The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why lower shelf?

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Kogepan's picture
Kogepan

Why lower shelf?

I've been trying to make some good sandwich bread lately, and today I am doing the Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf from RLB's Bread Bible.  It's a rather long process that starts with a sponge, and for this and other breads the instructions for baking include baking the loaves on the lowest level (on a baking stone).  I won't be using a baking stone, but after reading about stones, steam, skillets etc. I couldn't figure out anywhere why the bread has to be positioned so low? Is it because that allows the bread to rise upwards more? Any thoughts to enlighten appreciated!   

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

The idea is to get as much heat into the loaf as fast, so placing it as close as possible to the radiant heat source is the best way to so that.

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If you want a great white sandwich loaf (and don't want to deal with the RLB's sponge method), try Peter Reinhart's White Bread Variation 1, p. 266 of The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

If you want a great white sandwich loaf that'll surprise you in its simplicity (and will teach you the "knead 10 seconds, rest 10 minutes" method to easy gluten development), try Dan Lepard's Sour Cream Sandwich Bread: http://www.danlepard.com/front-carousel/2010/10/2975/sour-cream-sandwich-bread/

Kogepan's picture
Kogepan

I always thought both the bottom and top heating element turn on during normal baking.  I just checked and only the bottom one heats up. So the top one's only for broiling.  Though I'm a little afraid to put the bread so close to the heating element! 

Thanks for those 2 bread recipes - I will check them out!

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

You won't notice it glowing red or anything, but the top element should be on during normal "bake" mode of operation.

It's easiest to notice this when first turning the oven on when cold. You can immediately feel the upper element get hot(but not hot enough to glow).

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

The upper element should NOT be on during normal baking.  I've never owned an oven where that was so.  Occassionally you will find an oven that uses both top and bottom burners during preheat.  If there's a separate "preheat" setting that's ok, but I wouldn't want that to happen just getting the oven up to temp (if there's no preheat).

Having the top element come on would burn anything I had in the oven.  If I ever were to come across an oven that operates that way, I would not want to own it.

The top element is for broiling, the bottom element is for baking, and never the twain shall meet.

blacktom's picture
blacktom

There's no standard when it comes to electric oven design. Over the years I've owned ovens that provide top and bottom heat together and separately in various combinations, not to mention fan-assisted ones with rear elements. Commercial bread ovens often have top and bottom elements that can be switched separately for total control. Every oven seems to be different.

Neil

 

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Name a n0n-commercial oven that has the top element come on when you are baking and that'll be an oven I would never own.  You cannot bake properly in an oven that has the broiler come on - it'll burn the top.

Convection ovens may be different, I don't know, but conventional ovens, with no separate control over the top element, do not do this.  Not if they're any good at any rate.  In 50 years of use, I've never come across one that operates this way except during preheat.  Those ovens that do not have a separate preheat setting will cause your baked goods to burn on top if the broiler comes on at intermittent times during baking.

thihal123's picture
thihal123

Well, if the top element only turns on periodically to keep the overn temperature steady, that won't burn your bread. Of course, if the top element turns on and is always on like in broiler mode, it will burn your bread. But there's nothing to dictate that top heat elements must either be always on or always off like in broiler mode.

blacktom's picture
blacktom

What mrfrost and thihal said - obviously it depends on the particular oven and the programmes that it offers. My fan-assisted oven, on the other hand, has a circular rear-element, but I dislike forced convection because it's like taking a very hot hairdrier to the crust.

Neil