Your bread can come out the oven looking beautifully browned and well-baked until you take a closer look and see that the bottom of it is burnt to a crisp.
Having the cut the bottom off your lovely bread is painful and feels like you’ve wasted all your hard work, but don’t worry, there are easy ways to prevent it for next time you bake some delicious bread.
There are plenty of things you can do that stop the base of your bread from browning too quickly, but it’s up to you to figure out why it’s happening to your bread. You’ll most likely have to figure out your problem through trial and error or by taking a closer look into what you might be doing wrong after reading this article.
Bread that has a burnt bottom is almost always due to too much heat coming from beneath it. This excessive heat is likely caused by the type of bakeware you’re using. Dark and thin bakeware can burn bread quickly since it absorbs easily and transfers this heat directly to the base of the bread.
The general idea for preventing the base from browning too quickly is to limit the amount of heat that’s conducted below the bread in the baking sheet, dutch oven, etc. This means that you will likely have to change what kind of baking equipment you’re using.
Here are some things that you can implement into your baking methods that can slow the rate at which your bottom crust browns and therefore improve your bread overall.
Use Light-Colored Bakeware
You want to use bakeware that’s stainless steel or aluminum so you can get even browning on your bread without having to worry about browning the bottom too much.
You want to avoid using dark bakeware as this will take in a lot more heat cause your bread to overbrown quickly.
Stainless steel isn’t a particularly good conductor of heat, so it won’t be able to transfer very much heat to the base of your bread. This is why I personally like to use thick stainless steel baking trays or baking tins whenever I’m making certain types of bread like buns or loaves.
For sweeter bread like Irish Soda Bread, I prefer to use a glass dish to get an evenly cooked bottom of the bread.
Layer Up The Baking Trays
If you’re using particularly thin baking trays, you’re going to need something a bit thicker to prevent unwanted overbrowning.
By layering up a few baking trays, you’re making the base that the bread bakes on much thicker and therefore helping it retain heat rather than transferring it directly to the bread.
Thicker trays hold onto heat considerably better than thinner ones, so it’s almost always better to bake on thicker trays when you’re baking anything.
This method can also help prevent overbrowning on the bottom of bread that’s in a loaf tin or even a dutch oven. All you have to do is put that loaf tin or dutch oven directly on top of the stacked up trays and bake as normal.
The more material underneath the bread, the slower it’s going to brown.
Get A Baking Stone
A baking stone is an expense that’s definitely worth it if you’re in the pursuit of an even crust and great bread in general.
The baking stone acts in the same way as layered up baking trays, but it does a much better job at retaining heat and slowly releasing it.
If you have the chance to get a baking stone, I’d definitely recommend it as it is great for both even browning and regulating the heat of your oven.
You can use a baking stone under your dutch oven, baking trays, or just put the bread directly onto it and you should get great results. Just make sure to keep an eye on your bread in case your stone is too hot.
Lower The Oven Temperature
Some ovens run hotter than you think, so yours might heat up to the point where it easily burns the base of your bread.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to get an oven thermometer so you can check what temperature it’s actually getting to. You don’t want to be preheating it to 400°F when it’s actually preheating to 500°F, do you?
Oven thermometers are pretty cheap and are a great tool for monitoring the temperature of your oven when it comes to baking.
One thing to also consider is the fact that some bread browns considerably easier than others because of the added ingredients.
Having additional sugar in your bread will speed up the caramelization process significantly and it will, therefore, brown faster. With a dough that’s enriched with sugar, you should bake it at a lower temperature or reduce the amount of sugar you add.
Get To Know Your Oven
The oven is the most difficult thing to get right when you’re baking bread. If you don’t know much about the oven you’re baking in, you’re more likely to run into problems.
You should get to know how your oven works for better bread. Identifying hot spots, cold spots, the heating elements, and whether it’s gas or electric can all help you plan where to place the bread for the best bake.
Some ovens bake bread best near the bottom, some near the top. There are so many variables to identify when using a different oven that it’s near impossible to understand how an oven works without first experimenting with it.
By baking in it a few times and placing the bread at different points in the oven, you’ll be doing some trial and error and you’ll eventually find what works best for you.
Use Some Cornmeal
Some bakers like to slide their dough into its baking vessel using cornmeal. The idea behind this is that the cornmeal will prevent a lot of direct surface contact from the dough and the bakeware so it’s less likely to burn.
This does work for some people, but it depends on the coarseness of the cornmeal and how hot your oven is.
This is one method that you’ll need to experiment with to get right. You might find that you love doing this, or it might just leave you with an unevenly burnt crust if it doesn’t work out.
Bake On A Silicone Mat
Silicone mats don’t conduct heat as well as metal baking equipment, so it can be great for preventing overbrowning.
Being reasonably cheap and obtainable, they can be a great addition to your kitchen if you’re struggling with a burnt bottom or even for just an easy cleanup after cooking/baking anything on it.
All you have to do is place your baking tray, tin, or dutch oven on top of the baking mat and it should do a pretty good job at preventing too much heat from reaching your dough from the base.
Just make sure that you read the guide before using it as silicone mats can only be safely heated to a certain temperature.
Use Parchment Paper Underneath
As simple as it might sound, a layer (or a few) of parchment paper can go a long way in preventing a burnt bottom crust as well as preventing any sticking.
By placing your dough on parchment paper before baking, you’re essentially creating a barrier between the baking vessel and the dough.
This can do a great job of slowing the browning process and leaving you with better bread.
If you want, you can even try layering up the parchment paper so you can get a larger space between the heat and the dough. This should further prevent overbrowning.
Preheat Your Oven Properly
Preheating your oven is extremely important for getting an even bake in your bread.
You can’t preheat it for 10 minutes and expect a perfect loaf of bread every time.
Preheating your oven for at least an hour is optimal as it allows every part of it to reach an even temperature. This even temperature allows it to maintain the heat easier when you put the bread in.
By doing this, you’re eliminating the majority of hot or cold spots in the oven. This means that you don’t have to worry as much about the loaf placement.
If you’re using a baking stone, make sure to leave it in the oven whilst it’s preheating so it gets hot enough and doesn’t crack.
Remove It From The Bakeware Once The Crust Has Formed
Once you can see that the crust has developed on your bread, you can remove it from its tin, tray, or dutch oven in order to stop the base from burning.
After removing it, all you have to do is place it on something like a layer of aluminum foil so it doesn’t get too hot or simply on the baking rack in your oven.
Continue to bake it for the remaining period of time and you’ll notice that the bottom won’t have browned as much and it should be near-perfect.
The best thing you can do at this point is to allow a good amount of airflow under the loaf so it can get heat circulating around it rather than getting intense heat directly from the bakeware. This is why baking racks can be so handy.