The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Oven set-up for evenly baked batards?

Josh_F's picture

Oven set-up for evenly baked batards?

My first successful loaves were baked in closed dutch ovens but I've tried to move toward batards for ease of slicing, etc. Alas, I'm having inconsistent results, such as yesterday's result using Ken Forkish's Field Blend #2 formula (70% KA AP flour, 17.5% whole rye flour, 12.5% KA WW flour, 78% water, 2.1% salt, 0.2% yeast= 1/2 tsp, with 20% of flour from levain).

One problem I'm struggling with is over-baking of loaf tops and underbaking of the loaf bottoms.

On "bake" setting, my oven has heating elements both on top and on the bottom of the oven. I can't turn off the top heating element so have placed a baking sheet right below the top heating element in hope of protecting the loaf tops.  (It also has a convection bake where the heating element is at the back of the oven near a fan, which I do not use for bread baking.)Oven set-up

I placed the two batards on the baking stone and created steam by pouring boiling water onto the lava rocks shortly before and when loading the loaves. 

Yesterday's loaves seemed a bit overproofed and did not rise well in the oven. (I wonder if only a short bulk fermentation is needed for this formula in the summer months, or perhaps omitting or reducing the 1/2 tsp of yeast.) But I'd greatly appreciate advice about how to evenly bake the tops and bottoms of the loaves. 

Other variables:  I baked the loaves at 450 F per the oven thermometer shown above (which requires me to set the oven at 550 F). I preheated the oven for 45-50 minutes but wonder if the stone is still too cool for loading the bread. Perhaps with the stone and lava rocks between the bread and the bottom heating element, the oven remains consistently hotter above the bread than below. 

What oven set-ups have worked for other batard bakers? 



idaveindy's picture

It looks to me like too much water/steam is cooling the stone. This is evidenced by the difference in color between top and bottom.

Preheated stone temp = 450 F.

Temp of rising steam impinging on the stone: 212 F.

Use only one pan of lava rocks. And add only 4 to 6 oz of boiling water, just once.

Also... search site for: Silvia towel

And see Benito's method of both a bare pan and a towel in a pan.

Also, your thermometer is in a non-optimum place. It is cooler there. Place it on the stone for  a better reading.  There is little circulation down there in the corner.

Good luck, amgo.


Also, don't expect a misty cloud of steam after loading bread. As soon as the steam gets much over 212 F it turns into super-heated or "dry" steam, which is invisible.

Misty steam, or "wet steam" is very close to 212.  

I say this because "looking to get a misty cloud" prompts some people to do over-steaming, and thereby cooling the baking stone.


Crumb looks great.  So only one or two more fiddling-around bakes and you'll have it nailed.

wonner's picture

If you like baking in dutch ovens and want to make batards, there is an option, although not cheap:

Here is a link:

Challenger Bread Pan

I do not own one yet but have seen nothing but good reviews. The only negative is the weight.

leslieruf's picture

but these days use an old covered enamelled steel roasting dish and it works well, but it only fits 1 batard at a time.  For baguettes I now place the lava rocks above the bread rather than below and it seems to work - a shiny crust rather a dull one.  you would need to lower the stone a bit as well.

 Just try a few things and see what works best with your oven.  The Sylvia towels are another good one to try.  



Josh_F's picture

I appreciate idaveindy's insights into the effect of cooler steam on the temperature of my stone! So I baked again today using only a 1/2 cup of boiling water in a single tray of lava rocks. I also made some adjustments to the oven temp to ensure that the oven temp was 450 F when loading the batards after steaming. The results were better (as below). I was particularly happy with the better oven rise, but the bottoms remain less well baked than the tops. Perhaps I will consider the covered roasting pan suggestion, as I do have concern that the top heating element on my oven is just too intense for the uncovered batard tops when the bottoms are relatively protected by the stone. In any case, the bread is delicious, and I appreciate this helpful online community. 

CrustyJohn's picture

I have my grandmother's vintage Klafrestrom enameled cast iron dutch oven that's rectangular shaped.  It's proved excellent for baking 400-500g (flour weight) batards.

Here's what they look like: Klafrestrom Sweden Cast Iron Blue Enamel Covered Dutch Oven / - Etsy

Another option is to find a larger round dutch oven.  As long as the diameter is equal or greater than the length of the batard, it will work just fine.  

One virtue of the Klafrestrom D.O. that I'm using is that on occasions where I mess up and end up with a very wet dough or a dough that otherwise doesn't hold it's shape well, the D.O. being roughly batard shaped helps limit the dough from spreading out too much.  It's a bit like gutter guards at the bowling ally!