The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New oven, new problems!

preppymcprepperson's picture

New oven, new problems!

Hi everyone, I have recently (2 months ago) moved into a new apartment in the same city, and since I moved all my leavened baked goods - breads, cakes, quick breads and (American) biscuits - are going wrong, but everything unleavened, from roasts to cookies, is working out fine. I have moved about two miles down the road in the same city (so same municipal tap water) using the same brands of everything and same baking pans as in my last oven, and bought new packages of all my leavening agents just in case freshness was an issue. I would love some help figuring out what is wrong!

The oven is this one, and has both fan and non-fan settings. The problem I am having, which occurs on both settings, is that things don't rise/spring in the oven, even if (in the case of breads) they have fermented and proofed normally outside the oven. I have been running some fairly systematic tests on oven temperature and how the same recipe bakes in different conditions, but I am stumped. All the data I have from all the tests, with images, is here:

At this stage, I really am interested in isolating specifically the role the oven is playing. I know there are many things about my overall baking technique that can be improved, but right now I just want to know why that SAME technique is working differently in this oven than my last one, and changes to my overall technique would not help with that scientific endeavor.

Ideas on what's changed specifically?

idaveindy's picture

I just read an older post about a similar oven problem, switching to a convection oven with a top (broiler) element, and the main heating element on the _back wall_.

The previous oven had elements on top and the bottom.  Their baking stone, in the new oven was receiving "convection heat", but not "direct radiant heat" as before from the bottom element.

Where were the heating elements on your older oven?  bottom, top, back?

Where are the heating elements on this new oven? bottom, top, back?

Are you using a baking stone?


Also, as to tap water, that is not a constant factor either.  Here is why: 

1) The buildings may have different filters, and different treatment or "water softening" we call it in the US.

2) Even if you moved a short distance, you may have crossed a boundary line between two water systems, or two sources of water.  My city is like that. Some parts of the city receive well water, other parts receive water from a reservoir.


I just read your tweets and saw that you said the water IS different, "less hard" at the new place. That makes a difference!  If your new place has a "water softener", there are now chemicals, including salt, in your "new" water that were not in the old.

Suggestion: go back and visit your previous neighbors (same building) and ask them for a couple gallons of water. Then bake in your new oven with the "old" water. That way, you can narrow down what is really the culprit, the oven or the water.

preppymcprepperson's picture

Thank you for this detailed feedback! I really only get to focus on baking during the weekend so sorry for the late response.

The new oven has heating elements at the top and bottom with the fan in the back. The most recent old oven had heating elements top and bottom but the fan was also on top. The oven before that had a heating element in the top only and a fan at the back. The most recent old oven was in the same city, the oven before that was not. In the two-ovens-ago oven, I did not have an option to bake without fan, and the recipe I have been using to test was developed on a fan setting in that oven. What might be the implications of these different setups/how might I adjust?

Yeah, I do think the water is making some difference. If the less hard water contains more salt (is there a good way to check for this?) would you recommend I reduce the salt in the dough?

As it happens, the person who has taken over the old apartment in the same city is a graduate student at the university where I teach (though not in my department) and I showed him around the place when he moved in so I might even be able to ask him for some water from the old apartment.

Thank you for these tips!

AlanG's picture

I suspect that something is wrong with the oven.  The temperature differences that you report on the Twitter thread are strange for a convection oven since the purpose is to provide even heat throughout the oven.  The fact that you see such differences with yeast rolls hints at this.  My standard approach to baking with convection ovens is to pre-heat it to a higher temperature than I use for baking and doing the first half of the bake without the convection fan running and then turning down the heat for the second half of the bake with the convection turned on.  I don't use a Dutch oven as my oven is too  low for my 72 year old back to deal with.  That you get poor results with Dutch oven is also telling.  The reason for using them is to get uniformly high heat while preserving moisture.  To me this means that the Dutch oven is not heated evenly.

preppymcprepperson's picture

I think this is a plausible culprit as well! The loaf from last weekend which seemed to rise on only one side suggests some pretty uneven heating even within the Dutch oven. I am preheating the DO for about 45 minutes before putting in the dough - would you advise going longer? Or just preheating at a hotter temperature?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and bang around a little bit.  Make sure there is not a baking tray sitting on the bottom of the oven looking like the bottom.  There could even be two trays sitting there so check carefully.  

preppymcprepperson's picture

There was in fact a tray at the bottom of the oven masquerading as the floor when we moved in which I had to remove. I haven't had it in while baking bread, but I can see how that would directly block the heat from the lower element.