BAKERS’ TOPIC – baking on a tile
Today the bakers’ topic is pitched at home bakers, and concerns domestic ovens. In the previous account I have established that domestic ovens are flimsy little structures that lack the heat being radiated from a deep source. As a tinny metal chamber with the food to cook being suspended on shelves, any conducted heat will be coming from a metal baking tray, which is likely to be a harsh type of heat. You are left with the food being cooked by convection – the currents of hot air swirling around inside usually being pushed by a fan, with the result that often the bread crust is unappealing.
You can do one thing to try to improve the situation and emulate a proper baker’s oven – bake on a masonry tile. A pre-heated tile that has been inside the heating oven for long enough to become deeply hot, will transform your baking. The strong heat coming through the bottom crust will enable good oven spring, and the interior of the loaf will benefit from the heat conducted from the tile. The solidity of the hot tile will also improve the quality of the radiated heat that comes from all parts of the chamber onto the top of the loaf. Baking anything on a solidly hot tile will make for better cooking, and when it comes to pies, there will no longer be a “soggy bottom”. Regarding bread and flatbreads you can also do away with the need for metal trays, simply peeling the goods directly onto the hot tile for the best possible bake.
Tiles will vary in their capability of taking smartly introduced heat. Some types of stone will crack, and low-fired terracotta like house floor tiles will tend to crack and fracture. Tiles that are classed as “refractory” masonry will be the best, being designed to deal with massive doses of heat, and able to heat up and cool down quickly. The tiles I sell at PANARY are actually potters’ kiln shelves, and you cannot get refractories graded higher than these. In short, they are over-kill in their capacity seeing as we bakers are mucking around with low levels of heat compared with pottery. Another feature that is particularly good about them is that they are only 12 mm thick, hence they heat up relatively quickly in a domestic oven.