After years of baking in tins and on baking trays, discovering sole baking was a revelation. The bread was just so much better in every way - the crust was thinner, and the kick was phenomenal. And then, I looked at my bakery full of stuff, bread tins and trays everywhere - rooms full of it in fact - and pretty much decided there and then that I had been barking up the wrong tree for the past dozen years.
There is more to using an oven than winding the dial to the desired temperature. This is especially true when baking bread. You need to know about how heat works, how to get moisture in the baking chamber, and how to set up your oven properly to make a good looking loaf. There are alternatives to your kitchen oven too, so read on to learn more!
(or 'how to get a better bake')
Like a guitar, an oven can be tuned. This process is probably more relevant to the frequent baker, rather than the occasional one - and certainly relevant for the commercial or semi commercial baker, working with less than perfect equipment. It is also relevant if you are particularly interested in sole baking, because getting really decent bread baked on the sole of the oven can involve a lot of hit and miss.
The basics of oven tuning
Tuning the oven involves, at its simplest, getting the bread to cook evenly - top, bottom and sides. Then, we look to achieve a good crust colour - not just brown, but golds and reds too. The first part, eveness, is to do with positioning. Crust colour is to do with steam, and also thermal mass.
Hankering for authenticity? Curious about 'sole' baking?
Thinking about embarking on the wood fired bread oven journey (in the back yard)?
Before diving in with the brick oven and all that fuss, why not get started with a backyard BBQ oven? It's actually a truly viable (and valuable, if you've purchased one lately) piece of baking equipment, which can produce amazing bread.
If you want to get the really incredible crust that 'hearth' or 'sole' baking can achieve, this is a relatively cheap (and instant) shortcut.
You might already have a BBQ with a lid and a pizza stone, and been keen to see how this contraption would work as a bread oven. Well, save some time (and possibly money) before diving in, and read this! In a nutshell? If it's done right, a BBQ oven for breadmaking works BRILLIANTLY!
Baking bread is trickier than the recipe books will tell you! But it's also simpler...With a bit of understanding, you can turn a well made and formed dough into something special via expert use of the oven. But there is very little information about how to get to that point, and you'll need to try a whole bunch of different techniques to get there. And, given the inconsistent nature of most home breadmaking, to actually sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of good technique can be very difficult.
That's why you need to read this to understand how to get the results you want.
But first, I strongly recommend that you cover the article on domestic ovens in this website, so you understand the differences between ovens, and how to set them up properly.