The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sometimes a person needs to give up....

SallyBR's picture

Sometimes a person needs to give up....

Some of you may remember that we are living for a year in a tiny house with just a Breville electirc oven - that unfortunately doesn't seem to get as hot as it normally would in our former home.  Something about the electricity here, things seem to be under-powered (the food processor does not spin as fast, the electric coil stove never gets red hot etc etc.   (sigh)


The head of our lab, having heard my beloved husband talk about my sourdough boules,  went into my blog and saw a few pictures - he begged me to bake one for him, and for the past 3 months I've been trying every single trick up my sleeve to make a decent sourdough boule in these conditions.  Finally, yesterday I had to accept the harsh reality: it won't work.  The oven doesn't get hot enough, the crust is absolluteyl pathetic, even though the bread tastes very good.

Sooo, I come here, and humbly ask you for advice - I would like to bake a bread, perhaps with cheese or sun dried tomatoes, or "something" in the dough to make it special, a bread that will work in the electric oven, and could make a nice gift for the boss.   I do have a loaf pan,  but would prefer a bread shaped in free form.    I imagine a bread that is baked at 375 or maximum 400F could work well.


Which recipe would you use?

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Sally,

Sorry to hear of your sourdough woes.

I've been singing the praises of Larry's cheese bread, recently, for a special occasion bread. We eat mostly sourdough but my husband loved it!

It is baked at 375F and can be done in a tin, or braid, as both Larry and breadsong have baked it.

It tastes delicious and looks great, with a lovely burnished sheen. If your lab. heads likes cheese, I'm sure they'll like this.


With best wishes, Daisy_A


SallyBR's picture

Wow, Daisy, you brought some sunshine into my day...


I swear, last night when I finished baking the sourdough - attempt number 11, I think -   I was sooooo disappointed, feeling absolutely worthless as far as bread baking goes.


I think this recipe could work... I am going to do a test bake this weekend, and see what happens.  I am sure he will love it


(I even thought about baking a sourdough boule when I go home in March for a week, and bring it in the plane, but it's not that easy to do that when you are working full days up to the last minutem as it's always the case when we go back.


I will keep you posted...

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Have you tried preheating a Lodge combo cooker and baking a loaf in that?  Maybe that would work at 400 degrees.  I've had great luck with it, at 450.

Mary Clare in MO

SallyBR's picture

The problem then is the size of the oven - I have only one of this type of pots that will fit in, but it is too wide and the lid won't fit -  so to make a small boule it is not appropriate.


I am trying to avoid having to buy more stuff here, as we do have a fully equiped kitchen "back home" and we alrready bought quite a bit of stuff - no idea how it will all fit in our pick up truck for the long ride back...  ;-) 

(I am guilty of buying more cookbooks than I should) 


I've been looking for a cheap clay pot type of thingie that wuold fit in the Breville but so far, no luck --

RobynNZ's picture

Hi Sally

Commiserations. Having lived where 'brownouts' were the norm and equipment severely limited, I know how it feels!

Have you tried looking in asian stores for a suitable ceramic pot? I have some small 'donabe' (earthenware pots) from Japan which are really for cooking meals in, but which I have had success using for bread and I seem to recall Yippee and others have also used similar claypots. 

Donabe Images

I hope you take up flournwater's recommendation!

Cheers, Robyn

SallyBR's picture

That's an idea....  I saw some of these pots in a Japanese market where we buy fish for sashimi



will definitely investigate!  THanks!

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Sally,

That's great!

Do keep us posted if you try this.

I have an oven with hot and cold spots and had to bake twice before I got it right.

Loaf was lovely from the outset due to Larry's fabulous formula, with a tasty, even crumb and great taste. However in the middle of my oven the top was darkening before the sides were cooked. I tented after 20 minutes. Didn't burn but it was a close run thing...

Next time I put the loaf on the second lowest rack and tented from 10 minutes in. It then needed a little longer to bake out but it was a pretty little thing!

Just wondering if you oven is top down heat if you might need to tent or not?

I guess you will work this out on your test run?

We all know from TFL and your posts on your other blog what a great baker you are! I'm sure you'll work out something great to do in this odd oven!

As Larry points out the cheese loaf makes a great gift. My husband is already slipping mature cheddar in the groceries and expressing 'more cheese bread hope'.

Other suggestions on the thread sound good too!

Best wishes, Daisy_A

SteveB's picture


Why not bake an enriched bread, like a brioche, which is normally baked at a significantly lower temperature than an unenriched bread?



SallyBR's picture

Well, that's the thing - when he saw my breads, he definitely drooled over the sourdough type boules -  so I wanted to bake something that would be more along the lines of a sourdough bread - challah would deviate a little too much from that -

Plus, they are Jewish and his wife goes often to a Jewish bakery not too far from their home and I am sure they have access to fantastic challah, much better than what I could produce.



I made him a focaccia - which works well here, and he loved it, but next day he comes to the lab with a devilish smile and said - "you know, I am not getting you off the hook, I'm still waiting for my boule"   :-)


(He is a great guy, 73 year old, not even considering retirement, a brilliant scientist with unique sense of humor, we absolutely love working in his lab - sorry, could not resist the side note...)



Yumarama's picture

Bake it in HIS!

Tell him you'll gladly make him a loaf if you can do it at his house in his oven. You can time the dough to arrive with it ready to do a final shaping then final proof. That will give you enough time to preheat his 'normal' oven and have a nice visit while you're at it. Timing it so that you can all have a nice dinner and fresh bread would be awesome.

I know I would certainly go for that option if someone offered to make bread I really wanted. Good excuse for a casual dinner party, too.

Mess will be minimal as you're only shaping and proofing. All the sourdough mixing and long proofing will have been done already. 

If he really wants a loaf, it can't get much fresher and he'll get to see how it's done (somewhat). Bonus: you'll have a loaf to bring back home yourself if you make a batch of two or three.

Toss out this idea to him and see how it goes.

Granted it doesn't fix your poor oven issues or give you an alternative recipe that will work in a cooler oven but it could be a fun time. And make a good blog post. And if you do a Hamelman bread, you can pop it on MellowBakers too (we miss you!)

Happy baking,

Yumarama & MellowBakers

SallyBR's picture

Hello Paul, fellow Mellow Baker!


He actually offered his own oven....    I will get back to you on this, I need to start a  huge experiment and should not be surfing the net right now


but will be back ASAP



SallyBR's picture

Ok, Paul... and others... don't laugh, but the idea of baking bread in his oven leaves me absolutely paralyzed with fear...


not sure why, but what if it is a huge failure? And then I'm right there in their place, having to deal with the pathetic bread and trying to understand what went wrong...    I don't know why, but I cannot bring myself to do it.   I know, it's ridiculous, but I feel very insecure about it.  


silly, isn't it?

Jo_Jo_'s picture

Could do what the boy scouts do.  They use a Cast Iron dutch oven and charcoal brickets, both under the pan and on the lid.  There are a lot of people who bake bread on their grill outside too, although I have never tried that one.  I have however done it with brickets and it actually works really well.  Fire pits work great too, just use the coals...


SallyBR's picture

We have a TINY gas grill outside - it fits maybe three chicken breasts side by side, or two medium size steaks.... it's more like a little box...    then there's a charcoal grill, but we nave zero experience with charcoal and prefer not to touch the darn thing....   :-)

dosidough's picture

Hi Sally

I feel your pain. My oven keeps slipping away slowly. It still hits 400° but no 500° anymore. Must attend soon.

I was going to suggest the Cheese Bread from PR's Artisan Breads Everyday. There are two versions a crusty loaf and a softer one both are very good. If not then his Wild Rice and Onion Bread is just fabulous. If you don't have this book do a search here at TFL and you'll find the recipes.

You could also take a look at Bernard Clayton, Rose Levy Beranbaum or Beth Hensperger's books; they each have many selections of unique breads with interesting additives and flavors that bake off at lower than 400° temps. Disappointment is a bummer but might stumble on some fantastic Cranberry-Guava-BrownRice with FlaxSeed-PineBark-DarkChocolate Loaf.   Or ...make one up. 
(Mini Oven, Shiao Ping or TxFarmer may have already done this. LOL) When do you get back to "real oven land"?

All the best to you, and...Bake On!


SallyBR's picture

"Real Oven Land" - well we are not sure yet when we go back.   Depending on some grants we submitted, either we leave on the first week of June or the first week of August.



GSnyde's picture

Sally, sorry about your baking withdrawal.  Must be awful.

Challah is baked at under 400F, and makes an impressive gift.


flournwater's picture

Sally, good friend, you don't have a baking problem, you have an electrical service problem.  If you're paying for electrical service from a utility company you're entitled to receive a standard level of electrical power.  Contact your power provider, yell and scream and if they won't find a solution for you make a public spectacle of the issue.  Also, have a licensed electrician go through your household circuits and see if, perhaps, your power loss is due to an issue that exists downstream of your electrical meter connection.  That'll also help you identify any possible fire hazards that might be hidden in the household wiring system.

Go get 'em girl ....

SallyBR's picture

You do have a point.  I will ask the landlolrd, and see what he says.  The problem is, we live in a small guest house, separated from the "main house"  -  I am not sure if that has an impact.    We pay just a set fee for the rent that includes the electricity, water, so no matter how much energy we use, the rent is the same, that's the agreement with the landlord.   In a way, because it is a temporary situation, we don't want to be pestering the guy with house problems


but you make a good point, maybe there is somethign wrong and not too hard to fix.

Nickisafoodie's picture

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Sally, given the sensitivity with the Landlord, here is an easy way to at least test the circuits to see what the actual voltage is.  115 volts to 122 volts at your outlets is about normal.  Less or more than these levels can damage electrical appliances like TV's, refrigerators and pose a fire hazard.

A simple tester like the one at this link ($10 delivered) can allow you to test the voltage at the receptacle.  Two probes with one inserted into the left vertical slot and the other into the right vertical slot (ignore the round hole) of the wall receptacle will tell you what voltage is coming to the receptacle.  By holding the plastic handle of the probe, there is no danger of being shocked.  This can be daunting but is rather straight forward.  Or ask a friend if they have a meter and know how to check.

See this link, there are many more:   

The key is to get a meter that shows the actual volts rather than just a light that is either on or off.  While the meters look complicated, the manual will tell you where to set the dial for AC (alternating current).  Once set and inserted into the receptacle the probes will pick up voltage.  The DC or direct current setting allows you to test you flashlight or batteries. 

You may be doing the landlord a favor if he too has the same voltage issues as you and as said earlier – the power company will fix this for free- many times by them simply reconnecting the wires at the pole as connections can get worn over time resulting in over, under and spiked voltage which again could present a fire hazard…

gary.turner's picture

I think you've probably hit on the cause. I'm guessing the guest house is serviced by a drop run from the main house, and the cable may be a bit small. I can easily imagine a 10 volt drop on the run.

Compared to the 1800 Watt rating at a nominal 120V., at 110V. the oven would only operate at 1512.5 Watts. Instead of reaching 450F, I'd expect only about 375-380F.

@Sally: If you have very little in the way of electrical stuff running, will the lights dim when you turn on the oven? If they do so noticeably, that would pretty well confirm a voltage drop on the electrical run. If you get a meter, measure the voltage with as little load as possible, then with the oven and other usual appliances/computers/lights, etc. on.



flournwater's picture

Wouldn't surprise me to learn that the "guest house" is a DIY job for which a permit was never pulled and the "electrician" was the handyman next door.  Good points there gary.

saltandserenity's picture

Had to jump in with my comments too!  I agree, baking in someone else's oven is scary!  Sally, this is just like you to go to all this trouble to bake a nice bread for this guy.  You are so thoughtful!

SallyBR's picture

not sure even how to put this

I THINK I SUCCEEDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


the bread (which by the way this time WAS my last attempt) - is just about done, and my gosh, it looks good!


Ok, here is what I did - I have a cheap-o Chinese version of a Le Creuset that I bought at Ross here in LA since we did not bring our "real one"


All of a sudden it occurred to me that the bottom is JUST large enough to fit a round loaf of bread, and it sits inside the surface of my round pizza stone - 


sooo, I took a very deep breath, and mixed a sourdough yesterday, left it in the fridge overnight, this morning I went through a few foldings, shaping, and with all fingers crossed, I placed in the 450F oven (well, whatever temp that is, is as high as it will go) - and inverted the cheap-o thingie with a little water clinging to it over the bread.   Thrity minutes later, I carefully removed it (not easy to do at all, the thing is heavy and almost fell off the oven) -  

The bread looks great, well, maybe not great as in a real oven, but considering all I've been trhough, it's one of the most satisfying bakes of my life!


Cannot thank you guys enough!   Now, I'm hoping for a nice crumb, if that happens, my dear boss will have the gift he deserves!

Daisy_A's picture

Hope the crumb turns out well also :-)

Best wishes, Daisy_A

dmsnyder's picture

What a headache!

I hope your current bake turns out great, but, if it doesn't and if you are sufficiently desperate, my offer of an oven up the road a piece stands, Sally. It seems to be able to turn out decent bread from time to time.


teketeke's picture

Hi, Sally

I hope that your method worked out as well!!   That is the pain the neck.  I really hope that the bread turned out as well as you desired.



SallyBR's picture

Here is a shot of the bread - I did not take a picture of the crumb, it's too dark now, but it's not bad. Definitely gift-worthy...   ;-)


I am baking another one tomorrow evening, and take it to the lab on Monday....


I'm in heaven!

Jaydot's picture

... to non-bakers that threads on TFL are sometimes breathtakingly thrilling :).

What a gorgeous loaf!
What admirable perseverance! I gave up on boules for the winter, because I'm using my mini oven with unreliable temperature (in summer I use my Big Green Egg, which will easily reach temps over 500 F and has a nice big stone to bake on). I just bake my sourdoughs in a pan - taste is excellent, but they're not half as good looking.

Do I undertand correctly that you baked this loaf on a stone with the wannabe Creuset as a cover? 

SallyBR's picture

I intend to take photos of the "assembling"  and will post here once I do it.


I baked my second loaf yesterday, and today is the day I will present it to our boss - I can hardly wait to get to the lab! ;-)

GSnyde's picture

...time to give up.

Beautiful loaf.  I'd be pleased to bake such bread in my fully-functional oven.

He better like it.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It's beautiful!

flournwater's picture

Incredibly beautiful loaf Sally ....  your heroic efforts paid off. 

Never  surrender.

teketeke's picture

It look very nice indeed!!  Congratulation, Sally!


RobynNZ's picture


louie brown's picture
louie brown

right attitude, beautiful loaf. Bet you're glad you didn't give up. 

SallyBR's picture

for those interested in the full recipe and the end of my saga!