The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No more excuses to avoid convection baking

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nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

No more excuses to avoid convection baking

So far every time I had to bake a free form loaf I've always been undecided: convection or static? From cold or hot oven?

I'm incredibly cheap: I don't like wasting money for preheating the oven. Moreover I like the crust that I get with convection baking, but I don't like how the hot air prematurely dries the dough limiting oven spring.

I've been searching a solution, a method to get the best of both worlds. This is what I've come out with. Judge yourself if it worked :-)

And yes, absolutely convection baking from COLD oven.

 

 

A very long sheet of oven paper involved almost completely the dough to protect it from the hot air flow. At oven spring completed, when I saw the first spots of crust, I removed it.

I'm satisfied:-) Yet I feel that bread bakes better in fan-assisted mode rather than in convection mode. Convection blows hot air all on one side, so either you need a rotating dish (like in combination microwave ovens) or you need to turn the loaf every 20 minutes to prevent burning the side facing the fan.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Great crust and crumb every time.  You can bake it with or without fan, from a cold start and cold DO too if you want.  When I find one small enough at goodwill for my mini oven, I will be in bread baking heaven - great bread with very low cost.

Happy baking

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi DA, do you mean a real cast iron pot with lid? Actually I have one, used almost exclusively to cook risotto. For some reason I always forget about it:-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I even overturn the stainless steel mixing bowl over the boule or overturn the pot bottom over.  They all hold the steam in and make great bread crust the eay way.  No muss no fuss. 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I must say, I'm a bit astonished about your experiences with convection baking. I bake almost exclusively with fan-assisted convection (my old oven) or real convection (my new oven), and I can neither complain of prematurely dried loaves, nor of irregular browning, or lack of oven spring.

Since I sell my breads, and always bake several loaves on two tiers,  this wouldn't be possible without convection mode. My old JennAir with its fan-assisted convection browned a bit more uneven, so that I had to rotate breads and tiers after half the baking time. But my new Samsung, with real convection, bakes very even, I don't even have to rotate the breads.

I use a DO sometimes, too, but only for special breads (like Ken Forkish's) for myself. Normally I create steam with a cup of boiling water.

Karin

 

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Karin, I know that convection ovens can vary a lot. Samsung ovens seems to have a very good track record and you confirm it. What model is it, exactly? One of those with 2 fans positioned one above the other?   Do the fans rotate at low speed?

At what temperature do you bake your bread?

hanseata's picture
hanseata

My Samsung has 3 fans positioned one above the other, 2 small ones and a big one in the middle. I don't think they rotate at a low speed.

I bake from breads from 350 F up to 550 F. The one thing I noticed with this new oven: even though the oven temperature is correct, baking takes a little bit longer, therefore I now set the temperature at 5 degrees higher.

By the way, the oven heats rapidly, it's up to 550 F in about 30 minutes.

Karin

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Amazing oven spring on this loaf!!!  I am really surprised by the volume of your loaf.  Are your loaves under proofed  prior to going into the oven so that they continue their rise while the oven comes up to temp?  Do you bake using a baking stone?  I can't see one in this photo.  ALmost looks like the bread is sitting right on the oven rack.

I bake using convection too.  I have a  Cadco oven and it has a very strong fan so it is like a wind tunnel.  I do pre-heat BUT when I load my breads, I turn the heat off for the first 10 minutes of the bake while I steam the breads so they can expand.  Works like a charm.

Take Care,

Janet

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi Janet, I was thinking especially of you when writing this post:-)

My loaves are never underbaked: I bake only when the dough has already tripled its volume. Intensive mixing makes this possible. Thanks, Tx!!

The bread IS sitting on oven rack (and oven paper, of course), you guessed right. No baking stone.

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

It's not really clear to me that you save money by not preheating....your bake takes longer and your heating elements will remain on a higher percentage of time as the oven attempts to reach the set temperature. I bet your total cost is about the same either way. And a hot oven with a hot baking stone is regarded as essential in achieving artisan style loaves.

I cover my bread with an inverted pan filled with steam for the first 15 minutes, using the oven in just plain "bake" mode; when I take the pan off, I turn on the convection and crank the heat up to 500. I don't find it necessary to rotate the loaves.

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

maybe not a whole lot, but certainly something like 20%, depending on how long the oven takes to preheat - and I've seen recommendations to preheat it for a full hour. That is an hour's worth of joules going spare, which means that in a standard 2kW oven you would pointlessly (from a physical, not baking, point of view) expend 2kWh of energy.

Now, bread baking is not completely the same as pumping joules into dough, it is rather more about heat transfer. All we wish is for the center of the bread to come up to a certain temperature. If you put the dough into a cold oven and turn it on, the temperature will begin rising and thus transfer heat into the dough BEFORE the oven reaches the desired temperature which means that when it is heated to how much we want it to be heated to, the dough temperature will be significantly higher than room temperature.

What I'm saying is that from a physical point of view, you will always save energy by using the cold oven method, plainly because when the oven heats up, the dough will be warmer, so it will take the fully heated oven less time to bake it.

I'm not qualified enough to advocate one method or another from a baking point of view, but it is absolutely crystal clear that you're going to save some joules if you don't preheat. You could have some fun and calculate how much less joules it would take - sources suggest the heat capacity of bread dough is 3100 J/K or thereabouts.

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

"That is an hour's worth of joules going spare"

Not really. That energy is not lost, it's stored in the thermal mass of the oven. You get much of it back due to the reduced need to power the coils to maintain the temperature inside the oven. Likewise, if you have a baking stone, you're storing energy in the stone which gets released to the bread at the moment of contact. They're like batteries. Any good businessman knows that it's often wise to spend a little money right now in order to have reduced expenses in the future. :-)

The cleanest way to look at this is to consider that all of the energy used by the oven ends up in either the thermal mass of the oven or in the chemical and thermal changes of the bread, and these will be the same in either the preheat or no preheat scenarios. If you want to make the argument that the preheat is less efficient, you'll have to tell me where the extra energy goes.

Of course, if you continue to preheat long past the point where the oven is up to temperature, I can see some lost efficiency, because that energy is just radiated into space, doing no useful work in the system.

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

but the plain truth of it is that baking no preheat is more effective from a thermodynamical perspective. There is massive heat loss while preheating, so far from all of the energy generated by the coils goes into the oven walls and baking stone/DO -- the 2nd law of TD in action. I've not measured, but at a guess the amount of energy just used to warm up the kitchen should be quite enough to bake the bread - going from 20C to 95C at specific heat of 3100 J/K takes just 0.065 kWh, while my kitchen at least does get a degree or two warmer from the oven being on.

I have tried baking with my DO both doing the preheats and not doing them and my verdict is that the bread turns out the same and the no preheat method is faster and cheaper. Not by much, but being a grad student of applied math does not shovel in the riches as you might think ;)

And it's not just me - trawling the forum, there's plenty other threads addressing this same issue.

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

The "massive heat loss" is just an assumption of yours for which you haven't even offered a good argument. As an engineer, I know you can't talk reasonably about the net energy requirements without considering the energy flows throughout the baking process; looking only at the preheat in isolation would be a common error on a multitude of exams. Intuition, even by experts, is very unreliable.

My own argument is based on the First Law and does assume the heat losses would be the same in each scenario. I can't construct a thought experiment that would provide any insight on that.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

no baking stone is used?You wrote that the heat would accumulate as thermal mass in the oven, but ovens also lose heat, or they wouldn't need to turn on and off the coils when the  embedded thermometer measures a temperature below the target, correct? Of course one has to determine how much heat is lost in how long time, but still there is a loss.

Anyway to be fair there's one more thing to consider: reaching a given temperature with food inside takes longer than starting from an emtpy oven (because of humidity released by food), so from this point of view probably the energy required may end up being higher, at least until the temperature is reached.

 

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

"Of course one has to determine how much heat is lost in how long time, but still there is a loss...because of humidity released by food"

Yes, which is fundamentally my point. I think the answer isn't obvious, because all of these things need to be taken into account. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say the energy requirements are the same, but I would bet that the differences aren't nearly as large as one might think.

Darwin's picture
Darwin

If it works don't fix it.  Looks like you are baking a very large nice bit of bread.  :)

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

if it works why changing?

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Me again…

I am even more impressed by the spring you achieve since you stated that you allow the loaf to triple prior to baking!!!  I would have a pancake if I tried that….but then I am using my whole grains and that makes a huge difference.

Not being an engineer I dare not tread into the discussion above but do want to say that one of the things I love about this place are the things I learn here from people like you.  It is readily apparent to me that you have not only mastered dough 'preparation' but also the baking process as well which, to me, says you have learned how to use what you have in a very efficient way.  We all have different types of ovens and, on any given day, one can browse these 'pages' and see examples of stellar loaves of bread baked in a huge variety of ways.

 I have found that for me I have to learn how MY oven works and adjust accordingly.  Because of this site I have many ways to work with what I do have to achieve the results I am after.  Took me about a year to finally get what I wanted out of my Cadco and now I am having to learn how to get the results I want from a new wall oven we had installed in the spring.  It's operation is totally different from the Cadco though they are both ovens…(Should mention that I purchased the Cadco after reading about how MiniOven got here 'name'.  I started out with a toaster oven but it wasn't big enough…..you know how that goes :)

Thanks for another informative post.

Take Care,

Janet

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

 

 

I am even more impressed by the spring you achieve since you stated that you allow the loaf to triple prior to baking!!!  I would have a pancake if I tried that….but then I am using my whole grains and that makes a huge difference.

Janet, you won't get as much volume as from a white bread, but adding just one egg per dough will make the dough much more resistant, it will permit you to get a much more massive oven spring. The taste won't be affected.

Of course you'll still need to centrifugate your dough:-)

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

:-)

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212

I got hooked on convection back in the 70's, when I got a countertop oven that is still in service today (show me something they make today that will last that long!).  I got it when I first started baking bread in my dorms (also good for reheating leftovers, in the days before microwaves, ahem), and liked it so much that I had to get a range with one, when I set up my kitchen in '83,  and there was only one commercial brand back then that had them - Wolf.  Another thing still in almost prefect shape, despite my abuse of it.

I have always had good oven spring in convection.  The only thing it is not ideal for is quickbread, or non-yeast recipes.  It seems the crust sets too fast, then it rises up in the middle, breaking through.  The only way I have found to stop this is to reduce the heat to much lower, like 275º.  But I rarely bake these, and when I do, I  usually just bake these in the regular oven.

As far as preheating, while the instructions with both of these ovens stated only 5 min. preheat was necessary, the small one really needed none, but the large one - a full size oven - needed about 30 min. for bread, but even more for cookies and the like, since their baking time is much shorter, and I need the temp. rebound to make the timing even.  With bread, I'm not adding one batch of loaves after another, since I'm not selling them.  And this old oven has another one of those wind-tunnel fans!  It definitely needs to be turned off before opening.  

Surprisingly, the full size convection oven oven has a smaller burner than the half size regular oven in the range (18k/hr vs. 20k/hr.).  Didn't make sense at first, until I realized that the oven was much better insulated, and sealed around the door as well (like all ovens these days!), and the smaller burner, while it took longer to heat up, kept a more even temp. than a higher output burner going on and off.  Using an externally read thermometer, I have found  that the temp. remains remarkably consistent, even when I am making cookies, and opening and closing the door often.

That bit about the eggs helping sounds interesting.  Have you experimented to see if just egg whites would do the same thing?  Only asking because I have whites in powder form.

Dave       

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

whites help a lot, too, maybe not as much as whole eggs but surely my breads with egg whites rose much higher than the same breads with only water  and/or milk.

Egg whites require more care, though: coagulating during baking its proteins (ovotransferrins, if I remember correctly) tend to squeeze water away and dry the crumb. In the past I always had this problem when using egg whites, but since I started to knead my doughs very extensively (centrifugating them, actually) I didn't experience any more those early dry-outs. I don't kow if providing so much energy I'm denaturing those proteins or binding them so that they don't have anymore that drying effect, I'm just reporting and guessing; as a matter of fact now I can use as many egg whites as I wish without undesired side effects.

As for short breads, you wrote that  you bake them at 275°F. Did you observe a good oven spring with this method? I'm asking because in my new Bosch oven (where I can use either static or convection baking) I'm still searching the best method to bake sponge cakes and cakes in general. So far only static mode gave me satisfying results, but I never tried a low temperature like 275°F.

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212

Thanks for the egg info - saves me experimenting.  Only advantage I would have with the whites is that I always have them, whereas fresh eggs are not always in the fridge.

As for the low temp baking of cakes and the like, I have only done it this way when I didn't want to fire up my regular oven for a small item, such as in the summer.  It is definitely not as good as static baking for those items; with cakes you really aren't looking for a crust, which convection baking helps form quickly, and the low temp just reduces the effect, it doesn't prevent it.  Placing them in a cold oven helps, too.  Some items, such as zucchini preads or other coffee cakes, actually turn out well, as once they are risen well at the lower temp, I turn it up to 325º, so the caramelized crust forms, and this works very well, both for exposed crust, and that in contact with the pan.