The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Oven in an Oven, what about shrinking your Oven?

nosabe332's picture

Oven in an Oven, what about shrinking your Oven?


So i was mulling over baking techniques and adding a few things together. Namely:

- professional restaurant ovens are optimally sized to bake whatever they're baking. eg pizzeria ovens are just tall enough to clear a pizza. this reduces wasted energy, heating only a volume of air that is in contact with the baked good.

- heating a small space is cheaper and quicker than heating a large space.

- the Oven in an Oven method traps moisture from the dough and keeps it close to the crust.

- most baked goods do not fill up an entire oven. a 16 lb turkey does, but not three one-lb loaves.

ok, so the distillation of all that is: can we modify our kitchen ovens to bake bread in the most efficient way possible?

essentially, can we form an insulating barrier inside the oven, effectively minimizing the amount of energy needed to keep it hot?

has anyone attempted this? i'd be very interested in trying something like this, considering that when i make 1 lb of bread, i have to heat up a space maybe 20-30x larger than i need to.


GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

but I'm not sure that I could accurately re-create the experience.  Here goes:

My oven is an older model, no self-cleaning mechanisms and as such, it doesn't get cleaned unless I absolutely have to do it.  Three days ago I attempted to bake bread, turning the oven to my 450 degrees, preheating and proceeding.  About ten minutes into the bake and I have smoke EVERYWHERE.  It was necessary that I turn the oven off and forget about proceeding until I scoured the oven.  With nothing to lose, I left the unfinished loaf to the gods knowing that it was ruined.  Hours later and I return to find a beautifully browned, thoroughly baked loaf. I would discover, that with the exception of a bit of 'smokiness', this loaf was delectable. 

The oven is now clean and I'm considering attempting a re-do, minus that smoke.  I'll report back in a few days on the success or failure.  I'm definitely going to follow your thread, my electric provider has notified me of a rate increase. 

PaddyL's picture

...lining the oven with unglazed quarry tiles, on the top rack and on the bottom rack, I don't know about the sides, but I doubt if it would cut down on the amount of energy it takes to bake the bread.  Who knows?  Might be worth a try, if you can lay your hands on that many tiles.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

are smaller. They are more economical. A lot more.

Mini O

suave's picture

And don't get me started about their washing machines.

swtgran's picture

It does seem such a waste to heat up a honking big oven for 1-2 loaves of bread, especially since I rarely ever use my oven for anything else. 

I am about to see if I can find a 12 x 12 pizza stone for my Cuisinart covection toaster oven.  I use it for nearly every thing else I bake, including biscuits and small loaf quick breads.  It has been the only toaster I have ever owned that performed so well, that is has become my main oven for two.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona an oven. You can't change it's size or the way it heats. You probably can't change how well its insulated (maybe you could change the gasket around the oven door).

Using a large baking stone (or *unleaded* quarry tiles) or even a HearthKit brick oven insert will increase your energy consumption if you only do one baking at a time. These additions all have the property that they are slow to heat but retain heat well. After the initial preheat period, their stored heat will possibly reduce the amount of energy you must use to keep to the required temperature. Only if you do multiple bakings, one right after the other, can you hope to realize $$$ savings in your energy costs.

If you want to save on energy costs (and can't replace your oven) you can [1]take advantage of the stored heat in your oven once its turned off and/or [2]explore cold oven baking.

> stored heat - for freeform (aka "artisan") breads you can experiment with reducing the recommended total baking time by 10 to 15 minutes and instead let the loaves continue to bake in the turned off oven with the oven door either closed (if your oven is *not* well insulated) or cracked open slightly (if your oven *is* well insulated). Oven spring happens primarily in the first 5 minutes of baking (definitely by the first 10 minutes). The last 15 minutes or so of baking is to insure that the center of the loaf is well baked and (possibly) to further develop the crust. Explore shortening the time your oven is actually *on* and lengthening the time of the bake, with the end of the bake using the stored heat in the oven (and the bread itself). If you use a stone or tiles, you could experiment with removing the loaves from the stone, turning the oven off and finishing the bake directly on the oven rack to allow air circulation at the bottom as well as the sides and top.

> cold oven start - for *loaf pan breads* you can skip the preheating of the oven entirely and still get well risen bread. I find the total baking time can remain the same (timing from when the loaves go into the cold oven) or only needs to be increased by about 5 minutes. If you wish, you can use the stored heat from the oven to finish the bake. About 10 minutes before the end of the baking time, [1]remove the loaves from the pan and place directly on the oven rack and [2]turn off the oven. There have been many discussions on TFL on cold oven baking - here is one link about it baking a sandwich loaf without preheating the oven

======== musings ==========
While we all wish to create professional breads, it is difficult to turn a home kitchen into a professional bakery.

Part of what a professional baker must master is efficient use of the oven. The oven is on all day, so no time should elapse between removing one batch of loaves and loading the next, the sequence in which different kinds of breads are baked is carefully orchestrated to maximize the oven's heat, etc. etc. The professional baker who cannot master efficient oven use may not make a profit.

In contrast, the home baker faces an entirely different set of demands, requirements and limitations. Many of us require flexibility in timing (to accommodate busy schedules and home life), safety (if there are children in the home), oven steaming methods that don't risk burns or damage to the oven itself, budget limitations that don't allow us to purchase expensive equipment (- BTW, thanks for all those good tips about less expensive substitutes for the pricey stuff) - I could go on and on.

I have learned many things from other posters to TFL. Some of the tips I value the most have been posted by skilled home bakers who recognize the difference between a home kitchen and a professional bakery. Rather than attempting to duplicate a professional bakery, they think outside the box and post proven methods suited to a home kitchen. Among these are certainly the posts about baking under a bowl (or some other cover), cold start / cold oven baking and efficient use of ordinary home ovens. Thank you all.

Wild-Yeast's picture

The idea of a small oven should be viewed from the cooking loafs point of view. Containing the loaf in as small a volume as possible while maintaining cooking temperature is really what we're after. Small volumes allow steam and alcohol vapors from the cooking bread to "bath" the loaf in a crust promoting vapor. The methods used so far to contain the steam lead me to suspect that baking at lower temperature initially is also beneficial giving more time for the oven spring development period.

The idea of a "shelf" divider is a consideration. The idea would be to place a shelf into the oven that divides it into a smaller baking compartment. Most home ovens are not likely to be capable of such a conversion due to position of heating elements, temperature sensors and circulating fans (if equipped).

These conversations are giving me ideas for a new energy and baking efficient oven design. There's an old adage that engineers just "design'em" but don't use them that is unfortunately true. Like anything this will take time and several iterations to get right...,