The New Bakers Dozen
Convection Ovens

The The Bakers Dozen: Convection Ovens
By Roberto on Thursday, February 24, 2000 - 10:36 pm: Edit


I have a question regarding convection ovens for baking. I understand that they provide shorter baking times due to the fan generated circulation, but what specific benefits do they offer in the final quality of baked goods? For example, do they impact the rise of muffins or cookies? Do hard to judge items (such as cheesecake) respond better in convection heat? Thanks for your help.


By W.Debord on Thursday, February 24, 2000 - 10:56 pm: Edit

Personally it's not any better or really any worse. It is not well suited for cheesecakes, if you can avoid it, do. As far as other items it does not make anything better than a standard oven. You need to bake on low fan and turn down the heat a bit or items bake too fast and dry out. So you don't really want a shorter baking time. It also is a MYTH that items bake more evenly or that there are not hot spots due to air flow.

They are bigger and can bake more quanitiy. As a pastry chef that's the only advantage it has for me. Other people may dissagree but it depends on what type of product your baking.

By judymontreal on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 02:53 pm: Edit

I try whenever possible to use the slow oven for baking. If I have a large quantity of items to bake I of course have to use the convection oven. I certainly agree with you W. that there ARE hot spots. I have to rotate trays front to back and top shelf for bottom during baking. Also I have to lower the heat to compensate for the fan. Yes, I know I can turn it off but with 4 people vying for oven time it is easier most of the time to just leave the d--n fan on. I leave it on for cookies, pastry shells and dense batters but make sure that for any loose batter items it is off. I remember a batch of individual coffeecakes, which came out looking decidedly lopsided and windblown.

By judymontreal on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 03:21 pm: Edit

I just reread your posting. I can give you my experience with muffins since I have to make from 36 to 60 every day for a client who has a staff get-together every morning. For bran, oatmeal and multigrain muffins the convec. is ideal because the batters are thick and do not rise too quickly. The batter is firm enough to resist the pull of the fan. For lighter butter cake batters like blueberry and so on, the convec. oven does not perform well. The tops rise and follow the draft from the fan. I usually bake at 275F. which is a much lower heat than I use in the standard oven. I find that cookies do well if I place the trays on every other rack to allow for more even heat distribution. I still have to rotate the trays of cookies which is a hassle. I do not like the convec. oven for puff pastry. The pieces darken before they rise properly no matter what heat I use. Choux pastry is OK if I turn off the fan.

By d. on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 05:05 pm: Edit

Roberto, here's my experinece with convection and conventional ovens:
In our convection oven at I bake cookies, muffins(chill the batter so it is thick), tart shells, puff pastry sheets, cheesecakes. Any type of bread or cake products I bake in our standard oven since the heat is more steady and slow. Unfortunately our convection oven does not have the option of turning the fan off, so you sort of learn along the way which products bake better in either type of oven.
I have made cookies and muffins in both types of oven and I lean towards convection. The cookies come out with less spread and the muffins crown better. Judymontreal is right about the muffin batter being blown and coming out lop-sided if the batter is not thick enough, so I make my batters ahead and chill them. They bake just fine at 325. Hope this helps.

By judymontreal on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 05:42 pm: Edit

I make large batches of batter at a time and refrigerate it up to two days ahead so that I will never be short. I don't bother bringing the batter to room temperature before baking. The batter for the more tender muffins is thick enough for me to use an ice cream scoop to fill the cups. This doesn't seem to help. I still get that "Gone-with-the-wind" look on the crowns.

By W.DeBord on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 07:55 pm: Edit

Sorry to take this a little off track but...I've never kept muffin batter. I always bake it right away. Your talking about scratch batter right? I will have to try this!!!! You don't have to preportion it before refridgeration just scoop and bake? I bake them in the convection and I can not turn my fan off, just rotating them works for me to prevent a lopsided top.

Basicly, I think we all agree you can use the convection for everything if needed...but some items are baked better in a reg. oven.

By tj on Friday, February 25, 2000 - 10:33 pm: Edit

two month ago, i visited a friend who brought a convection oven from france with fans that puls and turn in both directions.i think it was 30 seconds to the right ,30 seconds to the left,through out the baking can be programed to do absolutly any thing with perfect on ,fan off, damper open/closed,humidity pulses/steem injection,plus 100 programeble programs that can be named after a product or a person in the kitchen so every one can use it just the way they like to.the best oven i have ever seen in my life.made by euroven.perfect baking.(if there is such a thing, this gets very close)

By W.DeBord on Saturday, February 26, 2000 - 09:09 am: Edit

Where you do have to work to find a place willing to spend that kind of money? Or I guess you have to be the owner.

I'm extemely jealous!!!!

Tell me there are trade-offs for working in a place with all the best equipment?

By tj on Saturday, February 26, 2000 - 05:02 pm: Edit

its true.most places treat the staff like sh--t.
the last thing on their minds is getting a great oven ,or for that matter anything that can help in the kitchen.they probably just figure, hey the guy is a chef ,let him deal with that...
the only time you will see top of the line kitchens that are made to function and produce well are in big money resorts/hotels (not all of them) or private ,well financed chefs ,who built their kitchen to their specs,with no compromizes.
i remember seeing PAYARDS kitchen specs at pastry art and design back in that is a pastry kitchen i would like to work in......

By d. on Saturday, February 26, 2000 - 05:56 pm: Edit

Here I am chuckling cause reminds me of a saying my non-baking co-workers keep tossing at me whenever I whine about my crappy ovens(one literally short circuits or breaks down on schedule about once a month!); "it is only a poor carpenter that blames his tools". Yeah, but when you really have lousy ovens...
While on the subject of windblown muffins. I spent a couple of days testing and developing a better muffin batter, started with a basic butter cake recipe and making lighter renditions. I tried mixing the batter both ways(creaming method and the muffin method). I chilled both batters and baked off in convection oven. The creaming method does produce a thicker batter so my muffins came out right, but then again it all depends on the ratio of liquids and fat in the muffin recipe.

By momoreg on Saturday, February 26, 2000 - 10:48 pm: Edit

Speaking of poorly designed pastry kitchens, I was reading in Food Arts about a particular restaurant that just opened in NYC, and they redid the entire basement where the pastry kitchen is. They described it as a dim old gray place with very poor work flow. As I read it, I was picturing a place I used to work in years ago in NY. Wouldn't you know it, by the end of the article, they gave the address of this new fabulous restaurant... Same address as my former job!

By W.DeBord on Sunday, February 27, 2000 - 01:11 am: Edit

d. non-bakers can't begin to understand why you need more than a knive and a cutting board.I got in two fights with the soux tonight one was over my pastry cart. Why do I need that damn cart? (My one and only oven is only 40 paces away give or three-fourths of a room.)

Then he got pissed off at me because I take a different day off then the rest of them. He thinks I can and should start at 9:30 a.m. (reg. time)and have five new ala carte desserts ready by lunch from scratch with no prior prep. including desiding what desserts to make.

Oh that's right all pastry chefs have to do is open a book and follow the recipe.

By tj on Sunday, February 27, 2000 - 04:30 pm: Edit

you just brought back some old my younger days i had my share of serious fights over work conditions.i exploded more then once, and actualy walked out on a banquete in progress and told the manager to stick it up know what...
but as you get older and more experienced with handling managment or executive chefs, you learn to manipulate quite well to get things your way.
for me ,the main problem was always dealing with chefs/managers who have unreaonable requests from the psatry chefs cause they seriously lack the basic understanding in what you need to work with,or how to schedual your work many cases both have very little to do with regular cooking kitchen scheduals or rutines.but go explaine this to some idiot manager....

By tj on Sunday, February 27, 2000 - 04:38 pm: Edit

this is when frustration kicks in and you start to get miserable and angry,or even worse starting to hate what you do ,or want to change a work place.
its the same old story that i see over and over again, and it seems that owners/managers dont learn or just dont care too much about pastry chefs, and its mainly the executive chefs that get the most also looks like more hotels/resorts/country clubs are switching to frozen desserts/cakes/breads/pastries instead of keeping a bakery/pastry staff.even if its just 2 guys.
for me, i sure hope this profession does not become obselite in a decade or two...
we just need to push elbows alittle more and be more diplomatic mith our bosses, to get what we want....including fine equipment....

By W.DeBord on Sunday, February 27, 2000 - 11:38 pm: Edit

So how do you explain to someone who has never even sliced a cake what your whole job/skills/time management involves so they can understand where your coming from? I have some pull and team work skills with employees of the same culture. How does one cross sex, culture and understanding with co-employees when you are out numbered (ie. they don't need to get along with me to survive)?

What's different now? How have you learned to handle those problems better now?

By pam on Monday, February 28, 2000 - 01:39 am: Edit

memories...My last job,no one would help me at all.I had to beg to get a dishwasher to peel&slice apples.We served apple tarts in both our dining rooms&I had to waste so much time with this kind of crap.I was the only fem &one of 3 non mexicans.I never had this problem before. They treated the chef horrible but they were all there before him&the chef before him was a female who was sleeping w the sous chef,so they were ok to her I guess.The pastry chef before me wasn't too good. She rarely changed the menu & things weren't real fresh,She didn't wrap genois in the freezer good but used it anyway,same w ice cream,sauces & cookies.But she never bothered anybody&would work fast.Thats because she didn't have to make much new product or do any trials. At least I know my products were good & interesting.the waiters pushed the desserts & they sold really well.hardly had much left over. Then a new young chef from cia came in.

By pam on Monday, February 28, 2000 - 01:56 am: Edit

He didn't know the area &tried to make unrealistic changes.You have to make whatpeople want,If they don't know much french,international fine dining they're not going to order it.He wanted to be too sophisticated.When I started I wanted to change the creme brule,but it was named after a chef&supposedly his recipe.I doubted it was his.The new chef didn't like it either&wanted me to use the recipe from my last job(a rival french rest of the brule guy)I said no&that we should find out the real recipe but the owner wouldn't call him.Then they said the dessert costs has doubled since I've been there STUPID the sales also doubled,at least. As you could guess I wan't there much longer.The ny chef left to work on a fishing boat in Alaska(to fish) to get money for his own place.This was a few years ago.The owner took too much advice from someone he thought would make him alot of money,instead of listening to common sense.The restaurant is still open but is no more busy than it was before.

By tj on Monday, February 28, 2000 - 04:15 pm: Edit

it all comes down to this:
finding the perfect job place is a life long persute.but then you realize that your life is almost over, so what was the whole point....?
the best thing in the world that can happen to a chef/pastry chef is if he can open and run succesfuly his own place and be his own is by far better and more satisfaying to work 80 or 100 hours for yourself, than to do half the hours for some one else, in my opinion...

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