9

I’m looking at a couple of recipes from the early twentieth century. One calls for a quick oven. The temperature for that (375 - 400°F) was easy enough to work out, several places online have it, including a 2010 Q&A from this site. The other one, quiet oven, is proving a little more challenging. (If this is a mistake, it was a typo/typesetting mistake in the original article: it is a newspaper article and is pretty clearly 'quiet'.) I am leaning toward ‘slow oven’, 300-325°F, because it is difficult to imagine anything being cooked at lower temperatures. (It is a sweet potato biscuit if that makes a difference to anyone’s logic process.)

So, any ideas what a ‘quiet oven’ might be?

10
  • Got a reference for "quiet oven"? Where did you see that? That's a term I've never heard before. If you don't get an answer here, btw, you could try asking Jas Townsend & Sons.
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 23, 2017 at 22:07
  • 1
    “Sweet Potatoes Make Good Bread,” Detroit Free Press, December 24, 1917, Page 7. During the First World War there was an effort to conserve wheat so alternatives, such as sweet potatoes were attempted for items like biscuits and muffins. Lots of papers at the time carried recipes like these.
    – Pearl H
    Nov 23, 2017 at 22:23
  • 2
    Could this be poor OCR from a scanned book reading quick? When you say biscuit what sort do you mean? It would seem reasonable to assume the American sort but it's as well to check. The first hit for "bake in a quick oven" biscuit suggests I might be right
    – Chris H
    Nov 24, 2017 at 16:40
  • 1
    It is a newspaper article and is pretty clearly 'quiet' though from the number of editorial mistakes I routinely see in newspapers it is entirely possible that the person laying the little tiles down could easily have laid out the wrong ones. Proofreading was no better in 1917 then than it is 2017. Given the reaction I am getting here, I am starting to think that there was no such term and it is entirely probable it was a typo.
    – Pearl H
    Nov 24, 2017 at 22:15
  • 2
    I was searching hard, trying to find any reference to a 'quiet oven'. Can't find one anywhere. So, I proceeded to look at early 1900's sweet potato biscuit recipes. I found one from Jan 2018 that says to bake in a 'quick oven'. So, at this point, I'm with you on the typo.
    – Cindy
    Nov 25, 2017 at 18:55

5 Answers 5

2

Well, quiet and quick look similar to an OCR, especially one with a spell-checking dictionary looking at faded and/or poorly forged letterset.

If you have ever reacted buttermilk and baking soda, you know that it is a violent reaction, and one that is not endless. If you want your batter to rise and keep its form, you would use a hot preheated oven to capture the bubbles, a quick oven.

So I am pretty sure that a quiet oven is actually quick.

The only thing that it could possibly be if quiet is really what was meant and an accurate description of the oven, in my opinion, is a stage in the wood-firing of a bakers oven where there are only coals glowing and the oven isn’t making any sound. But that is an assumption that I have no reference for. (And this would probably be a very hot environment, ergo quiet = quick).

Thinking about this some more, linguistically speaking, a ‘quick oven’ might be a shortened form for ‘quick ovening’. This could come from a German baker who anglicized the German: e.g. schnellbacken which is implicitly only possible in a very hot environment, regardless of the oven type. It would also mean that you don’t have time to do errands or chores while the biscuit is in the oven.

3
  • This seems to be based on a tenuous assumption. There are many other ways to reason about the source of the term. For example, a wood fired oven is much louder at some temperatures than at others. So, I wouldn't be too quick to accept this one as the correct.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 25, 2017 at 16:56
  • 2
    based on 2 assumptions, 1 maybe "tenuous", but the other very solid, [how you would cook biscuits = hot, "quick" oven].
    – Lorel C.
    Nov 25, 2017 at 17:18
  • 1
    You may wish to update (and shorten) your answer based on the clarification from the question and its comments: the newspaper article definitely said "quiet". The OP does acknowledge the possibility that the article itself was wrong, but there's no need to worry about OCR and so on.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 27, 2017 at 1:11
19
+50

A “quiet” oven is likely around 325° to 375°.

The two main resources I’ve used are the Internet Archive and Michigan State University’s Sliker Culinary Collection.

The term “quiet oven” does not appear to be as common as other terms such as slow, moderate, or quick, but it does appear in older cookbooks. The Internet Archive has entries that include the term from 1853 and into the 1900s, though some of the latter ones are reprints of earlier recipes.

Newspapers.com also shows several recipes that call for a “quiet oven”, including one “relatively quiet oven”. I’m pretty sure it provided more mistaken “quick oven” and “quiet even” hits as “quiet oven” than valid “quiet oven” hits, but “quiet oven” clearly was a term used when sharing recipes with readers.

The earliest reference I found on the Internet Archive is Miss Crawford’s 1853 French Cookery Adapted for English Families; on page 181 her Petits Patés Hot recipe reads:

Having prepared your paste as directed, roll it out very thin, cut it out with a paste-cutter in rounds as large as a crown piece, put two or three rounds one on the other, with a little minced meat, of what kind you please in each, cover it, moisten the edges with beaten yolk of egg, egg them over, and bake in a quiet oven.

Later, Margaret Black’s 1882 Household Cookery and Laundry Work has at least three references to a quiet oven. From page 95,

Light sponge cakes, and all light cakes, must have a quiet oven, as well as all large cakes which contain much baking powder.

And two on facing pages on 100-101:

Mix thoroughly, and pour into a prepared tin, and bake till ready in a quiet oven. … Butter a cake-tin and dust it with fine sugar; pour in the mixture, and bake in a very quiet oven till ready—about half-an-hour, perhaps.

pages 100-101 of Household Cookery and Laundry Work, with recipes for cakes

The term even appears in a poem by Walter Eldred Warde, in his 1885 Lines Grave and Gray. Look on page 93 for “What Might Be”, a poem to the muffin man. “In quiet oven you do bake…”.

The term appears to show up mostly in British Commonwealth cookbooks: England (mostly London) and Australia being what showed up in my searches. It wasn’t limited to baking. In May Byron’s 1914/1915 Pot-luck/or the British Home Cookery Book she writes about boiling meat that the uniform heat required “is not boiling but quiet simmering. Meat boiled is meat spoiled.”

It is ridiculously uncommon even when used: in all of her 427 pages, Byron uses the term “quiet” twice. Once for the above-mentioned low simmer, and once for baking Kent Lemon Buns. She uses the terms slow oven, moderate oven, quick oven, hot oven, good oven, fierce oven, crisp oven, steady oven, brisk oven, cool oven, moderately hot oven, fairly quick oven, slack oven, gentle oven, very slow oven, moderately heated oven, good hot oven, rather hot oven, sharp oven, over-heated oven, nice hot oven, and just plain oven over 200 times.

I’d love to talk to three random cooks from the era and ask them to rate those terms, and see if the rankings are consistent. It’s difficult to believe that all of those terms could be differentiated from each other or were even meant to be differentiated.

There is one clue to the temperature that quiet ovens represented in the September 5, 1896 London Reader of Literature, Science, Art and General Information. On page 503 (I think), there are answers to correspondence. One answer specifically contrasts a “very quiet oven” to ovens that are “too hot”:

GINGER.—The reason your loaf sinks in the middle is that your oven may be too hot; gingerbread requires a very quiet oven; you see the treacle melts and so does the sugar, and if your oven is too hot it cooks quickly round the edges and draws the flour away from the middle; when eggs are in it they more quickly cook, and to some extent prevent it sinking; probably in your plain gingerbread you have scarcely enough flour; a little more would make it all right.

Bob Brown’s 1955 The Complete Book of Cheese states on page 118 that a quiet oven is a moderate oven:

Bake 1 hour in a “quiet” oven, as the English used to say for a moderate one, and when done set aside for 12 hours before eating.

And in his 2011 Small Adventures in Cooking James Ramsden writes about a vintage recipe:

It also suggests that sponge should be baked in ‘a quiet oven’, which is a lovely but useless instruction, bless.

His version of the recipe uses an oven temperature of 170°C, or 338°F.

The various terms were compared for the use in making cakes in the November 29, 1908 Chicago Inter Ocean and the December 16, 1908 edition of the London, Middlesex London Evening News:

…Large cakes should be put into a moderate oven.

If put into a very hot oven the outside will be browned and the inside left uncooked. Light sponge cakes and all light cakes must have a quiet oven, as well as large cakes which contain much baking powder.

A very light cake put into a quick oven rises rapidly round the sides, but leaves a hollow in the center.

This appears to differentiate “quiet” ovens from “moderate”, “quick”, or “very hot” ovens.

There are two potentially more useful references to quiet ovens in an article on Christmas cakes on page 24 of the December 2, 1924, issue of The Australian Woman’s Mirror. The introduction contains advice on temperatures for baking cakes that includes:

The oven should be hot, if it is a gas oven, when the cake is put in, and then the flame should be lowered to ensure a quiet, steady heat, so that the cake will not need attention for at least half an hour. In a fuel stove a moderate heat should be maintained throughout.

This can be reasonably interpreted as corroboration of a quiet oven being a moderate oven, at least as an upper limit—if we assume that a “quiet, steady heat” is what quiet ovens produce.

In the recipe for Rich Christmas Cake that immediately follows, the baking instructions are:

…bake in a quiet oven from 3 to 4 hours.

The lack of explicit baking powder or soda in the recipe makes it difficult to compare to modern recipes (it’s possible the recipe assumes self-rising flour, and also possible it’s relying on the eggs and other ingredients to provide a rise), but that long of a baking time likely places a quiet oven in the middle of, or at the low end of, a moderate oven.

Rich Christmas Cake from the December 2, 1924, Australian Woman’s Mirror

Early oven manuals occasionally contained conversion charts, tables that both corresponded older terms to modern temperatures and tables that corresponded baked goods to specific temperatures. I was unable to find any that include “quiet” in their tables. Many do contain “moderate” and “gingerbread”, however. The latter are surprisingly consistent.

Occident Flour’s ca. 1920 Occident Cake Recipes, on page 3, places gingerbread under the column for “slow” ovens, or “250°F.—325°F.—350°F.”. Both the ca. 1925 Universal Electric Range Instruction Cook Book and Pyrofax Gas’s ca. 1930 Cooking Made Easier place gingerbread at 350° in their charts on pages 15 and 32, respectively.

Even the more common terms are all over the place in these charts. They were never specific to begin with. Calumet Baking Powder’s 1923 Modern Biscuit Making calls for baking in a moderate oven that is 325° F on page 12, and then a moderate oven of 350° F across the fold on page 13.

That’s expected. But even the ranges given in oven manuals vary. The ca. 1925 Universal Electric Range Instruction Cook Book places moderate ovens at 325° to 400°. The ca. 1925 Monarch Electric Cook Book places moderate ovens very tightly at “350 to 360 Degrees F.” on page 68. They loosen up in their ca. 1930 Monarch Electric Range Instruction Book to “350 to 400 Degrees F.”. Frigidaire in ca. 1950 puts moderate at 325°F to 375°F and then in 1961 at 350° to 375°F.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary combines them all into a definition for moderate oven of “an oven heated to a temperature between 325° and 400° F”.

So even if a table from the transition period to temperatures could be found that includes the term “quiet oven”, it would likely be just as subjective.

Many oven manuals did not contain a conversion chart. At least one actively denigrated the terms for being too subjective to use. The Estate Stove Company’s 1925 Estate Cook Book begins on page 2 with:

CULINARY efficiency demands the complete elimination of guesswork and rule-o’-thumb methods in baking and roasting.

Such terms as “slow” oven, “fast” oven, “moderate” oven are not found in modern cook-books. They are too hazy and indefinite. Instead, exact temperatures are specified.

Such homely, old-fashioned expedients as testing the oven by a piece of manila paper—“when it becomes the proper shade of brown,” or by a teaspoonful of flour—“if it browns while I count forty, the oven is just hot enough for bread,” are merely poor makeshifts. There is nothing scientific about them; nothing accurate; nothing certain; nothing dependable.

Unsurprisingly their cook book does not contain a conversion chart. Why would it? Any such chart would be inaccurate, uncertain, and undependable!

The Estate Cook Book’s two gingerbreads (page 10) bake at 350 and at 325.

The clues I’ve found are somewhat contradictory, at least potentially. Is the “very quiet oven” that is required for gingerbread going to have a higher or lower temperature than a merely “quiet” oven? Because the author is telling the questioner that they were probably using too hot of an oven, I suspect that “very” quiet means cooler rather than hotter. If so, and if a gingerbread’s 325° to 350° is a “very quiet” oven, then a merely “quiet” oven would likely be 350° to 375°.

This somewhat matches James Ramsden’s 170C which is likely to be translated to either 325F or 350F, since recipes that use Fahrenheit tend to use even multiples of 25.

A range of 325°F to 375°F or perhaps 350°F to 375°F for a quiet oven fits roughly with Bob Brown’s correspondence of “quiet” and “moderate” as well.

So, while it’s important to remember that such terms are necessarily vague, it is likely that a “quiet oven” is around 325°F to 375°F.

7

Google Books has a number of results calling for a "quiet oven" in older recipes, but it seems to have been such a ubiquitous concept that they didn't feel the need to explain what it meant. The only source I could find that gave any indication at all was this book by Robert Carlton Brown, published in 1955, which indicates that it was an English term for a "moderate" oven. He doesn't say what that specifically means, or when it fell out of favor as a term (I would assume with the advent of electric ovens), but I would posit that it's somewhere around 350-75 degrees, based on modern usage.

4

I have an old (early 20th century) book with a recipe that also calls for a 'quiet oven' so I'm pretty sure it's not a typo. I'm inclined to agree that it's a moderate temperature (around 350-375F) as I found it in a cake recipe.

1
  • Welcome to Seasoned Advice SE. :) I'm surprised that you found it in an old book, so cool! Can you tell us which one, what recipe/page #, etc.? Or a reference to it online?
    – elbrant
    Jan 27, 2019 at 4:47
-1

Must be a quick oven. Only thing I can think of as a quit oven. Would be a oven, stove banked down for the night. With the 10 gallon water tank on the side. So you would have hot or warm water in the morning when you got up in that tank. That would be under 200f By morning if cold out 120f. In the kitchen. Ready to stir the coals shake them out & add more wood for heat. Shake the ash out leave the coals to start the new wood burning. A warm place to stand as the kitchen warmed up was near the stove oven. We called it a banked down oven in the cold months. May be wrong her.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.