The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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varda's picture

The Oven Question (aka Problem)

Lately I have been pondering the impossible question.   How to up production in my tiny home bakery while still keeping it in the home.   Here are my wishes/constraints.

1.  I would like to be able to bake around 50 loaves for each sale in a two day period without freezing.   That is whole grain loaves the day before the sale, and everything else baked off in the morning of the sale.   That is around twice my current output.  

2. I would like to continue baking out of my house.   I have checked into renting kitchen space and the story isn't pretty.    Also, I tend to bake in the midst of things like making sure my son does his homework so I really don't want to be off somewhere else.  

3.  I'm not going to pay a lot of money for that muffler.  

4.  Small kitchen with very little potential for expansion. 

Right now, the oven is decidedly the bottle neck since I upgraded my mixer to an Assistent.   My current oven is GE gas, nothing special, which if I'm very careful can bake 6 hearth loaves at once using half sheets.  If I switch shelves and rotate in the middle of the bake, I run the risk of losing too much heat.   If I don't then I run the risk of scorching.   I don't intend to get rid of this oven (around 5 years old.) but think I might be able to add another one in the eating area which I would like to be as small as possible (as it will cut into our eating space) while still baking 12 loaves at a time. 

My investigations show that there are three types of ovens that might work:

1.   A double wall oven - like the Electrolux EI30EW45J S.   These need an enclosure, which given that I just want to plop the oven down in an eating area seems iffy.   Costs around $3K+.

2.  A single deck convection oven like the Vulcan VC4ED or Southbend EH/10SC.   The first is fairly massive.   The second looks amazingly small.   Can it really handle 5 half sheet pans with loaves on them, or even 4?    These are also in $3K+ range

3.  A large counter top model like the Cadco - XAF-193 - Line Chef Full Size Countertop.   This has four rack positions but at 13 inches tall could it handle even two fully loaded sheet pans?   This is a bit cheaper - around $2.5K.

All of the models above are convection ovens.   I know a lot of people use convection ovens happily, but isn't there an issue with loaves drying out too quickly and so losing full spring?    The Cadco has some sort of steam option - not sure what it is.  

Anyhow, that's as far as I've gotten.   Any suggestions, ideas, information?

Thanks so much!


bobku's picture

Tough Crust

I have read some post on this problem but haven't seen a solution. I have been making a Tartine style loaf for a while It's been coming out great, large open crumb, dark flavorful crust . When the bread cools maybe even the next day the crust becomes real tough and leathery its real hard to cut. The crumb is still soft and moist bread still taste great. I just need to solve the crust problem. I have been thinking of wrapping the bread in plastic wrap I know this is a no no but I think I could enjoy the bread as it is for the first day, then when it gets wrapped the crumb should get soft and at least be manageable. If it needs to be crisped up I can place it in oven. This way it can be enjoyed as s a sandwich bread with a softer crust as is. I really don't want to change the recipe I like the way the bread comes out now. The crust is great when it first comes out. How does everyone else deal with this problem ?

SacTownBaker's picture

Heavy Levain

Hey everyone!  I'm new to this site, but I've been baking bread for about a year and a half now.  I was inspired to start baking at home when my mother gifted me a copy of Daniel Leader's 'Bread Alone'.  I've created a levain starter that I am maintaining at home, and I love the flavor that I am getting out of my pan levain; however, I am having a textural issue with the bread.  I seem to be consistently baking a heavy, chewy bread with a very fine crumb.  Is this due to adding an excess of flour and thus reducing my hydration level, or is it in part due to over-kneading the dough and developing too much gluten?

aptk's picture

Orange Cranberry Walnut Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Yesterday I had a big bunch of starter and two baking plans. One was an artisan loaf, which totally failed, it didn't hold its shape at all, I ended up with a 10 in round disk that had such a crust you could hardly cut it. Today it is bird food out in the back yard.

The second project was the cinnamon rolls, flavored with orange zest, sprinkled with cranberries and walnuts in addition to my regular cinnamon roll fare, frosted with a cream cheese orange glaze, and it's delicious.

lepainSamidien's picture

Divide to Conquer !

Hey all,

So, as usual, I find myself searching through the forums for more wisdom on how to control the intensity of the sour punch delivered by my numerous iterations of a Poilane-clone, a lofty ideal that I've been chasing since my first encounter in le Marais this past April while in Paris for the Marathon de Paris (an encounter that was followed by I-don't-know-how-many repeat trips to the various locations throughout the city).

Since then, I've become more attached to my sourdough starter and obsessed with the quest for the perfect loaf. However, I've noticed a great deal of variance in the sourness of my breads: it seems that temperature and time are the greatest role players in both cases (an increase in either typically yielding an increase in sourness), but--alas!--I often find both of these things outside of my control. New England weather is a crap-shoot, and my life is so littered with vagaries that timing often gets in the way of my being able to allow my loaf to fully develop and mature before being sent off into the inferno of my oven.

I read a really interesting post from a while back from Alpine, who mentioned something about dividing up some starter into two camps, 2-3 days prior to baking: one portion to be fed regularly in order to sustain and encourage yeast activity; the other, to be starved to encourage lactobacillus takeover. This division seems to make sense, and I'm looking forward to using it. But, I have a couple of questions:

1. Should I return the portion of starter meant for lactobacillus development to the fridge for the 2-3 days?, or do I keep it at room temperature?

2. Should the yeasty portion of the starter be built-up gradually from small to large, or should there be discards? If there are regular discards, should these discards be added to the lactobacillus starter, or stored separately?

If anyone else uses the Divide and Conquer process described by Alpine here:, I'd be happy to get some delicious insight. Thanks in advance.

Bake on !

Grandpa Larry's picture
Grandpa Larry

More Sourdough Problems

I began a new sourdough. I started it the same way I began my rye sour, using organic rye flour from the local natural food co-op. My intention was to convert it to wheat in order to bake a French or San Francisco style loaf.

Just like the last time, the starter was extremely active early on, bubbling and raising merrily for the first three feedings of rye flour.

After that I started a feeding regimen of organic white and whole wheat flours. All seemed OK the first two wheat feedings, but this morning, I noticed no bubbles and the mixture had separated out a layer of clear liquid on top.

I just fed it again, this time all WW. What is going on here?

bobku's picture

stretch and fold and cold bulk rise

How do I incorporate stretch and fold into a cold bulk rise.

I have a formula for 75% hydration dough that has a bulk rise of about 3-4 hours at room temp which I stretch and fold every half hour in the bowl. How would I do stretch and folds if I want to do a overnight cold bulk rise?

Floydm's picture


Some Lazy Man's Brioche I made this week.  Quite tasty.

My biggest takeaway, baking-wise, from the Kneading Conference West this year is that I've been baking with too strong flour.  I almost always use bread flour, and generally try to bake with the highest protein flour I can find.  It works, in the sense that I usually have strong loaves that can hold their shape well, but they are tougher and less tasty than they need to be.  So I'm trying to ease up and get used to mixing in more AP flour.  I did this with a batch of pizza dough last week and it turned out really nice, much more extensible than what I typically make.  

Still much more to learn about and explore.

Vicious Babushka's picture
Vicious Babushka

Butternut Sourdough


50 gr. bread flour
50 gr. whole wheat flour
100 gr. water
20 gr. sourdough starter

Mix together and ferment for 12-16 hours.

Final Dough

500 gr. bread flour
100 gr. whole wheat flour
260 gr. water
16 gr. salt
6 gr. yeast
250 gr. cooked, mashed butternut squash
10 gr. pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

Mix together bread & whole wheat flour, pre-ferment & water, autolyze for 15 minutes.

Mix in yeast, salt & butternut squash & knead on medium for 10 minutes. Mix in seeds.

Cover and proof for 1 1/2 hours.

Stretch & fold & proof and 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 480 (220C)

Divide dough into 2 balls, let rest for 10 minutes. Fold and proof for 1/2 hr. in brotforms. When oven is preheated, turn out of the brotforms and slash. Bake with steam for 25 minutes.

The dough was very wet and the loaves turned out kind of flat, should I have used more flour or less water? When I have a dough this wet and sticks I flour the board and brotform with semolina.

They have nice crumb.

foodslut's picture

Baking Bread in a Slow Cooker - Crock Pot

I was reading online this week about baking bread in slow cookers (more here and here), so I decided to make a 3.2 kg (~7 lbs) batch of my house loaf - here's the formula ....

.... and bake three 800 gram (~28 ounce) boules in the oven, and one in our trusty old slow cooker/crock pot.

Whipped up the dough, fermented it overnight in the fridge, shaped up the boules and proofed them (three in cane bannetons, one in the slow cooker ceramic insert lined in parchment paper) for about 90 minutes at coolish room temp. 

I baked the oven boules on a stone, 500 degrees for 9 minutes with steam followed by 45 minutes at 400.  I baked the proofed crock pot boule at "high" for two hours.  In both cases, the internal temp of the bread ended up ~200 degrees. Here's what the slow cooker version looked like out of the pot:









After removing the crock pot loaf, I crusted up the top for 3-4 minutes under a high broil.

Here's a compare and contrast shot, with the boule trio on top, and the crock pot loaf down front.











The boules came out with the usual nice crust.  The crock pot loaf came out VERY soft - when I first poked it after the two hours, it didn't feel quite done.  Checked the internal temp, though, and it was up to 200.

The crumbs?  Not a gross amount of difference ....

Both tasted about the same, with the oven version (not surprisingly) having a much nicer crust to chew on, and the slow cooker version being moister overall (again, not surprisingly, given its cooking in a steam environment).

Bottom line? 

Yes, you can bake bread in a slow cooker using artisan formulas, and it comes out like a nice, soft sandwich loaf - probably close to how I imagine it might come out in a bread-making machine. 

No, the crust won't be anywhere near as nice as doing it in a hotter oven.

That said, it might make an interesting "steam bread" tool, or could be a last resort for someone truly desperate for some home-made bread without access to an oven.