The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

using steam to get a crispy crust

suki mandelbrot's picture
suki mandelbrot

using steam to get a crispy crust

i was wondering if anyone has any advise. I am trying to create  a crisp crust to my bread.  I have a domestic gas oven and have tried the usual suggestions such as spraying the dough with water, adding trays of water and flopping wet cloths into the oven cavity to create steam non has been successful.

I borrowed an electric food steamer with 3 stackable plastic baskets from work. Because of their size I made 3  9 ounce (255 g) white bread batons proved them in the steamer baskets on pieces of baking parchment. I steamed them in a stack for 4 minutes, lifting them out of the steamer was a bit tricky  as the crust was still soft and i was a bit mean with the baking parchment. Then baked them still on their bits of parchment  the result was quite good and they had a nice colour and flavour but still not quite as crusty as i would like. So any suggestions would be great. I am considering borrowing a fish kettle from work which has a liftable trivet and of course would make a considerably longer loaf.

sorry no photos as the bread was demolished in minutes

T.O.B.y's picture

I am currently using the dutch oven technique but I've had success with a technique advocated in the Bouchon cookbook. There are two aspects: increase thermal mass (I have baking stones and a large cast iron griddle) and use a high flow water gun (Super Soaker in the US) to saturate the chamber with steam. Even still with the venting it doesn't last for too long so I usually do multiple "doses." Be careful though...

Devoyniche's picture

Do you not run the risk of shattering your baking stone using steam in the oven? I though moisture and a baking stone were supposed to never meet. I guess the steam becomes super-hot as it becomes steam, so there will not be as much thermal shock to the stone. I got an "Old Stone Oven" baking stone from Amazon as a gift from my sister over Christmas, and it is a nice one, but I am still worried about breaking it somehow.

MisterTT's picture

in the steamer and then put it in the oven? That won't be really effective, because you want steam and high heat at the beginning of the bake and the steamer will provide only the former. Transferring should be a nightmare as well. What you should try (and what isn't as suicidally dangerous as some suggestions), is baking in a dutch oven. The ways and means have been discussed to death in this forum, so just look around (or buy some baking book, like Tartine or Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast that deals with the method).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a role too.  Most crisp crusts are found on water based breads, additions of milk, fats and sugar all lead to softer crusts.  They may come out of the oven crisp but soon soften.

Bakingmadtoo's picture

It is also important to make sure the bread is properly cooked, as otherwise what crust has formed softens very quickly.

Although I was getting a good crust in my oven with a pan of steam, I am getting a much better crust as Mister TT says, using a cloche or Dutch oven.

golgi70's picture

A pan with lava rocks preheated on the floor of the oven along with soaked towels works best for me so far.  The towels go in 15 minutes before you bake to help with some "pre steaming".  Add 2 cups cold water to the pan with lava rocks (carefully steam burns hurt) right after you load your bread in.  The faster you can do this whole process the better.  The towels help with constant steam while the lava rocks add the heavy burst of steam at the onset.  This is of course baking on stones and not in a dutch oven.  Below is a loaf baked this way.  Its not quite as good as dutch oven or commercial but I'm happy with the results.  

PS Mini makes a very good point.  Your formula is a factor as well.  If it's enriched at all or underbaked it will certainly leave you with a soft crust.