The Fresh Loaf

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Artisanal Bread in a Rational Combination Oven

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Calantha's picture
Calantha

Artisanal Bread in a Rational Combination Oven

Hello everyone,

I was wondering if anyone had any experience baking artisanal bread (read: sourdough, hearth-type breads) in a Rational Combination oven (e.g. http://combination-ovens.co.uk/)?  If you have, I would love to hear about your experience and any tips and tricks you have for monitoring humidity and ensuring that crisp, thick outter crust.

Thanks,

Calantha

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Bake times are very short - a 700g 75% hydration ciabatta is done in 10 min with the following cycle:

Preheat to 535°F/high fan speed

3 min @ 460°F/100% humidity/steam on

7 min @ 460°F/100% humidity/steam off

The loaves are baked on Teflon-coated perforated sheets.  One result of the short time in the oven is a relatively thin crust.  If you come up with a way to change that I would be interested.  I have tried baking on hot tiles in the combi but found little difference in the final result - someplace I have some photos of an experiment that did half of the batch on tile and half on pans but I can't lay my hands on them at the moment.

Enjoy your oven, it is a fantastic machine with enormous flexibility.

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

The thickness of the crust is rather proportional to the bake time.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

So today I had a batch of dough in process, and after reading the post above decided to do a 3-way split with some going 10 min, some going 20 min, and some going 30 min.

The program was:

Preheat to 525°F/high fan

5 min @460°F w/ steam, 100% humidity

2 min @ 450°F/steam off/50% humidity

3 min @ 440°F/steam off/20% humidity

10 min @ 350°F/steam off/20% humidity/low fan speed

10 min @ 350°F/steam off/20% humidity/low fan speed

Batch #1 was pulled at 10 min

Batch #2 was pulled at 20 min

Batch #3 stayed in for the full 30 min

As expected, the crust on batch #1 was of good texture but thin.

Batch #2 had a thicker crust, more color, and still had a moist crumb though not as moist as Batch #1.

Batch #3 had a thicker (crackly) crust, more color yet, but the crumb was (while not dry) even less moist (a typical overbaked baguette).

Flavor was good for all three but #3 would have to be served soon out of the oven to avoid being too dry.

I may play with this some more; a larger diameter loaf would help; a lower oven entry temperature might help; reducing fan speed earlier might help as well.  Other suggestions?

 

Calantha's picture
Calantha

Wow, this is fantastically insightful.  I have yet to actually use the Rational, but I'm happy to have some insight on where to begin once I do.  We're thinking we'll be baking off ficelles in it (due to limited real estate inside the oven).  So a crispy crust and a light crumb is pretty critical.  Sounds like the process used for batch #2 is the best option.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Here is a closeup of the 30 min bake cycle result. 

It is sort of a ficelle but not shaped at all, just cut from a batch of 75% hydration ciabatta dough; Twenty inches long, 1.5" high, and ~3" across when finished;  total weight ~350g at oven entry.

Edited to say: I just noticed that you can see crustdust on the edge of the cut crumb confirming how crisp it really was.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

You never stop experimenting so it is perhaps better for now, but you probably never achieve the ultimate as there are so many degrees of freedom, and as you incrementally climb the hill of optimality the terrain is (hopefully) pretty flat so it is hard to know when you are actually at the point of perfection.  On the other hand, there are such things as "close enough" and "random variation" that cloud the results.

 

deliman's picture
deliman

Hello, 

I'm looking for a good oven for baking sandwich breads (rolls and loaves) at my mom's deli/cafe.  I spoke with an equipment dealer in our area and he asked me some questions about the kind of production that we do and he said that since we do hot food and sandwiches, the Rational Combi would be a great fit for us.  He said that it would be ideal for baking bread and that we could even roast our own meats.  While I have found a ton of information and videos on roasting meats and cooking other hot food in the Rational, the only information that I've really been able to find on baking bread in the unit has been this TFL discussion.  While I do see obvious advantages for cooking hot food in the rational, my primary purpose for buying a new oven is to bake house made bread (rolls and loaves) at our deli.  Do you all think that the rational would be a good fit for me?