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I am following a banana bread recipe that calls for you to heat a conventional oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the banana bread batter for one hour.

Banana bread

I want the bread to be done sooner then one hour. Is it possible to cook the bread faster using a convection oven, and achieve the same or better results then with a conventional oven?

Some websites (here and here) seem to imply that you should cook cakes/cookies/bread for the same amount of time as you would with a conventional oven. I believe the idea is that you can not shorten the amount of time it takes for the bread to rise.

Other websites (such as here and another website I had open but cant find now) seem to imply that you can shorten the amount of time it takes for the bread to cook.

So which is it? Can I save time, by using convection setting to bake my banana bread, or am I asking for somehow lesser quality bread if I do so?

*Note, the batter is recessed within the bread pan so the whole "wind blowing your batter over" is not an issue or concern.

  • As a note, banana bread is a "quick bread", not a true bread, made with yeast. – Catija Oct 12 '15 at 3:42
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When you heat something in the oven, a thin layer of vaporized water will settle around the good where it is exposed to air. This thin layer acts as a (minor) insulation. In a convection oven this thin layer will not form.

The contradicting statements result from the fact that the answer depends on how much the baked good is actually exposed to environment.

  • Cookies on the baking tray will need less time.
  • Bread on the baking tray will need less time.
  • Bread in a bread pan will not need (much) less time, as the pan is rather high compared to the top surface - the volume compared to the surface is too high for the convection to work efficiently. The convection will heat the top surface better though, so you will end up with an uneven result, top done, bottom not done. You can get rid of this problem by protecting the surface with aluminum foil or by lowering the temperature. Obviously, lowering the temperature is the most widely employed solution.
  • Bread in a closed clay pot will need the very same time.

So, to sum it up:
A banana bread in a bread pan will only slightly benefit from the convection oven regarding baking time. I would assume the effect to be around 5-10 minutes. The more time you save though, the harder your top surface will be - so there is no way you can save time and get the same or a better result.

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Generally, you can either reduce the time by about 15-25% and cook at the same temperature OR reduce the temperature by about 25-50F/12-25C and cook the same amount of time if you are converting a "regular" recipe to use in a convection oven. Make sure you have plenty of air flow around the pan(s) because that's what makes it faster, the consistent heat from the air flowing around the pans.

The results should be essentially the same (texture, flavor, inner color) except that the outside will probably not brown as much. It also might rise more in the convection oven (I find this is more noticeable in lighter cakes).

If this is the first time you've made this adjustment for this recipe or made such an adjustment for your oven, you will still need to check and make sure the bread is actually done at that time. It might still need a few minutes more.

Another way to make it cook faster is to use smaller pans. I invested in a number of mini loaf pans and now use those more often than the full size pans. Smaller loaves are more convenient in many situations. Or you can use the same banana bread batter to make muffins.

Some references with more details about converting from conventional to convection (which all say about the same thing -- for long-baking recipes, reduce time or temperature): http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/articles/detail/convection-cooking-adjustments http://www.epicurious.com/archive/kitchenequipment/expertadvice/convectionovencooking http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/convection-ovens-converting-recipes/

Edit: Further info/discussion points on the effect of temperature in baking. There is a great, if brief, explanation of a few things that happen if you increase or decrease temperatures for baked goods using a conventional oven here, but from the point of view of "why 350?".

Essentially, if you decrease your oven temperature too much, your baked goods will tend to dry out and harden before they finish cooking, or if it is too cool but not as dramatically cool, the effects of steam or baking powder will not happen as suddenly so the result is less height, more density.

With a higher temperature, you get more quick-rise action, but of course if you raise the temperature too much, you can burn the outside while the inside is still uncooked.

Fortunately there is quite a bit of wiggle room in most recipes for cakes, quick breads, brownies, pies and even yeast breads. You could very easily increase or decrease the temperature for most of these things by about 25 degrees without a very significant change in the end result, if you managed the time correctly.

There are certainly exceptions, such as trying for a specific texture of a chewy cookie, or a more delicate, fluffy cake like angel cake (if it rises too much, it will tend to collapse).

  • Thank you for your answer, but this does not answer the question. If all other elements are equal, is it possible to cook the bread faster using a convection oven, and achieve the same or better results then with a conventional oven? Its clear that you can do so with other foods (such as meats) but unclear if you can cook breads faster with the same or better results. The websites I posted seem to imply it is not possible. Your response in essence simply describes guidelines for cooking with convection – n00b Oct 12 '15 at 3:34
  • It works the same for breads, pies, dinner rolls, etc. The links I gave give more examples than the general guidelines I gave, along with my answer that yes, you can do it. The first link you gave talked only about meat but didn't say you can't do anything with bread. Your second link suggests that changing the temperature is preferable to changing the time, and there may be some breads or cakes where that would make a difference, but quick breads are very forgiving. I won't comment on whether it will be "better" but it should be essentially the same with any of the conversion methods. – NadjaCS Oct 12 '15 at 6:51
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    Keep in mind that some ovens automatically compensate, so you'd set the same temperature either way. – James Oct 12 '15 at 13:11
  • @james yes, that is a good point. It is important to know how your particular oven behaves. – NadjaCS Oct 13 '15 at 0:36

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