If you're going to bake something you'd better have an oven of some sort! The bakers on The Great British Baking show basically have access to the creme-de-la-creme ovens. Each of the bakers' stations is equipped with a Neff N90 Slide and Hide Oven.
I'm not sure which season it was when I noticed one of the bakers SLIDE the door of their oven IN TO THE OVEN, and I basically flipped out. I was like "Did you see that? The oven door went away!" and everyone else was like "yea - they always have"... We were like 8 seasons in. As keen as my eye is for catching little details like the label on a handle of a whisk... and I missed the oven doors disappearing.
Instead of my normal blog format - I'm going to go ahead and do a deep dive here on the N90 oven. Why? Because it's pretty awesome.
Obviously (for everyone except me) the coolest feature of the ovens is that the door can slide away. This allows the bakers to get right into the oven, which alleviates needing to bend over and awkwardly reach into it from odd angles. If you've ever burned yourself getting something into our out of your oven - envy the bakers and desire the Slide and Hide oven!
However amazing the slide and hide is, the oven is loaded with tricks.
The N90's are convection ovens... allow me to nerd out for a second - the main ways to transfer heat are through conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction is direct heat transfer - think of touching your stove top - think don't do. The next is convection, think hot wind. And lastly radiation - think the sun heating you up. They all work, but if you can improve one of them in your oven things cook faster.
And this is exactly what a convection oven does. It circulates air inside the oven. The circulating air basically keeps continually heating and cooking your food. Think about that warm wind... now make it really hot, like oven hot. It helps cook things way faster and at lower temperatures.
If you've ever heard Paul Hollywood say something like "200 degrees fan, 210 no fan" that's what he is talking about. The fan getting the air circulating in the oven.
So is a convection oven always better? Well no, my first poor experience ocurred while baking baklava. I looked into the oven and each individual layer had baked, turned crispy and flown away. It was basically a tornado of Phylo dough. And what about if you have 2 things in the oven with different flavors?
Well Neff has another trick up their sleeve. They employ what they call CircoTherm (tm). Basically this keeps the air on each level of the oven circulating within its level. That means that if you have some sweet cod in the oven and a vanilla cake, your cake stays tasting like cake instead of fish.
Next up is the N90's steam injection.
Basically this is good for making really good crusty bread. The steam in the oven does two things, first it keeps the skin of the bread elastic so it stretches instead of cracks. Secondly, it boils the crust cooking it and making the crust thicker the longer the steam is present.
Industrial ovens often have this feature in bakeries. Why? Awesome crust. Period.
You don't have this? Well if you had an N90 you would, but we'll get to that issue shortly. If you're looking to get a good crust The Bread Bakers Apprentice (Amazon Link) has a great method - that you've probably seen employed on The Great British Baking Show. Basically you can put a wide shallow pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pour in about a liter of water, then when you put the bread in spray the walls of the oven with a mister, 30 seconds later, do the same thing.
I've tried this a few times and though it is a bit of work, it really does do wonders for the quality of your crust. It is probably the easiest way to get the effect, or you know - buy an awesome oven.
Neff's parent company BSH Hausgeräte GmbH also owns Bosch and Siemens... and for some reason they decided not to distribute NEFF in the USA.
In fact the only place in the Americas you're going to find them apparently is in Chile. Apparently, it's because the N90 and their ovens in general are 'built-in' which is uncommon in the USA - normally we have ranges with the oven and stove top stuck in the counter. So what options do you have?
Well first, lust over the N90 oven though it is out of reach. Then decide, yes, you really do want it. Next, import one - this is honestly not too bad of a process - Import Appliances can help you out. (Make sure you find the N90 Model you want - you can cross reference the model numbers with Neff Home N90 collection.)
You're going to pay a bit of a premium - which is to be expected, but they get the oven to you and the shipping is 'free' (read - included in the cost.)
So you're not going to find the hide and slide door on any other ovens which is a shame - for safety reasons and accessability issues it is amazing. But if you're looking for a convection oven with steam injection (commonly referred to as 'combi' ovens) there are some options that are readily accessible in the United States.
Annoyingly any of the standard ranges (the ovens with the burners on top) that are so common in the US don't seem to have steam injection. Some of them have steam cleaning modes but that's not what we're looking for.
Well Bosch (yea the same Bosch who's parent company owns Neff) sells ovens in the US - you can see them here on their website.
The second option which I'm partial to is Wolf (go Wolfpack!). They have some amazing ovens but again you're going to pay a very high premium for one. If I could not have the Neff - I'd 100% go for the Wolf.
Basically the steam injection is a premium feature, it does not come in the ranges that us common folk have in our houses and instead mostly only comes in built in ovens. Which, in the US, is going to be in a custom kitchen. So what are you to do? Well, once I'm rich and famous enough (not today!), I honestly would just go with the built in oven and import the Neff slide and hide. I mean hey - if we're living in a dream land with all the money - lets go for exactly what we want!