Taking your bread out the oven to find that it’s far too dark or burnt is extremely disheartening, but it’s something that happens to both new bakers and experienced bakers alike.
This problem can be caused by a variety of different things, so it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly what’s causing it. Fortunately for you, I’ll be going through what may be causing your bread to overbrown or burn and what you can do about it.
If your bread is burning on the bottom too, spare a couple of minutes to read through my article about why it happens. I’ve written about why it happens and what you can do to stop it from happening with future bakes.
Make sure to think about the following points and consider how they may be affecting how your bread turns out.
1. Your Oven Is Too Hot
This one might sound obvious, but a lot of people don’t realize that they’re using an oven temperature that’s too high.
When it’s too hot for your bread, the exterior crust will harden and darken far too quickly. If left until your bread is completely baked through, you might end up with an overbrowned or burnt loaf of bread.
Experiment with different oven temperatures to find what’s best for your bread. Every oven is different in terms of heat, humidity, and heat distribution, so it’s your responsibility to figure out what temperature is best.
2. The Oven’s Themostat Is Faulty
One rather common problem with a lot of ovens is a faulty or broken thermostat. This seemingly small fault can happen suddenly or over time and it can leave you with an oven that either burns or undercooks everything.
When the thermostat is faulty or broken, you can’t know exactly what temperature your oven gets to. You may well be setting it to a normal temperature but it could get to extremely high temperatures and burn your bread very fast.
It’s important that you know what temperature your oven gets to, especially when you’re baking bread. To test the temperature of your oven, you could use an infrared thermometer or a heat-safe oven thermometer. Either of these methods can give you a rough idea of whether your oven is getting to the correct temperature or not.
3. Uneven Heat Distribution
If your oven has certain points that are hot and certain points that aren’t, your bread might be burning because it’s in a hot spot of your oven.
A hot spot could be anywhere in your oven, so it’s up to you to identify where any potential hot spots could be.
Next time you bake bread, you could try baking it at a different height in your oven. Just change the racks around and try again. If you’re finding that your bread is burning at the top of your oven, try putting it on a rack nearer to the bottom instead.
Having uneven heat distribution in your oven can be a pain, but it’s just something you have to deal with. You start to develop a better understanding of how your oven works as you use it more and more.
Quite a simple cause of overbrowned or burnt bread is if you’re overbaking it. Baking it for too long will leave you with a very dark or burnt crust, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
Don’t just leave your bread in the oven for a long period of time if you’re not sure how it’s going to bake.
Regular check ups are important to know if it’s doing what you expect.
Of course, you can’t always gauge when your bread is done baking from just its appearance, so you might want to see if it sounds hollow when you tap it or use a food-safe thermometer to check what the temperature is.
If you’re using a food-safe thermometer, the bread should reach a temperature somewhere between 190 – 210°F (88 – 99°C). The temperature it needs to reach depends on the type of bread you’re making.
5. You’re Using An Electric Oven
The type of oven you use can play a huge role in how your bread turns out, so it’s important to understand it and learn what you can do to bake better bread in it.
One oven that can be problematic is an electric oven. These generally run with dry heat, so you get less humidity in the oven compared to gas ovens. The great thing about humidity is that it prevents your bread from browning too quickly, so without it, you can’t control how fast your bread’s crust develops.
It’s best to add some form of steam to your oven if you can. This will help reduce the chances of your bread burning.
How To Prevent Overbrowning On Your Bread
Preventing your bread from browning or burning isn’t actually as hard as it might seem. It’s still useful to know what’s causing it to brown so quickly so you can help it, but there are some things that are generally great to help prevent your bread from getting too dark.
Introduce Steam To Your Oven
The best way to make any bread better overall is to add some steam to your oven whilst the bread bakes. When adding steam, you’re preventing the crust from forming on the exterior of the bread right away. This allows you to bake the bread for longer without it browning. You also get the added bonus of a great oven spring.
Having steam around your bread means that you can use high heat for longer without worrying about overbrowning or burning. The steam keeps the surface of the dough pliable and elastic, so it can rise freely until the crust starts to form.
I’ve gone into more depth about the methods you can use to add steam to your home oven in an article here. It’s extremely useful for making bread that gets a much better oven spring and crust.
Put Some Foil Over Your Bread
By loosely wrapping some foil around the top of your bread, it’s doing two very important things.
It’s reflecting heat from the surface of the bread that would otherwise continue to brown it and it’s trapping a small amount of steam that can help prevent the crust formation for longer.
You can either put the foil around your bread before it starts to bake or once it starts to brown too quickly. Just make sure that you’re leaving enough space for the dough to expand if you’re wrapping foil around it at the start of the baking process.
Get A Baking Stone
Once a baking stone is preheated, it does a great job of regulating the overall temperature of your oven.
Ovens have hot and cold spots, so using a baking stone can help to reduce these spots so you don’t have to worry too much about the placement of your loaf.
Now, this isn’t always going to help prevent your bread from browning too fast, but it can help bake your bread faster as it provides a good amount of heat from beneath the loaf. This heat allows the bread to bake more evenly.
Get To Know Your Oven
As you should already know, the oven you use can play a big role in how your bread turns out, but it doesn’t always have to.
An inexperienced baker without a proper understanding of their oven is bound to make plenty of mistakes, but it might not always be because of their ability to work with dough.
The oven a baker uses greatly impacts how well a loaf of bread turns out.
One that knows the ins and outs of their oven will be able to better understand what they need to do to make good bread.
A gas and electric or a convection and conventional oven all have quite significant differences when it comes to baking bread. They are all great in their own way, but it’s down to you to understand how to bake good bread in your own oven.
Keep An Eye On The Bread
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it very easy to watch your bread slowly rise in the oven. I’ll either sit in front of the oven or check every 2 minutes to see how it’s doing. It’s a big extreme, I know.
It is important to keep an eye on your bread because you need to make sure that it’s doing what you want it to do. If it’s browning too quickly, you’ll know and you can do something to help prevent it from burning.
Take a look through the glass on your oven door every 5-10 minutes to see how it’s going. If it’s looking good, then great, you can keep baking it as normal. If it’s not going as you might expect, you can potentially do something to help.
Never leave your bread for too long or you might be left with a disappointing loaf by the end of the baking process.