The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Professional Artisan Bread in a Convection Oven

csimmo64's picture

Professional Artisan Bread in a Convection Oven

I just landed a new job! Problem is, we only have a double door convection oven in which the fan WON'T turn off! Oh the pain. Pun intended!

I'm so used to using a deck oven with steam injection that I'm running into problems at this new bakery. My main problem that I have to fix is getting the correct crust and spring in my bread. Every thing that leaves the oven browns EXTRA fast, leaving behind a rather heavy and dense loaf which doesn't get much oven expansion, despite being completely proofed!

Heres my process:

2 days prior to bake-

Mix any and all preferments

1 day prior to bake- 

Mix final recipe with an adjustment to the yeast percent, mixing technique, and hydration in order to have 2% yeast, intensive mix and around 60-65% hydration. I let these Autolyse for 30 minutes, then mix in the salt and yeast. Mix times are 3 minutes on low 3 minutes on high. Gluten development is good. I let these proof for around 1-1.5 hours and give a single stretch and fold to the intensive mix. I then preshape and rest another 30 minutes then final shape the loaves before placing on a floured parchment paper lined sheet pan to final proof at 41 degrees until 21 hours later.

Bake day-

I have a pan with nuts and screws filled in the bottom of my oven and I place a cup of boiling water in it before placing the loaves in the oven. Everything looks beautiful up until this point. This is when it gets hairy. The convection fan does not turn off unless you turn off the oven. Regardless, I tried the bake a few ways.

Bake 1: Steam oven with steam pan and leave fan on low and oven at 350 degrees. Problem: Almost no oven spring, loaves stayed dense and baked up in 15 minutes tops.

Bake 2: Turn oven to 450 degrees, steam oven and turn off oven after loading bread in via sheet pans. Once bread has risen a little (15%++) turn fan on low and 350 degrees to finish bake. Problem: not much oven spring, steam barely stayed in the oven. Better than previous bake but still ended roughly very quick. 20 minutes tops if not less and once again, loaves stayed dense but fully baked color on outside, very soft but baked interior. Crust dissipated quickly [2 minutes?]

That was it that I tried yesterday. Today I am baking 35 loaves of bread, and I want to prevent as many baking problems as I can as this bake could be sellable and I would like it to be! I was very dissapointed in myself and the ovens yesterday. 

Idea 1: Pre-heat to 450 degrees. Brush tops of loaves with water OR egg wash AND steam the oven and turn it off during first 10 minutes of the bake in order to get proper oven spring. Finish bake at a low 325 with low fan setting.

Am I on the right track? I want to bake stellar bread, like I normally do! Are there any commercial bakers out there that can give me a few pointers? Is there any way to change around my process to save time or increase bread quality? I feel my initial proof could be lengthened, as when I tasted my rye sourdough it was a little on the weak side and lacked the complexity it normally has. Thank you for any ideas and I hope this post could serve as an informative guide for other bakers experiencing these same problems :]



Nickisafoodie's picture

See this post.  There are others posted when you do a search for convection ovens in the search box upper left corner.  Also:

1) if you can get to the fan by taking off a panel perhaps you can unplug one of the two leads going into the fan to disable?  Gread if that works.  and you could have an electrician put in a simple switch that allows on or off

2) cover the loaves with metal bowls the first 12 minutes to block the effects of the fan (hard to to with 35 baking) as the fan will take out the steam faster than you can create it

3) Bake 50 degrees cooler than normal recipe

4) higher hydration loaves so the crust can withstand the higher heat the fan promotes

Am sure there are more answers as the search had lots of postings.  good luck!

csimmo64's picture

Thanks for the link, but I already did a search and also read that. I only had one idea, as far as covering the loaves goes. I thought I could maybe get a ton of disposable sheet pan size aluminum trays to cover the entire sheet pan, but i dont know if they offer that size at all.

I still have questions that remain to be answered after reading all the posts I have found. Baking my bread in.. 30 minutes, DANG!

yozzause's picture

 Hi Chad

Did the previous operator of the oven not give you any tips on the intricacies of the beast, i know the college oven is quite difficult to master initially anyway and the dials can be a bit misleading. 

Have you checked the real temperature of the oven, not relying on the dial there can be a significant difference if the calibration is out hence fast bake times and colour to loaves. If loaves are fully proved then little oven spring can be expected.

You might like to try a paste wash, either cornflour or arrowroot  work quite well just a small amount in water  brought to the boil to thicken to a paste and brushed on works quite well keeping the dough skin moist and protected from the initial blast of heat aiding any ovenspring that might be left in the loaves, will also give a bit of a shine too, great for keeping poppy/sesame seed stuck to bread.

 Larrys suggestion of an electrician putting an on off switch to the fan circuit will give you some control.

I am intrigued by the holding back of yeast and salt in your mixing regime and the purpose that it serves.

Also when you say that you adjust the yeast percentage  to 2% at the time of mixing is that 2% inclusive of what was put into the preferment? only the amount of yeast in the preferment after 24 hours could have significantly grown depending on the temperature of the ferment. 

best wishes and good luck Yozza


csimmo64's picture

First of all, thank you for all of that informative insight! 

The ovens are brand new double door convection ovens by SouthBend

I noticed that the top oven cooks a lot faster, and the bottom double doors retain steam very well when filled with 2 or 3 sheet pans of proofed loaves. 
The previous operator of the oven did not bake bread, he bakes quickbreads like muffins, some scones, cakes, etc. I am tackling a new beast on a new style of oven that seems to run very dry part of the time. I will take your advice and try to get an oven thermometer to test the temperatures.

As far as yesterdays bake, everything came out OK. Nothing was astonishingly good. My Rye Sourdough and Potato and Roasted Garlic breads proofed a little excessively in the 41 degree retard. They deflated slightly when slashed, but continued to rise in the ovens. I am going to be adjusting the yeast and temperature accordingly. In the potato bread, I use hamelman's recipe for Roasted Potato Bread. It calls for a biga that raises overnight for 16 hours and I add a touch of whole wheat and rye flour into the mix. If I am not mistaken, it uses 20% of the flour in the recipe.

My poolish uses yeast in the percentage range of .1% to .2%. The biga for the potato bread is slightly higher. [.6%?]

The rye sourdough uses a 16 hr biga with only rye flour and a small percent of a seed culture. I need to also adjust the yeast back down to 1.5% so that the loaves are proofed correctly when I arrive in the morning. 

My baguettes are based off of Anis Bouabsa's recipe, with the exception that I adjust the amount of water in the recipe and add a preferment of 30% of the flour in a poolish. I took the hydation of it from 75% down to 62% so that it will hold its shape overnight and be able to be baked straight out of the cooler. I might change this back to the old recipe and finish shaping it right before final proofing and baking. 


All of my loaves were proofed okay, and got good oven spring. Some of the baguettes that I placed on the top sheet pan in the convection oven seemed to be sapped of moisture right before getting their spring on. the other loaves were more fortunate. 


My steaming technique for all of the breads was this, steam with pouring water into a pan in the bottom of the oven and spritz all the loaves with water before loading. Turn off the oven to let rise and then after ten minutes vent the oven and continue the convection bake. The crust of the loaves still came out very soft after sitting, which is unfortunate. I'm a crust guy! 


What I plan on doing in the future is maybe attaining a deep roasting pan in the exact dimensions as a full sheet pan and covering each pan before loading to steam them. Then remove the pans after 10-15 minutes through the bake and try to finish it through the convection cycle at 350 degrees. I still have quite a bit to play around with.


The corn starch wash, will that lend a really thick crust? I think I read somewhere ages ago about that. I might have to try it just to see how it works. 


Well thats everything I have figured out SO FAR. So much more to work on. Bread sales start Wednesday! I'm very excited. Starting with 30 loaves +4 dozen cinnamon rolls [sponge method] each day, wednesday through saturday. 


Nickisafoodie's picture

Perhaps contact the mfg? If a digital keypad there may be a combination of buttons orsome way to disable the fan? It would seem this type of feature may be possible given the mfg should know that certain items do not benefit from convection

Nickisafoodie's picture

Perhaps contact the mfg? If a digital keypad there may be a combination of buttons orsome way to disable the fan? It would seem this type of feature may be possible given the mfg should know that certain items do not benefit from convection

monzy's picture


The idea of turning the oven off works to take the fan out of play but you still need heat. I'm not confident that many modern day ovens aren't insulated enough to hold heat well so you may be losing the energy to get the spring you want.

Innovate! Rather than looking at it as a convection oven look at it as a convection oven that stores the heat in a secondary state aka radiant heat. It will be there when you turn off the oven.

Put enough tiles (thicker is better) on baking sheets to cover, I'd put one set on each shelf but beware of the top heat on the lower shelf. Heat up the oven to at least 450 F, I'm going to assume that the the tiles will be about 25 to 50 F lower. Put your bread in, steam your nuts, ;-), turn off the oven. Turn the oven back on in 12 to 15.

Tell us how it goes.