Introduction: Baking Your Bread
If you like a soft chewy crust, this dough can be baked at 375 degrees Farenheight until golden brown. This will take between 40-50 minutes. To know when the loaf is done baking, give the top of the loaf a good knock on the top of the crust. If the loaf makes a sound like a hollow wooden box, it is time to pull it out of the oven.
I'm using a 9"x5" loaf pan. If your loaf pan is a smaller 8"x5" pan, you will have to adjust your cook time to be slightly longer, if your loaf pan is larger than 9"x5" your cook time will have to be slightly shorter. The more surface area of the dough that is exposed, the faster it cooks. This is why cooking on a cookie sheet takes even less time.
If you like a slightly crispier crust, bake at 400 for about 35-45 minutes, looking for a deep golden brown color, as opposed to a golden color.
Before placing in the oven, score the top of the loaf so that the shape does not tear during baking. Using a lame, drag one long line across the top of the loaf. Hold off on scoring until right before you place the pan in the oven. We score loaves so that steam is able to escape during oven spring before our crust is completely formed.
Oven spring refers to the final feeding frenzy that the yeast go through, pushing the last bits of gas into your loaf, before dying off at high temperatures. The loaf will meet its max rise just before the crust hardens. If your loaf grows a lot in the oven, your crumb structure will be airy, but if you see minimal spring, you will most likely have a denser loaf. Your oven spring will be different depending on the ingredients and hydration levels in your dough. A good way to observe spring is the expansion in your scores.
During the last part of the bake, the gluten network inside the dough hardens and our dough is cooked by hot steam inside the loaf. Start checking your dough with some frequency 20 minutes into your bake. We know our bread is done when it's crust is a deep golden brown. (NOT light gold!) You can check the internal temperature with a probe thermometer. If the thermometer has a reading of 200 degrees or more your loaf is done, temperature above 215 degrees and your loaf may have a hard crust once it's cooled. I always shoot for a range of between 202-206 inside a loaf.
After removing your loaf from the oven, you want to wait at least 30 minutes for your bread to cool. There is a lot of steam inside your loaf, trapped inside its crust when you first pull it out of the oven. We want all that steam and moisture to stay in there! Cutting bread right after it comes out of the oven risks a very dry loaf, once it is fully cooled.
The best way to cool your loaf is with the use of a cooling rack. The cooling racks I use have two heights, for super hot loaves of bread, I find that using the taller height of the rack cools the loaf faster.