The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pan placement in oven

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leemid's picture
leemid

Pan placement in oven

I am not new to baking bread, but have recently begun to make artisanal breads using sourdough starters. I have read a lot and experimented some, resulting in what I think is some pretty good bread.  I'm headstrong enough to go my own way when I think I understand the general principles, but take advice well too. 

In reading about the structure and use of brick ovens I have gotten the idea that the baking chamber itself is rather short in height, compared to our home type ovens. I understand the transfer of heat up from the floor of the brick oven, and this is the principle reason for using stone of some kind in a standard home type gas or electric oven, to approximate as much as is reasonable the brick oven. If all of this is true, and I believe it is, then why do we put the stone, in my case a 3/4" thick slab of black marble, as low as possible our ovens? Shouldn't we be placing it higher to more accurately reproduce the short baking chamber of a brick oven? And since hot air rises, as does hot steam, would it not be a terrific improvement on the opposite?

Now, having asked this, I have tried it once. The problem I faced was that with the stone I had too much heat. At least that is my conclusion. One of the advantages of baking with a stone is that it stabilizes the heat. A home type oven fluctuates considerably in temperature, some as much as 50 degrees F, whether or not we are opening it every few minutes to toss in some water. The great slab of stone takes forever to get hot but stays that way equally long and radiates enough to negate a great deal of the heat loss associated with opening the door, and the inherent rise and fall of temperature due to the thermostatic control's high and low threshold. Placing the stone high allows for more room for steam pans in the lower regions, too. My conclusion is that placing the stone high is an outstanding idea, to be accompanied by either a lowering of temperature, or a reduction in baking time.

So why am I not doing this myself all the time? I prefer to make taller loaves and not wider. So until I have proofing baskets that let me get the tall rise, and I won't pay the insane high prices of stores who offer them, I use an alternative method and not my stone. I intend to make my own wire mesh rising baskets with linen liners in the next few weeks and then I will test this whole idea thoroughly. I post this batch of blather to see if anyone else has wondered the same things.

 Happy baking!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

In using a standard size home oven, I go by the general rule that the imaginary middle of the finished loaf of bread should be in the middle of the oven.  That means that the shelf should be below middle for even heat.  The size and type of the oven has a lot to do with stone placement and any pans you want to put in there.  Some even put in two stones, upper and lower.  The smaller the oven, the less choices one has.  New efficient ovens have a choice of upper or lower heat or combination of both and can be very good at distributing heat, so much so that a stone is not needed.  (hint: do you see coils?)  The top of the oven is a hot place and maybe turning down the heat is a solution, but what happens when the bread rises too high?  Scrape the bread off the top of the oven?   My Aunt once told me when we were golfing, pick the club for the ideal shot, because if you hit it right, it will go!

It seems to be a project of compromise:  How to turn a household oven into a bread baking one.   Ideal would be (if you didn't have a good, even baking oven, to have a complete stone insert into the oven so that upper, lower, back and sides are radiating heat, but such an insert would be very heavy and awkward, require a lot of time & energy in heating up and in a home oven where other foods are also baked almost imposible to remove.  If you can do this, and want an extra oven just for baking bread, then would it not be better, just to buy a bread oven?  Or build one in the back yard?  Have fun with your stone and baking.   :) Mini Oven