The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Should I steam a cold start sandwich loaf?

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KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Should I steam a cold start sandwich loaf?

I didn't the last time, and I think the loaf could have risen better.  Does it matter much if I use hot or cold water in a cold oven?  One of these days I'll rig some steam injection, but that's a ways down my project list.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Where's the steam going to come from in a cold oven?  Splash water on the botton of the oven, and it will just sit there.

Anyway, the rise you get in the oven is called oven spring.  It usually comes from the intense heat of a pre-heated oven.  Any time someone has trouble with a cold start, I suggest they try the same bread again in a preheated oven.  That will eliminate a lot of variables.  Some ovens heat faster than others.  Some heat a LOT slower than others.

If your oven is already at the correct temp, those variables go away.  Once the loaf is where you want it, then try a cold start again.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

“Where’s the steam going to come from in a cold oven?  Splash water on the botton of the oven, and it will just sit there.”

Thanks Mike, that’s exactly what I thought, so I haven’t used any.  I’ll try subfuscpersona’s suggestion below first.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll try a preheat.  I’m trying to simplify things as much as possible, as well as save a few bucks on my electric bill.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

I think the original posts said to steam the oven so that's what I do. Nothing fancy, just heavily wet the floor of my gas oven with tap water using a spray bottle, very lightly mist the tops of the loaves, close door and set temperature to 350F. The oven window clouds up with vapor while the oven heats up but the water evaporates in about 10(?) minutes.

Dough is slightly underproofed when the pans go in the oven. Total baking time for loaves slightly over one pound each is 45-50 minutes. I typically get about one inch oven spring.

Since this works reliably for me, I haven't experimented with omitting the water.

Cold Oven Baking: Fifty Percent Whole Wheat Loaves at Beginning of Baking


Cold Oven Baking: Fifty Percent Whole Wheat Loaves 20 Minutes Into Baking Cycle

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Thanks!  That's just what I need to know, and the pics show it so well.  Are these loaves sourdough?  Does that make any difference to the steaming question?

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...just instant dry yeast in the recipe. I've never made sourdough so have no practical experience to offer but simply from reading, I wouldn't think it would make a difference.

When you say "sandwich bread" I naturally think of dough baked in loaf tins. I should 'fess up that, while I've attempted the cold oven / cold start technique for freeform bread baked on a flat surface, it has never worked for me. It has, however, worked for others (perhaps even you!). 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

No, the only successful artisan bread I've baked from a cold start has been in a casserole.  Even the one I started under a bowl didn't work, but I think that had more to do with the dough itself than the cold start.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

At the risk of sounding like a contemplative Jack-the-Ripper, I would like to offer a few thoughts on slashing.

I like conclusions first, so here are mine...


  • slash if the dough contains only white flour or a low percent of whole grain flour (about 30% or less)
  • don't slash if the dough contains whole grain flour at 40% or more


...followed by a brief discussion

When I bake in a preheated oven, I lightly slash the dough just prior to baking. When I switched to cold oven baking, I did the same. As long as the dough did not contain a significant percent of whole grain flour, this worked well. However, as the percent of whole grain flour increased, I experienced problems with the rise. While the bread had good oven spring in the first 15 minutes, it shrank back slightly as baking continued. Furthermore, the finished bread took on a wrinkled look as the bread cooled.

In general, slashing directs the escape of steam during baking and promotes oven spring. As the percent of whole grain flour increases, the dough needs to contain more of the steam in order to reach and keep a good rise. This is more noticeable with the cold start method, especially at the moderate temperature (350 F) I'm using.

You'll notice the 50 Percent Whole Wheat Bread was not slashed when placed in the oven. The photo below shows slashed loaves with about 30% whole wheat flour 20 minutes into the baking cycle with the cold start method. Somewhere between 30% and 40% is the magic point that determines whether to slash or not.
KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Thanks for pointing this out.  I may have eventually made the connection, but it sure would have been awhile!  I copied your comments into my bread notes file.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...before I figured it out.

You'll notice I use pyrex loaf pans. If you use metal ones, you may have a different experience.

I won't bore you with everything I tried before I decided to try skipping the slashing, including stomping around the kitchen and swearing copiously, immediately followed by craven appeals to the spirits of grain and flour to ignore my outburst.

All is worth it if my observation saves you a little trouble.

may your bread always rise... SF