Quick bread temps
I've been working on perfecting a banana bread recipe, and while I'm getting there I wonder if there are any accomplished bakers out there who can tell me what internal temperature to shoot for in a quick bread like banana bread. I've researched a dozen recipes, an while they are all pretty similar as to ingredients, the cooking times vary from 45-75 minutes. Measurements seem to be so exact in professional baking recipes, why are methods for testing doneness so imprecise? It seems that an instant thermometer would be SO much more exact than a dry toothpick...or am I just being too anal?
It's tough to go by temperature when baking, because often the food is technically "cooked through" long before it is the right wetness. You want banana bread to be moist and firm, not too dry or too mushy; if you just go by time or by temperature, there's no guarantee your bread won't end up too wet or too dry. Cooking times vary because recipes vary as to the ratios of wet and dense ingredients to dry and loose ingredients.
I don't time quick breads at all -- just look for the outside to get golden brown, and take the loaf out of the oven as soon as a toothpick to the middle comes out mostly clean.
I used to do the "look for doneness" and wait for the toothpick to come clean, but my current oven has somehow subverted me and those tactics can be unreliable.
I now use a Thermapen to temp the inside of my baked goods. In theory, baked goods are supposed to generally be done when the inside temp is just under boiling, but I take them out when they are around 204*- 209*. I like the Thermapen because it's quick and has a very small tip, which keeps my "goods" moist after taking them out of the oven.
Still though, you'll want to check for GBD (golden brown and delicious) before taking things out of the oven, and artisnal bread should still sound hollow when thumped. I tend to use temping as a supplement to all those other things.
I wouldn't think you could rely on just internal temperature, because that doesn't take into consideration the variations in liquid amounts between recipes. For a drier mix, a temp of say 209 might mean overcooked and dry.
The appearance of the crumb on the withdrawn tester is to my mind the most reliable test. You do have to balance the look of the crumb against the faster cooking area at the pan edges. And factor in continued cooking as the pan cools out of the oven.
Doneness is a matter of taste and it will take experience to know where that is for you.
(boy, is that a fuzzy enough answer?)
I've cooked many quick breads, and I'm OK with the crumby toothpick method, just wondered if there was something more scientific I could do. I've been cooking for over 30 years and I'm finally getting serious about it. My goal is to have to go to a really fine dining restaurant to get something better than I can make at home. I guess the best thing is to start taking temps with my thermapen when the toothpick and my eye says done. Thanks everyone.
re: Billow Fair
Yes, I tend to take my quick breads and cakes out when they reach just above 200*, but I use cake flour for both.
I think what is best is to actually do a few experiments with what temps work best for your recipes and equipment, if you are looking for something truly scientific.
Wheat based breads, cakes and cookies are "done" at 190' f. Regardless of how long you cooked it ot the temperature you cooked it at it is done. They are no longer dough or batter
Now the argument is "how done do you like it" which is similar to the opinion of done-ness of pasta.
With the center at 190' and the bake temp at 400 you get a hard crust and chewy inside. Conversely a bake temp at 350' will give you an evenly moist cake inside and a thin crust. At a bake temp at 325' you get a moist cake in and out with virtually no hard crust.
EXPERIENCE AND ART use toothpick and thumping to determine done-ness and are correct according to the level of skill of the baker. IDIOTS LIKE ME use a thermometer and are "right" 100% of the time.
Remember that water can't get hotter than 212'f. When you observe temps up to 212'f you are measuring how moist your bread or cake is. Very moist is 190'f and dry is 212'f. Above 212' you are measuring how burned it is.
Only you can determine how moist or dry is appropriate for a particular product. Since I prefer a wide range of textures in my food, I use a higher bake temp and 190'f. If I liked it dryer I would take it out at 200'f. A pretzel would be 210'f with virtually no water.
Finally, the only variable is time. 190'f is my set point for moistness, 350'f is my set point for bake temp. Therefore the time it takes to get to 190'f is variable based upon volume, water content, size of pan, what other foods are in the oven and the placement of sun moon and stars.
Before castigating me, try it out and prove it for yourselves..