Baking in a Reliable Oven
There are two major challenges that a pie maker faces…
- Keeping the fats well chilled and…
- Baking in a reliable oven.
Everything else is easy…more or less. But the mechanical part of the operation, the actual oven unit that we heat up, to place the fruit of our labor inside of, with the anticipation of pulling out a pie with a lovely golden top? That seems to be out of our hands. I’d like a little control in this department and if I can’t have control, I’d atleast like a little knowledge of what I’ve got for baking ovens. So, in the name of research…pie research that is…I just spent my Saturday night, toasting bread…two entire loaves of the cheapest white “balloon bread”* I could buy at the discount bread store in my little town, all to test my ovens to see how even their bakes are…or not.
And what I did I learn?
Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus does exist, but all ovens do not bake evenly.
Ready to learn more? Read on, my friends!
Both of my ovens have heating elements on the bottom.
I preheated each oven to 325F for 30 minutes. I placed bread evenly over the rack and baked it until I had made toast.
- After 25 minutes, I had color on the toast in the electric oven both on the top and the bottom.
- There was a fair consistency in color from front to back, and sides to middle on the toast top in the electric oven.
- The bottom toast had a darker consistent color. (Note: The electric oven has been giving me some very nice bottom crusts.)
GAS (PROPANE) OVEN
- I increased the time for the gas oven to 35 minutes because at 25 minutes it wasn’t showing any color.
- At 35 minutes, the toast top in the gas oven finally had some color.
- On both the top toast and bottom toast in the gas oven, there is uneven color (more heat) in the back left and middle, then there is in the front and right middle.
Neither of my ovens gave me a totally even bake. But, I like the electric oven since it bakes and browns faster, and more evenly, than my propane gas oven.
Now it’s your turn to play…
How to Test Your Oven for an Even Bake a/k/a How to Make (a lot of ) Toast
This game will give you a good idea of what is really going on inside your oven when you close that door. Here are the simple rules to play!
- You will need approximately 1 loaf of white “Balloon bread”* for each oven you are testing.
- Place rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 325F for at least 30 minutes.
- Place bread in rows evenly covering the rack as completely as possible and close oven door.
- Set timer for 25 minutes.
- Open oven and look to see if the bread is toasted. Add more time in 5 minute increments if needed.
- When some, or most, of it looks like toast, pull the rack out of the oven, set safely on a counter that will not burn, and take a look at the entire top side of the bread on the rack. Is the bread toasted evenly? Is some not toasted at all? Is some toasted more than in other places? Where? Sides? Back? Middle?
- Now, turn all pieces of bread over so that you are looking at the bottom side of the toast. What do you see? Is it darker? Is it the same color as the top side? Is the bread toasted evenly? Is some of it not toasted at all? Is some of it toasted more than other places? Where? Sides? Back? Middle?
*”Balloon bread”: White bread that is super squishy and full of unpronounceable additives.
Share Your Results with the Pie World!
If you decide to take part in this experiment, after toasting, look at the top and bottom of your toasted bread, and include the info below in a comment to this post.
- How was your bake? Even, uneven? Where?
- Brand of Oven (Ex. KitchenAid, Sears, Viking, Whirlpool, etc.)
- Model if possible (This may be difficult to find in which case, go to next line)
- How many $$’s do you rate your oven? (Examples: 1$: I bought it at the thrift store. 5$$$$$: I mortgaged my house and used my children’s inheritance to buy this stove, and it better darn well have an even bake, thank you very much!)
- Gas or Electric: I tested with my electric oven, and with my propane gas oven.
- If Gas, is it propane or natural gas.
- Convection (if you use convection to bake, then use convection in the test. You may want to do a 2nd test without convection to see if there is much difference. And, by the way, there is now convection (1 fan) and TRUE convection (2 fans). I guess that would be good to know.
Truly this will be very helpful for all of us pie makers who ask such burning questions as:
- “Do you like your oven?”
- “Does your oven have a reliable even bake?”
OK, ready, set, go!