Making Good use of Oven Space – Breadbox

Zeb Bakes Bread

I am often asked if I repeat the breads I bake and the answer is that of course I do, but just as no two days are the same, no two breads that I bake are ever quite the same, I’m a home baker after all!

We have favourites and variations on themes so this is what I am going to call a Breadbox post, it will probably have a bread I’ve blogged about before but these posts will have nice pics ( I hope) of those and any half baked thoughts that are floating around in my head.

This bread uses the formula that you can find here.  I used Felin Ganol’s white wheat flour where I would normally use rye, that’s the only change to the mix of the formula. I mixed the dough the night before, chilled it overnight, and shaped and baked the following day.

This time I divided the dough into three lots, to see if I could squeeze them all on the baking stone at the same time. It’s always a fight to get two boules on at the same time in my domestic oven.

At the moment I am a little concerned with finding a balance between making too much bread for my and my neighbour’s needs and having to freeze it all and between using the oven efficiently. It isn’t cheap to heat an oven up for an hour to bake one loaf of bread, I estimated with the help of a kind Twitter person that it costs me approximately 40 p or so each time. That adds up quite considerably if you are baking one loaf each day so as to have ‘fresh bread’ each day. Luckily I like bread when it has matured,  so I eat my bread at all stages of its usable life, turning it into breadcrumbs and croutons when it really gets too hard to slice.

Personally I think that being exhorted to bake your own bread on TV is all very well, but it has to fit in with your life and your finances. These programmes rarely talk about energy costs and how to use your oven efficiently, I think they should address this more. Boules look beautiful, but tins are far more efficient, as indeed are flatbreads cooked on top of the stove in a short time, which use far less fuel to bake. The roti I baked recently took less than two minutes to cook.  One reason why flatbreads are so popular and widespread in many countries in the world is that they are fuel efficient, though time consuming to make.

At other times and places people have taken their bread to communal ovens to bake and still do as these photos Allison sent me show, people paid a small amount to have their bread baked for them and certainly wouldn’t have expected to have the luxury of fresh bread every day. I wonder if we will ever go back to those days, or will we all sit in our own houses guzzling fuel like there’s no tomorrow until we run out…

I am not naive, I don’t think that one person baking a full oven’s worth of bread is going to solve global warming and our fuel crisis,  but I do think that sometimes we overglamorize the home production of food without thinking through the whole process. To maximise efficiency we need to be accepting of the need to eat bread that is more than a day old, that has got a little dry and have a less fetishistic attitude towards the cult of ‘fresh’ food.

Many writers make a virtue of using their leftovers;  to me it’s second nature, nothing out of the ordinary, food is food and should all be treated with equal respect.  I don’t know when things changed, somewhere between my childhood and now. In the UK food rationing didn’t finish completely till the 1950s and the legacy of that period and the habit of using your leftovers with respect was taught me by my parents and grandparents.

One of the problems for me about eating in restaurants is that I am in effect wasting food by so doing.  The amount of food that is thrown away in restaurants on their journey towards creating perfect platefuls is staggering, not even talking about the food that people leave on their plate.

I use all sorts of things in my breads that people would call leftovers, from staling crusts, to whey from  draining yoghurt and I check the fridge before I start cooking and make small salads or starters from bigger dishes from previous days. It’s just a habit.

Going back to my attempts to use the oven better and still have the pleasure of making hand shaped bread, I dug out my couche cloth and  went for a fattish baton that fitted the length of the baking stone so I could fit three in side by side.  I also used this little flipping board to slide them onto the stone, so I could position them where I wanted them without distorting their shape too much. If you start moving the dough around inside the oven at the beginning of the bake, they end up in all sorts of funny shapes.

As you can see I didn’t shape them as evenly as a pro baker would, but I think they look lovely just as they are and I am not that fussed these days about achieving a shop look to my bread.  I will write a little more about the Felin Ganol mill and their flour when I have baked a bit more with it as I am still feeling my way. It does seem to give an excellent spring in the oven even when used in addition like this and the flavour is excellent.

I tried to take pictures and slash at the same time, as people are always curious about the slashing, unfortunately my slashing suffers a bit when I try and multi task, but I hope the photos gives you some clues as to how to do it.

Things to consider

  1. Don’t let the bread overprove but don’t think that baking under proved is the answer either.
  2.  Observe your dough every half an hour or so and experiment with baking loaves at different stages to see what the result is. You will find that if you bake the bread relatively early it will often rise more in the oven, but that the crumb may be a mix of close small holes and large more open ones, with a thicker dense layer at the bottom of the loaf; that loaf should have proved for longer, it is under proved. I see a lot of loaves like that being shown in photos. They look beautiful and dramatic from the outside but inside they could be airier and more evenly developed. This maybe is the hardest thing to judge, when to put the dough in the oven. I don’t always get it right I have to say. The loaves in this post could have gone for another half an hour to forty five minutes I reckon and the crumb would have been more open which is why I am talking about this.
  3. Dusting the top of the loaf with a little flour before slashing can be useful; dusting protects the top of the loaf in the oven and provides a nice colour contrast between the open area of the slash and the top. I think it dries the skin slightly as well and can help the knife not to stick to the top of the dough, though if it is a very hydrated dough the knife will drag inside anyway. There is a certain element of sang froid involved in slashing and I know, from experience, it can be one of the most frustrating moments for a home baker.
  4. Slash down the middle of the loaf, in the top centre third.
  5. Resist the temptation to slash across the loaf, the slashes tend not to open so widely if you do that. Remember that the spring of the loaf and the curve created will pull the slashes across the loaf for you. What you see at the end of the bake is different from how it looks when it goes in.
  6. Keep the slashes the same length and parallel to each other for the neatest look.
  7. Be extra careful and plan before how you are going to move the dough around at the final stage. Use the back of a tray or make a flipping board, dough is fragile at this stage. Or use a tin (loaf pan) of course!
  8. Use your oven space to its maximum capacity if you possibly can.
  9. Put a small tray on a lower rack to heat in the oven that you can pour boiling water into after you have loaded the oven with the breads. This creates steam in the oven which helps the top of the loaf to stay soft while the inside is springing and helps prevents the loaf from cracking at the sides if there is spring still going on when the top has already set. There’s a big battle going on in that oven, with the crust setting at the same time as the live yeasts become super active creating huge amounts of gas before they expire.

Discussion Points :

  • Do you worry about your carbon footprint and how much energy you use in the home?
  • What is your strategy for making best use of your oven ?
  • Would you use a communal oven if one was available to you?
  • And what is your attitude towards how ‘fresh’ you want your bread to be? Will your family eat bread that is a couple of days old?

PS Do feel free to comment on each others’ comments by the way ! I’ll be back later to chat. Thanks for reading!

48 thoughts on “Making Good use of Oven Space – Breadbox

  1. Ray

    Interesting. I tend to bake one day a week producing two large loaves. I don’t think i always get the proving right, perhaps erring on the side of under proving, but I am still learning. Regarding carbon footprint – whilst in general terms I think my carbon foot print is lower than the average person, I have never thought about it regarding baking bread. I tend to bake two loaves consecutively rather than squeeze them in together. That may change if I ever get a proper baking stone. However, I love the longevity of sourdough and though tucking in to a slice just after it has cooled from the oven is heavenly, I still enjoy a piece on day five, toasted or dunked in soup.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am not particularly regular in my habits, but I guess on average I bake once or twice a week and I nearly always make two or three loaves so that I can use the oven and spend the time productively too. My carbon footprint isn’t particularly low, apart from the fact that I haven’t been on a plane for a good few years. I used to bake a lot of bread in tins and put it in the freezer, but for some reason I don’t usually like sourdough baked in a tin which I can’t put my finger on. Probably not rational, but maybe something to do with crust. I love the sourdough as it gets older and rye breads in particular improve with age :)

  2. hotlyspiced

    I hate to throw out ‘old’ bread so I use it to make croutons and stuffings and if I can’t think of a recipe to cook, I’ll just turn it into crumbs and put it into zip lock bags and store it in the freezer. I can’t help but think that you must have a LOT of leftover bread.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There used to be too many loaves when I was wildly into baking every recipe I saw a couple of years ago, but I bake less now.

      I also learnt quickly to give it away, or freeze it for later or like you I make it into crumbs and croutons if it has simply got hard and old. One of the nice things about sourdough is that it tends not to grow mouldy very quickly due to the acids in the bread which inhibit mould growth. It’s always a bit of a shock when a sourdough loaf goes mouldy, usually only if the weather is hot and humid.

  3. tom

    like you i hateto throw away ‘old’ food, one way of useing not so fresh bread I have learned from spanish cooking is that it makes a great thicking agent. There is a spanish cold soup whose name I have forgotten that uses galic, ground almonds & stale bread , its yum yum & refreshing

  4. Debra Kolkka

    I think a communal oven is a great idea. Presumably people could also share the things they were baking so as to have less waste.
    I hate wasting food. I was taught to eat everything on my plate, which explains a lot.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love the idea of communal ovens :) And even a place where you could maybe go and mix up your dough and leave it and come back later and chat bread with like minded people. I think historically people would often take their dough to the village baker and he would bake it for them (for a fee) and if he had space in the oven maybe cook other foods for them too.

  5. ceciliag

    we definitely eat bread that is a few days old, in fact i always freeze loaves and bake about once every 4 or 5 days. If I could bake bread on top of the woodstove that warms the house it would be perfect! Noting is every wasted here though, the chickens take care of that! speaking of which i had better get moving!! c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Celi! I think it would be great to bake on top of a wood stove, there must be a method for doing that? How hot does it get on top? Could you bake something under a dome to trap the heat inside. I bet you waste less food than me, I have no chickens, just a composter and the Council takes any food waste that I don’t want to put on there on account of the rats (bones and so on) and recycles it separately.

  6. lisbet diemer

    I bake most of our bread, sourdough rye, diff. kind of white, and the cakes we need, and cake we need. I hate old bread, so I tend to bake every other day, and then use whats left in the cooking and baking. i’ll rather pay for my oven then have to eat most of the bread you can bye. I don’t think I would use a communal oven, the smell of baking and cooking is part of what makes my home – my home – but I to do try to make several “things” when I turn the oven on…

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Lisbet, thanks for commenting! I love the smell of baking too and I would miss it in the house :)

  7. Will

    Great post: thought provoking and filled with good advice.

    I like the idea of a communal oven, but then I like the idea of a semi-communal community living situation too, so it taps into that particular fantasy. In reality, I think it unlikely it would be practical for me, and I echo the comment(s) about the smell filling the house…

    I’m pretty thrifty about using food up, though I haven’t always been. I like the challenge presented by a few peculiar/tired left over bits and pieces. And as far as bread goes, I’ve not had much of a chance to discover what I’d do with left overs, it tends to disappear before I know what’s happened. Its fair to say I live in a bread-loving household.

    Leavened Heaven: My Search for Sarnie Shangri-La

    1. Joanna Post author

      A bread-loving household sounds perfect whatever form it takes ;) Community solutions to food production are always local I suspect and what works in one place with a particular group of people might not work at all somewhere else.

      One of the things I have got more into since I have been baking is fermentation and the foods made that way, like yoghurt and apple cider vinegar which again are foods that endlessly transform from state to state. Yoghurt is really easy to make and then you can turn it into a soft cheese or use in a bread or a cake. It makes me very happy when I can do that sort of thing.

      1. Will

        I’d like to do more of that sort of stuff, for sure. In fact, I’m intending to scrump my folks apples for that very reason! Yoghurt I’d like to do too… Do I need more foody projects? Can there be too many?! Doubtful.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Yoghurt is really easy – and is the project I have stuck to more along with bread for several years now. Give it a go and then you can make labneh and cream cheese with it too. I would like to do more of the fermentation projects as time and space permit. Have a look at Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation and check out his website for inspiration :)

          Edit : Just found a little video of him on You Tube here, I have never tried sauerkraut making, but who knows…

          1. Will

            Thanks Joanna, I’ll check out that book. The video has me searching for a glass container and eyeing up some spare red cabbage…

  8. heidiannie

    I care about my carbon footprint within my kitchen. ( Although I have a Jeep Cherokee which has lousy gas mileage- I inherited the jeep, though I would have chosen a more efficient vehicle for myself.)
    Generally I do all my baking in two or three days- baking cookies, cakes, breads and meats in order of their temperatures and starting with the lowest temps and then building up toward the breads.
    I love fresh bread, but will bake it every day- older bread has good flavor and I love it toasted and in sandwiches- or in soups and puddings.
    I would bake in a communal oven- love the idea of community and efficiency- but don’t want to travel too far to get to it.
    Good post, Joanna, very thought provoking.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Heidi, I wish I was that organised and could plan my oven use that way, it sounds fantastic. I wouldn’t want to travel too far either to get to an oven. (visions of nursing bowls of over proving dough sitting on the bus!) it would have to be quite local :D

      I love the seductive taste of fresh bread too! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.

  9. ninopane

    a brilliant post, I particularly like your flipping boards, are they home made and if not where did you get them?

    Also I was wondering what your your baking stone is and did you get it cut to size for your oven?


    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Tony!

      The flipping boards were made by Gary who designed the Superpeel, the bread peel with the rolling cloth on it? He made me a lightweight version of the super peel to try out and a couple of flipping boards too. If you can do woodwork I am sure they aren’t that hard to make. I think Bakery Bits used to have some, but I haven’t tried theirs.

      My baking stone is a potter’s kiln shelf and it came from Bath Potters in Radstock who will cut them to size if you ask them. They don’t sell them as ‘food safe’ i.e. as a baking stone as they are potters’ suppliers not catering suppliers, so if you decide to go down that route do be aware of that.

  10. Sincerely, Emily

    Hi Joanna. I know we are on the low end when it comes to our eco footprint. I tend to do a lot of baking at one time. We definitely go in bread eating spurts (depending on how many people are in the house at one time. Sometimes the loaf is gone in a few days, other times it is longer. I make two at a time and one will usually get frozen. For a loaf that has sat there a while – bread crumbs. In the winter the bread can sit on the counter a few days. In the summer it must go straight into the refrigerator or it will mold in a day from our heat. Toast is my fav way to eat it. Communal oven. Love the idea of community things – with Will on the community living and sharing fantasy. I would imagine I would spend more time and money in gas for the car to get there in back so I will use my oven. I have wanted a solar oven for a while. Just need to take the plunge and buy the darn thing. That would change the eco footprint tremendously.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Emily, well we are all thinking about this stuff these days and it’s hard for people to figure out what to do and weigh up costs vs gains and whether any thing small that we do on an individual basis really has any material impact.I’ve been really enjoying your series of posts on local food and the challenges you set yourself to make your own soaps and so on. You are far more self-sufficient than me :)

  11. Gary

    In an attempt to cut my rather frightening electricity bills, I rarely bake less than three loaves at a time these days. I pop a couple of them in the freezer for future use. The only problem is that it can be highly frustrating when I really really want to make some bread but already have plenty in the freezer. The temptation is occasionally too strong though and I say hang the expense/planet destruction and just go ahead and bake. It has taken a few years but I am slowly starting to get my bread baking mania under control so this doesn’t happen so often now ; – )

    I try not to waste any of my bread though and am more than happy to continue to eat it as it matures over the week. Sopa de ajo is my current favourite way of using up left over hunks of old sourdough though. So simple, so delicious.

    In terms of energy use/carbon footprint, how does a homemade loaf compare to nipping to the supermarket and picking up a Chorleywood job? Anyone know?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Gary, sometimes the mania is uncontrollable, I quite agree, but I too am trying to get a grip on my habit ;) What started me off on this post was realising that the very fetching Le Clocher baker that I got for a birthday present only takes one loaf and takes up the whole oven in the process, whereas I can just about squeeze two boules and a baby one onto the shelf in the oven, or three loaves as here, or 4 big tins and 2 small ones. That plus someone working out that my oven cost 40 p an hour (approx) to run at bread baking temperature. The overall cost of the loaf is, in terms of my pocket, still cheaper to make myself. I would be very happy to take my dough to a communal oven and pay 20 p per loaf to bake it or something like that. The equivalent loaf of 800 g Bertinet sourdough would cost something like £6 from the deli round the corner, no carbon footprint to walk there though. I can’t compare it to Chorleywood bread as I haven’t bought any for years. But it is an interesting question, I wonder who would know the answer?

  12. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    I wish there could have been a “Loved” button rather than a “Liked” one, as I really do love this post, Jo. I sat here, eating my breakfast toast, following along in your train of thought. My bread was baked yesterday. As you know, I have a large oven – 90cm – previously known as Bob, but I’m now starting to think it really is more of a Charlie than a Bob – and I’m very conscious of the amount of electricity it needs to run. As a result, we rarely have cheese on toast – I can’t bring myself to turn the oven on just for that.

    I’ve taken to baking enormous batches of bread on the weekends. Now that I have the rectangular pizza stones, I seem to be able to fit nearly twice as much into the oven. Yesterday morning I mixed up a 3.8kg batch of dough – a kilo of bakers, a kilo of sem rimacinata, 1.2L water and 600g starter. This batch became 12 large cheese and olive rolls (for Small Man’s lunches) and 4 ciabatta style loaves. The whole lot went into the oven in one go, the rolls on a tray on the top shelf, and the loaves on the stones on the bottom shelf.

    All the bread was frozen – I find that if we freeze sourdough as soon as it’s cooled, it defrosts with very little loss of texture or flavour. This way I can bake bread once a week, usually on a Saturday. The rolls will last Small Man for a fortnight, so next week I’ll bake a huge plain bread batch, share some with the neighbours and freeze the rest.

    That’s not to say I won’t use the oven for a multitude of other things in between, and I’ll probably bake some other loaves for pleasure, but in terms of our “maintenance” breadbaking, that’s the process I follow. And it ensures that we never have to buy a loaf of bread from the shops! :)

    1. Joanna

      Thank you Celia :) I always admire Charlie when I see him in your photos, he’s a cracker of an oven, especially with his new pizza stones in place. I must try your dough mix again as I have some of that semolina rimacinata and it does make a lovely bread. I agree with you that bread frozen as soon as it’s cool is best and defrosts brilliantly, that’s a good tip to know ! I have a feeling you produce much more bread than me, but you are feeding many more people and there are definite economies of scale. It’s a good idea if you love baking to give it away, the bread love always come back or goes round in some form or other. (the sound of an old would be hippy rattling her kaftan). Have a lovely week !

  13. chocveg

    great post Joanna, thanks! I wonder if Chris from the Real Bread Campaign/Sustain might have done some comparisons in cost to home-made and Chorleywood bread? Difficult to compare the costs of home baking and industrial baking, which includes transport to supermarkets, though I suspect we home bakers are using better quality flour and other ingredients.
    Communal ovens are a great idea, I think in a village setting where it is round the corner! Also I remember the planning that went into baking in Ricks’ wood oven – it was very hot on the first day for pizzas and flatbreads, a good heat on the second day for more normal boules/miches etc and then slow long cookers like rye went in on the third day for a longer cool cook. It’s a pity our ovens and living isn’t set up like this (well I suspect for most of us!)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Cost comparisons are very complex calculations ultimately aren’t they? And trying to factor in carbon costs even more so. I think I am just trying to work out basic common sense things and telling myself that though I love making those couronne loaves they are not a very efficient use of my oven for example.
      I signed up to the 10:10 site last year and have lapsed somewhat after my initial burst of interest, but it did make me think a lot about what expensive ‘machines’ houses are overall, especially if like me you live in a biggish house not built to an eco spec. Yes! Baking at Rick’s was such an education, the skill and art that he puts into using that amazing oven is quite extraordinary. (Mairs Bakehouse in case anyone wants to look him up). I am curious to know whether communal ovens could ever have a role in the cities, interesting to think about anyway :)

  14. chocveg

    I have had another eco-dilemma! I am buying a new oven, and like gas, so require a gas oven. The cost of running a gas oven is much cheaper per year (Which report etc) but I can only use the top shelf for baking as it is unlike a fan oven, where you can use both shelves at the same time! Nothing is easy!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I can’t fit two shelves of full size bread or tins into my oven plus put a steam tray in and the kiln shelf. I could maybe squeeze a tray of biscuits in or small rolls but it would be tricky as they would end up very close to the top elements. I tend to use my electric oven on the convection settings when I bake bread as the fan is very restrictive. I wouldn’t recommend buying an oven like mine (Neff electric) if bread baking was your main consideration. I wouldn’t buy it again that’s for sure. I wonder if you could use both shelves in your new gas oven if you used a cover or cloche over the ones on the bottom ?

  15. MC

    I too was raised to use (and love) leftovers and since I bake mostly sourdough, dry bread is never much of an issue (plus it gets recycled into croûtons or pudding or sometimes soaked, mashed and incorporated into new dough). Re: boules. I like to bake them in a Dutch oven, starting cold in a cold oven, so that there is no pre-heating. It works well and yields excellent results. I would love to have access to a communal oven but it would be best if it were not outside (I live in a rainy climate). Alternatively it would be nice to know a baker willing to let the community use his or her oven on the days it isn’t in use. Although that type of arrangeent probably made more sense from an economic standpoint when all ovens were wood-fired…

    1. Joanna Post author

      ‘To use and love leftovers’ is a lovely way to describe the habit MC :) I forgot to say I love my leftovers. Last night we had old celeriac and potato mash made into little patties together with slices of cold venison sausage and some steamed vegetables and the second half of the apple crumble from the day before. I am always really happy when I plan ahead and cook a few more potatoes than we will need and know that I won’t have to peel more the next day for example.

      I have to try the Dutch oven method again, I haven’t tried baking from cold but have always tried to get the dough into the hot pot and then had a bad time trying to slash it without burning myself on the sides. The preheat time on my oven is relatively short, it gets up to 220 C in about 8 minutes so I don’t know if it would off set the cost of running the oven for just one loaf, maybe if it was a very big loaf in my biggest pot? I agree if one had a local baker who let the community use their oven that would be fantastic, I don’t have any bakers in my locale though who bake on site :(

  16. sallybr

    Another great post, very thought-provoking, Joanna!

    First, I am part of a minority who does not heat her oven for 1 hour before baking a loaf of bread. I simply refuse to do so, and I think my bread maybe is not picture perfect, or as good as it COULD be if I went that route, but I prefer to save some energy. I’ve tried baking from cold as MC, and it does work well for some recipes, I should probably explore that method more often. Plus, as you mentioned, avoid those burns in the arms we all seem to accumulate over the years ;-)

    I don’t think I’ve ever discarded old bread – if the bread starts to get stale, I slice it and freeze it, because it’s always nice when you warm it up or toast it. In the worst case scenario, the bread turns into croutons. I dice the bread and place in a little plastic bag in the freezer for our Caesar salads. Bread crumbs are another option, although we usually end up turning old bread to croutons.

    I would probably would a communal oven if there was something available where we live.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Sally! Do you put your bread into a cold oven? Mine heats up in 8 minutes to 220C for bread, the kiln shelf takes longer but I tend to start baking after about 25 minutes if I’m using it. Tins go straight in once the thermostat says it’s at temperature. The temperature drops back anyway once you open the door so it’s always a bit hit and miss in a domestic oven.

      I have discarded bread, I can’t pretend I have never done that. Croutons are the easiest option and we do make tubs of breadcrumbs too that are used in meatballs, to coat fish and even to line cake tins in the Swedish style.

      1. MC

        My oven heats up real fast too. What doesn’t heat up fast though is the oven stone and it needs to be super hot when you put the bread on it. That’s why I pick the cold Dutch oven/cold oven method whenever I get a chance (that and because it yields terrific results, better oven spring than baking in a hot Dutch oven in a hot oven). Of course it only works for boules…

        1. Joanna Post author

          I have never tried a real stone in my oven, I think I read that the granite ones take a long time to heat up like you say. I use a potter’s kiln shelf which is made out of something similar to firebrick material, fibrament I think, or something like that. I’m sorry I don’t know exactly what it is made of. It heats up quicker than proper stone and is usually able to turn flour brown in about half an hour if I put the oven on quite high to start with.

          I am going to try your cold oven cold cast iron pot method very soon. I used a hot pot once or twice when I was experimenting with a starter I was sent from Oregon by a blogging friend and got good oven spring. I will let you know how I get on. Thanks again MC! (very jealous that you are going to Europain by the way!)

          1. sallybr

            Yes, I did the cold oven before, in my pre-blogging days, and even tried to go back and find my notes on it. Sure enough, they are gone… (shame on me!)

            I don’t use a real stone, I use quarry tiles, they are much thinner and heat pretty fast. I assemble six in the oven rack, they cover an area big enough for my bread, but leave some space around. Plus, if they get too dirty or break, they are very cheap at the home improvement store… ;-)

  17. Mal

    Nice tips on slashing. It’s a problematic area.

    Now as for guilt tripping on baking a loaf of bread a day, It’s not as if you are flying your own jet, heating an outdoor swimming pool, or even commuting 1 to a car. Please give yourself a break.

    Having said that I’m just fed up with heating up my “stone” and getting a worse result than on a non pre heated heavy baking tray. Ironic because the investment in a stone kick started my latest baking stint.

    Communal ovens in the UK? Not until the fossil fuels run out and the cars have all stopped, and the new ice age descends…

    1. Joanna Post author

      Sorry to hear about your stone Mal, what sort of stone is it?

      Would very much like to have an outdoor pool, but having just renewed my membership (£70 for the whole summer) to Henleaze Lake I won’t need one, just my wet suit till it warms up a bit and I don’t think I’ll be swimming in there on the first day it opens unless we have an early summer.

      I think the communal ovens are a bit of a dream, but you never know !

      1. Mal

        My “stone” is a ceramic pizza stone. “oven safe to gas mark 8”

        It’s circular and large. While it fits in the oven the shelves have a lip at the back. To shut the door I need to raise the back of the stone up on the lip – so not ideal. I’d put up with it if I thought the results were truly better, but I’m not at all convinced.

        Henleaze Lake? They call them lochs up here and nobody swims in them! Looks great though!

        1. Joanna Post author

          I have never seen one of those being used. Silly question, can you turn your shelves upside down and slide them in the other way up? I can do that with mine but it depends how your oven is built I guess.

          Just been admiring your breads Mal! Did you look at the Mellow Bakers forum that project might be of interest to you?

          The little lake is actually a drowned quarry slap bang in the middle of a suburb of North Bristol, a hole in time and space.

          1. Mal

            Tried flipping the shelf but fiendish design feature stops you doing that! Must admit that while I’ve virtually stopped using the stone the baguette trays get used more and more. They let you get away with a wetter dough!

            Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind comments

  18. spiceandmore

    I love the way my sourdough bread stays “fresh” for 3-4 days after it has baked so we have no problem eating it for a few days. I usually bake at least two loaves at a time and often some rolls as well…or dinner or a cake goes into the oven before or after the bread to make use of the heat. But then I sometimes forget to turn the oven off after taking the bread out (oh how annoyed I get with myself when that happens). Or we waste half of the second loaf….so I am not sure my baking two loaves is overall better for the planet or not.

    I am pretty bad with left overs too….I just don’t like eating them and unfortunately my family have developed the same bad habit as me. When we have people over for a meal we pack up all the left overs and give it to them to take away. A win-win as they are very happy to have it and we are very happy to avoid the guilt that comes a day or two later when we put the food in the chooks bucket or dog’s bowl! And after many years I have come to accept the fact that I am not a freezer person either – I put things in there but only take them out once a year when we do a big clean out (the dog and chooks dine like royalty that week). I am pretty good at cooking just ther required quantity though so we rarely have left-overs. It is only when I have people over that I have an uncontrollable tendency to over-cater…and I told you about my solution to that problem!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Spice – Lovely to hear from you! I forget to turn the oven out too, it is sooo annoying when that happens.

      It doesn’t sound as if your leftovers get wasted, if you are giving them to guests, or recycling them to your animals then it is all being used to sustain life and give value. Zeb is very fond of cold pasta ;)

  19. Anne

    I really enjoyed reading your post Joanna as your views are so true to me. It is nice that you can share your extra loaves with neighbours who appreciate them ! Also I agree entirely with you when you say that what we should be doing naturally without thinking is too often viewed by media as being extra-ordinary: such as using left-over, being fuel efficient etc. It should be all second-nature to us. At home, I teach the children to value Water, heating, light and not waste them. I bake one loaf a week and it always lasts us 3-4 days. The oven is never on just for one dish: when the bread is in, I will also bake at the same time a few muffins or a clafoutis. I also decided against buying a bread stone because I did not want to pre-heat the oven for so long (I pre-heat mine in 12minutes). And when the dough is a bit too wet, it is placed in a Le Creuset casserole for the last fermentation and the casserole, lid on, is then placed straight in a cold oven for baking.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Anne, sorry to be so late replying, I can’t think what happened there. You sound as if you have it all sorted out. One day I will beg you for your clafoutis recipe as every time I have made them they always come out a bit strangely and the more recipes I read the more variation I find until I get quite lost. I am very interested to hear that you too pot bake in a cold oven. I really must try that again and see if I can get a better result than the times I have tried to do that. Happy Easter in case you pop back to read this xx

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