What kind of cookie sheet should I use for baking bread?
September 10, 2007 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I just baked my first loaf of bread (challah). It came out pretty close to perfect, but the bottom of the bread was way too dark. It seems to me that the cookie sheet is the problem. (I used an aluminum cookie sheet and parchment paper.) I would like to try a different sheet next time. What kind should I buy?
posted by kdern to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Alton Brown suggests (though I have never tried this) using a terra cotta flower pot dish. Turn it upside-down and throw some cornmeal on it to prevent the bread from sticking.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:53 AM on September 10, 2007

Cornmeal and challah? Hm. Not to my taste.

Maybe a silicone baking mat? I had some silicone muffin pans that I got rid of because they didn't brown the bottoms enough for my taste.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:08 AM on September 10, 2007

Mmm... challah... Make extra for french toast, mkay?

You don't really need a new cookie sheet, the aluminum and parchment paper should work great. I've used terracotta and baking stones, and it only makes a difference on lean breads like pizza and french breads, not so much for challah.

Some things to try:

-Putting the rack with the challah up higher in the oven
-Taking the loaf out earlier (if you glaze the top of the challah with egg yolk, it will get that golden shine earlier)
-A slightly lower temperature in the oven (25 degrees or so)
-Invert a second sheet pan and put it under the sheet with the challah
posted by Philbo at 7:12 AM on September 10, 2007

You could try one of those baking sheets designed specifically not to burn cookies by including a pocket of air in the sheet.

Challah is tough not to brown on the bottom because of the high sugar and fat content.
posted by OmieWise at 7:15 AM on September 10, 2007

The shiny aluminum sheet/parchment combination should work perfectly. If you've got a baking stone, make sure you don't set the sheet directly on it -- too much heat, too quickly for the bottom crust not to overcook.

If that's not the source of the problem, try an insulated sheet, or just nest two together for the same effect.
posted by piro at 7:20 AM on September 10, 2007

When I had this problem, I let the oven get up to the right temp, put the bread in, then closed the door and turned the oven off. I let it bake just a little bit longer.

The issue isn't the cookie sheet, it's the direct heat. Bread likes indirect heat.
posted by SpecialK at 7:28 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: Definitely get an insulated baking sheet. It's basically two layers of metal with air in between.

You might also try putting the oven rack a little higher, if possible.

You might also make sure your oven is at its best; I've noticed huge differences in bottom-burning behaviour between different ovens. I've heard that cleaning the oven can help. (your oven may be clean already, of course; I'm not assuming that it's dirty).

I think challah may be particularly vulnerable to this problem since it's a fairly sweet bread.
posted by amtho at 7:32 AM on September 10, 2007

I second the silicone baking mat... you don't even need to get a new cookie sheet!
Parchment should work too (it did the trick for me when my cookie bottoms were in trouble) but with the longer baking time of challah, I'd opt for the mat.
posted by rmless at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2007

Add me to the Silpat mat voters. It should provide a bit more insulation from the heat of the bottom of the cookie sheet than parchment paper, without leaving the bottom underdone.
posted by briank at 7:38 AM on September 10, 2007

If you decide to go with a silicone mat, I have found the ones from Ace Mart Restaurant supply (or almost any other resto supply place) to be just as good and about half the price of the ones you can find in retail shops.
posted by Seamus at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2007

Definitely use a baking stone! You can leave them on the bottom rack in the oven permanently for even heat dispersion anytime you bake. Apparently an unglazed terracotta tile works well.
posted by eiramazile at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2007

Do not use a baking stone in this case. Those who are suggesting it either don't have much experience baking bread or haven't read the question well. While bread bakes very well on such a stone, the direct heat is likely to brown a rich loaf like challah excessively.
posted by OmieWise at 8:38 AM on September 10, 2007

The stone goes on the bottom rack, the bread goes on an upper rack, not on the stone. The stone just retains heat in the oven so that it doesn't cool down so much when you put the cold bread dough inside. Most home ovens have a terrible heat capacity and the stone adds some.

An insulated cookie sheet might help, but not so much for bread as for cookies. The bread is in the oven long enough to conduct a lot of heat to the cookie sheet just through the top panel. Still, it would be better than not using one. Silpat sounds like an excellent idea.
posted by caddis at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: cornmeal and parchment paper/silicone mat will solve your problem. I am a challah bakin fiend too and man is that burnt bottom irksome.
posted by Large Marge at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2007

I know it breaks the rules for Challah but I usually use a loaf pan. It cooks nicely, and though you lose the braid for most of the bread the top still looks fabulous. It also makes using it for french toast and mini pizzas* much easier.

*Thick slices, not french-bread-pizza style. Challah makes for an awesome consistency.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the advice... sounds like a silicone mat is definitely the way to go. But if I'm using a silicone mat, why would I also need parchment paper?
posted by kdern at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: Seconding the suggestion to check your oven calibration. I bake all of my challahs on an aluminum sheet with parchment paper, and don't have the browning problem. What temp are you aiming for? 350 degrees? You want a longer slow bake with challah, rather than a quick hot one.

You don't need parchment with the Silpat. Philbo's suggestion to raise your challah higher in the oven is good, too. If you're baking two loaves, just rotate the pans midway for even baking.
posted by Flakypastry at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2007

The first thought that popped in my head is that you have a non-stick pan. Don't ever use those for baking as they'll burn.
Seconding the people who say move your rack up, and keep a pizza stone on the bottom rack. Ovens cycle too hot/too cold, a pizza stone will help even that out. Be sure to pre-heat for at least 20 minutes before you put your bread in too.
Silicon mats vs parchment paper are a matter of preference, IMO. I've tried both and gone back to parchment paper because I find it easier to work with.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2007

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