The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


toddvp's picture

poor spring/dry crust in restaurant oven -- ideas?

November 27, 2012 - 7:03pm -- toddvp

Hi folks! I work for a local cafe that has been shipping in expensive baguettes for their sandwiches. I made a batch of Italian rolls from BBA as a potential alternative, and have been appointed the official baker of such rolls from now on (hooray!). However, I'm having some predictable challenges with their ovens, since they're not designed for bread baking.

davidg618's picture

Mid-February I wrote a blog entry that included using  grill humidifying containers to generate steam. I've been using these for a couple months now, and can report I'm delighted with them.

These are sold by Amazon: Charcoal Companion CC4071 Moistly Grilled Grill Humidifier.

Although the manufacturer claims they are pre-conditioned, I've conditioned them further, and make certain I dry them immediately after removing them. They tend to rust slightly if not cared for. 

I place them on a rack in the top-most position in the oven. I  experimented with placing them on a bottom-most rack, but found it difficult--and less safe--removing them. The small rolled towel fragments at each end keep them from sloshing as all long and thin containers do, again a minor safety adjustment.

I fill them with preheated water, and place them on each side of the top-most rack about 10 minutes before loading loaves.  I've found they take a bit longer to produce steam, than a pan with more surface area. Nonetheless, once boiling they produce steam abundantly. I use them without their perforated covers. When the initial steamed baking time is completed I remove them, using oven gloves, immediately, and uncover the oven vent.  Then I place the oven into convection mode to finish the bake; the convection fan quickly vents the oven.

Prior, I created steam by putting a half-sheet pan, lined with wet towels, on the top-most rack. I got plenty of steam, but the pan blocked the radiant heat from the top heating coil. Consequently, I wasn't getting all the oven spring and bloom available. This method is the safest I've found to date, and as effective, or better, than any other method I've used previously.

David G

thebreadfairy's picture

Getting Ears* (not "Grigne"): An Observation

March 31, 2011 - 2:55pm -- thebreadfairy

I have the opportunity now to use steam injection in my baking. I was curious as to what effect the timing of steaming from the time of loading would have. I prepared a formula and created two identical loaves. I preheated the oven to 425º and loaded the first loaf dry with no presteam. After about 1.5 minutes, I loaded the second loaf in the same oven and steamed as soon as the oven door closed. I was amazed at the results:

J.K.L.'s picture

Sourdough Bao Zi or Mantou - anyone with experience?

February 6, 2011 - 10:37pm -- J.K.L.

I am gearing up to make some sourdough Bao Zi (chinese stuffed, steamed bun). Scoured the web and there's really hardly anybody doing something like that. Most of what I found were people using a quick yeasted dough with white flour. 


I want to try a whole wheat sourdough Bao zi or Mantou (steamed bun)!! 


LindyD's picture

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.

Newfieguy's picture

Just stumbled on the concept of steaming - so much more to learn!

May 12, 2010 - 8:56am -- Newfieguy

Looks amazing and relatively easy to do in a regular oven, bearing in mind you do not go nuts with it and blow out the light bulb but basically you steam to keep the outside of the bread moist as the inside bakes correct?  Else you will have a shell like a turtle on the outside and it be nice and done on the inside is that the premise of steaming?

I guess just opening up the oven every few minutes and squirting some spray water on the bread directly is probably not the same is it?




warmnsunny's picture

No oven - baking in a cheapo kettle on the stove, ideas?

May 31, 2009 - 8:25am -- warmnsunny

So here I am staying in a rented condo and feeling the urge to bake my own bread. Started some pretty wet foccacia type bread last night, final rise in the frig overnight and all ready to bake it this morning. Problem. I couldn't figure out how to light the gas stove, tried all the ways I could think of SO I used the only alternative I could think of and "baked" it on the stove top. Limited supply of pots here and I had to use a very thin aluminum kettle (alternative was the frying pan) which had a lid. I lined it with alum foil to make the bottom a little thicker.


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