The timer buzzes, you remove the bread from the oven (it looks done) and set it to cool. The outside of the bread is already firm and browned, but when you cut a slice, you realize the inside is not fully cooked. Is there anything you can do to save it? Luckily, bread can be re-baked, and put back in the oven if it is underdone.
Fixing Undercooked Bread
It is pretty simple to salvage the undercooked bread and create a decent loaf. Heat the oven to 350 F, return the bread to the oven, and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes. This should cook the inside and will work even if the loaf has cooled (which is a bit like par-baking bread).
If the bread is not set before the oven is turned off, there is not much you can do to save it. This may have happened to you before, when you push the wrong button on the oven and turn off the oven instead of turning on the timer, and you don’t notice until much later that the bread was underdone. You can try and bake it further, as there is not much to lose, but chances are only your staunchest friends will eat it.
Properly Cooling Bread
Don’t mistake undercooked bread for bread that hasn’t properly cooled. If you do not allow the bread to cool for at least two hours before slicing, it can appear soggy inside, even though it is done all the way through. Bread "sweats" as it cools and dries out inside. The sweating will make the crust softer, but it will harden up again after it is fully cooled. (Rolls cool much faster.) If you cannot wait, then you will need to deal with a damp crumb (with lovely, melted butter!).
Using a Thermometer
The best way to avoid the problem of underdone bread is to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the loaf—just as you would a whole chicken or a meatloaf. Most bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 180 to 190 F for soft bread and 200 to 210 F for lean, crusty bread. Stick the thermometer into the middle of the loaf (you can do this on the underside, to avoid unsightly holes) and leave it in until the temperature stops climbing. If you find yourself baking a lot of bread, you may want to learn some more tips for improving your bread baking skills.
Partially baking homemade bread is ideal when you have the time to bake a loaf, but don’t plan on eating it right away. For par-baked bread, bake for 90% of the time necessary for a regular loaf, then cool completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. The day before you plan on serving it, thaw the bread in the refrigerator overnight, then finish baking the loaf, adding a few minutes to the time called for in the recipe.