The Fresh Loaf

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Rofco experience: difficulty in achieving consistent quality

Jane Copeland's picture
Jane Copeland

Rofco experience: difficulty in achieving consistent quality

Hi all, I have had a Rofco B40 for about 3 weeks and have been baking in it every day since then. I bake in terracotta cloches because I think the bread is better when it’s baked in a pot with a lid - it rises much higher and looks more impressive in my experience.  And you don’t have to muck around with steaming mechanisms as the lids do that job.

However, I am having trouble getting the bottoms of the loaves to cook properly in the Rofco - they just don’t really crisp up enough and they feel soggy even after an hour in the oven.  I have never had this problem in any home oven I’ve used and that’s with the same terracotta cloches.  In fact, I am a bit disappointed overall with the Rofco so far as the temperature between each of the shelves is very different ; the ones on the middle shelf cook much quicker on the tops and are almost burnt after 40 minutes in the oven.  So I have to do a lot of swapping the loaves around between shelves.

I preheat the oven at 240 degrees for 90 minutes before putting the loaves in the oven and then once I put them in, I have been turning it down to 150 degrees (sometimes 180) for the first 20 minutes so that the tops have a chance to rise as much as possible before a hard crust forms.  And then I take the lids off and turn the oven up to 220 degrees.  

However, no matter what I do, the bottoms of the loaves are heavy and soggy. - I don’t get that lovely sound when I tap them.  I have taken to turning the loaves upside down to try and firm up the bottoms so I end up doing an awful lot of intervening during the bake just to try and get a reasonable quality  - something I have never had a problem with in a normal run of the mill home oven. I have been baking seriously for about six years and make about 40-50 leaves per week so I have used quite a lot of different home ovens during that time.

I have tried baking free form loaves but I always come back to the pots because I like the higher loaves rather than loaves that spread out.  And given that I have never had this problem using the cloches before, I don’t think they are the problem.  It may be that the Rofco isn’t at its best unless you bake free form loaves in it.


Andrew's picture

Hopefully you haven't given up on the Rofco B40 as they are excellent ovens for a micro bakery and also offer a large degree of control. I now have six of them so can do 72 loaves per hour in my craft bakery.

Here's a few thoughts for you to get the best out of the oven.

You need to preheat the oven at 290C for two hours for the stones to be hot enough to do their job. 240C is way too cool, and all that will happen is that the dough will spread too much before setting.

If your using a non pre-heated cloche as well, this will only exacerbate the problem. Basically what's happening is that because of the base of the cloche you've put an extra layer between the bottom surface of the dough and (what should be) the hot stone. You can do away with the cloche as you want the underside of the dough to directly touch the stone (with only bake-o-glide between them) so that you can achieve the correct oven spring and the crust.

Re the difference in the shelves - If you haven't already got one, purchase an infrared thermometer as this will help you learn where each of the three stones is at temperature-wise. In advance of the first cycle, usually the top stone will be hottest, followed by the middle stone, and the bottom one will trail behind by a good 10 degrees C. Subsequent cycles will often show that the bottom stone is hotter than the others. This has to do with Rofco design meaning the placement of the thermostat and the fact the bottom element rests direct under the bottom stone, causes this particular stone to heat in a different way to the others. You can partially fix this by lifting the bottom stone off the element (I use stainless steel nuts that are about 1cm thick).

Lastly, it matters greatly whether the elements are on or off at particular points of the bake (and this depends on what type of loaves you are doing).Generally, it's important that the elements turn off for about 9-10 minutes at the start of the bake, and the turn on again in unison from then on for the rest of the bake. I now do this by timing, rather than rely on the thermostats (to negate the problem of the bottom elements coming back on again later than the top elements).

One extra complication - assuming the oven is hot enough to start with (as above) you can further control the spread of the dough by keeping all the elements on for the first 1-2 mins of the bake. This can help with slacker doughs, such as higher percentage rye loaves or super-hydrated doughs,

Hope this all helps.

Jane Copeland's picture
Jane Copeland

Hi Andrew, thanks so much for your detailed response to my comments on problems with my Rofco.  I have now had it for a year and am getting a reasonably good performance from it now.  Thanks for your comments about the preheating - time and temperature - that’s useful and I’ve started doing what you suggest.   Also on the differences between the shelves.  I did actually raise the bottom shelf as you suggest when I first got the oven as I had read that this was a good idea.   I am not using the clay pots with lids any more and am now actually using tins a lot of time.  They are working well even though the dough does not get put straight onto the stone . I also bake free form loaves which generally work well but you can’t fit as many into the oven and also people like the bread baked in tins as they are a more useable shape.  Anyway, I really appreciate your useful suggestions and thanks so much for taking the time to answer my comments.  :)