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Hot or cold oven to start your baking? | Sourdough Companion

Hot or cold oven to start your baking?

With my general bread baking (not sourdough) over the last 30 odd years, I have always been used to getting the oven up to temperature before I bake the bread.  I just read that starting from a cold oven can be beneficial.  What do most of you folks do?

13 comments

Hi Steve,

Perhaps you have been reading the same blogs as me in recent times.

I normally use a stone and preheat but as the article that I read says that uses a lot of energy which might not be a good thing in these times perhaps.  So I tried their idea of putting the loaf into a cold oven (no stone) and sure enough the loaf baked just fine.  Couldn't say whether it was better or worse but it was OK.  I forgot to check on my energy consumption but the last time I checked on a regular bake it looked like it was only between 20 and 40 cents worth so maybe not much on a cost basis but perhaps a bit more on a feel good basis.

I suppose the concept of preheating arose in the days of wood fired stoves when it could take some time to get to and return to temperature after a heat loss.  But with modern stoves that is less of a problem and so you can get away with it.

I will probably try it again sometime soon and try to remember to check on the energy difference.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Hi Farinam,

How much longer did it take to cook when you started from cold? Seems to me if it takes a lot longer then the cost would work out the same. My oven has a quick pre-heat function that only takes around 10 mins to get the temperature up then you switch to baking mode so that is what I am doing currently.  It takes forever to pre-heat on baking mode (more than 30 mins) so I expect the bread would lose its spring if i started cold. Attempts to save energy by baking 2 loaves side by side have been a miserable failure with both loaves bursting badly on the sides where they are closest. I gave up after 3 attempts at trying to adjust the conditions. Trouble is that there is not enough height to put 2 stones on separate racks.

Any energy saving advice would be welcome!

Cheers!

Hello Electricboots,

I followed my normal bake time (40 mins for a 500g flour loaf).

I will delve into the energy records to see if I can be a bit more specific but I might have to repeat the cold start first.

Keep on bakin'

Farinam

I always start with a hot oven, but I’ve significantly reduced the heating time (thanks to all who have given me advice in this board). I’ve used an infrared thermometer to check the surface temperature and so it seems that 50 minutes of pre-heating at 500F is enough. In summer I’ll try leaving the stone under the sun for a while, it might be even more efficient to start with a warmer stone.

I’ll also try to find a smaller pizza stone (or something rectangular), perhaps two of them, so that the heat circulates more easily in the oven when I bake. And I’d get more uniform result when baking 2 breads at once. (It works fine but only if the stone is really, really hot.)

We’ve finally bought a new land lot to build a house and there will be an outdoor bread oven for sure in our plans. It will be build in a year though so I have to be patient.

 

I have to admit baking a few loaves from a cold oven myself. I remember reading somewhere you can do this, and you basically use the warm up time as part of the proofing time (if it takes an hour to warm up your oven normally, consider that time in the oven as proofing time). I didn't seem to lose any oven spring. Then again, I always get a lot of spring, hot oven or not. I'm thinking, since sourdough takes a lot of time fermenting, that time in a warming oven isn't a large percentage of the overall proofing time, so any effects would be minimal. Thoughts anyone?

I always seem to get a better rise in a free form loaf on a baking strone when it is fully warmed to a high start heat (45 mins or so at around 230-240 C. What seems to happen is that the loaf will spread and flatten on being placed on the stone - this is true regardless of how well warmed it is. the difference is that when the stone and oven are really hot, the loaf will spring well in the next 10-15 mins before the crust sets and prevents any further meaningful oven spring (for me). When teh stone is only half-heated, the loaf spreads as usual, but doesn't then bounce up vertically as much before "setting". I've read on other forums where otheres have had the same issue as me, but I can't say that would apply to everyone. And maybe, for instance, a slightly underproofed loaf wouldn't spread so much, and might spring more naturally anyway.

As well, I have read that a cold start works fine (and sometimes even better) when baking in a cast-iron pot, or other sided container that will limit the "spread" of the loaf. Perhaps with the cast-iron pot, as well as the sides limiting the spread, the lid-on effect will keep the loaf in a humid environment a bit more and prevent that "setting" effect until a little later, so the ultimate degree of oven spring is not compromised?

So for me, baking on a stone with no container involved, I'll keep heating fully before baking. 

...and I don't mean unturned.

Hi Davo,

The cold start approach is to bake on a metal tray.  If you tried to use a stone in this situation them you would definitely have problems.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

the metal tray may be it. I don't have a stone and was using a thin cookie sheet. l now use a thick aluminum tray, but still don't warm the tray. loaves are formed and proofed on the tray, then into the oven.

Many thanks for your comments.  Looks like more expense.  Had some of my flax heaven sourdough in sandwches at work today - pretty tasty!

Hi guys,

This is about as close as I could get it for a pre-heat bake.

Pre-heat 1 hour, Energy 1.46kWh, cost $0.31

Bake 40mins, Energy 0.59kWh, cost $0.12

Obviously the bake phase following the falling temperature regime benefitted from the stored energy in the stone with significantly less energy input.  I would expect that the bake from cold option will come in somewhere in between.  I plan to repeat the monitoring exercise with a cold start next time and will report back.

Keep on bakin - hot or cold.

Farinam

The biggest issue for me would be not being able to expose the crust to steam in the first part of the baking process. I guess it would be ok depending ont he type of bread I was making.

Hi Guys,

It seems from the figures above that the larger energy usage comes when the oven is taken up to the correct temperature and that would always happen whether starting the bake hot or cold. After that it is just maintaining the temp via thermostat and if a falling temperature regime is followed during baking of the loaf then the thermostat would not cut in and out much at all. I guess the economy would lie in baking the loaves together or sequentially (or straight after dinner is cooked) so that there is only one big pre-heat from cold.

Cheers

Today I did a bake from cold with the loaf on a metal tray.  It took the oven fifteen minutes to get to 250C.  I then started the falling temperature adjustment over another 30 minutes of bake time.  I would normally bake 40 minutes.

The energy input was about 0.5KWh so about one quarter of that used for the pre-heat with stone.

The loaf seems to be fine.  I have not cut it yet.  It did split at the base a bit so maybe the crust did get a bit dry before the oven spring started.  I might try again using a cloche or even include a water container to see what effect that has on the timing and so forth.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam