Baking bread can be tricky in terms of knowing when it is completely done. The outside of the bread looks firm and browned, but you can't see what state the inside is without cutting into it. If you cut a slice and realize the inside is not fully cooked, is there any way to save the loaf? Luckily, bread can be re-baked, and put back in the oven if it is underdone.
It is best, however, to prevent this situation from happening, and there are a few tips you can follow to create the perfect homemade loaf. If you find yourself baking a lot of bread, you may want to learn some more tips for improving your bread baking skills.
Fixing Undercooked Bread
It is pretty simple to salvage an 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 will work even if the loaf has cooled, which is similar to par-baking bread. If you are concerned about the bread browning too much, tent the loaf with foil.
If you remove the bread from the oven before it is set, however, there is not much you can do to save it. You can try and bake it further, as there is not much to lose, but chances are the bread won't be acceptable.
If you don't have time to put the loaf back in the oven, you can treat it as a par-baked bread (a loaf baked 90 percent). 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.
Properly Cooling Bread
Don’t mistake undercooked bread for bread that hasn’t properly cooled. Although it may be tempting to cut into that freshly baked bread while it's still warm, it is important that the loaf cool completely. 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 cooked all the way through. This is because the steam that was trapped inside while baking still needs to escape. This "sweating" will make the crust softer at first but will harden up again after it is fully cooled. If you cannot wait until the bread is fully cooled, then just be prepared for a damp crumb. (Rolls cool much faster.)
Using a Thermometer
The best way to avoid 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 don't have an instant-read thermometer, you can test the doneness using your hand. Simply remove the loaf from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, tap the bottom with your finger; if it sounds hollow, the bread is ready.
Measuring Flour Correctly
As professional bakers will attest to, measuring flour by weight instead of volume is the best method. Using a dry cup measurer can result in too much or too little flour in the recipe, and when that recipe is bread, too little flour will give you a soggy, undercooked interior. If you plan on baking a lot of homemade bread, it is best to invest in a kitchen scale. If you prefer not to use a scale, there are techniques using calibrated measuring cups and a spoon.
Checking the Calibration of Your Oven
One reason your homemade bread isn't cooking properly is that your oven isn't calibrated correctly. An oven that is running hotter than the set temperature will cook the outside of a loaf (and other foods) quicker than the inside. If you feel like this is an overall problem in your kitchen, test the oven temp with a thermometer.