The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Steam

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LindyD's picture
LindyD


For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to generate a healthy dose of steam in my extremely well vented gas oven. Steam that would be present in good volume for at least the first 15 minutes.  My experimentation had mixed results.  The bread tastes great, but I want the appearance be as good as the taste.


I’ve tried water in a preheated pan, ice cubes in a preheated pan, a cup of water over preheated lava rocks in a pan, spraying the bread, covering the bread, plus the great tips offered by Giovanni and SylviaH using hot wet towels.  While these techniques sure did humidify my house, open cuts and a nice grigne just didn’t materialize. 


One method that did work with some success was SteveB’s.  Alas, my thrift-store aluminum roaster cover is a tad wider than my stone, so I don’t have a good seal between the lid and the stone.  


David Snyder had written about the steaming technique recommended for home bakers by SFBI 


It looked interesting, but I didn’t want to buy yet another gizmo.  So I made my own version by  poking holes through a foil loaf pan (three for a buck at the local dollar store) and setting it on top a layer of lava rocks in the bottom of a metal loaf pan.   The holes were large in the first version.


I experimented with both steaming versions over Thanksgiving weekend using Hamelman’s sourdough formula.    


The loaf in the background was baked covered, using SteveB’s technique. Oven and stone preheated to 500F, loaf loaded and covered (the cover was not preheated).  Two shots of steam were directed through the hole in the cover, plus one cup of water was poured into a wide broiler pan containing lava stones (done because of the cover overlap).  I forgot to turn down the heat until I removed the cover, 15 minutes later. Bake finished at 460F.


The loaf in the foreground was baked uncovered.  After loading the bread into the preheated 500F oven (and stone), one tray of ice cubes was placed in the foil tray resting over the lava rocks on the left side of the oven and about 1.5 cups of water poured into the broiler pan containing lava rocks on the right side of the oven.  Temp reduced to 460F.  After 15 minutes the broiler pan was dry and emitted no steam so it was left in the oven.  The foil-trayed loaf pan was removed.  Although I screwed up the scoring on the bread in the foreground, the results looked promising.


I didn’t think the sufficient steam had been generated, so I made much smaller  holes in another foil pan and replaced the original version. 



I mixed the same dough the following weekend.  Oven and stone again preheated to 500F.  A  batard was scored and loaded.  This time TWO trays of ice cubes were dumped into the foil tray and 2.5 cups of water poured into the broiler pan w/lava rocks.  About 16 minutes later I removed the loaf pan; I could see the steam still coming off the lava rocks.  I left the broiler pan in, as that water had evaporated.  Here’s the result.   



To make sure this was no fluke, I followed the same procedure with the second batard.  It worked again!  



I am overjoyed to finally have figured out how to generate an abundance of steam in my oven for those crucial first minutes.



Finally, my bread looks as great as it tastes! Thank you SteveB, David, and all the other fine bakers who have been so inspiring.

ww's picture

Slashes close up, help!

November 2, 2010 - 12:20am -- ww
Forums: 

Does anyone have the problem of slashes on the loaf closing?? Mine open quite nicely then close up after about 10 mins into the bake. I don’t think it’s a matter of my cuts being too shallow. 


And what is the normal sequence? Oven spring preceding/ followed by/ accompanied with the opening?


I have a over-proofing problem but I wonder if too much steam or too little has something to do with it as well. Help!

AnnaInMD's picture

Ceramic Grill

October 17, 2010 - 2:36pm -- AnnaInMD

The cat's meow ?  I saw this awsome ceramic grill at Lowe's today. Talk about being able to bake with steam outdoors ! The inside was unglazed clay and offers many ways of cooking, steaming, baking, grilling, roasting and all with charcoal.  The link here shows it from another vendor:


 

leahweinberg's picture

Horror Story: when I confused the windex for my shpritser

August 25, 2010 - 2:57am -- leahweinberg
Forums: 

It was Tuesday morning. I was at a wedding last night until 2 am so it's no surprise that I made this mistake. I guess it could happen to anyone. I just didn't expect it to happen to me. 


I woke up groggy- but with one thought going through my mind- "must. bake. bread". I've had the dough all ready to go, sitting in my fridge now for a few days. Still in my pjs, I dumped the dough out and started shaping it into one large boule. I turned on the oven and made myself some coffee. 

Axel's picture

Self-made steam-injected oven

July 10, 2010 - 11:00pm -- Axel

Hello everybody ! I am Michael and I am here just a week.


I live in the country where baking is unknown game and it is extremely difficult to buy anything related to baking ( for home baker ).  So I made my own steam oven in 5 minutes.


I took a shower pipe , removed inner plastic pipe, connected one side to the pressure cooker and the other into the oven. Everything fits perfectly tight without any nuts and bolts. then, of course, boiled water and got an enormous amount of steam inside oven.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

So you want that thin crust that shatters when you cut/bite into it...  You also want your loaf to spring fully.  You've tried all of those other steaming methods, spray bottle, cast iron steam pan, crazy contraptions to get and keep steam in the oven...  I suggest you take a trip down to your hardware or home store and get a bag of lava rocks.  I got mine in Brooklyn for $5.34 including tax.  People in Manhattan don't know what they are...


 


Take the lava rocks, empty them into whatever pan you have just to get the amount correct.  I have a pan that is about 9"x13"x2".  Wash the rocks and put them into a pot of water and boil them for a while, 30 minutes to sterilize them.  Preheat your oven to 500F while you are boiling them.  After you are done boiling them, place them into your pan and put them into the oven and let them dry out.  You can turn your oven off and just leave them there over night...


 


So when you are ready to bake, place the pan with the lava rocks on your oven floor, if you ahve a gas oven, or on a lower rack if you have an electric oven and have it stick out a few inches from below your baking stone on the side.  This allows you to take a small cup, preferable with a spout, and just pour the water in with out moving things around...


 


So when you are ready to bake, your oven is preheated to the correct temp, before you load the oven, put 1 cup of water in the lava rock pan, and close the oven.  Prepare your loaves to be peeled into the oven, directly onto the stone...  Open the oven, put your loaves in, add 1 more cup of water to the lava rock pan, and close...  1/2 way through your bake, open the oven, let all the steam out, rotate your loaves, and finish your bake...


 


Also, having a convection oven helps too, especially if you are baking on 2 levels...

maurdel's picture

opinions on whether this will work for bread

January 7, 2010 - 8:34pm -- maurdel
Forums: 

What do you all think about this "Cast Iron Grill Humidifier"?


http://www.surlatable.com/product/661256.do#


The description seems to say that it is just two cast iron boxes with holey lids.  So is it anything? or not anything?


Sometimes in warmer months I will try to bake out on the grill. It is sometimes quite successful, and sometimes not so much. Does anyone believe this might help in baking bread?

davidg618's picture
davidg618

David Snyder (dmsnyder) has convinced me pre-steaming is beneficial, but I've still been uncertain I'm generating enough steam, considering my oven door is not an airtight fit, and the convection fan blows some of the steam out around the door. So, today, I tried a new way to generate steam. I saw it recommended in Hamelman's Bread, but I ignored it happy as I was, at the time, generating steam with pre-heated lava rocks. It was only when David wrote of his experience pre-steaming his oven that I started reexamining the details of my steaming practice.


My wife's dog/horse treat baking (see blog http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13862/baking-going-dogs-and-horses-too) gave me a clue. Here pet snack recipe is packed with fresh shredded carrots, resulting in a very wet "dough". Watching her open the oven door while baking three half-sheet pans full I saw a large amount of steam (water vapor, really) pour out of the oven.


Today I fitted a half-baking sheet with a terrycloth shop towel that covered its bottom. Five minutes before I put in the first loaf I poured a cup of hot tap water onto the towel. It was enough to soak it thuroughly, but there was no free standing water. I placed the pan on the lowest shelf.  As usual, I also covered the oven's top vent with a folded towel. Before five minutes were up I saw water vapor escaping at the bottom of the door where its sealing gasket's ends meet. I've never seen that before, although I was previously convinced steam was escaping.


When I placed the loaf, the oven was visably full of water vapor; nevertheless, I added another 1/2 cup of water to the towel. At ten minutes I reduced the oven temperature, and removed the sheetpan, and uncovered the oven vent.; for safety reasons I'd never attempt to remove the lava rocks. Whatever water vapor remained in the oven I'm certain disappated quickly. After the sheetpan and towel cooled I felt the towel. Its center was still damp, but the edges were dry, justifying the additonal 1/2 cup of water added.


Here's the visual results. I bake this sourdough (Vermont sourdough with a stiff levain) once every week. This loaf's oven spring is as good or better than any before now.


I'm going to adapt this method, at least for the near future. I think it's safer than splashing water into a pan of lava rock, all indications show it produces more steam, and it can be simply and safely removed to immediately stop the source of steam.


David G


 

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