I posted this picture on instagram, and got so many comments about not being able to trust a convection oven to make bread/ cake and cookies.
First things first, there are a lot of misconceptions about using a convection oven in India. Most low end models of convection ovens usually come in combination with a microwave and hence a lot of people feel they own a microwave oven and cannot bake in it. Higher end convection ovens are mostly stand alone ones. Check your oven user manual to find out how your’s works. These are observations I have made based on interactions with students and participants from my baking classes and I am hoping to debunk a few myths.
- A convection oven is an oven which heats up using electric coil or a heating element, similar to an OTG. The difference is that in addition, convection ovens have a fan built in, which distributes the heat evenly. This means that heating is far more efficient in a convection oven when compared to an OTG. However in India, there is a feeling among users, that only OTGs (oven toaster griller) have the ability to bake cakes and cookies or bake them better than convection ovens. This is not true.
- To use a convection oven, firstly read the manual thoroughly. Each oven functions differently and hearsay about what a friend / neighbour uses is mostly not helpful. If anything it only serves to confuse, unless validated with data.
- To use your oven, you need to identify three functions and their controls in your oven. Thermostat – to set the temperature, Timer – to choose the time for baking, Preheat function – to preheat your oven, sometimes this is the power button or the start button if your oven does not have a separate preheat button.
- Check if the thermostat is functioning efficiently. To do this, you can use an oven thermometer and place it inside the oven, after preheating, check if the thermometer is showing the same temperature as the thermostat indicates. If it shows a variation more than 5-10 degrees, get a technician to calibrate the oven and check again. Do not resort to guess work as it can lead to disastrous baking results. Get your oven fixed rather than trying to work around a heating problem.
- Also, since most combination convection microwave ovens come with a turntable, it is important to place the wire tripod (usually provided with the oven) on the turntable and place the baking pan ON TOP of the wire rack. The heat needs to get to the baking pan from all sides. When the baking pan is placed on top of the turntable without any height, the bottom cooks poorly.
- Once the oven is placed in the convection mode, oven proof utensils can be used. These include metal, aluminum, silicone, bake proof glass and paper.
- One issue which most people complain about is that a convection oven does not result in a crust/ browning the way an OTG does. This is true, only because of the distribution of heat via the fan. To get a deeper coloured result, turn on the overhead grill in your convection oven for the last 1 minute of baking. Anything more and it will dry out your cake.
- Unless the oven is overheating or underheating, do not change the baking temperature for any recipe. Follow the temperature and baking time as specified by the recipe instructions.
- The key to getting the best results from your oven, no matter what kind it is, is PRACTICE. The more you bake, the more comfortable you get with your oven and its functions. All ovens are different and they do give varying results. But to solely blame the oven for a baking disaster is not correct. Many times, when probed, my students who complain about not getting proper results with a convection oven will confess that they messed up the recipe and then blamed the oven.
- Baking is a science, mostly chemistry. It is the combination of the right proportion of Wet + Dry ingredients, combined with a rising agent and exposed to a certain amount of heat. An error in any of these elements will result in a bad product. I will do a baking 101 soon.
Garlic bread rolls recipe (Makes 12 rolls)
3 cups flour ( I used 1.5 cups wheat flour + 1.5 cups all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk (temperature of the milk should be about 95-97 degrees F – when you place your finger in the liquid, it should feel a few degrees warmer than your body temperature. Any hotter and you will kill the yeast)
1.5 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons soft butter
3-4 pods of fresh garlic, grated or use 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon herbs of choice (optional, use dried or fresh)
room temperature water as needed (about 2/3 cup)
1/4-1/2 cup dry flour for kneading
Method: warm the milk and add the sugar and yeast to it. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes. The yeast should froth up and form a foam like cappuccino. If this does not happen, wait a few more minutes. If there is no frothing, it is safe to assume that the yeast is either inactive or that the water is too hot. Discard the mixture and start again. If it does not work the second time as well, get a fresh batch of yeast.
Measure the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and garlic to the bowl and mix with your fingers. Add the herbs also if using.
Once the yeast has frothed up, add the milk to the flour and combine to make a dough. Add extra water, at room temperature, to make a dough that feels a little soft and sticky. The dough should be much softer and wetter than roti dough. Do not be tempted to add dry flour to this mixture.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
On a clean and dry surface, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of dry flour, dump the dough onto the surface and knead with your hands for 10 minutes. At first the dough will be very sticky and difficult to manage. But resist the temptation to add more dry flour. Add the butter and oil a little at a time to create a smooth and elastic dough. Use only half the dry flour and only IF needed. When you touch the dough, it should feel rubbery to the touch once kneaded. Roughly 10 minutes of kneading should be sufficient.
to check if the dough is ready, take a small marble sized piece and roll it into a ball. Gently spread it between your fingers to see if it spreads without tearing. If it tears too easily, the dough needs to be kneaded some more.
Spread a little oil on a clean bowl, shape the dough into a round and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a damp cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm spot which doesnt get direct breeze for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the weather and how warm your kitchen is.
The dough should become double in size. If you are unsure, just place the dough in a plastic see through container. On the outside, take a ruler and mark the inches. When you place the dough, if it is at 4 inches, it should come up to 8 inches when it is ready. When you place the dough in the container if it was at 3 inches, it should come up to 6inches. Etc.
Once the dough has risen, gently turn it onto a kneading surface. Press out the air gently and divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape them into balls, ensuring to press and seal the loose ends at the bottom. Repeat with all the dough balls.
Prepare a 9 inch round or square baking pan by brushing it with melted butter or oil. Place an aluminum foil at the bottom of the baking pan and brush this too with oil/ melted butter. This is optional, but makes for an easy clean up and prevents the rolls from sticking to the pan.
Place the shaped rolls 1 inch apart in the baking pan. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes to rise to double. The space between the rolls should be filled with the plumped up dough. The tops can be brushed with a beaten egg, I skipped this step. This egg wash gives a deep browning to the top.
Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees Celsius. Place the metal baking rack in the middle of the oven. Place the baking pan with the rolls on this. Close the oven door and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Check the doneness at 25 minutes, by gently opening the oven door & checking the rolls. They should have a uniform golden brown top. If they are still pale, continue to bake for 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Brush the hot rolls with melted butter. Remove the rolls gently from the pan by turning the pan upside down onto a rack or a plate, cover with a dry clean kitchen cloth and cool another 5 minutes.
Enjoy the rolls warm with butter or a gravy curry/ stew or soup.
Home made bread will dry out if left exposed. Cover with a clean dry cloth until needed. Do not put the hot rolls in a closed container, they will steam and get soggy.
To store leftovers, either wrap with clingfilm and store, or place it on paper towels and then put it in an airtight container. Always refrigerate bread if not using within 24 hours.
I would love to answer any questions you may have for this recipe. If you have read this far, then thank you for your patience. If you try this out, please send me a picture of your bread rolls.