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Out of the Frying Pan Into the Deck Oven...


cyd
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Hi everybody! I've been lurking on egullet for probably 2 years now, and I have finally come up with a serious situation that I couldn't search my way out of!

I've just become the head baker at a restaurant in Westchester County. Not only am I responsible for all the desserts at the place, but also breads, every day. I was hired on the basis that I am totally green in the professional baking arena, though have been involved with food since I was 14 and have always been interested in pastry and baking, and all that stuff. The former baker (and only baker) has been a nightmare for the past two years because his communication skills are horrible and his foreign accent prevents even me from understanding at least 40% of what he says on the first try. He gets very frustrated if I have to ask him to say things a second or third time and sometimes asking questions point blank he seems to find offensive. He's like Jekyll & Hyde, I swear. Anyway, I've been working with him for about a month, and he is slated to leave in three days. At that point I'll have the baking kitchen to myself, and plan to clean everything top to bottom and reorganize.

The dessert menu is definitely changing, and the options are basically limitless, which is great, but sometimes intimidating. It gives me the freedom to do basically whatever I want as long as there are 4 or 5 dessert options, 2 breads and any special orders filled every day. I have no problem with screwing around with pastries and desserts, trying things out until I perfect them, but I'm completely stuck on getting my bread crust darker and, um, crustier! The guy who's leaving only bakes the same two breads every day, and the owners want me to start doing a rotation of 6 breads. So I'm trying out all these breads, and while the insides of the breads are doing great, the crust is less than desirable when I use the deck oven. My problem is that nowhere, in any of my books, or on egullet, does anyone actually talk about operating the steam injector system that's attached to a deck oven! I've tried asking Mr. Hyde, but he won't give me a complete answer, or rather, try to apply it to the bread I'm making. The chef/owner has no idea how this works; I asked him as well, before I went to Mr. Hyde.

Can anyone give me advice on when to actually start the steam? And how long to leave the steam going? For example, I made the Pain de Campagne today and the crust just wasn't turning dark enough for my liking but had a good chew to it and the crumb was great. Here's what I know about this contraption:

-apparently the steam injector isn't very powerful (Mr. Hyde says)

-the deck oven has 3 baking compartments total, from top to bottom: 2 baking compartments, then a flame area, then another baking compartment and then another flame on the bottom. Mr. Hyde also never uses the 3rd baking compartment for baking, but rather as a proofing box, especially in the winter.

-there is a large contraption sitting on top of the oven with a power switch and a "heat"light.

-running from each baking compartment is a wire that leads to a timer with a power button.

-when i see Mr. Hyde make bread, he always hits some of the power buttons, but then also throws a cup of hot water into the 1st or 2nd baking compartment when he starts to bake his bread.

I'm not making his bread, so I can't just copy him, and also to actually figure this out! The Bread Baker's Apprentice is what I've been using to make my doughs, and I find it easy to follow and the focaccia I made from it last week turned out fantastic, but I used the convection oven for it. All the steaming instructions seem to be for home bakers and I'm at a loss. Please help, as I've got three days to master this thing before it's just me!

-Cyd

Edited by cyd (log)
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Welcome to eGullet! I have no experience with that type of oven, but if the manufacturer's name and model # are on the unit you can search the web for contact information. The manufacturer will be able to give you instructions and may even be able to send an operating and maintenance manual (sometimes these manuals are available for download.) If the restaurant has ever had the unit serviced, find out the name of the service company. They should also be able to help you out. Please report back with results. Many people here would be interesting in learning how this works. Good luck.

Ilene

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My first advice would be to find a local bakery supply house that sells ovens. Usually they will give you some free advice over the phone if you give them the name etc. of the oven.

As for steam you need to start the steam as soon as the bread goes in the oven, usually the first 15 minutes is when you want it to last. After that there should be a vent you can open to allow the steam to escape. This then lets the crust set up on your bread. Otherwise, if the steam stays in too long your crust will be leathery.

If old Hyde is throwing a cup of water in the oven (not great for the oven) the steam boiler -theoretically the gadget on the top- is probably not working properly and needs repair/replacement.

It is up to you to experiment with how much steam you need for your various breads. Rye and bagels need lots of steam, sourdoughs need a fair amount and some breads not at all.

Good luck and welcome to the EG club.

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Well...in that vein if its a Blodgett here ya go

http://www.blodgett.com/Literature/Manuals...structions'

tracey

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Cyd cant help you out , the only steam oven I used was the one out of a chain store bakery and that bread is made with premix stuff very chewy doesnt last a day, they steam it for 20 seconds twice for the french and 40 seconds for the bagels.

ANyway I just wanted to wish you good luch and lots of fun , that I know youy will have ,Must be so exiting finally have your own kitchen and finally decide what to do change things around ,and I had the experience to work with a baker that had a really bad accent and was very frustrating :hmmm: .

Good luck let us know how is going , thats my dream as well :smile:

Vanessa

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Thanks so far everybody! It is quite an exciting adventure, and that's been my saving grace throughout this whole "training" except for the fact that Hyde will indeed die someday. I don't have to be the one that makes it happen, but it doesn't mean I can't relish the fact.

Anyway, just knowing that I need to steam for something like 15 minutes as opposed to the 30 seconds I did today is an excellent fact. I'm planning on going in tomorrow and writing down all the brands/serial numbers. I'm not sure I'll be able to get the owners to pay to have the steam injector looked at right now, but maybe when business picks up in the summer and cash flow is better.

In the meantime I'm focusing on getting my speed up to par, and trying out some desserts I'd like to feature on the menu and for mother's day. It's difficul to remember that this is a craft it takes a lifetime to master, yet I already wish I knew enough to really start inventing some of my own formulas. I think I'll go take a look at the thread about the first thing about baking everyone says to know.

later on kids!

-cyd

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I don't mean to suggest that you steam non stop for 15 minutes. Perhaps a shot to begin and then another shot every couple of minutes for the first 5 minutes would be a guideline (depending on how much steam you generate per shot).

The idea is to keep the steam you have generated in the baking chamber for the first 15 minutes, thus allowing the loaf to rise in the oven without prematurely setting the crust. After that dump the steam so that you can achieve that nice, crisp exterior.

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I don't mean to suggest that you steam non stop for 15 minutes. Perhaps a shot to begin and then another shot every couple of minutes for the first 5 minutes would be a guideline (depending on how much steam you generate per shot).

The idea is to keep the steam you have generated in the baking chamber for the first 15 minutes, thus allowing the loaf to rise in the oven without prematurely setting the crust. After that dump the steam so that you can achieve that nice, crisp exterior.

Don't worry, I didn't steam today for 15 minutes straight, even though I just got home from work and didn't get your message until now! Thanks for the clarification!

I actually went for a compromise and steamed for 4 minutes at the outset, throwing in the cup of hot water. I was making Ciabatta and it came out pretty good. I'm still not sure where the steam vent switch would be, so I'll have to poke around for that.

The oven is a Blodgett, and the steam injector is made by Riemers. I didn't get a chance to get model numbers, but I'll do that tomorrow during inventory time.

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So I have a few recipes that I er *cough* borrowed from a french bakery patisserie I worked at. Although I have never used the type of oven you're talking about the instructions include directions for the bake temp/time/damper settings. The other thing is that I'm a bit of a bread geek who has recently started the same kind of job you have for the hotel/restaurant I work for. I have previous baking experience but I'm by no means an expert.

I've read somewhere, possibly on this board, that steam is only really effective for the first 10 minutes of bake time. There are alternatives to using the steam jet on your oven if you haven't figured it out yet. I'm working with convection ovens at work and they're not making my life any easier. I would happily kill for a pizza oven which I think makes the best bread.

Anyway, you can either put a heavy duty pan (cast iron or a roasting pan is best) into the oven and preheat it with the oven to 450 or your high initial temp. When the oven reaches temp dump in enough ice water so that you get steam for about the first ten minutes. If you use too much just remove the pan after 10 minutes.

The other alternative that we did in school was to use a squeeze bottle full of water (probably about 16oz or so) and spray that onto the floor of the oven right before you close the door. Do not open the door for at least 10 minutes or you'll release all your steam.

After that you have a choice you can lower the temp in three stages (for baguettes it's like 450/ 10 min 425/ 15-20 minutes and then 400 for 10 minutes). This mimics the "falling oven" as a wood fired oven would normally lose temp after inserting bread. It also keeps your crust from steaming as the moisture inside evaporates. The other option is to just open the oven door and let the bread sit in the oven for 10 min before you take it out.

Hope this helps,

Takhisis

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Okay, so I checked out Reimers' website and apparently you don't need to vent with their products. How strange!

I've been experimenting with the steam time. I made both focaccia (no steam) and baguettes today. The baguettes could have been better, but were decent. I steamed for 3 bursts of 30 seconds each, only adding the cup of hot water during the first burst. I would put a pan of hot water in there, but there just isn't room with the amount of bread I need to make for a Saturday.

Tomorrow I'm doing Vienna Bread and whole wheat rolls. If anybody has any tips, I'm always open, but thanks so much so far for everything! I always appreciate it when people impart even a tiny piece of the knowledge they've probably worked over 2 to 20 years to gain.

-cyd

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