The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Oven spring and Fan Assisted Ovens

Gene New's picture
Gene New

Oven spring and Fan Assisted Ovens

I am a relative newbie to bread making as I made my first loaf just after Christmas. Therefore I am still learning and very much at the experimentation stage. 

As part of the process I am trying to perfect my sandwich loaf and roll making skills since that is what hubby likes best and what we eat the most.

I have a Hotpoint stand alone oven that is fan assisted with a fan that cannot be turned off; it’s a straight forward basic electric oven with a gas hob.

My first loaves were typically brick like, dense and quite yellow inside but after trying a few recipes and methods, with practice and experimentation my bread is now much lighter both in texture and in crumb it is light, fluffy  and really tasty and finally tastes like the irresistible bread of my childhood (I am in my mid 60’s). 

This photograph shows the loaf I made today.

However in order to get my bread like this I go through quite a rigmarole much of which seems to go against a lot of what I have read so I wondered if anyone could make any sense of all this as I can’t understand why I get better results going against expert advice..

I will start with the recipe, if you look at the many recipes for the softest white bread they seem to all suggest you get the softest, lightest bread using a 50/50 combination of Strong and All purpose or plain flour yet when I do that I find it seems to inhibit rise making a denser loaf. 

For the best results my current recipe is

290g Strong white flour

100g Mother Dough (from the day befores bake same recipe)

200g starter  refrigerated and unfed for 24 hours - 100% hydration used mainly for flavour

15g Golden Syrup hubby likes the taste

13g Melted Butter

175g Warm semi skimmed UHT (Long Life)  Milk (43 degrees C)

5g home ground sea salt (No additives)

2g instant yeast

This is mixed together, left to rest while I wash up and clear everything away etc so about 10-20 mins then the mix is kneaded using Bertinet’s French fold method before being left to rise/double in size which can take anything from 1 - 2 hours depending on the temperature in the kitchen. 

This produces 800g of dough which is too much for a small loaf so its folded and I take 100g out for the next day’s bread, a little over 200g to make into rolls and what’s left to make the pound loaf you saw in the photo.

This method process produces a beautiful, soft and elastic dough that rises wonderfully and produces bread tastes sublime.

Baking it is more of a challenge.  My oven struggles to get above 400F and if the door is opened it quickly looses heat so I have always tried to be careful.  All the same when I put the bread straight into a hot oven it browned very quickly and did not rise very much. 

I started adding boiling water to a hot tray that is beneath my baking stone and spraying the loaf with water when I put it into the oven but that didn’t really help a great deal then one day I read a post suggesting turning the fan off for the first few minutes to help with oven spring as since I wasnt getting any noticable oven spring I thought I should give it a try. 

As I stated at the start I can’t turn my fan off but I can turn the oven off so I started to experiment and I find that if I turn the oven on full, wait till it gets as hot as it can then open the door and add boiling water to the tray ay the bottom. Close the door and wait for the temperature to rise again, then score the breads surface, carefully open the oven door, quickly put the loaf and rolls onto the stone, spray them all  and close the door and then immediately turn the oven off and wait while the bread rises I find I get great oven spring.

I have now reached the point where I leave the bread for a full 10 minutes before turning the oven back on by which time the temperature is down to about 300F max then I turn the oven back on and after roughly 10 minutes the oven is almost back up to temperature so I remove the tray holding the hot water and take the rolls out and check them usually returning them to the oven for a further 5 minutes.  When I take the rolls out I cover the bread with foil and leave it for another 20 or so minutes until it smells cooked and sounds hollow when tapped.

The results are great and as hubby says if it isn’t broken don’t fix it but I would really love to know why this works when it seems to go against the norms.

Does anyone else have to do all this to get a good oven spring and why do I get better results using all strong flour??

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and the slashing is Georgeous!   Wow!

MangoChutney's picture

That is a beautiful loaf. My guess is that you need all strong flour in order to balance the use of the mother dough and the unfed starter, both of which have been pre-digested to some degree and may not be able to supply as much structure as you might expect given that they were made from strong flour in the first place.

Another possibility is that your strong flour isn't as strong as some other people's strong flours. Winter hard wheat, for example, isn't as strong as spring hard wheat, yet both will make what might be sold as strong flours.

A third possibility is that the increased rise, making less dense bread, more than balances out any additional toughness from using all strong flour.

handymanchef's picture

Hi Gene New

As a novice myself - I would like to know two things

1.  Why do you use Mother Dough as well as un-fed Starter? Wouldn't you be better using a Starter you have fed 24 and 48 hours earlier?

2.  Why do you put so many things into your bread? e.g  15g Golden Syrup - 13g Melted Butter and 175g Warm semi skimmed UHT (Long Life)  Milk at 43 degrees C?

I am not saying it is wrong, because I don't know any different. I am trying to learn!

I alos make sandwich loafs and white rolls, because my wife and I like them, but I don't put the 3 things above that you put in.  Does a sandwich loaf have to have all these things in it? Again, Idon't know that is why Iam asking.

Having said all that:- Your loaf looks FANTASTIC and I think, will eat just as well.  So I guess 'keep on keeping on".

Sorry, I can't help on the fan thing - I use a fan oven, but I can turn mine off, if I don't "knead" it lol.  I have only made one batch of bread using the fan and they are the best loafs I have made to date - see my blog at:-   or see my bits on thefreshloaf.

Really good luck with your baking at let us all know how you get on.