Saturday, July 26, 2008

Better Bread in a Gas Oven

There's a reason they say "Now we're cooking with gas!" I'd never go back to an electric cook top. But they don't say "Now we're baking with gas!" There's just too much air circulation to get real consistency. I should find the repair manual and fiddle with the burner, but I'm a little leery of messing with anything that has the words "natural gas" and "burn" in the same sentence.

There was a young woman from Wales
Said an odor of coal-gas prevails
She then lit a light
And later that night
Was collected in seventeen pails

A search through the cookbook shelf and th' Intrawebs gave some helpful advice.

Home ovens lose a lot of heat when you open the door. By the time the temperature creeps back up it's too late for the bread. The best bread ovens are have huge concrete slabs and thick masonry walls to create thermal mass. Dinky 10x14 Pizza Oven Stones make the home baker feel "artisanal" and cost fifty bucks but don't add that much. My professional baking stone was a broken chunk of granite countertop dumpster-dived from a marble and tile store. Approximate cost zero. Thermal mass? Very very high. To cut down on the heat loss I pre-heated to 500ᴼ, shoved the loaves in as quickly as possible and reset the temperature to 450ᴼ.

Commercial bakeries have special attachments to introduce steam in the first ten minutes of baking. Steam condenses on the relatively cool dough and delays crust formation. The loaves can expand longer, and the crust doesn't tear. Modifying the oven wasn't in the cards that night or any night until there's a spare to play with. I put a roasting pan on the bottom rack and dumped in a cup of water when the bread went in.

The results were very good. The bread rose better and more consistently. The crust wasn't burned, and it didn't tear on cutting.

No explosions. No gun fu. No chainsaw fu. No aardvarking.

Joe Bob Briggs says "Check it out."


Mushtaq Ali said...

It just goes to show you, great minds think alike.

I have been culturing a sourdough started with the intention of baking some serious bread. I have been looking fore some oven stones for the last couple of days. Today Chuck managed to score a couple without knowing I had been looking for them. Live is strange.

javieth said...
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priya said...

Looks amazing!!!! /I look forward to your feedback /thanks for this man it was very helpful.

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