The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

oven spring good / springing for a new oven bad

hsmum's picture

oven spring good / springing for a new oven bad

This list is great -- I'm spending a ridiculous amount of time reading the posts -- my husband thinks it's hilarious.  And I'm really enjoying my beginner's attempts at bread-making.  Quick question:  My (one lonely!) bread book advises to spray a bit of water into the oven.  But there seems to be general agreement (from what I've read so far, anywa, on this list and elsewhere) that the more moisture, the better.  So....  I've just been tossing a cup or two of water into the bottom of the oven and then slamming the door shut.  It immediately turns to steam, of course.  The results seem good...  I wonder, though, if I am going a bit overboard and risking my landlord's oven!  Thoughts?


gaaarp's picture

Karen, welcome to TFL!  Tell your husband the next time he laughs, he can eat Wonder bread. 

It's hard to say what damage you might do to the oven by pouring water directly on the oven floor.  If it hits the heating unit or the glass on the door, you'll definitely have problems.  A simple solution is to put a roasting or broiling pan on a different rack than you bake on, and pour a cup of hot water into the pan when you load your bread.  Preheat the pan with the oven, and you'll get instant steam without risking your security deposit.


bassopotamus's picture

I use a cast iron skillet and ice cubes (A la the bread bible). It probably isn't great for the skillet, but a lodge is like 14 bucks, and you can garage sale one for less. The pan holds a ton of heat, so adding ice to it doesn't cool it off. Using Ice gives you a 30 second head start or so over straight water when it comes to steam burns

ehanner's picture


If you are concerned about damaging the oven, the best way to get the same effect without the cloud of steam, is to use a cover. If you have a stone or tiles on the second shelf, you can place a turkey roasting pan or any kind of heat proof foil pan that will cover the dough and fit on the stone. The moisture from the dough will be captured inside the pan and give you the sheen and spring you are looking for.

You can search here for "Susans Magic Bowl" and read several good threads that talk about this method. Some of the best bread I make is from using a cover and NO steam.


xaipete's picture

That's an interesting idea to cover the stone briefly. I have an electric oven. I place a sheet pan on the bottom shelf and my stone on the next shelf up. For me, the trick is getting the bread and water in quickly. In the beginning I used to pull the shelf with the steam pan out, put the bread on the stone, cover up the oven door with a cloth, pour the water in, push the rack back in and shut the door.

All of this was taking too much time.

Now I angle my steam pan so I don't have to pull out and push back in that rack. I also pour water into the pan out of my tea kettle with eliminates the need for me to put on a glove. These changes allow me to get in and out a lot faster.

Sorry about the state of my oven in this picture!




LindyD's picture

Tossing water on a hot oven floor will warp it.  While your landlord might not notice (do they even check oven floors?), you will.

According to Hamelman, adding ice cubes to a hot pan moistens the oven but is not steaming the oven (see p 27 of "Bread").   He suggests first moistening the oven by placing ice cubs in a pan while the oven is heating, then adding a cup of boiling hot water to another pan which had been preheated with the oven.  This is done when the bread is loaded.  

Tom McMahon, founder of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, takes it one step further.  He suggests filling a pan with small clean stones, placing it on the lowest rack in your oven, then preheating the oven for at least 90 minutes.  When the bread is loaded on the heated stone, half a cup of water is poured over the rocks.  

I've not tried the "magic bowl" technique yet because I've yet to find a cover large and tall enough to fit my stone, but I keep looking...

bassopotamus's picture

But I am not sure what distinction he is making between steaming and moistening when it comes to ice. Basically, you get too phase changes instead of one, but in a 500 degree oven with a cast Iron Skillet that has been preheating for an hour, there is about a minute of difference tops. OF course, you need more ice than you would use water becuase it is less dense and doesn't pack in the same way. I've made breads both ways, and havent' noticed any difference in the crust. I prefer the ice because it saves my knuckles and I don't worry about getting water on parts of the oven it shouldn't be on.

hsmum's picture

Wow, I have to confess it hadn't even occurred to me that I could damage the oven floor or the door by doing that - I'm glad I asked!  I had been wondering more about whether I could destroy the electronics by creating too much steam or putting steam too close to a danger point. 

The magic stone idea is very interesting -- I'll have to try it.  I assume that works because it traps moisture from the bread itself... Is this the same concept as a clouche?

Using ice makes sense too...

So what do you think -- is there such a thing as too much steam (thinking about the bread this time, not the oven)?  Or is it even really possible to get to that point with modern ovens?

BTW, my husband LOVES Wonder Bread!  Can you imagine!  I do know he's happy with and proud of my efforts, but honestly, given the choice, I do think he'd choose the Wonder Bread.  It reminds me of my friend who'd rather eat Rolos than Belgian chocolate caramels.  My boys, however, are very happy about my bread -- from the 9-year old who proudly announces to anyone who will listen that, "Guess what!  My Mum knows how to bake bread!  It's really awesome" to the little one who can barely talk yet but points and says, "Want bed num-num now."  :)



Floydm's picture

You can fry the electronics with too much steam too.  At least two site members have done so in the past couple of years.  And, yes, you can definitely warp the oven floor or break the window if you aren't careful when pouring water into the oven.

I make steam using hot water in a preheated iron pan I found at a thrift shop for a buck.  It creates steam but not enough that it is damaging the oven, as far as I can tell. 

As far as too much steam for the bread goes, you won't get a good crispy crust if it stays steamy in there for the entire time the loaf is baking.  But every oven I've used leaks steam quickly enough that that hasn't been a problem.  The only time I've experienced it was when baking in a covered pot and forgetting to remove the cover.

Good luck.

xaipete's picture

I cracked my oven glass once. What a nightmare! I always cover the window now.


Broc's picture

I, too, am new to bread baking.  I'm also sort of a caveman and rather primitive about my prep and baking... don't call myself a baker.

After multiple experiments to get water within the oven [sprays, ice cubes, pouring boiling water into a pan, etc], I somehow lucked upon the "cloche."

I now have two of these things -- they are stoneware, come in either round or pan-shaped, and have a lid.  I put them into the cold oven pre-heating to 440F on the center rack.  The bottom rack has a pizza stone, just to increase thermal mass.  I give 'em 40 minutes to really be heated up.

After the second rise, I shape the dough and simply plop it into the heated cloche, slice the dough lengthwise, put on the lid and put it back in the oven.  I immediately turn the heat down to 420F... and twiddle my fingers for 20 minutes.

Then, remove the lid, and drop the oven temp to 400F for another 20 minutes.

Remember -- Don't flour or oil the cloche -- just toos the dough in.  It won't stick!  Have faith and Patience, Grasshopper!

When you remove the bread from the oven, just tip it out onto a cooling rack.

Then I put the [two] cloche[s] back into the oven for about ten minutes to reheat to 440F, and prepare the next two loaves.

The moisture from within the dough is held within the cloche -- no need to fuss with getting other moisture into the oven.  As for the bread -- This is good stuff!

BTW -- I have done this with Le Crueset and Lodge cast iron dutch ovens -- same procedure, roughly same results.  Yep -- I do remove the bakelite handles [or whatever they are] from the Le Crueset lids... just in case 44F may be too hot for them.

And, FWIW, I also bake bread in the charcoal-fired Big Green Egg.  All brands of outdoor ceramic cookers work the same... The neighbors love the aroma wafting across the backyards when I'm baking outside, which is pretty much all year round, despite the snow and ice.

~ Best to all Newbies, like me!

~ Broc


hsmum's picture

Broc, when you say you slice the dough lengthwise after putting it in the cloche, do you mean that you cut it in half (and if so, why?) or are you merely scoring it in the way one scores a French loaf (albeit somewhat differently)?

Can someone explain the difference between a "magic stone" and a cloche?  They sound similar...


Paddyscake's picture

The reference is to Susan's "Magic Bowl" ..not magic stone. She uses a bowl to cover the loaf on a baking stone for the beginning bake, just like you would use the cloche (only much cheaper!) and with excellent results.

Also, I believe the reference to slicing the dough lengthwise is meant as slashing the loaf.


toyman's picture

I have a "I can't beleive it's not butter" spray bottle that I use for steaming.  I will liberally spritz the tops of my loaves before I put them in the oven and then spritz the oven 2 or 3 more times in the first 15 minutes of baking, whether I use my indoor oven or my wood fired oven.  My loaves come out nicely browned with a crusty crust.  I use the 2 stone method indoors where I put a pizza stone on the top rack and one on the bottom rack. (I bake on the bottom rack)  As has been stated, it helps with the thermal mass.  When I spritz the oven, I spray between the top of the loaves and the bottom of the top stone.  Haven't had any issues with damages. 

pjkobulnicky's picture

I too use the cast iron pan and ice cubes method but I also block the vent in my electric oven. On my stove the vent is directly under one of the top rear cooking elements. I remove the electric element (simple unplug) and put a golf ball covered in foil over the vent tube. It keeps much more steam in the oven but lets it leak out slowly. If I don't block the vent, I loose steam too quickly.