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A lot of work goes into baking bread, so after all that mixing and kneading and shaping, it would be a shame if your loaf was ruined because you didn't take it out of the oven at the right time. Use a few simple tricks and techniques to ensure your bread is always perfectly baked.

Preheat your oven to the correct temperature and set the timer to the baking time in the recipe. The timer is useful for reminding you to check on the bread, but don't automatically take the bread out just because the timer goes off. Not all ovens heat up the same way, so your bread might need extra time.

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Check the color and consistency of the crust. The crust of white flour-based breads, like ciabattas, Challahs and sourdoughs, should be a deep, golden brown and the color should be even across the entire loaf.

Tap the bottom or sides of the bread. If you hear a hollow sound and the dough is firm, the bread is done. If the bread is still wet, put it back in the oven.

Make an attempt to slide the bread out of the pan. If the bread is done, its sides should be firm and it should slide out of the pan easily.

Smell the bread. That fresh baked bread aroma is a good indication that the bread is done or almost done. A "yeasty" smell might indicate that the bread isn't fully cooked.

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Test the temperature of the bread using a digital instant-read thermometer. Stick the thermometer's probe into the thickest part of the loaf, which is usually the middle. Wait a few seconds for the reading to appear. If the temperature reads between 190 and 210 degrees, the bread is done.

If you don't have a thermometer, insert a toothpick or a sharp knife into the middle of the bread at the thickest part. If it comes out with batter stuck to it, the bread isn't done yet. If it comes out dry, the bread is finished.

Tip

Check the bread 10 minutes before the oven timer goes off and every 5 minutes after that, just in case your oven behaves differently than average.

Use an oven thermometer to accurately determine the heat of an oven rather than relying on the oven's temperature dial. The preheated alarm on some ovens goes off before the oven has reached the proper temperature.

Warning

Instant-read thermometers aren't designed to remain in the bread as it cooks. Take the bread out of the oven before you use the thermometer and only use it for a few seconds until you get the temperature reading.