The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I'm distraught and need the help of folks who routinely produce beautiful breads in gas ovens.

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bnom's picture
bnom

I'm distraught and need the help of folks who routinely produce beautiful breads in gas ovens.

I'm distraught and really need the help of Fresh Loafers who routinely produce beautiful breads in their gas ovens.  I retired my old electric range in a recent remodel and installed a Capital Culinarian gas range with convection. It's a powerful, very well made pro-style range (with no electronics to go wonky with steam). With my electric range, I produced crusts like this:

And this is the sad puppy I just pulled out of my gas range:

The darkest color is the grigne  -not good.  

At first I did the same set up as in my electric - fibrament stone on bottom rack, upper rack had two aluminum pans with lava rocks that were, like the stone, preheated. As I loaded the breads, I added towels soaked in boiling water to the stones.  I steamed for about 12 minutes and then removed steaming devices and turned on convection. Oven temp is 475.

Thinking that maybe I was oversteaming, this time put the stone in the lower (but not lowest) rack. I put one pan of lava rocks and then one wet towel in as bread loaded. Removed steaming device after 8 minutes.  Result: same sad crust.

I don't know what to tweak next. Please, tell me all is not lost and that I can actually produce lovely breads in a gas oven, and please tell me what steps I should take next (and why). 

I should note that I haven't tried covering the bread -- I like making baquettes and batards and don't like the constraint of covers. (That said, I'll probably try a boule in a cast iron pot this weekend).

Most appreciative of any advice you can provide.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Gas ovens must necessarily be vented, so it's very difficult compared to electric to hold enough steam. My own solution from my gas days, and one which I still use quite often, is to cover with a roasting pan for ten or fifteen minutes. I spritz the inside of the pan and drop it over the loaf.

cheers,

gary

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

and the effects.  Is the new oven larger than your old oven?  If so, your new situation would include a need for more steam to offset the effects of venting and more steam to fill the larger volume of the new oven.  (I'm assuming that you have already verified that the actual temperature inside the oven is the same as the selected temperature.)

Some additional things to try:

1. Bake more loaves at a time

2. Spritz the loaves with water before loading into the oven

3. Use more water in your steaming device

4. Put the steaming device in the lowest level of the oven, as far away from the vent as possible, to maximize the steam's residence time in the oven.

5. Add more water at intervals

6. Drape a towel across the vent.  Not so much as to block the vent but enough to slow the velocity of the air flow.

7. Rig a tube and funnel apparatus to introduce water into the oven without opening the door, like one poster showed here a few years ago

You can see that I'm kind of milling about.  Maybe one of these would work for you, maybe not.

Paul

suave's picture
suave

Your electric loaves don't look adequately steamed either, so it's a little wonder your method fails completely in a gas oven.  The method suggested by gary.turner is by far the best, except that I would suggest at least 15-20 minutes under a pan.

leslie c's picture
leslie c

What's wrong with the crusts from the electric oven? They look beautiful to me. I'm a little new at this too, so I'm wondering.

bnom's picture
bnom

@Sauve -- what is it that leads you to the conclusion that the crusts from the electric oven were understeamed? 

aytab's picture
aytab

I have a gas oven at home and the only way I can get really great crusts is to bake inside my Dutch Oven, otherwise there is no way for me to keep enough steam inside the oven, I can get ok crusts, but never great because of the venting issue. 

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I went from gas to electric myself.

electric tends to produce a drier heat than gas so therefore it can be more challenging to get a good crust with gas.

With your pictures you've only highlighted uneven colouring - is this the only problem? I'm guessing not...

That picture shows uneven colouring due to the raw flour on the outside. Dry things don't conduct heat very well!

Steam isn't as necessary with gas (already moist heat). As with any new oven it takes time to understand how it cooks, so I suggest, forget all the steaming business and bake without steam initially.

Please let me know what other issues you have with the crust.

Michael

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Raise the temperature of your gas oven to as high as it will go and preheat for at least one hour.  After you put your bread into the oven wait four minutes and then turn the oven down to your baking temperature.  Take heed of all the good steaming advice already given here and ignore any non constructive negative comments that you may encounter along the way.

Happy Baking,

Jeff

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

While I agree with all of the comments about how hard it is to control the humidity in vented gas ovens, I see nothing in the photo that indicates that a lack of steam is at the root of the lack of color. I would suggest checking the temperature of the oven in operation with a small thermocouple probe placed where it sees the convection fan outlet flow just so that you know your thermostat is doing it's job but I suspect it is just fine. 

The real issue might be the use of aluminum pans to hold the lava rocks above the bread - even without a wet towel, the bread sees the bottom of the pans where the emissivity is quite low (perhaps 0.05 or lower if it is polished aluminum, .15 if it is dirty) so the bread is staring back at itself trying to bake in the reflection of it's own radiant heat.  Not a good idea!  If you must use aluminum pans, put some oil on the bottoms and bake them at 450°F for long enough to blacken the surface.  Even then the wet towel will tend to reduce the radiant heat from the pan bottom just because the steam will cool it off a lot.  When the steam generator is below the stone, the bread is shielded by the stone from the low temperature of the steam generator and you should not have the same problem, though the steam generator must dry out (or be removed) before the oven temperature gets back up to the thermostat set point.

 

bnom's picture
bnom

Thanks everyone for your suggestions.  I confess I'm still confused whether the issue is too much or too little steam or something else entirely.  What I do know is that I have not changed anything else in my approach but for the different oven  (eg same formula,proofing, oven size, and I'm still preheating the oven an hour before baking).  That leads me to believe that the aluminum pan emissivity isn't the issue or the dusting of semolina on the loaf.  My old electric was from the 50s and the gasket was shot so it was far from airtight, but perhaps the venting in this oven is more.   

I think I'll start with Michael suggestion of baking with no steam at all and then play with adding steam, covers, raising temperature, etc. )I really hate the idea that I'd be confined to cooking under pans).   I have not actually checked the temp but will do so at next bake.

I will post results of my next round of experiments. 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Gas ovens vent like crazy and not all gas ovens vent the same, or even behave the same.  I experimented with Sylvia's wet towel technique; a roaster cover (which I hated); the roaster cover with a hole drilled into it and injected with steam from a hand steamer (ala SteveB's technique); a broiler pan which I'd fill with hot water after loading the bread; tossing ice cubes into a hot broiler pan, plus a few tricks I can't remember.  None of them gave me the results I was looking for.

Finally I hit on a combination which does work in my oven, and that is using two pans, one on each side of my bottom rack (below my stone, which sits on the middle rack).  One container is an old loaf pan holding a layer of lava rock. On top of that is a cheap aluminum loaf pan with lots of holes poked into it (see picture below).  That goes on the left. On the right is the broiler pan containing a layer of lava rock.

I preheat my oven to 500F for at least 45 minutes and after loading the bread, a tray of ice cubes go into the holey loaf pan and around 2.5 cups of hot water gets poured into the broiler pan (one cup evaporated too quickly).  Oven door is closed and temperature reduced to 460F, which is what I generally use for my sourdough loaves.  As the ice cubes melt, they drip onto the hot lava rocks and continually emit moisture.  The ice cube pan is removed after 15 minutes; there's nothing left in the broiler pan so that just stays where it's at.  That was the magic combination for my oven and it works every single time I steam.

 

It took a lot of bakes before I found what worked in my oven, so I think you're just going to have to experiment with yours, keeping track of what you do.  I do not have a convection oven, but I do have a glass window in the oven door so pouring the water into that broiler pan was always a bit stressful, lest a few drops hit the glass.  My kids gave me a great Christmas gift which solved that problem:  a sweet little Haws 2-pint watering can with a long spout.

You'll find the magic combo for your oven -  just keep on trying and keep notes on what you do.   

proth5's picture
proth5

I've used my trusty Haws (but a bigger model) to accurately pour water into my oven for year.  I know I've talked about it - but glad to see another Haws enthusiast.

I'll echo your words, though, I had a long unhappy period after I got my new oven.  I had to make a lot of adjustments - none of which were obvious - until I hit a happy place.  I actually use rolled up wet towels on the remaining parts of my old baking stone that was actually too large for the new space and that cracked as a result of being shifted from one oven to the other (also probably from being used when it was too large).

So, that's another area to be sure of - that your new oven and your old stone are simpatico. 

I think about using pans and lava rocks - but I've had a long series of non bread related hassles in my life as of late and decided not to add any more stress at this time... :>)

Good luck and keep trying!

bnom's picture
bnom

I appreciate the detailed info you provided and will be trying your method next time I bake.  I tried another variation of the towel/lava rock routine on the top rack, but it gave me the same pallid crust as before. So we'll see what sort of response I get with the method you tried. I'm curious as to how you arrived at the combination of two different types of steaming devices, but imagine it's just a lot of trial and error.  

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Trial and error.  The wet towels just didn't give enough steam.   In my oven, I load the ice cubes first - they give off steam over a longer period as they melt.  Adding the hot water to the broiler pan containing lava rocks sends up an immediate blast of steam  - most of which seems to stay in the oven long enough for the melting ice cubes to take over the job.

Once you find what works, it becomes second nature after you do it ten or 15 times and you won't freak out trying not to lose too much oven heat.  Just be sure to wear something like OveGloves and wear long sleeves when pouring the water over the lava rocks.  The ice cubes don't present a problem with steam burns.  

One more thing - I preheat to 500F, load, steam, and then turn down the heat to whatever the recipe calls for (although I have forgotten to do that until the 15 minute timer goes off).

May you get lots of great steam on your next bake!

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Not surprised that you'd be using the perfect tool for the job, Pat.   While I had heard of Haws (what serious gardener hasn't?), I had not seen one in real time.  Not something the local feed and grain stocks, which actually is a shame.

For anyone who hasn't seen one, here's my model (the brass sprinkler attachment pulls off for bread - but works nicely for gentle watering of seedlings).  It sure was a nice gift.

 

bnom's picture
bnom

Thanks again everyone for all the encouragement and advice.  It is such a drag to feel like I've been sent back to breadbaking 101 just because I upgraded my oven.  But armed with new determination, I made up a batch of simple yeasted dough this afternoon. No autolyze or retarding so I didn't expect much in the way of a maillard effect.  I also tested my oven temp and was pleased to see it was spot on. 

The first loaf I loaded onto the stone and just spritzed it and the oven with a little water. Baked it at 500 for the first 5 minutes and then lowere to 475. I turned on the convection fan after 12 minutes.  It was definitely had better color than this morning's disaster. 

The second boule I started with a light spritz of water and then placed a stainless bowl over it for 15 minutes.  It got that thinner, shiny crust that I think is pretty typical of that technique.  It definitely had more color than the first boule (I don't have a good photo of it).  

Even though I wasn't much impressed with either one of the loaves, I am encouraged. I think my theory that I was oversteaming the bread has some merit - but the solution may be in some happy middle between no steam and too much. Ill keep experimenting.

 Lindy, your bread shows just the sort of crust I'm looking for and I'm reassured that I can manage it with my new range. Do you use the same steam technique when baking baguettes too?

 BTW, I like the haws watering can idea! 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I take the simple approach:  if steam is called for, I use the same technique.  It's worked for me on any bread that needs steam.

I'll fess up and admit I haven't baked baguettes this winter, except for a class last month and those went into a Matador deck oven that sounded like an old steam engine when the steam was applied.  Be still my beating heart! ;-)

Good to hear you're making progress.  Keep on experimenting and you'll find the magic button.  

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

I just made a similar conversion of electric to gas and here is what I found out:

1. I had to preheat longer and preheat almost at max temperatures for non-pan loaves. This solved my browning problem.

2. The gas oven does vent too well and there is almost no way to block it as there was in my electric oven (and perhaps that's a good thing for the prevention of CO poisoning  :-).  That's why it looses too much heat and moisture.

3. I too am struggling with steaming / oven spring.  I am having a hard time getting my slashes to fully bloom. I get good crumb rise but the crust tends to remain intact. I too am trying to see if it is too much or too little steam.

 

Paul

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

 or a cloche.  I know several members did tests here which suggested that steam isn't all that critical to a perfect outcome.

bnom's picture
bnom

You can't make baguettes in a cloche. 

I made rolls today (Hanseata's German Brochten) and did not have an issue with browning. This time, I added about a half cup boiling water to a pan set below the stone.  It does seem that producing copious amounts of steam is not desirable in this oven. Soon I'll have to  screw up the courage and try baguettes again.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

When I bake an oblong loaf, I put it on the stone and then place a large disposable aluminum roaster pan over the loaf to temporarily hold in the moisture it releases to allow it to bloom.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I do this too and has really helped my breads (even in an electric oven).

bnom's picture
bnom

Anna and Michael - for how long do you leave the tent on and do you spritz the loaves or the inside of the tent?  I finally found some aluminum roaster pans long enough to accomodate baguettes.  I spritzed the inside of the pan before placing it over the baquettes . . .it was a disaster.  The baquettes collapsed.  I suppose it could have been that they were overproofed but I've baked a lot of baguettes and I've never had this happen before. The looked like very promising baggies when I loaded them into the oven (which was preheated to 500 degrees 50 minutes before baking). 

BTW, I did bake in a cast iron dutch oven recently and that produced a nice crust -- so that's some relief. I did the same bread without cast iron and no added steam and the color was okay but I didn't get good bloom.   

 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

(I bake several things using the aluminum tent) I either spritz the actual dough just a bit before scoring, or - if quite wet - I just let it proof on parchment, score, transfer with parchment to the stone via pizza peel and then place the alu roaster over the dough without spritzing. Leave it on for 10 minutes then continue baking without "steam".

And when doing a round bread, I use the cloche without spritzing, and an oblong higher bread, I use a Roemertopf which goes into a cold oven and covered with its presoaked top.

SORRY, I just now saw the question to Michael and to me.

 

bnom's picture
bnom

Here's a log of my latest steaming technique and bake (I post these for my own record-keeping but perhaps others will find them useful).

I followed LindyDs suggestion above using perforated pan, ice, lava rocks etc.  One loaf I rubbed with wet hands prior to scoring.  The loaves were David Snyder SF SD take 6 formula (a winner!).  

I got great color, crunchy crust and nice crumb on these breads.  Decent oven spring but still no ears.  However, I followed his formula closely and he recommends a three hour final proof in an 85 degree/humid environment (easy to do with the Brod and Taylor proofer). I think these loaves were probably overproofed (at least for the purpose of forming ears). So will try the technique again with more care to underproof the loaves a bit.

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Lovely crumb and a very nice even bake.  Great color on the crust.   You do know what's going to happen, don't you?   When you least expect it, you'll pull your batards out of the oven and the ears will be grinning at you.

Gosh, those look tasty.

bnom's picture
bnom

I tried a suggestion to turn off the oven and cover up the vent for the first five minutes of steaming.  Check it out - ears!

Unfortunately, only one loaf really bloomed. The second just rose but didn't open up.  Still, they both had good color. I'm making progress! 

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

That's certainly got to reduce the frustration level!

Way to go, Barbara!

Marlowe's picture
Marlowe

I have had great luck using the roasting pan method with a slight twist.  I bake the dough on large sheet of parchment paper under the roasting pan lid, spraying ONLY the parchment paper.  The water beads up and does not evaporate until the lid is on and the oven door is shut.  I have had much better results spraying the parchment paper as opposed to the inside of the roasting pan, the loaf itself, the interior of the oven, hot rocks, etc.

bnom's picture
bnom

I like your idea  because one of my experiments I used an aluminum roasting pan which I spritzed with water before placing over the batards. The water dripped onto the loaves, and they had that thin, shiny crust, which I don't really like. Do you have a photo of one of your breads cooked in this fashion -- I'd love to see the crust (I'm not doubting your results, but I would like to see the kind of crust produced). 

Generally, I'm trying to avoid cooking under a tent - I think it's mostly a stubborn notion that, damn it, I spent 4g on this range and I shouldn't have to create a work around to bake good bread (of course, turning the oven off and blocking the vents is a work around but at least I can make whatever length/shape loaves I want).  

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"If all else fails, read the directions..."  (famous quote in my family)

What does the instruction manual say if anything at all?  Have you contacted the manufacturer for advice?  Surely they have a test kitchen for their ovens that can offer some advice or solution or did they sell you the wrong oven for your needs?

You still sound distraught...

bnom's picture
bnom

I have read the instruction and have been in touch with company. Actually, before buying the range I told them I wanted to see how it performed with breads. Their culinary person baked up some breads and sent me photos. I was not all that impressed to be honest but I attributed it more to the baker's skills. 

I do feel like I'm making progress. Getting ears and good color on my last bread was a great sign.  The range performs beautifully overall --- I think it's just a matter of figuring out the tweaks for bread.

 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

These are Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough with Whole wheat. I'd cut them open, but they're for company later today. :)

My oven is a very basic GE gas range. I bake at 450-460F to start, lowering it to 410F after the first 10 minutes. These two are a little well done; I forgot and lowered the temperature afer 15-20 minutes. The oven is steamed using a hand steamer (30-60secs) before the bread goes in by cracking the door and inserting an old piece of 3/8" copper tubing  into the oven then injecting the steam through it. After the bread is loaded I steam again and turn off the oven for 10 minutes.

I've had my ups and downs getting good results, too. I consistently get the best results baking in a dutch oven, but sometimes I just don't want a boule... Oven spring typically is not a problem.

As everybody has implied or stated, consumer gas ovens are inherently limited by their designs which must allow for venting of the combustion gases. 

For the engineers out there: if I got it right, the standard sized range rated for 18,000 btu/hr generates about 2.25lbs of steam/hour--which is a lot. Plugging the vent should trap a fair bit of moisture and make a significant difference in the amount that needs to be added. This is where baking on a thoroughly heated stone of some mass will significantly help: it has more energy to transfer to the dough--and will do it faster than the heated air/vapor in the oven. The oven temp will drop from opening, but the heat transfered from the stone should be enough to get the bread started and generate some steam, too. Extra bricks in the oven are heat sinks, but the heat transfer from them to air to the dough is relatively slow--very slow compared to rate of transfer between the baking stone and the dough.

Peter

bnom's picture
bnom

Thank you for sharing your gorgeous bread Photos and process.  I feel optimistic!  I think I will add an extra stone to the

omen to increase thermal mass as suggested below.   I wonder if using convection fan after steaming is sufficient to dry the oven?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

At 400°F, with a blocked vent, the steam should distribute itself without help from a fan, but the fan should not hurt unless there is an air leak in the convection recirculation duct/cavity.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

bnom: the pic that I posted was of two loaves that were retarded for 12 hours and then went directly into the oven. My experience is that cold dough into a hot oven makes for good scoring and grignes. Compared to room temp (or proofer temp) dough, the cooler dough doesn't bake as fast and retains moisture longer. Because the dough is cold, it is also much thicker and less likely to flow--and flatten out in the cut. This allows it to retain its shape just long enough for the dough to spring up & apart, then it's temperature is hot enough to bake it and fix its shape as desired. Consistent with this, I find room temp low hydration doughs better behaved in this respect than high hydration doughs. Slight drying of the top surface of a baguette by the couche (it proofs top side down) also helps a grigne to form.

bnom's picture
bnom

thanks for the suggestion. I am just about ready to shape some loaves and retard them overnight. I'll give it a try and post the results.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

I have been baking this bread almost every day this past week; practice, practice, practice. Today's baguettes tasted great, but were lacking in the grigne department. I think the bread was proofed too long before going into the fridge for retarding. Even though it went right into the oven, it had lost enough strength that the grigne did not form.

A simpler explanation may be that, however it is achieved, the dough has to be stiff enough to form a ridge when scored and then cooked fast enough to set it--before it can resorb back into the bulk dough. Making a deep enough cut at a low angle is important. I have also been going to town with my hand steamer and I am wondering if I now have too much. What I need is a control with no steam for comparison. That'll have to wait 'till I do baguettes again.

Hotter initial temperature seems to help the color, too. I preheated to 525F, steamed, turned the oven off, quickly loaded it, steamed again and turned the oven down to 420F. My infra-red thermometer told me my stone was still over 450F; the air temp had to be lower. The color was a nice golden brown especially on the sides closest to the stone.

Home gas ovens because of the way they are vented present real challenges when baking crusty breads. My next oven is going to be electric. I don't think there is a consumer gas range or oven where the burners are not vented through the main chamber.

bnom's picture
bnom

I took one loaf out of the fridge this morning and let it sit at room temp for an hour while the oven preheated (525)  The second loaf I left in fridge until it was time to score and load.  The loaf I let sit out developed a good grigne. The loaf I baked cold had decent oven spring but no bloom.  Both loaves had a deeply caramelized crust and nice blistering.

I doubt that the difference in loaves is due to the factor outline above.  The same thing happened in my previous bake (in that bake the loaf on the left bloomed, in this bake it was the loaf on the right - go figure). 

 

 

 

 

 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

My gas oven on the inside bottom has vents on the sides that port the heated combustion gases up into the cooking/baking area. Not surprisingly, it is noticably hotter on the sides of the oven than in the middle especially the closer one gets to the bottom. I bake on a couple of 16" ceramic tiles stacked on one another on a rack 6" off the bottom. This gives esentially no air gap in the back, 1/2-1" in front and 4" on each side. I am certain this accentuates the temperature gradient in my oven. (And now that I think of it, I'm going to have to cut the tiles down to increase the gap in the front and back; I'll add it to my not so short to-do list...) The loaves bake measurably faster on the outside edge, so I swap them about a 1/3-1/2 way through and rotate each one 180 degrees after about 2/3'rds of the cycle (when I remember).

When baking pizzas, I found that if I did not let the oven and, especially, the tiles recover fully all the pizzas after the first did not bake as quickly leading to poor results. I think that by the time the first loaf was finished baking your stone would be back up to oven temperature. If you dropped your oven temp during baking, maybe it did not have enough time to recover fully. Since your oven oven spring was ok, I'm guessing your stone got back up to T. When you say bloom, do you mean the spreat at the score? If so, maybe your score was not deep enough or the air temp in your oven too low to cook it fast enough to fix the ridge in place and create a grigne. This is why I preheat to 500+F: fully opening my oven door results in a 35-50F drop in the inside air temp.  I cook straight out of the fridge all the time and, while I've experienced all kinds of variations, this is not one I've had with my batards.  If your bread is overproofed or over-retarded it should be more likely to collapse on scoring, but, if so, the warm loaf would have suffered the same fate. You got me on this one, anyone else?

bnom's picture
bnom

vy bloom I mean the loaf has reached the full flower of possibility (yeah, I know, trite but true). Good spring, good opening along the seam to create ears.  The bloom seems to happen very early in the bake (first 5 minutes) so rotating the loaves at the point  doesn't seem like a good option (if you did, you'd be losing a bunch of that early precious steam). It's possilble that I slashed the loaves a little differenttly but I kind of doubt it, since it happened on back to back bakes.  Guess I'll just have to keep experimenting... at least now 50% of the loaves are  meeting my expectations.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

While the 2 lb/hr of steam generation is about right, in order to burn the gas, the oven must have at least 15:1 air to gas ratio and home ovens are generally designed to burn with a lot of excess air (like 4X stochiametric) so the real ratio is around 60:1 which dilutes the water vapor produced by combustion to such an extent that it is not just useless, but substantially reduces the dew point in the oven.  Just block the vent and shut off the oven and let it coast for 10 min after you load your loaves.  If you want to put a steam generator in at that point, it will run off the stored energy in the oven unless it brings its own heat with it.  Any additional thermal mass you can cram into the box and heat to 450°F (or whatever your initial condition is) will also help.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Good points Doc--or should it be PE? ;-) I obviously oversimplified; Last mass/heat balance  or combustion efficiency calc I did was over a decade ago. Consumer ovens must be designed for high excess air ratios for reasons including what you noted: lower the humidity for drier baking & roasting. The downside is poor energy efficiency. Crusty bread baking needs the moisture at the start and would benefit from an oven that had a much lower excess air ratio and vent flow. Since the air fuel ratio is well beyond stoichiometric, I'm thinking about trying this: blocking the vent by about half (or more?) for the last 10-20 minutes of the preheat and for the first 10 minutes of baking (and leaving the oven on & injecting steam). There should still be plenty of air for combustion, more retained humidity and less heat loss. I'm thinking that it would still be way below self-cleaning temps and not a safey hazard. What do you think?

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Blocking air flow while continuing to burn gas is a recipe for disaster. My daughter has a gas oven that won't get above 450°F no matter how long you let it preheat, and the gas never turns off so I think that is the design limit.  If you have a self-cleaning gas oven then there may more capability available by playing with the thermostat calibration, but don't mess with the gas or the air flow. It would be too easy to turn an oven inside out in a few milliseconds if the mixture was just wrong.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

I was not suggesting, nor recommending, to entirely block the flue nor is the intent to exceed normal baking temperatures or tamper with the gas. The flue must be designed to accommodate higher (and hotter) exhaust volumes by virture of the fact that it is a self cleaning oven. Typical baking temps are less than 1/2 the maximum temperature and implies that it is within its safety envelope using a smaller effective vent.  Given the low exhaust pressure, short length of the vent and its large cross sectional size, I would not be surprised if reducing the vent outlet size resulted in insignificant to no back pressure increase at baking temperatures--and no change in the internal humidity level; in other words a fail.  This was really just a mind experiment; let's go offline for any further discussion. 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Open steaming a gas oven may be a futile exercise - when the water evaporates it's at around 212 dF, the high vent rate of a gas oven doesn't allow the steam adequate "loiter" time - time enough to gain additional thermal energy before it's vented. Essentially you're boiling water whose steam is quickly vented from the oven. Turning off the oven and blocking the vent turns the oven into a cooking space that "coasts" on the thermal energy of the oven surround steel and the baking stone - not unlike a wood fired oven [The thermal transfer characteristic also changes from high convection transfer to one of increased radiant transfer]. 

An extra stone may provide enough thermal "storage" to extend the new "steam cycle" feature [oven off period].  Arrange one "over" and one "under" the baking space. This may be adequate enclosure of the baking space to allow baking without the necessity of steam generating appurtenances during the all important 15 minute "spring" period.

 

Wild-Yeast

impecunious1's picture
impecunious1

I am new to bread baking, I have a small, old gas oven that came with the house I am renting and I havent had a problem with the look of my bread. I set my oven temp to 400, using an oven thermometer to make sure, then I set a brownie pan on the bottom of the oven. When I put the bread in the oven I use about a cup of water in the brownie pan. I cook my bread for about 20-25 minutes and my loaves come out beautiful, with a paper thin crispy crust and the crumb is soft. I know I have heard of people cooking at high temp, but for me and my oven (and my personal taste in bread) 400 F  is perfect for baking bread.  But of course I am new to baking bread and shouldnt be giving advice, this is just my experience with my gas oven.

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

Ordinary  home gas ovens can produce  very impressive results, if you "feel" the dough from the moment you refreshed your sourdough starter or mixed a poolish till your bread is properly cooled.  Every step of the way.   This of course also means  really getting to  know your oven.    If any of these steps are out of sync, an electric oven will not help you very much. 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I tried something today in my electric combi oven to simulate a gas oven with the heat off, just to see what the effect would be, and was surprised by the outcome.  I preheated to 525°F, loaded the dough, slammed the door shut and added steam with the convection fan on high (that is tornado town for you who wonder how much hot air a 1/4 HP 15" diameter squirrel cage blower can move) for about 70 sec to get the dew point up to around 210°F and recover the oven temperature to 470°F.  I then shifted to low fan speed/intermittent fan setting to approximate a gas oven that is turned off for 5 minutes.  I then reduced the humidity to 10% (which probably corresponds to a dew point of around 80°F) and low fan speed for another 6 minutes.  The oven spring was impressive and there were some real ears on the loaves.  After 11 min the bread was over baked with crumb temperatures of 210°F.  Upper rack loaves were a little more brown than lower rack loaves so there is clearly some thermal stratification taking place.  But the real lesson for me was that too much convection early in the bake cycle is not really helping to make a pretty loaf.  I will explore some variations on this theme over the next few weeks.  I am thinking about using a steam-only cycle to par-bake the loaves and then finishing them at a higher temperature with convection to get some browning and a crisp crust.

Another thing that I am learning (though not from only this experiment) is that to get a proper ear you have cut a deep enough slice into the dough to preserve a weak seam throughout the entire oven spring cycle.  Otherwise the surface cooks and becomes as single membrane which will simply reconfigure itself like a sausage casing to contain the expanding dough, producing a smooth crust, no ears, and constraining the otherwise natural expansion of the crumb.  If somebody has an idea about how to accurately measure the surface area of a loaf both before it is baked and after it comes out of the oven I would like to hear about it.

 

chykcha's picture
chykcha

Wow, all these loaves are so beautiful! I have a long way to go.

bnom's picture
bnom

I have been sufficiently pleased with my bakes lately that I gave baguettes another go.  I am out of practice but generally was pretty pleased -- they were far from perfect but I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve them either. The crust has thin and crisp, the crumb was  open, the color good.  However, the grigne did not develop uniformly.  That is most dramatically evidenced in the top photo, where you can see that one seemed to absorb most the the blooming activity (I am pretty certain that the scoring was done at a consistent depth).  

My question is, when the issue is irregular grigne formation, is the problem more likely with degassing and shaping, scoring, or variables within the oven? 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Given the isolated nature of the flaw, one spot on one loaf, I would expect that this is a shaping issue.   A very slightly under proofed condition is also possible, but this would be very slight.   You undoubtedly are aware of the ever so finicky nature of baguettes!!!

Jeff

bnom's picture
bnom

I haven't been baking much in recent months -- partly due to weather, but also because I haven't wanted to face the frustrating learning curve involving my gas oven.  It depressed me to think that I had to cook in a dutch oven to produce loaves with good crusts. 

But like a moth to flame, the other day I baked my typically, reliable, SD formula -- the loaves looked promising until I baked them.  I threw a whole gamut of steaming tricks at it and only managed to cripple the poor loaf (pallid crust, poor ovenspring...).  Ggggrrrhhhh...... 

I decided not to invest anymore time or effort into an SD loaf until I systematically figured out how to bake reliably, and without a lot of fuss, in my gas oven.  

I threw some flour, yeast, water and salt in the food processor, didn't bother with measuring or stretch and folds -- I was really just looking to create a baguette dough to experiment with.  I expected to feed it to the crows.

I pre-steamed the oven with wet towels.  Then lightly spritzed the baguette and parchment paper.   Removed steaming towels after 10 minutes. 

The result was a  highly serviceable baguette -- crust had that crispy/tender/lightly chewy texture that is so wonderful.  I'd like it if the slashes didn't break but for now I'm pretty happy with the well-developed color.  Next time I'll try it with spritzing only and no wet towels.

 

 

 

 

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

Honesty I gave up getting good steam in a home gas oven ages ago.  I either use my DO, or thoroughly wet down the loaf before baking.  I am aware that this may remove or hamper any ascetic effect of flour on the loaf...but good crust always wins if you ask me.  You would of course wet the loaf prior to scoring.