The Rofco Experience

During the spring and early summer of 2015 my little microbakery started to get a little busy… To the point that I was having to get up earlier to push the bread through my 2 ovens – a domestic 68l Beko fan oven and my relatively new Lincat EC08. I was regularly up to 2 loads through each oven and it was looking like more… Which would have been OK, but it would have meant getting up earlier and earlier… And as I’m somewhat lazy and my wife was somewhat grumbly about it, something else had to be done, so I started looking at ovens again.

Way back I looked at the Rofco ovens and lusted after one, but at that time there was no UK distributor. I like having a UK “shop” for things I buy – if nothing else, it’s someone closer to home to complain to, so when I found out that Brook Foods in Somerset were now importing Rofco ovens I had another good look at them.

And there was the issue I’d encountered a few times in the past; There are no real and proper reviews of commercial catering equipment. Why? I do not know. My suspicion is that most commercial firms either have brand loyalty and stick with the same maker all their lives, or that they simply do not have time to use this new fangled Internet thing…

So here is my small review of my Rofco B40

tl;dr – It’s great and I use it every baking day.

I’m self-employed and work from home – I have a converted utility room that I use as my “bakehouse”. I share this space with my wife who also uses it for storage for one of her businesses so things have to fit and it’s a bit tight at times. The home part is the first hurdle – 230v single-phase electricity so while I’d love to have a deck oven (a) they’re too big and (b) most need 3 phase electricity. Another hurdle is that its up a set of stairs…

The first commercial oven I bought was the Lincat EC08. This is a dual fan/heater oven with 3 GN1/1 shelves. It has the luxury of a water inlet with a rather crude but effective water injection system. I removed the grids and replaced them with 10mm thick steel plates to simulate a deck oven for bread. This works a treat, but can only bake 6 large or 12 small loaves at a time.

So when I needed another oven, another Lincat was the obvious choice, but I was still lusting after a deck oven…  The Rofco seemed the only choice in that department, but like other commercial (and semi-commercial) kitchen equipment there were no proper reviews… (I did find a bad review though!) However an email to the Real Bread Campaign mailing list asking for help found someone close enough to me who was willing to spend some time showing me his Rofco, so off to the village post office of Bere Alston I went to meet up with Johnathon, sample some of his wonderful cheese & onion bread and have a chat.

Next up was arranging a trip to Brook Foods to see their demo Rofco and do a trial bake in it – and I’m lucky in that I live relatively close – under 1½ hours away, so early one morning I shaped up 2 sourdough loaves and left them to prove in the car on the drive up. I also took up some standard yeasted mix on its first rise and off I went… I was met by Steve Sanders who made me very welcome and showed me round. He’d already turned the Rofco on and it was hot, so as soon as I got there, I put the sourdoughs in, and shaped the other lump of dough I’d brought up and leave it to prove.

And so it’s an oven; the bread baked. The bread baked well and I was impressed with the oven spring and the colour of the crust. (We didn’t use any steam and were somewhat cavalier about leaving the door open too!) Steve even suggested I enter the bread into the world bread competition – I think he was just being kind, but maybe next year…

rofcoAtBrookThis is the Rofco B40 at Brook Foods with my breads inside it.

And so that was that – I signed on the dotted line and took delivery a few days later. Delivery was not without a little mishap, but to their credit, Brook Foods sorted it out on the spot and the next day I was a happy baker.

Six months later…

So now… 6 months later… The Rofco has been in-use 5 or 6 days a week with only a brief break in September and over the Christmas period when I had a bit of a break. Not only do I use it for bread, but it now bakes cakes, pastys & empanadas, buns, mince pies and so on. I’ve only had one other issue with it and that’s when I broke the light protector glass – however Brook sent me a replacement inside 48 hours and I’ve been much more careful with the water sprayer since then!

Steaming… I opted to not buy the steam pods that Rofco supply – I’d had reports that they take up too much space in the oven and others seem to get by with a pump sprayer thing, so that’s what I use. I spray the rear walls just before closing the door which seems plenty enough for the breads I’m baking.

The internal layout is as follows:

| Top of oven with controls |
|    Top element            |
|                         T1|
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    2nd Element            |
|                           |
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    3rd Element            |
|                         T2|
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    4th Element            |

The left dial controls the top and 2nd elements with thermostat T1, the right dial controls the 3rd and 4th elements with thermostat T2.

Pros and Cons

Everything has good and bad points and the Rofco is no exception.

On the good side:

  • Three tall “decks”. No problems with tins for tall loaves. Plenty of space for them to rise and still stay well away from the elements.
  • Two heating controls. (See above) You can cook in either the top deck or all 3 – not the bottom two because the top element in the middle deck (Element 2 above) would not be on. This is fine and I use the top deck on its own for cakes, etc. I can fit 4 cake tins in it and cook 4 at once – for half the electricity load.
  • Nice stainless steel easy clean outside.
  • It’s a deck oven! You can use a peel to get breads in & out.
  • Capacity for 12 large (915g dough) loaves or 18 small loaves, depending on how you shape them. You can get many more in if you use tins – possibly even 8 large tins per deck if you try hard enough.
  • Baking trays – it was supplied with 3 baking trays – simple steel sheets with folded edges – I ordered 3 more (plus their silicone liners) as it’s a very non-standard size.
  • Continuous baking. I can bake 2 loads back to back (Although it does tend to get about 10 minutes recovery due to the time it takes me to get the next load ready to go on)
  • The baking stones can be removed (carefully) as can the door (fiddly). This makes it much easier to move – myself and wife carried it up a set of stairs without too much trouble once we’d removed them.

On the down side:

  • It’s not a standard size. Internal is 480mm x 480mm. This is designed to fit in a standard European kitchen “unit” space (of 600×600) so some trays may not fit well.
  • Getting the hang of the controls took time. I settled on a top temperature of 220°C and a bottom temperature of 210°C. The bottom deck cooks hotter and can scorch the bottoms of your loaves if not careful. It took me about a week of baking to get a setting I was happy with. The middle deck is slightly cooler.
  • Maintenance: The sides and back are pop-riveted together. If I have to replace an element I want to do it myself. I did not notice this when I first looked at it. I have replaced the element and thermostat in my Beko oven and looked at how to do it in the Lincat – these have easy to access screws, nuts and bolts… Not so with the Rofco. Lets hope I never have to…
  • It’s too low. I now have some brands on my left arm when trying to move the breads on the bottom shelf. I am in the process of having a plinth made for it to sit on to make it easier to access the bottom shelf. (Don’t throw away the pallet it comes on until you can raise it up a little)

Some more photos

rofcoCakesSome cakes on one of the supplied baking trays on the top-shelf. These are two 9″/23cm tins and two 8″/20cm tins. Cakes do tend to brown a bit on-top before they’re finished, so a covering of foil is handy towards the end of baking.

rofcoRollsFull of bread rolls.

rofcoEmpsBaking some empanadas (small pastys)

And …

rofcoBreadsIt even bakes bread! Those are all around 915g of dough.

And finally, just to give you an idea how it fits into the “Bakehouse”:


So I hope this is of use to any potential Rofco buyers – please do get in-touch if you want more details – preferably by email though…

Pastry Masterchef with Ruth Hinks

So a few months back, thinking about where to take Moorbakes next, I booked a Pastry Masterchef course with UK world chocolate master Ruth Hinks

And last week it happened and: Wow. Just wow. The web page says:

The Pastry Masterchef course is an intensive and challenging two days aimed at chefs, students, business owners and the home baking enthusiasts who wish to gain the latest pastry skills and techniques.

Intensive and challenging it’s not wrong there. It was two days of non-stop pastry, entremets, chocolate and who knows what else I did which is still lurking at the back of my head waiting to swim to the surface.

If you do this course, you need to go in with an open mind, open ears, open eyes, a thirst for knowledge and the ability to just soak up absolutely everything that you do in those two days.

Ruth is a fantastic teacher – demonstrating techniques, then showing me how to copy (which I did, but practice makes perfect!) She made the most elaborate little (and big!) cakes look simple – breaking everything down into manageable steps – not always in the order you build the finished cake though, but planning is everything. Ruths fantastic staff (Zoe and Rachel), had measured out all the ingredients ready to use – which is essential when you have so much to cover, although I did have to weigh a few things – dividing a jelly between 2 cake rings equally for example.

It’s not all hard work though. Ruth (Barista trained!) makes a great cup of coffee or caramel hot chocolate… Elevenses in a mug. Perfect! And if you’ve watched some of her online videos then you may be in for a surprise – much different in person, even someone to share a joke with too (e.g. the old Scottish one: Is that a dessert or a meringue?) or to laugh with you when you cock-up rolling out some pastry. I got it better the second time though 🙂

I made almost everything listed on the course page, although we did have some last minute substitutions – e.g. using a raspberry jelly rather than plum, so again, keep an open mind and prepare to be flexible. Ruth also made some changes for some of the macaroons I was taking home – so I could give them to my mother in-law who’s wheat and milk intolerant (we made a marshmallow filling rather than a butter cream type filling for example) so if going on the course, expect a little flexibility – all for the better I reckon.

And on the taking-home front – I strongly recommend making sure you have an empty freezer drawer or 2, or lots of friends to share – I guarantee the last one won’t be a problem!

Some of what I made:

platter A small selection put together for Sundays afternoon tea with my in-laws. Macaroons, friands, chocolate and raspberry mousse slices, afternoon teacakes lurking round the back and caramel mousses.

bigMacaroonWho doesn’t like large macaroons? Filled with fruit – part of your five a day!

friandMore of your five a day – this time on a base made with a shortbread biscuit and friand. I made some of the chocolate plaques too (the heart ones) which involved tempering the chocolate first and while chocolate work was only a tiny part of the class it was still good to pick up some hints and tips about tempering.

heartsHere I am with Ruth making the little chocolate plaques. Picture unashamedly stolen from the Cocoa Black Facebook page… (I don’t use Facebook, but if you do, then go and “like” it 🙂

tartsA small selection of glazed fruit tartlets… More of your five a day if you like… Ruth has the perfect recipe and technique for crème pâtissèrie, although possibly there is not enough fruit there…  Chocolate caramel tarts decorated with more fresh fruit and chocolate and pecan tarts to the back. (left un-decorated to be frozen to take home)

The fresh fruit delights were eaten that evening – fortunately friends joined us for supper…

yummysJust getting a bit closer to the chocolate caramel tart…

Many other things were made too – a baked cheesecake, another layered and glazed chocolate cake, a lemon meringue pie – or was it a tarte au citron topped with Italian meringue? I did get good at Italian meringue by the end of the two days though, and my piping skills got better (off to buy some potatoes to practice with mash!)

The two days I spent in the kitchen with Ruth were worth every penny. Even if I don’t make half of what I did over those two days, just having someone next to me to help build confidence and demonstrate a few tricks was worth it. Also for me, not having worked in a professional (patisserie) kitchen, just watching how it all fitted together was a good experience. Big cookers? No.  Table-top induction hobs, a good commercial oven and just having easy access to the simple tools you need – spatulas, spoons and so on – nothing that couldn’t be replicated in a domestic kitchen – although the Moorbakes kitchen does have a commercial oven and good mixer – I think I’ll save up for the thermomix gadget next… (but at over £800, I’ll have to sell a lot of cakes to pay for it!)

Finally, for the bread heads:

breadsI took some of my sourdough starter to Peebles with me, and why not! The mats here are Silpain mats which were obtained from Cocoa Black. They’re a non-stick perforated silicone mat which holds a lump of dough perfectly on the grids on the oven allowing the heat to circulate evenly. Seems to help give the bread a good bit of oven spring, despite the oven not being able to hold much steam. The bread tasted just fine!

What next?

So what next for Moorbakes? Well one thing for certain, more (and more!) cakes, entrements and fruit tarts will be made to compliment the bread and cakes we already make. Exciting times are ahead!

The Festive Mincepie …

According to Wikipedia:

A mince pie is a small British fruit-based mincemeat sweet pie traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices.

According to this baker:

A mince pie is a small thermonuclear device with the capacity to burn, maim and destroy any baker worth their salt, and if, after that, they’re still alive their capacity to drive to insanity is not to be reckoned with!

The Moorbakes MincepieA Moorbakes Mincepie. Do not be fooled by its appearance! This is a weapon of mass baker destruction!

Let us now look at the hazards surrounding this small and innocent looking object of festive feasting…

Making the pastry

We all make our own pastry, right? So just how thin can you roll it out? What if it’s too thick? Do I blind bake, or fill it and bake it with the filling? Will I get a soggy bottom! Just that thought on its own should be enough to put you off for life – and if you thought Paddington has a hard stare, have you seen the combined might of both Mary and Paul? Even though they’re not next to you, you know that your customers will be inspecting and checking now… Enough to make the most seasoned baker think twice.

But lets assume this doesn’t put us off. What next?

The mincemeat filling

Buy it or make it. If making it, do you see if any of your carefully stored apples are still edible or go out and buy local apples (at this time of the year?) organic or not? And what about the suet. Do you cater for vegetarians or go traditional with beef suet? So you go vegetarian – does it contain palm oil from a carefully managed source, or are you killing baby orang-utans? Have you got the fruit to sauce ratio right? Enough sugar (fair-trade raw cane sugar, of-course!) Almost enough to make you give up and just buy the damned things!

OK. We’ve sourced the mincemeat…

Pastry top or not?

And if you do decide to add a cap to it, (would you ever sell them topless?) traditional pastry or something a bit more modern – marzipan or frangipain perhaps? Round, star shaped, or something else? Decorations? What a holly-leaf shaped piece of pastry with that? Just how much time do you have when hand-making 100’s of the things anyway?

Finishing it off…

If you’ve got this far, you’ve made your mince pies, you might even have sold a few or given them to friends, but do they look OK? Worry not – icing sugar to the rescue! A light dusting covers a multitude of sins – trust me on that one, and look at the photo above…


Beware! Mincepies have the thermal properties of a small nuclear reactor. Freshly baked out of the oven, they’ll reduce your mouth to a melted mess. Microwaved to warm up? Oh no – they have the capacity to absorb all the energy the microwave can throw at it, and then some. A mincepie will sit on your plate, innocently looking appealing until you put it in your mouth. At that point, you’ll realise that the filling is still at a temperature that would make any nuclear scientist proud.

Top baker tip: Keep a glass of cold water handy. Helps out put the ensuing mincepie induced mouth fire.

Safe and enjoyable mincepie eating to everyone, everywhere!

Tea on the Green

Today we’re doing tea and cake on the Buckfastleigh Millennium green.. More later!

… and with all the excitement, I forgot to take photos, however we were well supported on a warm but overcast day with most of our lovely produce selling well –

  • Gluten free Banana cake
  • Devon Apple cake
  • Lemon and Poppyseed muffins
  • Chelsea buns
  • Coconut slices

along with tea, coffee and juice – a bargain at £1.50 for a refillable cuppa and a cake!