The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Nesco Convection Roaster

aMused's picture
aMused

Nesco Convection Roaster

I've been experimenting with using an electric roaster to bake a loaf of bread at a time during the summer.  The roaster I was using was a small, 6 quart roaster but it was big enough to do one loaf of bread.  During the last 15 minutes I removed the loaf from the pan and turned it on it's side to brown the top and bottom of the loaf since the heating element is around the edges of the roaster rather than on the bottom.

I decided it worked well enough that I would do this regularly in order to have fresh bread during the summer months and so I though it was worth my money to invest in a larger roaster that I could also use for other things throughout the year.  While doing a little online comparison shopping and trying to decide how big and what brand of roaster I wanted I found this Nesco convection roaster and purchased it because of the convection fan.

http://www.nesco.com/category_774b5b98e066/subcategory_8d4037551156/product_24b072b441f1/session_04594fff2492/?utm_campaign=Nesco&utm_medium=Paid%2BSe...

So I'm about to enter unchartered territory.  Although I have figured out how to use an electric roaster to bake a loaf of bread I've never used a convection oven at all, much less a convection roaster.  After reading what I could find about standard convection ovens I've decided that I might start by putting about 3/4 cup of hot water in the preheated roaster with the bread to steam it, leaving the fan off at first for maybe 15 minutes or so and then turn the fan on to finish baking the bread.  I thought it might be better to leave the fan off at the start just to make sure I didn't counter the effect of the steam and dry out the top of my loaf.

I'm assuming nobody on this forum has used one of these for bread, either that or my search skills need honing.  But I would love to hear any thoughts or advice that any of you might have on this.  

Thanks!

caryn1047's picture
caryn1047

I belong to the Nesco yahoo group.  I do not have the convection feature, but enjoy using my oven.  (Ihave not used it for bread.)  The yahoo group has many recipes in their files section and has had many discussions re: baking bread in the Nesco.  You might want to join the group and do some investigating.  And the group will be very helpful in responding to your questions.

         http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NescoRoasting/

Hope you will enjoy your new oven for many things.

Caryn

aMused's picture
aMused

Thanks for the link, Caryn.  I might just have to take you up on that. 

I've had the oven for such a short time that I haven't yet had a chance to 'get a feel for it'.  

Today I'm just going to go for it and bake some of the Pain au Levain (Peter Reinhart's, Artison Breads for Every Day) I put together yesterday.  I think I'm going to bake some mini-baguette loaves to go with soup and salad for dinner.

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I hope you document your baking and show us photos of the process. I think lots of folks who don't like to heat up the kitchen in the summer Months would be interested in seeing your results.

Eric

aMused's picture
aMused

I'll do what I can to document how things worked out but photos are not something I can currently do.

I'm still a bit clumsy with the shaping (I've only had reasonable experience with rolls and loaves) but I'm preparing to put them in the roaster within the hour.  So instead of baguettes I settled for something like a couple of mini-batards.  Once I realized it wasn't going well for me, I decided that less handling was better. 

*Crosses fingers and hopes for the best.*

dosidough's picture
dosidough

to hear how this goes for you. I'm in the boat with those who cease baking during the summer heat. (I just made my 1st loaf since mid-June last weekend.)
Please tell us all you discover about this alternative. What is the advantage of the convection fan?
This is exciting. I guess I'm going to have a reason to get yet another kitchen appliance ;) Whoohooo!

Dosi

aMused's picture
aMused

It's going to take some tweaking but I think we have a winner!  Just having a roaster bigger than the 6 quart I had been using was a big help.  Also, the smaller one I had been using was oval, this is a rectangle.  I can use a small (1/4 sized) cookie sheet in the roaster and the bread really steams nicely in such a small space, so despite the fact that my shaping was poor, I got some nice oven spring.  

However, I made a mistake and added too much water this time around.  My first instinct was to add about 3/4 cup and leave the fan off for the first 12 minutes so that the steam wouldn't be forced out too soon.  Well, 3/4 didn't even cover the bottom so I decided to go with 1 1/2 cups.  But it was too much water to add and the water didn't burn off before the bread was finished.  So my loaves didn't brown like they should.  But I'm going to remedy that by reheating them with the meal, that should crisp them up and brown the crust some.

If you decide you want to buy one of these roasters, I think it is a good investment for someone who likes to bake bread year round.  The best price I found was having one delivered to my local Walmart through their online store.  You get free shipping that way.

I have more to say but I also have a meal to get on the table so I'll add more after we've tried the bread.

aMused's picture
aMused

Well, I reheated the bread, in the Nesco with the fan running for about 12-14 minutes.  It made the crust a very nice cross between crisp and chewy.  The inside was very moist also had a very satisfying texture.  However, the top and bottom looked a bit pale.  I'm wondering if fixing the issue with too much water and perhaps taking the loaves off the pan and putting them directly on the rack toward the end would help?  I'm also wondering if preheating the oven for a bit longer with the pan in the oven.  It will be trickier to get the bread in but I'll figure something out.  

I should mention that although I based my recipe off Reinholds Pain au Levain I used quite a bit of freshly ground wheat flour (I use my Vitamix to grind up my wheat grain).  I probably used about 2/3 or a little better of whole grain wheat with the remaining flour being unbleached bread flour.  I would like to try it with 100% whole grain but I wanted to make a loaf that I was sure was going to succeed before I started tweaking things.

So my family sat down to eat dinner.  My husband picked up a piece of bread first thing.  Ate a bite, took another bite, then grabbed a couple more pieces of bread and put them on his plate while stating that the bread was really good.  This is significant because I'm one who cooks a lot of fancy meals and no matter how good, I generally have to fish for comments.  It's as if he's afraid it will go to my head if he volunteers too many favorable comments.  Generally my best guage of how well he likes a meal is how quiet and intent he is on eating.  The more concentrated silence, coupled with that extra serving, indicates that he really enjoys the meal.  Oh, he also volunteered to do the dishes and he sang and joked a lot after dinner.  He really, really enjoyed his dinner.  And the meal was a vegetarian meal.

It was just he, myself and our son eating.  Both loaves were consumed, not a crumb survived.  My husband requested more for tomorrow.

So, although I have some things I can do to improve the outcome, even a less than perfect outcome was delicious.

I will definately keep working with this oven.

dosidough's picture
dosidough

I'll have months to practice up before next years heat but I'll sure be prepared.
The whole thing sounded good to me so I just ordered a Nesco. Seems like a handy gadget anyway.

Thanks aMused, and ...Bake on!

Dosi

aMused's picture
aMused

I hope you enjoy the roaster.  I agree, it's a good investment to have one anyway and the price on the convection style is not at all bad right now.

Today I baked up the rest of the batch of dough I had for the Pain au Levain.  This time I preheated the roaster for a longer time and put the small cookie sheet I was using upside-down inside the roaster while it heated.  I was able to successfully make 4 mini-baguettes with the dough and cooked them 2 at a time.  This time I used 1/2 cup of water to steam them and had the convection fan on the entire time.  I also had the oven turned up to the highest setting of 450.

They finished in about 25-35 minutes but they were still a bit pale and reminded me quite a bit of the fresh loaves I buy at the grocery store that you stick in the oven for about 15 minutes to heat before your meal.  Since that's what I did yesterday, I'm going to do the same today.

When I made my bread in the loaf pans in the smaller 6 quart roaster, I got a successfully brown crust by removing the loaf from the pan and turning it on it's side towards the end of the bake.  However, I wonder if I will have the same experience with this oven being so much bigger?  I'll find out in a few days when I bake some loaves in it.

Anyway, the point of saying all that is that I think one may sacrifice some of the beautiful brown crust color when baking in one of these.  It's not a horrible trade-off to be able to bake in the summer, but it's not how I would choose to bake if I could use my oven.  Unless my intent was to make a baguette for browning later.  There is always a use for that.

caryn1047's picture
caryn1047

I think this blog entry will be of interest.  It documents a Nesco oven user's solution for crisp bread.

http://tinyurl.com/3hk3xv9

 

Caryn B

aMused's picture
aMused

I'm working on a couple of loaves of 100% whole wheat bread now.  So we shall see if making loaves is very different from making the baguettes.  

In the mean time, the article is interesting.  Although it looks like getting that dough in the hot pot could be tricky.

aMused's picture
aMused

I just finished my 2 loaves of 100% WW bread, from Reinhart's 'Artisan Breads Every Day'.  Everything was perfect.  The loaves were perfectly formed and proofed, I stuck them in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes, which was when I intended to check on the loaves and rotate them.  

I opened the roaster and discovered that right where I scored the loaves the convection fan had literally blown the loaf to the side and over the pan.  

So, note to self: Do not use the convection fan until after the loaf has baked sufficiently to set the crust, if at all.

However, I tore off the part of the loaf that had blown off to the side and it was delicious!  Nice and light with a very slight cheesy taste because not only had I let the dough ferment in the refrigerator over night, I also added a couple tablespoons of surplus sourdough starter to the batch when I made it, just for the flavor.  It turned out to be a good call.