Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Check Your Oven's Temperature!

I have been baking my own bread for about 8 months now and have finally solved the dilemma of why my bread was either not rising or falling before it was done baking! My oven temperature was too low. When I set it for 350 degrees, it really only heated up to about 300, if I was having a good day:-) Or I would put the bread in before it finished heating up and didn't want to open and check it a little later (would let out heat:-). I decided to quit making loaves and just make rolls (we like them just as well anyway) until last week. Then somewhere I read that if the temperature is too low, the bread won't set up when it rises in the oven, so then it will fall down again. The temperature needs to be hot enough to set the bread pretty quickly when it rises to its fullest height. So, I decided to try setting my oven to 400 degrees or so and waiting about 1/2 hour before putting the bread in the oven. Voila! Perfectly risen and browned bread! I was so excited! So now I can make beautiful loaves, too! And I am getting stoneware loaf pans this week that I ordered with my Christmas money, so I am a happy camper (er...baker?)

You have to understand that I don't have a great track record for baking. I have always been a great cook, but baking has always been a challenge for me. Usually due to oven problems!! When we were first married, I wanted to make cookies for my husband. We were really broke, so the only ones I could make with what I had on hand were sugar cookies. I tried (and failed) at 4 different recipes before I discovered that my oven temperature was way off. My husband bought me an oven thermometer (which I still have over 20 years later) and that helped me alot, but my "baking self-esteem" has never fully recovered. And it didn't help that when I tried to bake bread in my bread machine, it never rose and was always squatty and pretty dense.

Now, I bake beautiful loaves and buns/rolls and feel so good about what I am providing for my family. Isn't it funny how homemade bread can change your life?

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