There’s not much else in this world that’s more disappointing than cutting into your loaf of bread to find that it’s doughy in the center. It’s a huge let down after you’ve poured time and effort into trying to make great bread.
It happens to everyone for all sorts of different reasons. It could be that you’ve got a new oven or you just haven’t judged the bake time properly. It doesn’t even always need to be underbaked to look or taste doughy.
The most common cause of doughy bread is when it’s undercooked. This is likely due to it not being baked for long enough. Using an oven heat that’s too high can make bread appear baked through even if it isn’t. Make sure that you’re using an appropriate temperature and baking your bread for long enough.
Wih all that said, there are other things that can potentially cause your bread to be doughy or underbaked. It’s important that you know these things so you can identify any problems you may be facing.
1. Your Oven Isn’t Preheated Properly
Although your oven might have a light or make a noise to indicate that it’s preheated, it doesn’t mean that it’s hot enough to bake bread yet. Yes, it may have reached the temperature you set it to, but you want to make sure that everything in the oven is at a consistent temperature.
When it reaches the point where it’s ‘preheated’, it may not have evenly distributed the heat and you’ll likely have hot and cold points in your oven. This is especially the case for large ovens.
To be sure that everything in your oven is to your desired temperature, you want to preheat your oven for at least 30 minutes, but 60 minutes is recommended.
2. Your Oven Is Too Hot
It might be that your oven’s thermostat is off or you’re just setting your oven too high. If the temperature is too high, you risk baking your bread too fast. You will likely bake the exterior of your bread completely before the interior has cooked through.
High heat doesn’t always have to be a problem though. Plenty of bread is baked at very high heat and comes out perfectly. This is because of the use of steam. Using steam in your oven prevents your bread’s crust from forming too quickly and extends the amount of time you can bake your bread for. This allows a great oven spring and even baking throughout.
I’ve gone into much more detail about how to add steam to your oven in this post.
It’s not always a good idea to use your bread’s appearance to decide when it’s done. Instead, tap the base and sides of your bread and listen for a hollow sound. If you hear the hollow sound after a good thud, your bread should be done.
Alternatively, you can use a food-safe thermometer to test if your bread is done. Simply insert the thermometer into the thickest part of your bread and it should read somewhere between 190 – 210°F (88 – 99°C) depending on what bread you’re baking.
3. Your Oven Isn’t Hot Enough
The complete opposite to the previous point is having your oven set to a temperature that’s too low to bake your bread.
If you’re following a recipe but using a lower temperature, you’re most likely going to underbake your bread. You’ll have to bake your bread longer if this is the case.
Again, always check that your bread is fully baked by tapping the base and sides or by using a food-safe thermometer.
If you’re setting your oven to the right temperature and it’s still not baking your bread properly, you might want to check that it’s actually reaching the temperature that you’re setting it to. Some oven thermostats can need reconfiguring after a while as they start to lose their accuracy.
4. You’ve Let It Go Soggy In The Tin
Baking your bread in a loaf tin can give you great results in terms of the shape and size of your bread, but it’s not always the best if you’re not careful.
By leaving your bread in the tin for too long, you’re not allowing the heat and moisture to escape from the loaf properly and it will become soggy quite quickly.
When you take your loaf out the oven, make sure to remove it from the tin within a few minutes to prevent the base and sides from becoming soggy with moisture.
5. You Haven’t Allowed It To Cool
Cutting into your bread too soon after baking it can leave you with bread that’s not up to the standard you might expect.
It is difficult to resist cutting into warm bread, but you need to do it so you can maintain the lovely structure and texture of the bread.
By cutting into it when it’s still warm, it can give the impression of a doughy loaf because the remaining moisture hasn’t been allowed to escape so the crumb is still a little wet. If you are to cut into it after it has cooled completely, it shouldn’t be doughy at all.
6. It’s Just Dense
Many people associate dense and badly made bread with something that’s doughy and potentially undercooked.
This is because the dense structure isn’t something you expect in good bread and it’s not tasty in the slightest. You want an aerated and light crumb, not something that’s still as dense as the dough.
If you believe that your bread is just dense, you should check out an article here where I run through the causes of dense bread and what you should do next time.
What To Do To Prevent Doughy Bread
The more experience you get as a baker, the more you’ll discover how to prevent your bread from being doughy or underbaked. You can learn from your mistakes, but here are some tips you can use to make sure that you don’t have to struggle with your bread having a doughy or dense structure.
Stick It Back In the Oven
Yes, you heard me right. If it’s not baked, you can put it back in the oven, even if it’s cooled completely.
It can be upsetting when you find that your bread isn’t quite cooked through completely but don’t throw it out. Simply set your oven to 350°F (180°C) and bake the bread again. Check it regularly in 10-minute intervals so you can be sure that it’s baked through.
This method might not give you the same results as a bread that’s baked through in the first place, but at least it’ll be safe to eat.
Always Check That It’s Baked Through
Simply check that your bread has baked through completely. It might sound obvious, but plenty of people don’t do it and often regret it.
Don’t just go by timing as your bread will likely bake at a different rate to the recipe. Like I’ve already said, use the tap test or a food-safe thermometer to check when your bread is fully baked.
Without doing this, you risk leaving yourself disappointed with an undercooked end result.
Get A Baking Stone
Baking stones can be great for distributing plenty of heat from underneath the bread.
This is especially good for bakers who have an oven that doesn’t heat very evenly. It can help to regulate the temperature of your oven, leading to your bread being baked well and evenly.
Make sure that you’re preheating your baking stone for at least 60 minutes so it can get hot enough for the bread.
A baking stone can also work great for baking bread in a tin too. You won’t have to worry about any kind of soggy base if you’re using one.
Remove It From The Tin ASAP
Taking your bread out of the loaf tin as soon as possible after baking is essential to maintaining a firm crust all around the loaf.
If you don’t take it out, your loaf will become soggy on the bottom rather than light and crispy.
Take it out the tin and put it on a cooling rack or back in the oven for a little while if you want to make the exterior even crispier.
Preheat Your Oven Properly
Like I’ve already said, you need to preheat your oven for at least 30 minutes, but 60 minutes is better.
Preheating your oven for longer will help to distribute the heat more evenly and therefore means that your bread bakes better.
It’s especially important to heat your oven for 60 minutes if you have a baking stone or lava rocks in your oven as you need these to get very hot for the best results.
Putting your bread into an oven that isn’t properly prheated gets off to a bad start and you might be left with a loaf that’s a little flatter than what you expected.
Calibrate Or Fix Your Oven Thermostat
Using an oven that doesn’t preheat to the right temperature isn’t always obvious, so it’s important to check it using something like an infrared thermometer or a heat-safe thermometer that you can keep in your oven.
If the temperature is out, you may be able to get it calibrated or repaired by a professional.
Understanding how your oven works is one of the most important things to baking good bread, so knowing if something is wrong can do a lot to help you.
Don’t Be Tempted By Warm Bread
I know it’s virtually impossible to not be tempted to eat warm bread, but use all of your willpower to stop yourself from cutting into it.
Slicing into your bread whilst it’s still warm may leave you with a bad crumb that can seem dense and unpleasant.
It’s always best to leave your bread to cool completely before you cut into it. This allows the structure to set and the flavors to develop nicely.