Bake better bread. Line your oven with inexpensive clay tiles.
Cheap tiles make for great bread!
A 50$ cloche will almost mimic the effects of a 10k$ masonry oven.
bake better bread!
This is a really easy way to start making the bread you make at home a lot closer to the bread that is coming out of really good bakeries.
The best bread is made in heavy stone or masonry ovens. You could make one of those, or you could start of with something just a little bit easier!
Lining the bottom rack of your oven with heavy unglazed clay pavers, is a great way to simulate the environment of a masonry oven, and you will notice a dramatic difference when you do your next batch of homemade hearth bread with the use of these tiles in your oven.
There are three kinds of heat:
and these tiles help out with all three.
What happens, generally, when you open the door and place in a large mass of relatively cool bread dough into an oven, is that the oven temperature drops down dramatically. Modern ovens are designed to be well insulated, but have almost no heat storage capabilities. This heat loss is bad for bread, as the first few minutes of the baking time will determine the rise you get out of your bread.
The heavy clay tiles act as a heat sink, and will slowly absorb and reradiate all the heat from the preheating period. What this means, is that your oven temperature will stabilize much more quickly with the addition of a hot massive object, like the clay tiles. That's the convection (hot air) benefit.
The conduction benefit works on the base of the crust. By placing your loaves directly onto the hot tiles, they will get the benefit of a great, even heat, and the base of the bread will be thick and crusty and delicious.
The radiant benefit is perhaps the most important of all. Heat moves by process of radiation (the heat you feel from the sun on a spring day), at different wavelengths, and these wavelengths penetrate further into the crust. Using a massive object in the oven to create a source of radiant heat, will better reproduce the thick and crispy crusts that are the hallmark of great hearth baked bread.
This is never really going to be as good as a masonry oven for baking, but it does take a step in the right direction, and it will make your bread better. These tiles can be picked for a couple of bucks, and are much cheaper than the "pizza stones" made specifically for ovens. They also tend to be thicker, and thereby a better source of radiant heat.
You will need to ensure that you give the tiles a sufficient pre heat, 45 min. to an hour. If you put the bread in the oven before the tiles are well heated, they will actually be robbing the open and the bread of heat, and can make things worse!
Making a hearth floor out these tiles will also produce fantastic, crispy crusted pizzas (the secret to pizza is too crank the heat!)
Try adding these to your oven, and see how much better your next batch of bread will be!