.
After this point, check on your baking bread every 5 minutes to check that the bread isn’t browning too quickly (temperature too high) or remaining pale (temperature too low).
3) Learn your oven
The temperatures provided are guides. They may change from oven to oven as some operate more fiercely than others. Some will have their heating elements at different distances from the baking bread.
4) Drop the temperature mid-bake
Gains occurring during oven spring are more notable in warmer ovens. Therefore, many professional bread bakers set their ovens 10-20 degrees higher for the first 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature alongside opening the damper or temporarily opening the door to release steam midway through the bake. The loaf will brown slowly whilst moisture exits the crumb.
5) Check your oven is at the correct temperature
It’s a shock to bakers when they discover their ovens are running 10-20 degrees out from the temperature on the dial.
To be sure that you are baking at the correct temperature, get yourself an oven thermometer. These thermometers will sit in your oven to provide an accurate temperature reading.
6) Use a baking stone
A baking stone improves the conduction of heat into a baking loaf. Heating bread from below pushes water vapour upwards, which improves oven spring and ensures the bread’s base is crisp and properly baked.
When the light near your oven’s dial goes out, the baking stone won’t be hot through yet. It can take up to an hour (depending on the thickness of the stone) to properly preheat a baking stone.
Not preheating fully makes it less effective at conducting heat into the bread, which will reduce the oven spring rise. I recommend using an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the stone.
8) Cool your bread
Once your bread is baked, it really needs to cool before you slice it. Cooling time allows moisture to escape, dries the crumb and hardens the crust. Aim to cool your bread until it reaches 35C, which will take 2-3 hours.
Top tips for changing the oven temperatures at home – Conclusion
To practice these tips, follow a bread recipe for your first bake, then use the oven temperature dial to “fine-tune” for subsequent attempts. After experimenting with different temperatures, you’ll soon find out how to get your bread to come out just right!
Let me know what you learned about bread baking temperature and how you will approach bread baking differently in the future by leaving me a comment below.
Best bread baking temperature frequently asked questions
Here are the baking temperatures for some of the most popular homemade types of bread:
The standard bread baking temperature is between 220C (430F) and 230C (450F). Whole wheat bread and loaves with seeds or toppings become less appealing when there is much colourisation and are best baked at 210-220C (410-430F). Standard white bread and sourdough are baked at 230C (450F).
Sourdough bread can be baked in a cold oven using a Dutch oven. To do this, place the proofed dough in a Dutch oven and then in a cold oven. Turn the oven to max heat, and you’ll have freshly baked bread in around 50 minutes! The gradual warmth provides a longer oven rise, so the dough should be slightly under proofed.
You do not need to let the dough warm up from an overnight fridge rise for small loaves. Bake them straight from the refrigerator. For larger loaves such as sandwich bread, the core of the loaf will take longer to heat. It is better to rise at room temperature for an improved oven rise in this case.
Soft bread rolls are baked at 230-250C (450-480F) for 10-12 minutes. Place the rolls on a shelf close to the oven’s top element. If you can’t do this with your oven, finish off under the broiler for the last 2-3 minutes. The heat from above caramelises the rolls’ top surface, which produces a thick, coloured crust and a soft, moist crumb.
For dough containing a lot of sugar and fat, 350 degrees (175C) is a sensible temperature for baking bread. For standard white loaves, increasing the temperature will improve the oven spring and the bread’s quality. Expect a loaf to take 45-55 minutes to bake at 350 Fahrenheit.
When baking baguettes, either bake at 220C (420F) or set the oven to 250C (480F) and drop to 220C (420F) midway through the bake. This baking temperature helps the characteristic butter-like flavour of the flour whilst making the baguettes crunchy on the outside and soft in the centre.
Neapolitan Pizza is baked at 440-500C (-930F), which is not achievable for domestic ovens. The high temperature generates sweet aromas from the crust and base, whilst the interior is soft. Include sweeteners (such as sugar or honey) and olive oil to make pizza dough in a cooler oven to accelerate colourisation.
Ciabatta is usually baked at 220C (430F) for 22-30 minutes; however, a hotter oven is occasionally preferred. The oven temperature is then lowered midway through baking to draw excess moisture from the ciabattas crumb.
Italian bread is often baked at temperatures as high as 300C (570F)! The high baking temperature yields a soft crumb with a charred-yet-soft crust on the outside. The blackened crust perfumes the bread, making the flavour of the bread deliciously deep and aromatic.
Pain de Mie contains more fat and sugar than traditional white bread. Depending on the level of enrichment used, a Pain de Mie is baked between 200 and 220C (390-430F) for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature if the loaf browns too quickly.
To bake sourdough at home, preheat the oven with a baking stone inside to 250C (480F). Load the bread, add steam and lower the temperature to 230C (450F). After 25 minutes, open the oven door to release the steam and then drop the heat to 210C (410F). Cook until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. The total baking time is around 35-40 minutes.
I have just started baking in the last few months. I git a thermometer and checked the oven’s accuracy. It’s fine. I was having problems with bread being very moist in the middle. Cooked at 450 about 35 min. Very brown and thick crust. I asked my mother about it. She gave me her recipe. The biggest thing was she cooked at 350 for 45min. I found that this works for me. I just don’t understand why 450 will not work.
Does your recipe have fat or sugars in it? This will make it brown quicker. It could also be that it could have benefited from more development or kneading to make it rise higher in the oven spring. Hard to tell without any pictures!
You might find that you have a weaker oven spring at that 350. If so, just preheat to 450 and turn the dial down after 10 minutes to 350.
Until 8 months, or so, ago my oven wasn’t getting above 150-160C (a broken switch caused it to run at a single temperature no matter what was dialled-in) – my ‘ordinary’ and sour dough bread was rubbish (both cake-like) but I could make very tasty ciabattas, albeit a little on the pale side, but they did have a perfect crumb – go figure!
I have been baking sourdough for the past 6 months. I always have produced bakes with thick chewy crust which is hard effort for the jaw.
My home oven has max temp 230deg C and I bake using preheated dutch oven 20min with lid on and 220deg 15min without lid.
I want to achieve thin soft crust with good oven spring. My current method produces thin but not soft crust.
After reading your article, I would be interested to try with cold DO without steam. What other setting would you recommend for me to achieve thin soft crust?
I have been baking a whole wheat bread, that includes porridge and honey, a fairly heavy dough. Spray the top with water and sprinkle with oats.
The recipe says to preheat the oven to 425 F place the loaves in and reduce to 375 F bake for 45 min.
I cover with foil half way through or the crust is too dark. It looks beautiful when I take it out. I immediately remove it from the pan and place on a rack to cool. As it cools dimples appear on th top. Suggestions
The dough is heavy because of the amount of water your ingredients soak up. The challenge with this loaf is mastering the amount of water to be released, to leave a moist crumb.
What I think is happening is that the crust springs up in the oven, but the crumb structure underneath it isn’t all that strong. Once the loaf cools it contracts naturally and where the structure of the bread is weak (just underneath the crumb), the crust collapses irregularly.
I’d try a few things:
1- Check you’re not over-proofing the dough – This is unlikely as a heavy dough will probably collapse
2- Strengthen the gluten in the dough by adding vital wheat gluten, cutting the whole wheat flour with some strong bread flour, or adding something to bind the dough together such as vegetable oil (it contains lecithin) or an egg (lecithin and protein). Another solution is to develop the dough better so that it passes the windowpane test.
3- Not sure if you are doing this already but, spray the dough and roll it in oats when shaping. Don’t add the topping after it is proofed.
4- I’m not a fan of putting tin foil in the oven. It creates a barrier over the bread which prevents moisture from escaping. This means more water escapes as it cools which can cause an irregular crust area. Instead, if your oven allows, use only the bottom heat element. If not, drop the bread baking shelf so that it is lower in the oven. A baking stone (if you’re not already using one) will help direct heat into the bread without browning the top. 45 minutes is quite long so don’t be afraid to reduce this.
I’d try making one or two of the above changes to test the results. It’ll need a bit of experimentation as this type of bread can be a bit tricky! If you can send a photo to the email address I’ve just messaged you, I’ll be able to give a more accurate answer.
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I have just started baking sourdough and love the process! I don’t understand about using a banneton for shape. Can I not just free-form the loaves? I tried today and they spread out instead of rising in their original shape.
That’s what tends to happen if you don’t use a banneton. The dough goes outwards instead of just upwards.
You can free-form your dough and proof sourdough on a tray if the dough is stiff and firm and the gluten is well-developed during the first rise. Conditions have to be pretty perfect otherwise, it will still spread outwards!
Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baking coach, lecturer and bread fanatic. My goal is to help you become a better baker.
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