I am glad to be able to add this bake to the experience of others with our new toys, the cast iron combo cookers. I love cast iron so it didn't take much to have me clicking away on Amazon for one of these. It's a terrific piece of cookware that I expect to use for other things as well.
I thought readers might be interested in these results. I began with Hamelman's formula, but, as usual, I went astray, adding at least twice as many seeds and grains as called for. In particular, my wife especially likes toasted sesame seeds and steel cut oats in there. I actually lost track of how much I put into the dough. I was a bit concerned when I saw the volume of the soaker this morning. Nevertheless, I pressed on. I had hydrated about half the flour overnight with all the water, so this morning it only remained to add the rest, along with the liquid levain and the soaker.
Long story short, I baked the batard naked, using my new favorite steam method, two towels and a brick in a roasting pan, over which boiling water is poured. This gives steady steam for as long as you like. The spring was quite strong, opening even the grigne to another layer, as shown. I may have scored the ear a little too deeply. Some people like it that way.
The loaf on the left was the first in the cooker, cold. The slashes were a bit shallow. The loaf filled out and began to tear from the bottom.
The loaf on the right went into the hot cooker. It was interesting, as they say, getting it in there, but all went well. I had scored this one considerably deeper and it gave a nicer form.
I put some cornmeal on the bottom of the cooker.
Given the weight and density of these loaves, the spring for all of them was excellent. You can get an idea of this from the crumb shot. They are very nearly 4 inches tall, with a nice profile. I've shown the bottoms of all three for your interest as well.
The batard, baked in the open, was done in about 30 minutes, 15 minutes with steam and 15 without. The boules got the same 15 minutes covered and then 30 minutes uncovered. All three started at 500 degrees and were reduced to 450 convection after uncovering. The crust on the first boule is much softer than that on the second. As to taste, many of you know this bread. Of its kind, it really cant be beat.