The Fresh Loaf

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Tips on potential upgrades for better sourdough results

rmpc's picture

Tips on potential upgrades for better sourdough results

Hi there,

I run a restaurant in Portugal with the current set up for sourdough bread baking:

– Unox Convection Oven XEVC-0711-EPRM (7 trays) with stainless steel baking sheets (no baking stones)
– Ankarsrum Assistent Mixer
– Komo Duett 200 mill

All grains are milled in-house on a daily basis. For our sourdough bread, we use 'barbela', an ancient variety of wheat known to have a much lower gluten content. All flour is sifted, with an extraction rate of around 90%. We don't autolyse, since from our experience the dough seemed to deteriorate right away, becoming really slack. So flour, water, salt and levain are mixed all together in the beginning. Currently, hydration is at around 75% and we bulk ferment for about 4 hours, proofing overnight in the fridge.

Right now we're baking 9-12 loaves per day, scaled at 815 g before shaping.

Some issues we're facing:

  • The Ankarsrum can't really handle more than 5 kg of dough, which means we always need to run two batches of the same dough every day. We feel like this is becoming a cumbersome task (due to repetition), so I'd love to get feedback on this. Is this routine something common to a lot of bakers (split same dough mixing in two or more batches)? Or do most bakers at this level just get a bigger mixer to avoid this? I'd obviously be happy to get a bigger mixer, but this is not the ideal moment for new investments.
  • Our Unox convection oven is driving us crazy. If we bake at 200ºC or above, the dough surface will dry too soon, not allowing for a good oven spring. If we go at 190ºC or less, we get a better oven spring but the crust will come out poor. In both cases, the bottoms are always coming out soft and quite often cracked – probably due to baking on baking sheets (with Teflon-like liners) or to the fact that the dough surface has dried too soon. Also, after a couple of hours, the crust becomes soft, as if the bread had been sitting on the counter for a day or two. What have we tried so far:
    • Pre-heat the baking sheets prior to loading the loaves. Didn't really seem to make a difference. I even took a baking steel from home to test it with the Unox, but the results weren't exactly much better.
    • Cover the loaves with a sheet pan turned upside down to counter the airflow generated by the fan (it's always at the minimum setting, but we can't really switch it off). Didn't make a difference.
    • Place a pan on the bottom of the oven and fill it with boiling water upon loading the loaves. Helps with oven spring, but probably too much (softer crust in the end). Tried this with both 0% and 100% humidity, with similar outcomes.

I know that convection ovens (with an always-on fan) aren't really ideal for bread baking, but this is becoming more and more frustrating every day. We can't really get consistently good results, even when nailing everything else (starter activity, mixing, shaping, etc.). Is there someone working with the same type of oven who can give us tips on how to improve this? (In case you're wondering, the oven was already at the restaurant when we came in)


We have analysed several options:

– Getting a proper oven for bread baking. The Rofco B40 would be the main candidate, though it's a costly investment. Are there alternatives to Rofco you would recommend (knowing we're based in Europe)? Space is limited in our kitchen and the Unox is needed for other tasks, so a deck oven isn't really feasible.

– Fitting 3/4 custom-made baking stones to fit our Unox (and help with the broken bottoms)

– Trying to sell the Ankarsrum for a good price and buy a commercial mixer


Any other suggestions?


All input is appreciated! Thanks.

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

After looking at several sites it seems that it is usual for commercial bread ovens to start and end on a lower temperature with the middle portion of the bake having a higher temperature.

You may want to try something like this rather than sticking to one temperature throughout, although not ideal, timewise.

I was advised with lower gluten flours than you can build more gluten with a slightly wetter consistency to begin, mixed vigorously. Then add remaining flour and water for final knead.

rmpc's picture

Thanks for the input, Meat5000. I wasn't clear about temperatures. For most bakes, I've started at 200ºC and lowered the temperature after 15-20 minutes (most often to 180ºC). Could maybe experiment with 180ºC to being with, up to 200ºC after a while and then back to 180ºC. It might yield somewhat different results – let's give it a try.

About mixing, how long would you wait until adding remaining flour? I'm always a bit concerned about adding flour after gluten has developed quite a bit.

barryvabeach's picture

I have the smaller Unox, and make bread from home milled wheat  ( hard winter white ), mixed in the Ankarsrum, so I am pretty close to you in equipment, though I only do it for home.    I don't have any problems with the bottom of the loaves when I bake on a stone .   You might want to look for kiln shelves - that is what they call them here, and they are fairly inexpensive . 

 Yes, the fan is too high.  They sell a cover for it to cut down on the air movement,  though I can't tell if that has much of a difference.  I normally bake in a Dutch Oven, but that would probably not work for you.   You know that the Rofco bakes primarily from stored heat.  I tried to duplicate it in my  Unox, if you can find some fire bricks cheaply, you may want to try that .  Load it up ,  preheat high, then load the loafs,  turn off the oven, then turn back on when half way done.  When you read about wood fired ovens, they would do the same,  preheat on high ,  make pizza, then as the oven cools, load it with bread to cook.  

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

This highlights the importance of letting the heat reach the centre before bombarding with constant energy. The time this takes is sometimes longer than browning and hardening a crust. Other elements inside an oven can also absorb the energy meaning that heat is sufficient to cook crust but it no longer enough to penetrate the hardened loaf.

I get annoyed at my wife when she puts food to cook in the oven whilst im baking. My loaves come out paler and bottoms take longer to bake compared to the crust.

Tmax's picture

Old Joke:

Your last para made me laugh :)

Reminds me of that old joke, where the husband asks his wife what she would like for her birthday ?

A divorce came the reply

oh... he says ... I wasn't thinking of spending that much !!!!!

johnnymonster's picture

I bake sourdough in Unox Bakerlux, and this are the result.. Let me know if you already need help..

JHESTRADA's picture

Hello .... I recently bought a Bakerlux Shop.Pro Rossella MASTER oven and I use it in my home as I like cooking and my daughters are making cookies and other pastry things ... I am becoming fond of bread from sourdough and I have been discovering on my own how to use this oven for this type of bread ... My results have not been the best ... There are not enough tutorials and I have tried to apply baking programs that I find on the internet , but I still haven't gotten good results ... Could you tell me the baking program you are using for your breads in your unox bakerlux oven?

johnnymonster's picture

Hello JHEstrada, Do you have steel plate?, its neccesary.. Where are you from?

JHESTRADA's picture

I use a fakiro plate that I preheat at 250 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes.  But I still don't get the results I want.

thefermentingfolder's picture

Wow! Those look very good! I’ve just gotten a Unox Bakerlux Shop pro LED (the Arianna) and have been tinkering around with finding the best temperatures for sourdough loaves. I’ve found that the crust on the loaves baked in the Unox seems to be much thinner and less ‘crusty’ than when baked in a Dutch oven in a conventional home oven? Is that your experience too? Would you mind sharing the oven programme that you use? It’s been quite difficult finding more information on the internet. 

ive been using the aluminium trays that come with the oven, as I’m still waiting for my Fakiro aluminium shelves to arrive. Can I put my old steel plate in? Or is that not advisable? Those standard aluminium trays feel quite flimsy...

Jacinta's picture

Hi, I have a Unox bakerlux nad I’m currently using the fakiro pre-heated at 250 C for 30 mins. I steam for a minute before loading, load, steam for 1 more minute and then turn off for 10 minutes. Turn on and continue baking without steam.

I haven’t gotten great oven spring as I used to with my regular oven and DO. Also haven’t been able to get a crusty sourdough bread. The crust is too thin and it gets soft while the bread is cooling.

has anyone been able to get good oven spring and a good crust in a bakerlux? Mind sharing settings?