The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help baking an ovenful of bread without burning/undercooking?

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

Help baking an ovenful of bread without burning/undercooking?

Hello Bread makers,

I'm trying to bake 8 loaves at once in an ordinary residential oven, and it's pretty frustrating.

I have enough room in my oven for 8 9x5 inch bread pans, but in practice I haven't been getting the same results as when I bake one or two loaves at a time. The loaves in the two bottom corners get black on the bottom by the time the one in the middle is done. Sometimes it will be black on the outside but not cooked all the way inside. I have been able to compensate a bit by putting the hotter loaves in two bread pans or throwing a cookie sheet underneath, but the margin for error is really small. Even when I stand in front of the oven and take the loaves out several times to tap the bottom or switch them around in the oven, some still get away from me. Also this oven loses all its heat when I open the door.

I have a residential gas rangetop oven (Frigidaire brand). I bake with coarse ground whole wheat flour, so the bread is dense. But even when I can tell from kneading that the crumb is going to come out very well, the oven isn't reliable. I'm baking for a small CSA so I really need to be able to do larger batches. Any suggestions?

One idea I've heard is to put quarry tiles or field stones in the oven to help hold the heat better. Anyone have experience doing this?

 

Thanks,

Mae in Alfred Maine

drogon's picture
drogon

What you're asking your poor little oven to do is to boil 8 litres of water. It's just not going to happen in a sensible time, so the element will run flat-out all the time, resulting in very uneven baking - and as you've seen burn loaves.

It can be done, but it really will require close watching and regular turning - which is (as you've seen) counter productive as it lets all the heat out.... But if it's 2 shelves with 4 on each shelf, then outside to middle each turn.

I'd do 2 batches of 4... And plan for at least 45 minutes per batch - that means you might have to retard the 2nd batch, or shape it into the tins 40 minutes after the first batch.

When I got to 3 runs through my domestic oven (6 small loaves per run), I bought a bigger oven... On my 3rd now...

-Gordon

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

Thanks for the alternate baking schedule, Gordon! Which replacement ovens did you buy?

I'm considering a used commercial oven but I'd have to stick it somewhere in my home kitchen and still have room for a stove. I also have a very mobile one year old and I read on another forum post that commercial ovens can be quite hot on the front.

 

drogon's picture
drogon

My first "bakery" oven (2nd as the home cooker has an oven, but its even smaller!) was a cheap Beko domestic oven. That's been going well for 2 years (although I have replaced the main element in that time and it's now computer controlled via a Raspberry Pi - a subject for another post at some point!)

The Beko will take 6 small (400g) loaves or 2 larger (800g) ones. They do need rotating as with most cheap fan ovens it heats up unevenly.

Once bread sales increased I looked about - the limit was a standard UK single phase supply - I got a Lincat EC08. This has 2 x 1.5Kw fan heaters and can cook 6 large loaves or 12 small ones. Yes, the front does get hot - commercial ovens are not as well insulated as domestic ones (which means they're less efficient too )-: Not too hot to burn instantly but if you kept touching it for more than a few seconds then you'd know about it.

Once I was pushing 2 loads a morning through that and the Beko, I got oven number 3: Again the same single phase limits, so I got a Rofco B40. If only there had been a UK dealer off them a year ago I'd have gotten one then rather than the Lincat, however...

So now most mornings it's a full Rofco and a full Lincat with the Beko not being used that much (although tomorrow if my big day and there will be 2 runs through all of them).

I started by working backwards on timing - if I want the breads out of the door at 9am, then it's 15-minute bagging & labbeling (8:45), 45 minute oven cycle (8am - allows a few minutes for loading/unloading). So the bread needs to be in the oven(s) at 8am by the latest. On a double day, then the first lot needs to be in by 7:15. Allowing a 2-hour window to scale/shape/prove, that's 5:15am get out of bed (the dough has risen overnight - its either slow rise yeast or sourdough)

in practice, right now my get-up time is 5:30.

-Gordon

embth's picture
embth

4 loaves at a time is what I can do in my 30" wide home oven.  I've done 5 but that risks uneven baking results.  My suggestions would be:  1) do the baking in two batches.    2) buy a commercial size range, which you may find at used restaurant equipment stores for much less than new.     3) build an outdoor wood-fired masonry oven with the capacity of holding 10 to 12 loaves.      The first suggestion is by far the cheapest solution.   Good luck!

 

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

Thanks for the suggestions. When you bake 4 at a time, do you do two on the bottom two on top? I have a broiler in the middle of my oven so I avoid putting really large loaves up there.

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

I guess what I'm asking is whether the placement of the loaves matters as much if there aren't too many of them in there.

embth's picture
embth

I use just one rack which I set in the lower third of the oven if I am making pan bread.  If making free form loaves, it still limited to 4 - 1.5 to 2 lbs loaves on a rectangular baking stone on a rack that is set a bit low.  Most of the time I rotate the loaves once about 1/2 through the bake.  If the loaves look like they're coming along evenly, I might opt to leave them and skip the drop in heat that rotating the loaves causes.    To get two layers of bread loaves with room to rise for the lower shelf loaves would put the upper layer too high in the oven.  That generally browns the tops of the higher loaves too soon limiting the amount of "oven spring" and potentially burning them.  Plus, the loaves need some room around them for the heat to circulate properly and cook them evenly.    Perhaps your oven is bigger than mine…mine is a dual-fuel range 30" model.  The oven is electric with elements both top and bottom.  

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Have you tried rotating the breads (top to bottom, turning, etc) in the middle of cooking? Personally I think that you should do two batches as mentioned above.

One thing to keep in mind when retarding the second batch is not to wait until it is fully proofed before retarding (unless you realize last minute so you have no choice). So basically don't be putting one batch in the oven and one batch in the refrigerator at the same time. Usually you want to retard at about 3/4 into the final proofing stage when trying to manage multiple batches.

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

I don't have experience retarding bread much (except unintentionally). Do you mean just put it in the fridge at the right time?

Does proofing refer to the third rise before going in the oven? I do all whole grain breads and they typically rise an hour and a half, then half as long and then about 10-15 min, sometimes shorter. 

AlanG's picture
AlanG

and might be able to handle eight loaves.  I've done four at a time in mine with no issues.

embth's picture
embth

there may be better convection ovens than mine, but if I use the convection fan at the beginning of the bake, I'll likely have splits on the side of the loaves facing the fan.  If I wait until 15 to 20 minutes into the bake, I can use the convection with no problems.  I agree, the fan should make for more even heating…but I think early in the baking, it dries the crust and causes the splits.  Bread was fine to eat, of course, just not as nice looking on one side.

Mae Hodges's picture
Mae Hodges

Thanks so much to all the replies. 

I bought a used double oven off craigslist. Convection is totally worth it! The bread bakes evenly and I can fit more in. Still testing its limits but good so far.