The Fresh Loaf

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SMall oven baking problems

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goose13's picture
goose13

SMall oven baking problems

Let me first begin by saying I am very much a beginner when it comes to baking bread at home, so please excuse my naivete with certain aspects.

I made my first attempt at sourdough this week using the recipe from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice. I followed the instructions to the letter, with the exception of some of the fermentation times because my condo tends to be a little on the cool side. Not drafty, just a little cooler. 

My main issue is the size of my oven. My condo came with a small, apartment size type of gas range that  doesn't have a whole lot of room inside. When I baked the loaves per the instructions, with the steam pan, things were very tight. The first attempt I put the pan on top, per the images in the book, and the bottom got very burned and the top didn't cook as much. So the second time I reversed it, with the steam pan on the bottom and the loaf above. The top looked beautiful, and there was no burning. It was only when I took it to my brothers to show off that I found a problem. The bottom didn't cook all the way through. Once I got home and checked out the other loaf, I found the opposite, the top wasn't cooked enough.

I have a lot of the starter left so I will try again. My question would be two fold. Would leaving the steam pan below, and then taking it out for roughly the last five minutes be a good course of action? Also, does anyone have any other suggestions for baking in such a confined space?

Thanks very much,

Ryan

jcking's picture
jcking

A clay baking vessel could solve the problem; no steam needed.

Jim

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Although can't see the inside dimensions, the oven really doesn't look that small. My oven, an in wall type, has interior dimensions of about 18 x 18 x 18". The heating elements effective take another 3 - 4" from the height measurement. Never thought of it as that small, though certainly realize I can't bake two foot long baguettes and such, but most else is not a problem.

If you haven't been baking breads too long, you will eventually learn how your oven bakes, how evenly it heats, which level to bake on, etc, to get more evenly baked and browned breads. If you continue to have problems with uneven baking, you might consider eventually getting a baking stone; a real one that is at least a half inch thick. I find a 5/8" thick (cordierite)stone is ideal for home baking. You should be able to find a 16 x 14 x 5/8" stone somewhere for a very reasonable price. With a well preheated stone, the bottoms will almost always be perfect.

Reads like you may need to find a smaller steam pan. They really don't need to be that large, or at least that tall. A shallow skillet that holds a cup of water or so works fine. I use a real small cast aluminum pan for steam, but I also throw a little water on the oven floor also. Not recommending you do that though(if you have reservations). Mine is pretty old(20 years or so, electric), but it doesn't seem bothered by a little water, and bakes pretty much perfectly.

Well, good luck, and welcome.

jcking's picture
jcking

Now you've exposed yourself (oven) on the web you can't take it back:-))) Sent you a message.

Jim

juliette's picture
juliette

Ryan, Did you steam the loaves for the entire bake? Loaves should be steamed only during the first 10 to 15 minutes of baking, and then the steaming pan is removed to allow the crust to carmelize. The oven temperature is also usually lowered a bit at this point. I use an old pie tin full of lava rock (can be purchased in the BBQ area of just about any hardward store). I put it directly on the floor of the oven while the oven is coming to temp. Right before the bake I put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to boiling. After the loaves are loaded in the oven I ladle in about a cup of boiling water directly on the lava rocks, and close the door quickly. Repeat three times. Take care when putting the boiling water in the pan! It produces a volcanic puff of steam...keep your face away!!! Also take care in removing the pan as it sometimes has quite a bit of water left, and it's easy to spill on your feet...yes, that is the voice of experience talking!-) I wear leather clogs, so no damage was done, but it might not have worked out so well if I'd been wearing canvas shoes!

If your oven is really small you can do two things to improve your baking. Make smaller loaves, or cook larger loaves one at a time. It is important for even baking that the air  (and steam) in the oven is able to circulate freely. Also helpful to place the loaves on a rack in the center of your oven. You can put the unbaked loaves in your fridge while the first batch is baking to delay the proofing.

Good luck, practice makes perfect!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after the first 15 minutes.   

Check with your manual.  If you have lower heat + convection (symbol: fan with a thick bar or underline under it) it could be that you can put a baking tray on the bottom with water for a pre-heat.  Convection will bake the bread while the lower heat makes steam.  (note: not in all ovens)  Place the proofed dough into the oven when the water in the pan starts to boil.  Turn off the fan before opening the door or you will get blasted with hot steam.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

You might try the "cloche" method (I call it "passive steaming"). 

1.  Using a stone in your oven, you cover the dough in the oven with an ovenproof covering of some kind (can be an inexpensive deep foil pan, a big dog bowl like the one in Mr. Frost's picture, a deep, ovenproof pot,  large unglazed flowerpot with the hole plugged with foil, etc.  Leave the cover in place for 1/3 to 1/2 of the baking time and then remove it.

2.  If you are using a well-hydrated dough, no additional water is needed for steaming with this method.  But if the dough is on the dry side, spritz it with water before putting it in the oven.

This method works great, and it's safe and easy for a small electric oven. 

goose13's picture
goose13

Thanks for all the tips everyone.

@mrfrost - My oven dimensions are actually one to two inches smaller than your all around, so not much smaller than yours.

@juliette - Yes, I did steam them the entire bake time. I'll take your advice and take it out to give it time to bake without the pan in place.

In the end I think I will buy myself some type of baking pan. Be it a clouche or some other similar type of contraption. =D

 

Thank you all for the help.