The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Modifying an electric oven for bread making

steelchef's picture
steelchef

Modifying an electric oven for bread making

It has been suggested that placement of two clay or ceramic (pizza stones,) top and bottom in an electic oven, will provide a heat sink which approximates the environment in an Aga or Rofco.
I'm a rookie so would appreciate comments or advice on this. My attempts at breadmaking have not been disastrous but neither have they been totally satisfactory.
My pizza and pitas, on the other hand have been superb. The stone used in making them seems to be the difference.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I have done that too, steelchef. However, i have lately found that by using a thick stone on the medium to upper shelf (closer to the top elements) , and heating it for 1 hour, seems to give the bread its maximum lift, provided that you lower the heat once you load the bread in , as intense top element heat may hinder proper bread expansion.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I've heard about a kitchen oven insert that claims to do what you propose. Here's a link to the maker's site:
http://www.hearth-oven.com/
You may wanna check it out. That said, this kit has a bottom and two sides, with no top. My experience with my WFO leads me to suspect this kit may not give you the results you might expect. The reason I say that is that I once tried to bake a couple of loaves of bread below a Tuscan grill in my oven, using the grill to hold a pan of cobler that I wanted to bake at the same time. The result was bread that cooked well on the underside, but with a pale, disappointing crust on the upper side. It seems that the radiant heat from the masonry roof of the oven is a key component of masonry oven baking.

Kitchen ovens bake primarily with hot air. Masonry ovens bake primarily with radiant heat coming off the floor, walls and ceiling of the oven. The kit insert lacks a top, so I would expect less-than-optimal performance from this product.  The sides and top would be subject to radiatn heat, but the top would be subject to mainly hot air. You might consider adding your own top, such as a large baking stone. This might better approximate the effect of a true masonry oven. Also remember that you would need to pre-heat this unit for a much longer time than you would the oven without the insert.

If you do try this, please keep us posted on the results!

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I have a Hearthkit and have been using it regularly for about 6 years.  My experience is that it works well (assuming you are capable of lifting it), but that I generally agree with your analysis of its limitations.  I hardly ever use the sides as I don't think they add much without a top.  I have considered getting a kiln shelf or something for the top of the oven, but I would need to order another rack which as with all appliance replacement parts is very expensive.

Unfortunately is a bit of an academic question since although Hearthkit have been maintaining their web site they don't appear to have manufactured any for sale for at least 2, and maybe 3, years.  If you want one you would have to search eBay.

sPh

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Steelchef,

It's hard to make a general statement about how well such an arrangement will work for you. Most if not all electric ovens have a heat source top and bottom. In many ovens the broiler (top) heating element is powered to some degree even when the lower element is working in the "oven" setting. On some of the better high end models there are settings that allow you to select the amount of top heat provided by the broiler coils. In my cheap Westinghouse wall oven the top coils don't glow in the oven position but they do get quite hot.

All this variable nature of the many products in the market make it impossible to know how a top stone will work for you.  Radiant heat is what bakes your bread, unless you are using a fan (convection oven). I've experimented with using a top stone and adding bricks on edge on both sides. Adding thermal mass does increase the warm up time a lot.The baking profile is altered but honestly I don't think it matters significantly.

If you have a reasonable stone on the bottom and have a steaming method employed, you should be able to get a great rise and good browning.I think the bigger question is which shelf are you using and how well is the stone heated?

Eric

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Home ovens typically have some kind of buzzer or light or alarm that tells you when the oven is done preheating. My experience with baking stones is they "fool" the oven, so that the signal the oven is done preheating comes far too soon (the stone(s) haven't absorbed enough heat yet). For starters, try noting the time when you start preheating and also the time when the oven says it's done, then continue preheating for that much time again. In the end, your experience with your baking stone(s) will tell you whether this "double preheat" is a little too long or still not long enough.

steelchef's picture
steelchef

Thanks to all who have replied. I will go ahead with plan 'A' and report back. It will be a while as I have other things on the go at the moment. Another suggestion was to used 13" ceramic floor tiles. They are often available on sale at very low prices. They would surely take the heat as that is how they're made.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...The stone used in making them seems to be the difference....

I suggest simply leaving the stone in your oven and baking all breads on it too. That alone may be sufficient and save you the effort of further mods.

steelchef's picture
steelchef

Hey Chuck,

Tried that. with the stone on the center rack, the bottom of the loaf got very crusty while the top was barely done. I had to turn it to low broil to salvage the loaf. It seems that more heat storage, (sink) is required to get the radiant effect spoken of by ClimbHi and ehanner. The stone is excellent for flat breads. That's why it was suggested to place them top and bottom with the center reserved for the bread. Then you get radiant heat more equally distributed.
Plus, my family prefers conventionally shaped loaves as opposed to the cottage style round pains.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Weird. Usually in electric ovens even with the baking stone on a near-the-bottom shelf, the top of the loaf bakes just fine. Heat re-rediated from a stone is an interesting idea worth experimenting with, but so far as I know is by no means required in order to make good bread.

The only thing I can think of is your top element is supposed to be on half power (not enough to turn red) during regular baking (as well as full power during broiling) but the control is partially broken so the half power part doesn't work.


I suspect I don't really understand the situation, as I'm puzzled by the issue with conventionally shaped loaves vs. cottage style round pains. What about the baking stone requires round pains? Why isn't it possible to put conventionally shaped loaves on the baking stone?

 

steelchef's picture
steelchef

Hey again Chuck! We have a relatively new stove and I admit relating experiences with the old one. I'm getting old and the thinking is not as sharp as it once was. Also it never occurred to put the loaf pans on the baking stone. I will give your suggestions a try before going any further down this road, Thanks, I will let you all know the results.

Chapuchan's picture
Chapuchan

I will give your suggestions a try before going any further down this road.