The Fresh Loaf

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Baking Bread Overseas, Low Oven Temp only Suggestions?

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CambodiaDweller's picture
CambodiaDweller

Baking Bread Overseas, Low Oven Temp only Suggestions?

I recently moved to Cambodia and was enthused to have an oven - I thought my avid bread baking days were over.  Unfortunately, said oven only seems to heat to about 300 degrees.  Thus, the bread always collapses and is very dense.  Any suggestion on ways to successfully bake at a such a low temperature or is it a lost cause?  Many thanks!

adri's picture
adri

Are you sure they don't have Celsius in Cambodia and it's actually really hot ;) (No, you tried it, therefore...)

Well, It will take very long to bake which means a lot of crust and little crumb. Also the crust will be hardened before having any decent oven spring.

A lot of fermentation will be going on in the oven though. This might lead to overproofing. (While on the outside the crust is already too dry).

Did you try baking in a loafpan? Maybe even one that has a lid?

You also might want to preheat stones, stainless steel things, ... what ever you have in your oven, maybe for hours, that there will be no temperature drop when you put in your loaf.

Usually those ovens don't have a maximum temperature set, but heat with very little energy which means, the maximum temperature is the one where it looses as much heat/energy to the environment as the heating element produces. By adding things to the oven you might change this "break even" point. But it will take much more time to preheat.

Adrian

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Adrian,

I believe you may have the crust/crumb thing backwards. By the time the crust browns even a little, the crumb will be dry as a bone. Lowering hydration in the dough will help a little. Higher hydration dough requires a higher heat. Also, use a little sugar or honey in the dough to encourage better browning, and maybe some oil or butter to keep the crumb softer. Putting some heavy pieces of metal or stone into the oven while pre-heating is sure to help. Using a la cloche or Dutch Oven would be even better, as they will hold in heat and steam. Overproofing a bit probably would be a good thing, not bad, especially if the dough is low hydration, and has a good strong gluten network. Then, you don't have to rely on oven spring to get a nice rise. Make sure to knead properly and shape tightly.

I've seen bread recipes that call for putting the bread into a cold oven, and turning it on at 350F and only baking 35 minutes. If your oven is pre-heated to 300F, with a baking stone or thick metal sheet (at least 1/8" thick) to set the loaves on, it should be okay. Adjustments have to be made in just about every step of the process, but it should be possible to get good bread. Remember, the internal temp of the dough when finished needs only to be around 190 to 200 degrees. A 300 degree oven is 50% hotter than that!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm with batter breads, or steam and insulation.  Popping a hot griddle or heavy hot piece of metal into the oven under the loaf for radiant heat might be the way to go.  OR  build a wood burning oven with bricks or even an earth oven. 

Now, go back to the market and see if you can find something that fits over a gas stove and change to LPG.    That would be my first step.  I've seen some ingenious ovens made from cooking oil cans and  scrap metals.  Had one myself for better than a year and had it balanced on the one burner gas stove with soup cans at the corners.  Need an oven thermometer to check heat and I kept a folded towel over the top to insulate better.  A vent to keep air flow is good. Make sure you can open and close it easily for control.  The flames should hit a baffle first and then circulate thru the oven and escape somehow at back of oven away from the door.  

Also ... have you considered baking inside a heated wok?  or on broth in dumplings or first over boiling water, then browned?  how about grilled bread.  There are lots of ideas in the site archives.  Search under:  Earth oven, renaissance fair  or   camping ovens or  campfire baking  or  boy scout bake bread   or lets see....  open fire baking pit  or solar oven (perhaps combine them?)  

:)  

CambodiaDweller's picture
CambodiaDweller

Hi All,

Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions!  I was successful in making wheat rolls yesterday by fiddling with gas input to, hopefully, increase the amount going in and thus the temp.  I also covered the sheet with a wok to hold in the heat, pre-heated for an excessive amount of time, and reduced the liquid.  Next step, will be trying loaves of bread again...

Here's hopin'

Thank you, thank you, thank you!