How can I use my oven more efficiently during baking?

Yesterday, over on my new growing/cooking/making/frugal blog The Really Good Life, I discussed my love affair with slow rise/no knead bread. It’s really frickin’ ace – it doesn’t take much effort, reduces our food waste, is cheap in itself & stops us spending money in other ways too – and most importantly, tastes great. However, at the moment, we’re not making the best use of our oven while we’re baking it – meaning we’re wasting energy and therefore money.

The recipe needs the oven to be hot (230C/450F/Gas mark 8) and in addition to the 40-50 minute cooking time, it needs to be well pre-heated (the cast iron casserole dish needs to be sizzling or the bread will stick) – so a lot of heat for a long time. We don’t generally eat enough bread to warrant making multiple loaves at once so I try to use the other space for other things. I’ve made scones/biscuits a few times and we nearly always have egg shells that need baking before crushing & returning to the chickens as grit.

Any other suggestions for things I could cook/bake alongside the bread? It’s not a huge oven and the casserole for the bread takes up quite a bit of space but there is a spare rack for things no more than 6cm/3″ high, a narrow strip next to the casserole, and the oven floor too.

(We usually bake mid-morning so we have cooled fresh bread for sandwiches at lunchtime. Since I’m usually working then, I don’t have a lot of time to make things from scratch and also it’s not a suitable time to make things that need to be eaten immediately after cooking. The oven is too hot for slow-cooking anything for lunch/dinner. Any suggestions would be welcome but suggestions taking these points into account would be especially great!)

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6 Responses to “How can I use my oven more efficiently during baking?”

  1. Bellen says:

    Chicken parts will bake well at a high temp and you can start them while the
    oven is heating – same would be for braised beef (tough cuts) done in a shallow pan covered with foil.

    Bake potatoes for future use; roast bones & veggie scraps while heating, then add water/broth for really good soup base; dry herbs while preheating, bread ends for crumbs too; tomato sauce in a covered shallow pan perhaps; roast several heads of garlic while preheating; also doing reductions of broth/liquids while baking the bread unless the added humidity would affect the bread.

  2. Rob says:

    I second the potatoes idea, or any root vegetable you like. Note that anything you bake along with the bread may impact the flavor of the bread though – something to bear in mind. Something we really enjoy is roasted Brussels sprouts; cut them in half and brush them with a cheese-free PESTO (basically oil, basil, and nuts) then bake. Pesto really makes them great and will add some nice flavor to the bread, especially if you’re already making a seasoned bread. I haven’t made a plain bread in years; I put herbs in all breads. Try it a few times and you’ll find yourself doing the same.

  3. chicgeek says:

    Try a stew, perhaps? In a pan with a tight fitting lid, if space allows. I second roasting veggies. The roasted veggies can be pureed for a great veggie soup.
    Baked potatoes-well, they won’t be that tasty, they need to be enjoyed hot out of the oven. But they’d work for hash browns, if you’re baking and saving them. Perhaps slice them very thin, stir them in some oil, put on a pan and make potato chips/crisps?
    After the oven is turned off, there is still a lot of heat left. Have trays ready to slide in as soon as you pull out the bread. Trays of stale bread-it will crisp and toast nicely, and then can be put in a paper bag and gone over with a rolling pin to make dry bread crumbs. I’ve done that. I just slide the tray in and go off and ignore it, not opening the door.
    It’s suprising how much heat is left in a just shut off oven.
    Trays of sliced peeled apples-they will tend to stick, I’ve found, so what pan you use matters. Probably drying herbs and such as well. Heck, drying flowers for bouquets/potpouri. Why not?

  4. Rose says:

    Since you are baking in the morning, why not do a breakfast casserole along side the bread? I always bake up extra bread and muffins, always good for freezing and thawing when you have no time but want something good. Stale bread also makes for good stuffing

  5. Bob says:

    Here’s a tip:

    Don’t open the oven door in between!

    Think about that every time you open the oven door unnecessarily. You lose about 25 degrees of heat every time you open that door to peek.

  6. If you can gather up enough dandelion roots you could be roasting them to make dandelion coffee!

    If you break up lasagne sheets into triangles, very lightly oil them, place them on a baking tray and salt and pepper them, in about 10 mins you’ll have some very nice home made tortilla chips!

    Probably the best option is to think about when you use your oven though. If you are using it on a morning then you are always going to struggle to improve the efficiency unless you find extra things to bake. This could be false economy. If the bread will keep sufficiently could you bake it whilst making you tea (or dinner for those not from round these parts) as then there is no need to make extra stuff.

    Alternatively, you could make a simmer box, mine is on my blog, and by starting something like a casserole whilst the oven is on, it could then be transferred into the simmer box to finish off and be ready for the evening.

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