Cold oven baking…

Every loaf shown in this post has been baked in an oven that started cold.

Everything we read and are told is that the dough should go into a preheated oven, but these loaves belie that fact…it was news to me too!

It started with this loaf baked in a clay pot…

I knew that to use the pot I either needed to soak it before use, or put it cold into a cold oven to reduce the risk of it cracking. And so I did. And I held my breath, and it worked! The loaf above proves it.

So if it worked with a clay pot, surely it would work with my enamel roasters, that was my next test. And I’m here to tell you that it does, it works perfectly, as the loaf below shows too…the crust is crisp, the crumb is even, and the cost is less!

If your question is ‘surely I need to preheat the oven to get maximum oven spring?’ Then hopefully my loaves are showing that you don’t. The oven spring comes from a strong starter, good flour and good dough.

If you’re thinking ‘won’t the dough spread whilst the oven is heating up?’ Just make sure that you prove it in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the dough. And yes, it may spread initially, but then it will rise as it bakes, as my photos show.

If you’re thinking ‘that won’t work in my cast iron Dutch oven’, I can tell you that it will. I don’t have a DO but many of the people in my Facebook group and on Instagram do and they’ve tried it, and it works.

A slice from a cold baked loaf

So, this is the process I’ve been using: I’ve followed my master recipe, link to the left, done the final prove in the fridge for several hours, then:

put the dough into the cold baking vessel and score;

put the pot with the dough in into the cold oven;

turn the oven on, turn the heat up to 220C/425F fan/convection or 230C/450F non fan/convention.

Total time in the oven 55-60 mins.

Lid on the entire time.

For me that saves 20 mins of time for the oven to heat up, for others it may be longer.

So, who’s up for the cold baking challenge?

109 thoughts on “Cold oven baking…”

  1. I would like to try but my wolf stove takes around 40 minutes to get to a 425 temp, in your experience would that long of a time be a problem?

  2. Because the temperature is building that whole time, I think it would be okay but there’s only one way to really find out..

  3. I am in! I will try this next time because electricity is getting more and more expensive where I am from and this can save lots of energy and money. Thanks for this post!

  4. Since I’m new to the group this is the only way I have baked Elaine’s Master recipe. It is completely reliable. The only thing I would add is that if you have a baking/pizza stone in your oven, I would suggest that you remove it. It will slow the ovens rise to the top temperature.

  5. Definitely going to try this with my cloche. As you say, I always thought it was ‘gospel’ that the oven and the vessel had to be preheated. Quite a revelation. Many thanks.
    Ps, love the Insta posts.

  6. No, I don’t think so…people have been trying it around the world with different doughs and it’s working for them too..

  7. I’m in the US. I have a standard home-kitchen electric range oven that has no fan-assist, nor a convection feature. Can you suggest bake temperatures for me? Thanks!

  8. No πŸ™‚
    It might do if you had a gas oven that flames from the bottom, but in a modern electric oven it doesn’t

  9. No. β€œRange” just means standard, run-of-the-mill, regular, everyday cooking appliance, with a cooktop (β€œburners”) on the top surface, and an oven underneath the cooktop. It is very common. But the oven does not have a fan that circulates the heated air. Since you recommend temperatures based on β€œfan,” I just wondered if my temperatures would need to be different. A little higher, perhaps? Thank you for your time, kindness, and generosity in sharing your experience and expertise.

  10. Aha, okay, so for a standard oven, always add 15-20C to my fan temps.
    Thank you, I love being able to share my sourdough world xx

  11. I have a solid state oven that is on all the time so I can’t start from cold (if I turned it off it would take hours to heat up again). What adjustments, if any, should I make to your master recipe? I’m planning to bake the bread either in a Le Creuset pot or an upside down pyrex dish. Thanks!

  12. I will definitely do that next time as well. I think my loaf doesn’t like to be transferred from being cozily risen and then dropped in the hot pan. It always looks like a wrinkled old prune. πŸ˜‰ It somewhat rises while baking, but not as much as it did on the table. My baking dish is the pottery loaf pan that needs to be placed in the cold oven anyway. I’m just going to raise it in it and then place it in the oven. Wrinkled dough problem solved. Ha! I love this blog. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  13. Fabulous! I have tried this several times now and much prefer this to the hot oven method. It also allows me to do the work one day and then bake in the AM. loaves look much nicer also. I am so happy, I wish I knew how to post a pic.

  14. Hi! I live in USA. I love cold baking, its my favorite now, it works with my enamel roasters. I have standard electric range oven, no fan, but 475 Fahrenheit, its ideal for baking without fan. Thank you very much for everything! ☺️

  15. Do you always use parchment paper? The first couple of cold bakes I used it with no issues. Last time I used coarse corn meal and didn’t have any sticking. This morning I used the corn meal again and the bottom my loaf was β€œglued” to my pan, what a mess. In the past, when I was baking in the preheated pan and oven, I never had a sticking issues, no parchment, no corn meal. Any thoughts?
    Thank you

  16. Hi, yes I always use parchment paper. Ever since having loaves stick to the pan myself in the very early days of me baking sourdough, I’ve always used it.
    I don’t know why your loaf would have suddenly stuck on this occasion unless you changed the hydration or flour you used?

  17. Hi when you say lid on the whole time, does this not stop the do rising and Crisping?in the photos all the loafs look higher than the sides?

  18. Hi, no it’s doesn’t stop the rising and crisping. My lid is slightly domed so it has room to grow inside πŸ™‚

  19. I am new to making sourdough bread, but I love it. I have never heard of cold oven start. I have a gas oven and next time I bake a loaf of bread, I am going to try your method.
    Thank you.

  20. Hi Kim, if you have a gas oven with the heat source at the bottom, you may need to make allowances for the heat coming up and hitting the base of the loaf…feel free to email me…x

  21. I did my first cold oven baking this afternoon. 2 loaves sourdough soft bread. Usually I baked them at 190degC with fan for 35 min with lid and 3-4 min without lid. Today 40 min since the oven on with lid, and another 7 min without lid. The last 7 min I changed the oven setting to bottom heat only as I want a bit more brown (the top already brown enough). Maybe next time it should be 45 min with lid and 2-3 min without lid.

    Anyway, it works! Thank you Elaine😊 Can’t wait to try it with another sourdough. Hope this could help my current sourdough problem. Hard bottom crust…

  22. Yay! Sounds great, I’m so glad you like it πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»

  23. I have my first “master recipe” loaf proving in the fridge right now and I have to say from beginning up to this point it is the NICEST, fluffiest, bubbliest, happiest, softest, most awesome dough I’ve worked with! Thank you (seriously…thank you! After trying what feels like 100’s of different recipes “out there” yours seems to “nail it”). I’m excited to get it into the oven and am going to try the cold bake as described above…but I have a gas oven. From the looks of it the heat source is at the top. Should I make any adjustments for temperature or timing? Thank you!

  24. Hi, thank you, I’m so glad you’re happy with your dough πŸ™‚
    As this is your first time using my recipe I wonder if it would be an idea to go with a preheated oven this time?
    Then maybe investigate your oven further, what do you think?

  25. While I m waiting on my starter to arrive, I’m trying a cold bake with a loaf that sat 2 days in fridge.
    I’m excited to see what happens under the lid.

  26. I’ve been using the master recipe for last 4 months with great results. I tried cold baking previously but the dough spread too much. I’ve tweaked the hydration and hopefully will have a slightly firmer loaf coming out of. fridge. If I pop it in oven cold tomorrow morning at 6 it will be baked as I step back through the door after doing my horse!! Perfect for breakfast πŸ˜€

  27. I just tried this on a non-sourdough no-knead loaf. It worked beautifully! I made the dough and after letting it rise for about 7 hours I put it in the refrigerator overnight. This morning I took it out of the fridge and let it sit on parchment with a flour semolina mix for about an hour. Then I plopped it in a COLD cast iron Dutch oven, put the cove on and slipped into a cold oven. Turned my oven to 475 degrees F and let it bake for 30 min. Then turned the oven down to 450 degrees F for 25 min. Didn’t peek once! It turned out beautiful! Crispy crust and nicely browned on the bottom. I will use this method from now on. Thank you!! And thanks to all of you who commented. A great help to me.

  28. I’m a bit confused. The cold method is cold oven, cold dough and cold pot
    Your master recipe says yo preheat oven, then throw cold dough, cold pot in to bake
    Is there a difference.
    I’ve been preheating my oven, and it works, but it would save a lot of energy to do all cold.

  29. Hi, you can do either. I’ve left my master recipe using a preheated oven as I feel that this might make new bakers feel more comfortable, people can then try the cold start when they’re ready. It works perfectly, it’s just a leap of faith for some people, especially when we’ve always been told that ovens should be preheated…

  30. Why do you rice flour to coat the dough and the cloth? Why can’t you just use the bread flour that you use to make the loaf. I’m going to try the cold oven method. Thanks for that idea! I didn’t see how I could bake bread in the summertime and running the a/c overtime!

  31. Hi, rice flour is non porous and will stop the dough from sticking to the banneton; if you use your same bread flour, the dough is likely to stick and not coming out of the banneton nicely.
    Good luck with the cold baking πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

  32. I’ve been baking sourdough with a variety of recipes for several years now. The master recipe is definitely the simplest I have tried – both in ingredient list and in process. I’m baking a loaf as I type.

    My oven element ceased working in November last year and I’ve tried several alternative baking methods. Old fashioned electric frying pan with the vessel on a low trivet worked well, but was a bit pale on top and harder than I like in the bottom. Crock pot worked really well for a soft moist loaf, but with no ‘crust’ in the traditional sense.

    Now I am baking in my little toaster oven, and it turns out consistently good bread at a lower temp than I would have thought possible. It only heats to 200 Celsius so I bake for a bit longer than I used to. I have taken to using a thermometer to check for doneness to save failure. Mostly I use my nose to know when it’s baked.

    Gorgeous bread with a fantastically simple recipe, Thank you.

  33. Thank you so much for your lovely message and taking the time to write and post it, I’m so glad it works so well for you πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ» xx

  34. Hi Elaine, I still would like the Bataks down in temps fore Farenheit ovens!
    Thank you for all your amazing love of sourdough bread you share with everyone!
    Lisa Trier

  35. Hi Elaine, my last email was a train wreck.
    Sorry, I was just so rushing my words.
    Please, can you tell me the brake-down of baking in
    Farenheit with convection oven.
    Thank you so much”
    Lisa Trier

  36. Hi, you can easily convert my master recipe to make a sandwich loaf; if you replace a portion of the flour with plain/cake flour you will soften the crumb, or use milk instead of water to do the same job πŸ™‚

  37. Elaine
    Nothing but success with your
    Master recipe!!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
    Do you have a pretzel recipe?
    Didn’t want to add store bought yeast to sourdough if possible…

  38. Hi Deby, thank you so much πŸ™πŸ»
    I don’t have a pretzel one yet but I’m sure you could easily convert one…

  39. How refreshing to find another cold start fan. It’s impractical for me to preheat, because I don’t have an oven. Instead, I bake outdoors in a Dutch oven using charcoal as my heat source. When you watch your fuel disappear before your eyes rather than just paying a bill at the end of the month, you question the need for using it on an empty vessel.
    My current method before baking varies a little from yours. I’m going to try yours though, as it’s fun to see, feel, and taste the little and big differences brought by every little change in method.

  40. I’m going to give this a try this afternoon. I’m ready to shape my loaves and put one in a clay baking dish with lid (oblong) and one in my Dutch oven. My recipe didn’t call for final proof in frig, but will do that.

  41. My new standard way of baking a successful loaf is from cold in a Dutch oven, thanks to you! I’m addicted!

  42. Hi Elaine
    Thank you very much for all the great tips, hints and master recipe.
    I’m from Kenya and it was a bit of a struggle finding the right flour as strong flour is not as readily available. Most flours are all purpose.
    But I managed to find one and with your great recipe and cold start, I’m onto a winner at last. The cold start works a treat. Never going to preheat again!
    Next up are your other recipes. Thank you for great Instagram postings, I find them very motivational.

  43. Thank you so much, Magdelle, I’m so pleased it’s working so well for you πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»

  44. I’ve just changed from gas to electricity wall oven +induction hob and am learning new ways to cook everything.
    I bake 3 sourdough loaves per week and don’t buy any commercial bread. In my old gas oven it took 30-40mins to get hot enough to bake bread. The bread would be in for 50-60 minutes.
    But I could bake open with water added.
    I had to threw away 2 small loaves last week and was desperately trying to find a method for the fan oven. Then…. I found this article!
    I was up until 1am Saturday but it was worth every minute. I used my huge enamel pot with lid, lined with paper + baked one large loaf from cold.
    I cannot describe the joy!
    It was/is beautiful, brown, crusty, split where I cut it on top and the inside… Well my 63 Yr old addicted to bread hubby said its the best bread he’s ever eaten! I agree… And between your method the recipe and the new oven I reckon you’re going to save us a fortune!
    Thank you so much

  45. How wonderful, thank you so much πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ» that’s fab!

  46. Hi, no, no reason, all I find is that tins inhibit the growth of the loaf, but it will be fine πŸ™‚

  47. It works!
    As I started with sourdough bread just recently, I did not realize this is possible. My owen has a special “bread” program starting with steam and then rising the temp up. I tried it before but the bread remained flat. I thought it is because the oven was cold, but it seems it was just my weak starter. I am finishing the loaf as I write but it is clear already that the bread will be OK as it has grown a lot and has a nice colour. Thank you for encouraging me to try it again.

  48. It worked for me, thanks. I’ve not long started making sourdough (about 10 loaves so far) so this was a variable I had to try. Seems good. Fingers crossed for attempt number 2 which has just gone in…

  49. So I turn the oven to 475 after putting the clay pot and dough in and then after 30 minutes what do I turn it down to?

  50. Not quite. If you’d like to read it again, I don’t turn it down when I put the pot in, only half way through πŸ‘πŸ»

  51. Made the best loaves so far using this cook method! I have only been baking sourdough since May so I am still experimenting. This was great, and my apartment didn’t stay as hot either.

  52. It came out beautifully in my Romatopf unglazed clay baker! I used 450F and 400F for the temps, so that’s a little cooler, I think, than your centigrade temperatures. My loaf also was slightly larger (didn’t use your recipe), so I needed to bake longer to achieve the right internal temperature. I’ll account for that next time, but this method achieved my best loaf ever!!! Thank you!

  53. I’m really confused. I followed your instructions for the master recipe and it says preheat oven to 230C. Now this is saying cold oven bake. Please advise. Thanks

  54. Hi, cold baking is optional. You can use a preheated oven or a cold oven, I’m merely offering choices πŸ‘πŸ»

  55. I love the time savings of putting my cold loaf in its cold baker in a cold oven. Awesome! I got a great result the first time I did it and today is loaf #2! πŸ™‚

  56. I’ve been baking sourdough for a few years off and on and have never heard of the cold method. I’m sure going to try it though. I Usually bake in my Dutch oven with the lid on in a hot oven then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 min.
    When you say cold, that’s out of the frig not room temperature?

  57. Hello Elaine,
    I had to write to say I achieved a brilliant sourdough loaf with your master recipe. I tweaked it a little to include 50g of Rye and reduced the hydration to 70%. I did a 6 hr cold retard and cold baked in a glass “Phoenix” casserole dish at Fan 200 for an hour and then took the lid off and gave it another 5 mins. I am so happy with the results.
    Thank you.

  58. just tried the cold method for the first time and it worked like a charm!

    i liked your recipe as well but i’d suggest waiting to add the salt until after you autolyse as it prevents the flour from absorbing as much water as possible and has a tightening effect on the gluten.

    i’ve found that autolysing with just flour and water and then adding starter and salt has personally given me the best results.

    in any case overall super helpful stuff, thanks for sharing!

  59. That’s great, I’m so glad it worked well for you, thank you for letting me know πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

    Thank you for your suggestion, I’ve tried every which way of making sourdough and settled on the one that works best for me; we all have different ways of doing things, but in the end, as long as we have great bread to eat, it’s a win ☺️☺️

  60. Because both yeast / co2 and steam contribute to oven spring .. there is science (and wisdom) to these opposing methods. Either go cold and freakin hot. In in poorly proofed bread I prefer the former and in a nicely proofed bread the latter.. warm regards

  61. I love love love this recipe (and the cold oven technique is really great) but lately when I bake a plain strong-flour loaf (no whole wheat, no rye) I get HUGE bubbles in the middle – it tastes fabulous, but it’s useless to use for sandwiches or anything other than buttering and eating because I basically just get crust and a chewy ring. What am I doing wrong?!?

  62. Hi, you’re not doing anything wrong, it just sounds like your dough is under proved, which can often happen this time of year. Has your dough been doubling in size overnight?

  63. No, in fact it barely grows much more than half again. I don’t have this issue when I add whole wheat and/or rye flour. Just when I make a plain loaf.

  64. I do use bread flour, or a mix of bread flour and wheat or rye. I made a batch yesterday, proofed it overnight and it definitely doubled (much warmer this week than it has been) and now it’s so sticky I can’t pull it – it’s sticking to my fingers so bad it’s all just ending up on my hands…

  65. It sounds to me like it’s over proved…especially if it’s been warmer and it’s so sticky..

  66. Well, the good news is I made a loaf this past weekend with bread flour and whole wheat (3:1 ratio), proofed it until it doubled (about 15 hours) and it baked up a perfect loaf. No unruly giant bubbles, delightful texture, delicious. I got my mojo back! I truly love your recipe – it’s so easy once you get the feel for it. Than you!

  67. Wonderful! Great news πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

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