When creating any baked goods, getting the temperature right is important for your bread or pastry to come out of the oven just right—not burnt or still raw from being underbaked.
With that said, the ideal oven temperature for baking bread is anywhere between 350 and 475°F (or 180 and 246°C). Baking bread at this temperature optimizes both the browning of bread through the Maillard reaction. However, this range may vary slightly depending on what kind of bread you’re baking.
Whether you’re baking bread rolls, a loaf, sourdough bread, or sweet bread—each one has its ideal oven temperature to achieve the perfect doneness.
An unwritten rule that most pastry chefs go by is that soft-crusted bread requires a lower temperature when being baked while thick, crusty bread is typically baked at a higher temperature.
Achieving the Perfect Golden Brown Color Through Maillard Reaction
If you bake bread a lot or are planning to frequently make bread in the future, it’s vital to understand how to achieve the perfect golden brown color on your bread and how the Maillard reaction works to make this happen.
Without knowledge of these two—your bread’s color, texture, as well as flavor could suffer.
The Maillard Reaction work when food that contains sugar, as they are getting cooked or baked, then binds with an amino acid to create creates tastes and aromas. The average temperature for this reaction to occur are typically between 280 to 330°F (or 137.8 to 165.5°C).
In bread, the crust is where the Maillard reaction happens, giving it its golden brown color and its well-defined taste.
Baking Temperatures for Different Kinds of Bread & Techniques
From the previous section, we now see why different types of bread might need to be baked at a specific temperature. Sugar plays a role in the Maillard reaction but isn’t the only factor that determines baking temperature.
The other factors also include fat content, if your bread has sourdough or is using rich ingredients such as eggs, milk, and butter.
To bake an amazing loaf of sourdough bread, it’s often recommended that you bake it hot and steamy. Doing this leads to a crisp and crunchy crust but how high, you ask?
Some pastry chefs recommend baking as high as 500°F (or 260°C). However, not all ovens have the capacity to get to that temperature, unlike industrial ovens. The good thing is, that you can still get exceptional results in the following ways:
Two methods with the likely results:
- Preheat your oven to around 464°F (240°C). Then bake your sourdough bread for 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 430°F (or 220°C).
- Proceed to bake for another 15 minutes and the result will be a darker, thicker crust.
- Preheat to 430°F (or 220°C) and bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Baking this way creates a thinner and much lighter-colored crust.
TIP: To check if your bread is done, knock on its side and if it feels hollow and soft then it’s done. But if it’s not, put it back for a few more minutes to bake completely.
How to Create Steam in the Oven
Allowing steam to be created in your oven either before or during baking creates a pleasant, crunchy and glistening crust.
This happens because the steam in the oven prevents the crust from developing too quickly, which allows the dough to continue to expand and rise fully. This also results in a delightfully deep golden color to the crust while creating a glistening bread exterior.
To generate steam, place a pan with water in the oven and spray water on the sides as well. You can also try putting a bowl of ice inside the oven.
Whichever way you choose, completely close your oven while it heats up so steam is created.
Cast Iron Pan or Bread Stone Baking
Using a cast-iron pan or a pizza/bread stone while it preheats before placing your dough on it is a great way to provide the dough with an instant blast of heat. This allows the dough to rise before its crust forms.
I use a cast iron pan when baking my bread since it’s much easier to find and is not a costly option as well.
Bread with High-Fat Content or Rich Bread
A bread that’s made with fat typically has a good number of the following in its dough: oil, butter, eggs, and milk. These are what you call “rich-dough” bread.
Fat serves several purposes in baking. It coats the flour and prevents water as well as the proteins from interacting together which can slow down the development of gluten.
But more than that, bread that has a lot of fat typically doesn’t have the long gluten strands that you’d normally find in bread made with minimal to no fat.
This type of bread is usually baked at a lower temperature than your normal yeast bread. But as with any bread recipe, it’s best to follow the recipe’s recommended baking temperature to make sure you get optimal results.
Use a thermometer while you’re at it to ensure accuracy since each oven varies.
When baking rich-dough bread, keep it in an internal temperature range of 180 to 190°F (or 82 to 88 °C) until such time it finishes baking.
Bread With High Sugar Content
Sugars in bread, whether in the form of white, brown, honey, syrups, molasses, etc. are used to add a sweet flavor or to balance the flavor between salty and sweet.
But more than that, sugar also serves as the food for yeast in your dough during the fermentation process.
Bread made with more than a half cup of sugar tends to be baked at around 350°F (177°C). While those that are made with less than a half cup of sugar typically bake at a slightly higher temperature—375°F (or 191°C).
Note that the darker the sugar you use (i.e. brown sugar, molasses), the faster your bread is going to brown during baking.
To control the resulting color, reduce the temperature by 25°F (14°C), or just observe the last five to 10 minutes of baking to keep tabs once you’re able to achieve the brownness that you prefer.
The brioche is a mix of bread and pastry. Making it calls for butter, eggs, and milk (some use cream). Because it’s considered rich bread, the recommended baking temperatures for them range from 325 to 375°F (or 163 to 180°C).
At the following temperature, the baking time will typically span from 30 to 45 minutes. If you have a handy thermometer, make sure that the internal temperature is about 190°F (or 88°C) after it finishes baking.
Hokkaido Milk Bread
Also known as Shokupan or Japanese milk bread, it’s marked by a soft and airy texture as a result of using a tangzhong (a roux-type starter).
The tangzhong is a simple mixture of flour and water which are whisked together in a heated pan and cooked at a temperature of 149°F (or 65°C). This then causes the starch to become gelatinous.
The recommended temperature to bake this type of milk bread is 350°F (or 180°C) for any time between 25 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven. Your thermometer should read 190°F (or 88°C) once the milk bread is done baking.
Learning the complexities of what the right baking temperature is for different kinds of bread will allow you to make bread that turns out consistently amazing in looks and taste.
In terms of tools, if you want to be precise and consistent when it comes to achieving standout baking results that you can repeatedly recreate, why not invest in an oven thermometer? Dough thermometers are also handy to have although it’s just optional.
Since every oven is different, you want to make sure that you’re baking near the recommended temperature of the recipe you’re following…
But more than that, you have to take note of the type of bread you’re baking. Since the recommended temperature varies on the kind of bread you’re baking, knowing the difference between numerous types can result in a marked improvement in how you bake.