Wulf's Webden

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Baking Efficiency

With power suppliers putting up their prices, now is not a bad time to be thinking about further ways to reduce energy usage. It recently struck me that one area I could experiment with is how I bake my bread. I know that the ingredients of home-made bread are much cheaper than buying loaves and I enjoy it as a hobby so don’t need to figure in a cost for the time but how much energy does it take to turn flour, water, salt and yeast into a delicious loaf?

Normally I use the electric oven. I put a breadstone in it and turn it onto full power, which it takes about 15 minutes to achieve. I then transfer the bread to the stone and put it in the hot oven, turning down the heat from 230°C to about 200°C. I estimate it to take about 20 minutes for a reasonable bake but more like half an hour if I want to get a good crust and avoid any doughiness inside. I decided to compare this to creating a similar loaf by hand but then putting it into bread  machine pan for final proving and cooking (this is a follow-up to last week’s post about playing with my food).

At the end of last week, I use my plug-in energy monitor and cooked the same-sized loaf for 50 minutes. That was decently cooked through although the top was still fairly pale in appearance. The resulting loaf was cube-shaped but had good dimensions for sandwiches. The cooking process used 0.27 kWh of electricity. I then cooked a loaf with the same volume using the oven. Usage was a bit more of an estimate, based on before and after readings from the meter, but 1.5KWh had been consumed between start and end. I have another meter which gives an idea of how much is being drawn through the system at any one point but even at temperature this was about three times the level of the baseline average so I would expect to get 4-5 breadmachine baked loaves for the same energy input.

The oven-baked loaf looked and arguably tasted better (I love a strong crust) but I think I will reserve that approach for special occasions. For a workaday loaf it seems clear that finishing in the breadmachine is the way to go.

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