Stephen Bloom


Thermal Oil Technology - Back to the Future of Baking.

As we move into the '20s, several trends we see now will certainly continue: the need for more energy efficiency, the desire for cleaner-label, healthier products, the desire for extended shelf life through only natural means, the need to get more consistent and higher quality production with less skilled labor, and of course the return to the roots of baking (ancient grains, traditional fermentation techniques,  traditional baking methods). 

Thermal oil baking technology, first introduced into the US baking industry in the late 1980s but now really talking hold with many of the most respected and innovative artisan bakers, has a contribution to make in all of these areas.

The key to its success is something all bakers need to understand but not all do: the concept and value of increased thermal mass.

Why does the traditional brick oven result in such wonderful bread?  The mass of hot brick holds a well of energy that is not dissipated when cold dough is introduced.  That energy reserve results in a bake free from flash heat, which is not just a nuisance factor influencing the first breads introduced into an oven but is a characteristic of various oven types that affects the quality of every product in that oven. Holding  2700 times the energy per c.c. as air, the most common medium of heat transfer to the baking chamber, thermal oil provides the thermal mass that can  reproduce the “soft" bake of the old brick oven but with a modern technology that greatly reduces energy consumption, allows for any degree off automation, and increases both control of temperature and consistent replicability of results.  

The talk will introduce the concept of the "delta T" (the temperature differential between the heat transfer medium and the desired bake chamber temperature), which influences the amount of flash heat and therefore all aspects of the bake, and will explore how that results in benefits in all the areas touched on in the first paragraph, above, and more.

Stephen Bloom "fell into the Bakery Industry completely by accident"  in 1982 - an accident that generated a (so far) nearly 40 year long career.  Perhaps his lack of previous industry-related training (or resulting preconceptions) helped him find the unique niche that has defined his career:   a continuous search for innovative manufacturers and production equipment that could help bakers increase both product quality and production efficiency, two things that many in the industry had always considered antithetical.

Stephen has been promoting thermal oil oven technology in the US for over 30 years now and has worked with many of the top artisan bakers in the US, including Dan Leader,  Steve Sullivan,  Nancy Silverton, George Erasmus, Maurizio Negrini,  Chad Robertson, and many others. 

He continues his work as an owner of Allied Bakery Equipment and, thanks to the Covid crisis, as an increasingly avid home baker as well.