The Fresh Loaf

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Using Lava Rock to Generate Steam

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kellygirl's picture
kellygirl

Using Lava Rock to Generate Steam

Good Morning All,


I have been trying to get a good steam in my oven and have decided to try the suggested lava rock system so I went to Lowe's this weekend and bought a bag.  The bag says to season the rocks in the gas/charcoal grill for 15 minutes prior to use.  I'm assuming that I should do the same in the oven prior to my first bake.  Does this then take care of the red 'dust' that is on the rocks?


Thanks.


 


 

mredwood's picture
mredwood

I don't know what they mean but I would burn them without food if i were using them on a grill. I would wash the lava rocks then put them in a pan. Cast iron or SS and let them get hot in the oven with the stone. Then before putting the bread in put in a cup of water. After you put the bread in spray the top of the bread or not. Put in another cup of water. Thats it. Should be good.


Mariah

kellygirl's picture
kellygirl

Thanks Mariah.  I will be baking a Rye bread in the morning and will try it with the lava rocks.


Kelly

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Kelly,


We're all after good steam! My baking changed more due to a single technique for creating steam than by anything else I've learned in years of baking.


Susan from San Diego uses a pyrex bowl to cover her loaf during the initial period in the oven. I found a description of how she does this in this thread:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8884/susan039s-original-sourdough-3262007


Here's an excerpt:


"As soon as the round is in the oven, overturn a 4L heat-proof Pyrex bowl on top of it. The bowl has been quickly rinsed with hot water before putting it in the oven. I assume one could use a SS bowl, but you'd miss seeing the rise, and that's half the fun!


Leave the bowl on top of the bread until it just starts to brown (16-18 minutes), then very carefully remove the bowl by sliding a spatula under the edge (there will be a small release of steam here, so let it happen and stay out of its way) then I slide my other hand, well-covered with an oven mitt, under the edge of the bowl and lift it up and over the bread."


I don't own such a pyrex bowl, but I do have a turkey roaster pan with a large lid, and this lid easily covers all shapes of bread I bake. Since the first day I used my roaster lid, my oven spring went way up.


Try it: it's the best thing since unsliced bread!


David

mredwood's picture
mredwood

I have noticed since the first time I made the no knead bread that any bread I leave covered for 20 minutes or more turns out very similar in texture. The no knead says t o cover 30 minutes. The bread rises beautifully but the crumb is very rubbery. I decreased the time and can notice the difference. All the recipes I have tried including a traditional sandwich bread baked in a cloche or covered bowl comes out rubbery. Not just chewy. You can actually stretch it like a rubber band. I have noticed this in purchased artisan type breads.  A little chewy is nice. I am starting to think of covering bread as the "The Great Equalizer", sort of like ceamora in coffee. I digress, sorry.


I wonder what the absolute minimum time for coverage would be? Any ideas anyone? I think that is why I like the lava rock steam. It produces a nice crust and keeps it moist enough to rise. 


Mariah

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mariah.


I don't know what the minimum time for covering a loaf might be. I generally get best results covering for 10-12 minutes for a loaf that will have a total baking time of 30-50 minutes. However, you should know that Susan from San Diego covers her loaves for 18 minutes of a 30 minute bake, as I recall.


The principle is that covering the loaf or any other steaming method helps with oven spring until the yeast is dead or the bread starts to brown, whichever comes first.


On the other hand, formulas written by authoritative professional bakers sometimes specify steaming times and timing precisely, and these vary from bread to bread. I think, with experience, I'll have a better handle on the optimal steaming method and timing for the breads I make most often.


The "rubbery" crust you describe sounds to me like the loaf was covered way too long so the crust never dried out enough to get crisp.


David

arzajac's picture
arzajac

my suggestion is to do this:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9809/put-your-tin-foil-hats


I had tried lava rocks with very poor results.


 

mredwood's picture
mredwood

Thanks for the input on steaming. I think I am going to decrease the covered time. I must add that the cover is always on a bowl of some sort. Stoneware or clay. Cover is stoneware or clay. Maybe there is too much moisture and top and sides hold it in too much. I am thinking that the professional ovens don't steam the whole baking period. There must be a longer time for the water to dissiapate. I need a glass cover and an oven cam. I have been know to plop myself in front of the oven just so I know what is going on.  Crust is always good. 


My baguettes and batards  baked on a stone do not come out like this. So I guess I should forget the covered bowl and just use my stone and lava rocks or steam pan.


Sorry for the grumble. 


Mariah


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Mariah,


Grumbling is fine. But I'm not sure I understand the procedure you are using. Maybe you could fill in the picture a little.


But I agree with dmsnyder, if the crust is rubbery, it was covered too long. You always want to finish baking your loaves in a DRY oven. Remove all sources of moisture (except the loaf itself of course ;-) ) for at least half the total bake time, if not more.


Covering keeps the outer surface of the loaf moist longer, so it doesn't set as soon, and therefore gets to rise longer. But once the crust has set, it's time to remove the cover, the rocks, the steam pan, whatever you use to create humidity in the oven, and let the crust caramelize and get nice and crackly and dry!


David

mredwood's picture
mredwood

Hi David, Thanks for posting. I know and do all you suggest about dry end baking and steaming only in the beginning. I do have crunchy crust. I was talking about the inner part, the crumb. It is so rubbery, stretchy and moist that I think it could dry out for crumbs and still be moist. It is a different texture than just steaming that I learned from BBA. I Think it is caused by too much steam, too long in a container that stores the moist. I guess baking in a cloche is probably not for me. Next time I will use the bottom and use the top for only 5 or 6 minutes.


I did learn something very important about my flour tortillas that I make. I have always made good ones, loved by everyone but me. Years ago I had fresh torts that I used to buy in a mexican american store. When you took them out of the wrapper and tore  off a piece to eat it stretched. Like the window pane test for gluten development. My torts were always too dry. I was always after the stretch. I did achieve it once but have no Idea why. Now I know. I always covered my torts with a layer of toweling. Now I will also put them in the cloche to finish the baking process.


Mariah 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mariah.


Different David responding, but we both misread your message in the same way. I thought you were talking about the crust, although you did clearly state it was the crumb. I apologize.


However, in my own defense, I suspect the reason is that, while steaming has a big impact on the crust, I don't think it has any significant effect on the crumb. 


Many other variables do impact the crumb. These include the gluten content of the flour. Mixing method and the degree of gluten development you achieve. Degree of hydration of the dough. Bulk fermentation. Dough handling in pre-shaping and shaping. Proofing. And oven spring. Whew!


Now, I believe the problem you were having was with no-knead bread, with which I have no experience. However, as I understand it, there is ... uhhhhh ... no kneading. And no real shaping either. If this is correct, I wonder if you are using high gluten flour and might get more pleasing results with weaker flour.


If you are already using AP flour, and if you get the same rubbery crumb with enriched breads, which ought to be more tender, I am mystified.


David (dmsnyder)

mredwood's picture
mredwood

David or David


I have made no knead with hi-gluten and Bob's unbleached, a 5 and a 4 gm protein per. I also made Hamelman's vermont sourdough following the instructions to a T. I made several bernard clayton recipes using the delayed fermentation. I do stretch & folds on most lean breads. I've stretch and folded on enriched breads and baked them in the covered dish.  Most of what I bake I err on the wet side. I have not read any recipe that does not say adjust the hydration so that it is ?? whatever. It probably is the hydration, hi protein, and covered too long. Next loaf I will do something different.


Your guess about using an AP flour is right on the mark. If it's not hi-gluten it's bread or unbleached white. Years ago when I was baking and there was a wonderful celebration of bread at the farmers market. I asked the grand central people how they were able to pick up a loaf of risen but unbaked and move it and it didn't deflate. They said my gluten was not strong enough. So I worked it more. I did not know about stretch and fold then but ended up doing just that because I could not knead. Too hard on the hands and it seemed like a mean thing to do to this lovely dough. Maybe the only flour Iow protein I use is Guistos, which I use for baguettes.


No knead breads are not the only bread I make. My friend was so excited about this bread I had to try it. Just to see what she was making such a fuss about. I can see why some folks love it. They can make a loaf of great tasting bread without all the detail. What I liked about it was the baking in a covered dish, and it resembled what one might purchase with a five dollar bill. I did't like that it was messy and you don't get to play with it.


But it is always the same, the flavor, the texture, the shape. No mishaps falling off the edge of stone. No putting them too close together and having to pry them apart.


I like the adventure  of different tastes, texture and colors. My breads usually look pretty good, though not as good as some I've seen here. Sometimes better than I have seen here. Always taste good. I always try and think I can as PR says make extra ordinary bread.


I think this coverd thing may be trickyer than one would think. As long as I breathe there is always another loaf around the corner. 


Thanks


Mariah

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Mariah,


Like dmsnyder I also have no no-knead experience.


My first concern would be that perhaps the crust is done before the inside has reached a proper temperature (205 - 210 dF). Have you taken the temperature of the crumb with an instant-read thermometer on these breads that come out gummy inside?


A few observations, from experience, that may be helpful. Or maybe not, you may have already tried these, but they may be worth thinking about...


Though I haven't tried no-knead, I don't knead my doughs a whole lot either. (And I don't believe in window-pane tests.) I find that a half-hour autolyse and then minimal mixing in my KA mixer followed by a short period of slap-and-fold (see M. Bertinet's video) builds enough gluten structure to get my dough off to an excellent start. During bulk fermentation a few stretch-and-folds build enough strength into the dough that even with only moderate-gluten flour, the dough is plenty strong enough to rise nicely and spring up (under the roaster lid!) in the oven. It's a pretty low-maintenance process. (I find as well that this minimalist approach generally leads to a nice, open, airy crumb.)


Over time I have found that I like working with moderate gluten in the flour, as opposed to high-gluten, unless I'm baking with high percentages of rye or other whole grains. Some people love the chewy crumb that comes from high-gluten flour; my wife, not so much! So the need for a softer crumb became an opportunity to learn that you don't have to have that much gluten in the flour to bake great bread. And it's easier to work with the extensible and mildly elastic dough that results.


In any case, I wish you luck. Keep us posted!


David