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Taming the Hearth Kit


joancassell
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I find my Hearth Kit (recommended warmly by Paula Wolfert) helps make excellent bread. But I recently moved to a new house with a new Blue Star range, where the single oven goes only up to 500 (as opposed to 550 on my previous oven). This makes for problems:

1. It takes more than 2 hours, even with the convection feature on, to heat the Hearth Kit to 500, which is the temperature I need for my version of Pain Poilane.

2. I can't figure out how to turn the oven DOWN quickly - which some roasting and braising recipes call for.

3. Removing the darn thing from the oven, to make a recipe that calls for high, then low heat, is a (literal) pain. I have to bend down to my under-stove oven and remove the pieces, one of which is VERY heavy; the pieces then occupy a great deal of counter space in my small kitchen; and I'm always a little nervous about dropping and breaking that heavy center piece.

Do I have to switch to a lighter pizza stone? Or does anyone have suggestions on how to tame the Hearth Kit?

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1) Is it possible that the HearthKit thermometer was damaged during the move to your new home? (Replacement thermometers are available here.) Or, is it possible the Blue Star needs some fine tuning? (Sometimes this can be done for free by calling your gas company.)

2) The fact that you can't "turn down" the heat quickly in your new oven is testament to it's fine engineering and excellent heat retention. (Proud Blue Star owner here :biggrin: )

3) I'll let others weigh in on how to tame the HearthKit.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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I CAN turn down the heat relatively quickly when the Hearth Kit is out -- it's just that removing it is such a big deal.

And yes, the Blue Star is great! Although the low burner is not quite low enough, even though I put nails in every other hole to lower the heat. That's where the simmer mat (also recommended by Paula Wolfert ) comes in.

I don't think it's the thermometer, although it's worth trying a new one.

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It definitely sounds like you need to have your burners and oven re-calibrated -- it's possible that it may have never been done! You should not have to plug burner orifices :shock:!

Go to the Blue Star archive, which was put together by a GardenWeb member, and click on the link for "Bluestar #18":

To adjust the low flame on your BS.

1. Pull off the knob. If the knob is on too tight and you cannot get a good grip on it use double-stick carpet tape. Put a thin strip of tape on each side of the knob and use the tape to get a good grip on the knob and simply pull it straight out and off the shaft.

2. Push in the shaft and rotate to high to light the burner. Continue rotating the shaft until it is at its lowest setting.

3. Insert a very thin screwdriver into the hole in the center of the shaft and turn the fine adjustment valve which sets the flame when the knob is at its lowest setting.

4. Adjust the valve until you get the flame as low as you like it. I recommend going as low as possible until the flame starts to go out on some of the gas ports on the burner, then turn it back up a hair until the burner is evenly lit and does not 'flicker'.

You have adjusted it too low if part of the flame goes out, then relights, then out... etc., or if the igniters start to spark. You want the smallest flame possible that is still even and stable.

Be sure during this that you keep the shaft rotated against the low stop.

When you are done, put the knob back on and test it, from low to high. Pull the double stick tape off and go to the next knob.

btw. Never use the space between HIGH and OFF to adjust the flame low. If it goes out, it will not automatically reignite. Always turn the knob to LOW to get the lowest possible flame. Try it! Put it on low and blow the flame out (warning: do NOT catch your hair on fire when blowing). It should automaticlly reignite within a second.

I have all the flames on all burners turned down until they are the tiniest little nubs of blue at each port in the burner. Even the big 22K simmers just fine.

Disclaimer ** If you feel uncomfortable about attacking your appliance with a small screwdriver, DO NOT ATTEMP THIS! Have someone who is more mechanically inclined do it for you.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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After using a pizza stone for awhile I started using hearth bricks, which I bought at a masonry supply store. They are essentially bricks but smooth without a regular bricks indentations. I place about 8 of them on the middle rack. They take a bit longer to heat up than the thinner pizza stones but they retain they heat better.

Do you share the recipe for your version of Poilane bread?

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After using a pizza stone for awhile I started using hearth bricks, which I bought at a masonry supply store.  They are essentially bricks but smooth without a regular bricks indentations.  I place about  8 of them on the middle rack.  They take a bit longer to heat up than the thinner pizza stones but they retain they heat better.

Do you share the recipe for your version of Poilane bread?

It comes from the Third Edition of The Foodlover's Guide to Paris, by Patricia Wells (pp. 246-248). I halve it with some changes that have evolved over the years. It's an antsy bread, won't rise in the frig or a cold kitchen (I've finally started putting it into the microwave with 1 1/2 cups of water brought to a boil in the winter, when the kitchen is cold); no yeast, just a starter that takes four days to make, and then a piece of old dough is kept for the next batch of bread. If you want my actual recipe, I'd be delighted to give it to you. (My theory is that good cooks should be able to be generous with recipes -- unlike a woman I knew years ago, who always left out one ingredient when she gave a recipe!).

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Joe, thank you so much for the Blue Star info. I'm not sure I have the cujones to turn down the burner myself, but I can surely get someone to do it for me. It will make a big difference in my enjoyment of the Blue Star. The web site was great fun! I too love my range and like the fact that it looks SERIOUS, rather than being a piece of nouveau riche my-kitchen-cost-more-than-yours equipment.

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After using a pizza stone for awhile I started using hearth bricks, which I bought at a masonry supply store.  They are essentially bricks but smooth without a regular bricks indentations.  I place about  8 of them on the middle rack.  They take a bit longer to heat up than the thinner pizza stones but they retain they heat better.

Do you share the recipe for your version of Poilane bread?

It comes from the Third Edition of The Foodlover's Guide to Paris, by Patricia Wells (pp. 246-248). I halve it with some changes that have evolved over the years. It's an antsy bread, won't rise in the frig or a cold kitchen (I've finally started putting it into the microwave with 1 1/2 cups of water brought to a boil in the winter, when the kitchen is cold); no yeast, just a starter that takes four days to make, and then a piece of old dough is kept for the next batch of bread. If you want my actual recipe, I'd be delighted to give it to you. (My theory is that good cooks should be able to be generous with recipes -- unlike a woman I knew years ago, who always left out one ingredient when she gave a recipe!).

thank you
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I LOVE my hearth kit. But after I moved it in and out a few times when necessary (such Thanksgiving turkey time) and experiencing the same difficulties that you described, I finally just kept the bottom part of it in the lowest rack in my oven all the time, and I put in and take out the sides when I want to. I find that just removing the sides makes the hearth kit less "beastly". I don't own your oven, but try to just leave the bottom part of the hearth kit in the lowest part of the oven and see if it works. It does for me. Also, I test the temp with a laser thermometer. I find it more accurate than the one that came with the kit.

Edited by takomabaker (log)
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I found mine on Ebay for about $40, but they sell "retail" at Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table for about $80. I just saw a really, really cool one that has a probe in it so you can use it as both a laser thermometer or a probe thermometer in the latest Sur La Table catalogue. The unfortunate thing about them is that they only measure surface temps. I use mine for checking the oven temp, and for working with chocolate and sugar. I have gotten so dependent on it for tempering chocolate that I couldn't live without it for that alone.

Edited to add, here it is....

sur la table laser with probe

Thanks!  Could you tell me more about a laser thermometer, what it costs, where one finds it?

Edited by takomabaker (log)
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