Baking from a cold start in an old oven?

Discussion in 'Baker Banter' started by J13, May 21, 2019.

  1. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Greetings, fellow bakers,

    I just started reading “Bakewise” by Shirley Corriher, and in her introduction she discusses ovens and baking. She says something very interesting: in the old days you could put dough or batter into a cold oven and turn it on and get a good rise—in fact, a really good rise. This because when making cakes and breads, it’s best to heat from the bottom, so that bread or cake rises before the heat on top is hot enough to create a crust and stop that rise. In old ovens, the heat came from the bottom only, and so this was possible. In modern ovens, however, heating comes from many directions, and so this can’t be done—turn on a modern oven and top, bottom and sides all heat to the desired temperature, not the bottom first and then, gradually, the top. Which is why she recommends using a baking stone in such ovens.

    With me so far?

    Here’s the thing...I own a refurbished old oven. One of those on legs put out from around 1910-1920. Yeah. It’s sweet. And yes, the heat in the oven comes from gas flames along the bottom. I haven’t tried it....but now I’m wondering what would happen if I put in, say, a pan of cold cake batter and turned on the oven to the required temperature. I imagine it would take longer to bake, but would the results be better? Before I waste a batch of cake batter...has anyone had experience baking this way? Putting in batter or dough into a cold oven rather than a preheated oven? I’m almost afraid to the baking gods will smite me if I try it, so ingrained in me is the rule to “preheat” the oven.
     
    J13, May 21, 2019
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  2. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    It’s not about the a type of oven. It’s about the leavening...and a lot more when I think about it.

    Baking powder is sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) mixed with an acid. Most baking powder in the United States is double acting. In fact I can’t think of a brand in the United States that isn’t double acting. Double acting baking powders are mixed with two types of acid, One acid will dissolve and activate when it is mixed with liquid. It begins to produce gas before the batter is even in the oven.

    If you start with a cold oven you not only extended the baking time by about 10 minutes, but delay the the time it takes the batter to reach the temperature to dissolve and activate the heat sensitive acid. In the meantime the acid that activates first will have run its course. This will produce overall inconsistent and lower rise as The double acting baking powder is not working as intended.


    Baking soda is an alkaline. So it needs to be mixed with an acid in order to activate. So as soon as the batter is mixed the baking soda is activated. The batter is sitting in a cold oven but no rise is actually happening because there’s a lot more to rise than just the leavening. Water evaporation in eggs and other liquids has to happen for the batter expansion. And that doesn’t happen without temperature Temperature also effects rate of protein denaturation and starch gelatinization of the flour. These chemical reaction are necessary for batter expansion and for the batter to set.

    Temperature is a critical part of baking. And it’s not just about oven temperature. Temperature of ingredients. Temperature from friction in mixing. Finished dough temperature. Internal temperature of bread, cake, you don’t bake to time, you bake to internal temperature. In bread making there’s actually a formula to calculate the friction for finished dough temperature. There’s temperature for fermentation. In baking everyone is obsessed with temperature.

    In baking you have to think of temperature is an ingredient.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 22, 2019
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  3. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Awesome reply! Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss this at length. So, okay, it's not a good idea to do this with biscuits or cakes, especially given the double-acting baking powder...but what about yeast? I may be reading this totally wrong, but I *think* Corriher is in agreement with you here that temperature is an ingredient. I think what she's saying is that in the case of bread (?) if the ingredient (temperature) comes up from the bottom to the top of the oven over a period of time, rather than starting at the final temperature throughout the oven, it will create better bread. It will do this by giving it more time to rise before creating a top crust.

    What do you think? Would starting a loaf of bread in a cold oven where the temperature increases from bottom to top assist in this, or would you still get inconsistent results and a lower rise?

    Note: I love to bake, but I've pretty much just followed recipes, and have a lot to learn. And I'm especially ignorant about bread baking which I'm just getting into. So, thank you for any tricks, tips, lessons and info. I really appreciate it.
     
    J13, May 23, 2019
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  4. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you can bake both yeast and sourdough breads in a cold oven. One thing to be careful about as a new baker is recognizing when your bread is ready for the oven. Over proofing happens more often than not. And since you’re starting with a cold oven the yeast is going to continue to develop in the cold oven, so putting it in before it’s at its peak is better than putting dough in right at peak.

    Also it’s important to understand some things about yeast.

    Dry active yeast was a strain of yeast specifically developed to be dehydrated so it could use on the battlefield during World War II. This dehydrated yeast strain reproduces at a higher rate than fresh (cake) yeast when rehydrated.

    Instant yeast is still a different strain of yeast from active dry yeast. With more women entering the workforce in the 1970s, The sale of yeast declined since women baked less. To encourage more baking, this new strain of yeast that developed faster was introduced.

    Since the dry forms of yeast develop faster, significantly less is used to manage their growth in doughs.

    Active dry yeast is used at 50% by weight of fresh yeast

    Instant dry yeast is used at 40% by weight of fresh yeast

    So you just have to keep in mind when you’re using a dry form of yeast, it develops much faster than sourdough starter or fresh yeast. So whenever dough is sitting somewhere, including a cold oven, where the temperature is conducive to yeast growth, you need to manage it closely.

    Examples below of cold oven breads

    Yeast bread
    https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/07/05/baking-in-a-cold-dutch-oven/

    Sourdough bread
    https://foodbodsourdough.com/cold-oven-baking/
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 23, 2019
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  5. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    That is some incredibly useful info on yeast, also fascinating! Thank you. And those websites really help. Here's to a summer of bread baking (or rather, learning how to bake bread....)
     
    J13, May 24, 2019
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  6. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    If you’re interested in a sourdough i think the best site is Perfect Loaf. Plus his photography is beautiful. If you go over to his menu and click on “Guides” you’ll find all of his step-by-step beginner guides.

    https://www.theperfectloaf.com/
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 24, 2019
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  7. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    As it happens I *am* interested in sourdough (VERY!), so thank you very much.
     
    J13, May 24, 2019
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