The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Deck Oven Problems, Steam?

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Deck Oven Problems, Steam?

Hi Everyone, new to this site but been baking for a while and was planning on opening a small neighbourhood bake shop early this year. Plans got delayed a bit but getting to play around with the new oven I though would be a fun experience. I currently use my home oven and get decent loaves without issues.

Got a large 3 pan deck oven for the shop, but unfortunately doesn't have steam injection, only a stone floor. I figured I would be able to just steam with a garden sprayer.  So far I have tried basically everything I can think of to add steam, and just can't seem to get enough to get the spring that I get in the home oven.

Todays attempt was baked at 440f, top and bottom, I have experiment going as long as 320f, but still not getting the spring I want. Used the sprayer to add steam at loading, 1mins and 5mins, have tried variations on this and no massive changes.

The best of the three was the bottom/left one, but the ends were very flat. Seems to be just lucky that I burst in the middle. The crumb on all three didn’t really have big problems, the top was denser due to not opening, the bread made for decent eating.   

Is my only option at the moment to make tin foil hat for each loaf, or is there another problem that I am missing by assuming it’s just the steam. I can’t really think of anything else that covering the loaves.    

Thanks!

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

I believe you can buy a steam generator aftermarket and most deck ovens have a port for injecting it. A big deck oven is going to need a lot of steam, obviously. So spraying a mist into it by hand will likely be ineffective. You could also make or buy something like this: https://pleasanthillgrain.com/rofco-oven-steam-tray. You will probably need a lot of these though and they are pricey. I can give you some ideas on how to make it yourself if you want. Let me know.

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

What’s the configuration of the oven? Is it three pans wide or are they stacked?   I wonder if it’s too much top heat.  Lava rocks in loaf pans is another steam option. Preheat them, Pour in boiling water and place them before loafs go in. 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Thank you, it's a single deck three pan wide. I have tried with the lava rocks, but same problem. The loaves come out similar to the middle loaf above. I think the main issue is the size of the oven. 

The local supplier was the one that convinced me that I would not need to get a generator and using the sprayer would be more than sufficient. I was also considering getting those steam pods / something similar made locally, I'm based in South Africa, so those are definitely pricey.  Would be interested in how many of those pods you would recommend for an oven this size. 

At this point it would probably just be the easiest to find an steam generator and actually just get started. 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

(Update:)  I think ciabatta is right about the top heat.

In my opinion, all loaves show evidence of too much top heat.  The upper  crust is hardening too much before the expanding dough bursts open the score.  You want the temperature and time worked out so that the dough finishes expanding before the upper crust hardens/browns.

The rounded bottoms also suggest this, making the loaves look like footballs from the end side,

You can pre-heat with both top and bottom  heating elements going.  But, you want the top element off during most of the bake, and only use it, if needed, to brown the top of the loaf for a minute or so at the end of the bake.

If there is an "upper stone" above the loaves, that might make pre-heat and final browning more tricky.

The main thing I'm saying is that it's not totally (and not even mostly) about the steam.

Also, if it's a convection/fan oven, I think you need to have the fan off.

Good luck, amigo. And bon appétit.

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Thank you, will give adjusting the temperate another shot again tomorrow.

From the notes I have the "top temperature" cools by around 100f in 30 mins, from preheat temp with the element switched off, luckily no stone on top. 

Got a couple of loaves to experiment with tomorrow, I will preheat much lower and report back. 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Does the oven have separate thermostats for the top and bottom heating elements?

Or just one thermostat, and two on/off switches for the two elements?

 --

Just to be clear... I'm not suggesting a lower temp pre-heat.  Just pre-heat to your baking temp.

What I think is happening, is that every time the upper element turns on, during the bake, the top of the loaf is getting direct _radiant_ heat.  But, it's not really supposed to.  We don't use top heat in home ovens.

Top heat is fine for pizzas, and other flatbreads, but not loaf breads that we want to burst open with oven spring.

The bottom of the loaf is protected from the lower element's _radiant_ heat by the stone.  But the top can be over-heated directly by the radiant heat from the upper element.   (Those red hot electric elements "radiate" a much higher temperature than, for example, the inside roof of a brick oven, or a "top stone" that conceals/hides the electric elements.)

It kind of sounds like you got a pizza oven, or a combo bread/pizza oven.   Those are tricky for bread bakers. 

--

Here's what I'm picturing in my mind: (maybe this could work, maybe not)

1. pre-heat with both elements on.

2. turn off (completely) the top element, leave bottom element on.

3. load bread, and if needed, add steam somehow.

4. At some point in time,  at least 10 minutes after loading the bread, and before the bread is done, turn back on the top element, if needed to brown the tops of the loaves.

And welcome to the TFL community!

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Two thermostats with on/off for the individual element. Its definitely some form of combo pizza/bread oven. Needed to find something that was only single phase and that was tricky here. 

Thank you, will have a look hopefully that works better that what I have done up to now. 

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Too much top heat was my guess too ( I stated previously). I don’t know if you want top heat at all for steam portion. I would say preheat with top and bottom. Turn off top, steam and load loaves. Turn top back on after steaming ( only if there’s plenty of space above loaves )

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Thank you, I will run a couple of loaves with different temperature settings tomorrow and report back. 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Experimented with the suggestions received about the top heat and Turing the element completely off. 

The image attached was baked with the top element off, the temperature was stable at around 380f on top, preheated and loaded at 440f.

At 14 minutes the middle still had wet uncooked dough. I guess that's why it made that weird tear when the element was turned back on. Need to still fine tune the temperature, the bottom of the loaf is starting to flatten out at least. I guess a couple of degrees up or down, probably down a bit more since the ends are hardening before the middle?

Got orders for tomorrow so will only be able to test again on Saturday. Will try both higher and lower, without the direct heat, made a big difference. 

 

 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Remembered to take a crumb shot today, crust was a bit thick, bit still a good lunch. 

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Instagram that!

--

One user reported he just used the top heating element for the last few minutes.  I'll see if I can find that.

--

Found it. It was user barryvabeach.  He uses a pizza oven for bread. Here is his comment: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/458723#comment-458723

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Getting closer at least, should have just ask TFL a while ago, could have saved a couple of loaves. 

Will have a look at barryvabeach, we are probably is similar situations. 

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Much improvement!  I think on these, possibly, the very light color on top in the score indicates there’s still quite a bit of moisture in there. Not quite done cooking yet. But the very dark on top tells me the temp is still to high. Seems like a good size loaf. How many grams?  Will probably take 20-25 minutes of steam time to fully expand before removing steam for it to dry and crisp up for 30 mins. Find the hot and cold spots in your oven and move loaves around if necessary to color up evenly. That crumb is looking great. 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

The loaves are getting closer to what I achieved in the home oven, got hope for this oven again, thank you.

I never would have though of turning the top element completely off, not just lowering it during the initial bake, makes sense looking back. Temp drops, elements go back on to adjust with direct heat and sets the crust. I was always under the impression that steam is used to counter act the heat, but clearly both need to be controlled.  

The loaf is around 980g @76 hydration, next thing will be the hot/cold spots. 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I have played around with a number of ovens, though not one like yours, mine current one is a inexpensive pizza oven.. If you are using an oven with an upper element that is close to the top of the loaf, you do need to be careful.  This applies to toaster ovens just as much as pizza or pretzel ovens.

Some background for ovens using electric elements. For most, when you set the temp on the oven dial, that has nothing to do with how hot the element is,  just how often it turns on or off.  So if you set the upper dial at 500, at first the element will be at 0 F.  As it starts to warm up, it will quickly go past 500F and keep going to whatever temp the element is designed to reach   ( say 900 F - just as an example).  The element will stay at 900 F until the air surrounding the sensor and  sensor that controls that element hits 500F, and then the electricity to that element shuts off.  Since it takes some time for that element to cool down, the oven temp will keep increasing until the element has cooled down.  The air around the sensor, and the sensor, will eventually drop below a set point - say 475 F, and it will then send current to the element.  It will take a little while for the element to heat up, and so the actual temp in the oven will drop a little lower than 475F .  The upper element will fire up to 900 F and the cycle repeats. We sometimes refer to this movement between the low and high as the oven swing.

Sorry to go into so much detail, but in a home oven, using a bake element below a stone, the browning will come from the air surrounding the loaf.  In an oven using an upper element as well - such as a pizza or pretzel oven or some toaster ovens, if you have the upper element on, browning can also occur from radiant heat from the upper element.

So the problem with setting the upper temp, is that no matter what temp you set it,  once it comes on, it will be very hot, and that radiant heat can give you a lot of browning.  Radiant heat is much more sensitive to distance than the heat you get from the bottom element, meaning the closer the bread to the upper element, the browner it will be. If you look at some of the posts on cooking in a toaster oven, you can see photos showing the very top of a batard dark and ends, which are further from the element, more pale.

So if you have made it this far, you can turn on the top element to preheat.   When the loaves are in the oven during the initial phase, you probably don't want the upper element to come on -  you may be able to lower the dial to a number so that the lower element supplies enough heat so that the upper element doesn't come on at all, or you can just turn the upper element off.  If the bottom element is strong enough, you can try to bake with just that.  Or you can watch the loaves carefully, and turn up dial on the upper element towards the end. 

One last technical part. Radiant heat is like sunlight in that when it hits a light colored surface, most of the energy bounces off, and the light surface only warms a little.  If you ever had a convertible with black seats, you would know that in contrast,  dark surfaces absorb tons of radiant heat and warm quickly.  Why that matters is that if you open the door and check the loaves every minute while the upper element is on, the first 5 times you will check, the surface will go from very pale to only slightly darker.  That is because the pale surface is reflecting most of the heat. If by minute 5, the upper surface got tan, then between minute 5 to 6, it could get very brown and by minute 7 it could be black.  That is it won't brown evenly minute by minute, as it gets darker, it will absorb more energy , then get darker, then absorb more energy even quicker. To make it worse,  each time you check, that will let in fresh air, and likely keep the upper element on.  So as Dave points out,  when I use an electric pizza oven to make a loaf,  I normally leave the upper element off and then put it on for a minute or so at the end.  If you play around enough with it you may be able to get the timing right, but a lot will depend on where a loaf is in the oven, how tall it is, etc.

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Thank you so much for taking the time to post all this was going to reach out to you tonight. 

Makes sense about the element, this would explain why my last loaf is turning out better by having the element off as I load the oven.

I saw there were people having issues with the low chamber size, so I got the biggest chamber I could find at budget and single phase, currently with the stone in place I have around 9" before I touch the elements. Will be aiming for longer rather than a tall loaf. 

Once again I appreciate all the information, doing a couple more loaves tomorrow and hopefully get to a temperature and time that works for the bread/oven. 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Excellent info.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Sourdough_Hobby:
Making steam is only 1/2 the picture, retaining it is the bigger half (especially for home ovens).  A commercial deck oven with steam will have a vent that closes & opens to retain the steam and then vent it out to finish the bake.  A typical deck oven will bake with the vent closed for 10-15 mins.

I'd think you can generate enough steam with a sprayer if you can control your vent.  If not, talk to the vendor or the manufacturer about retrofitting a proper vent.

You might also consider pre-steaming the oven before you load it.

For reference: http://www.sussmanboilers.com/bakery-oven-proofer-applications

D
o you know about the Bread Bakers Guild of America? bbga.org

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

So with 9 inches,  you are in much better shape than me.  The elements in my pizza oven are about 5 above the floor.  , if I bake a loaf that is  3 inches tall , the top is only  2 inches from the element,  on yours it would be 6 inches.  Because of the way radiant heat dissipates,  the top burning issue would not be 3 times greater in my oven, it would be 9 times greater  http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Forces/isq.html  so your oven should be more forgiving about turning on the top element.

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Just a quick follow up, been baking with the top element off after preheat.  I will need to confirm with tomorrow bakes, but it seems that the that an ambient temp of 410 works and 460 set the crust even though the elements were off. The images below reflects this. The dip in the ear is hopefully not because of heat issues and just score/shaping. 

Will test tomorrow to see if I can find a happy medium at around 425f. Overall much happier with the latest bakes, I can see the progress and crust is getting thinner and getting ears back. 

In terms of a vent, the oven basically has a hole and the back, that I blocked with a ball of foil, unfortunately mass produced and imported from Asia. The foil works, but might need to find another solution down the line. Will checkout the guild site, probably loads of information available for its members. 

 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

The top element's function is primarily to help the oven recover after opening the door and ensure a more even temperature throughout.  Some ovens provide for separate power and temperature settings for top and bottom elements, and even front to back.

Have you calibrated your thermostat?

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

That first pic is Instagramable.

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

After the last couple of bakes, loaded a couple of loaves in the oven and they almost all turned out like the loaf below. 

Thanks for the help everyone. 

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Looks amazing. How did you end up managing the steam?

Does the bottom crust match the top? (looks a shade or two light on the crumb shot)

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Used a combination of spraying the oven as I loaded the loaves and wet cotton towels in 1" wide DIY aluminium trays placed in both sides of the oven. 

This one has a lighter crust, was one I had forgotten to cover and left in the fridge too long, bottom was dried out. The fresher ones turn out the same as the top. 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Really nice looking loaves,  great work. 

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Look what i found on Amazon! 

https://www.amazon.com/Man-Law-BBQ-Products-Humidifiers/dp/B00CX5MMK6/ref=pb_allspark_session_sims_desktop_86_3/138-9356901-1565932

12.5 x 4.25 x 2.5 inches

would these be useful in your oven for your steam towels?  without the lids of course.

Update us with new photos of your bakes!

James

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Hi went a bit silence over here loads happening. I am waiting to hear back from a local fabricator needed to get some trays made to fit the whole oven so asked to quote on getting the steam trays manufactured at the same time. 

This is now the second week I am baking full time at the bakery, bit hectic dealing with customers while mixing/oven/cleaning but having a blast doing it.

The bakes are improving, but baking time has gone up to around 55 mins to get the crust nice and dark without burning the tops. Will remember to take some more pics when tomorrow bread comes out. 

Was messing around with some rye for the local coffee shop and my math turned out completely wrong. Though I was doing 30% Rye and turns out it was closer to 60%. Bottom loaf 30% rye and 2% Caraway, Top loaf is my standard White, Rye and Whole Wheat @ 78% Hydration.

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Wow.  Really consistent nice open crumbs. Ear and oven spring look perfect.  I think more steam could give that shiny crispy crust (if that's what you want), but what really really beautiful loaves.

keep the updates coming, love hearing your story.

James

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Great looking bread. Nice work. 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Very happy with the bakes from yesterday, been scoring down the middle and deeper than usual. Had a couple of people ask me to reduce the height of the bread, this seemed to help and the only thing I could think to do other than getting new baskets. 

A loaf from yesterday, unfortunately no crumb shot, customer got the last one I was saving for myself. 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

That is a great looking loaf,  I think you have that oven dialed in now.  

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

Who complains about their bread being too tall??   This is my favorite score right now. straight down the middle and deep.  Good stuff.

 

 

Sourdough_Hobby's picture
Sourdough_Hobby

Appreciate it, but all thanks to everyone here being super helpful and getting the oven to play along. 

Next month I will probably have to attempt some form of pastry, big demand for it in the area.

Will have a go next week and provide updates.