gas fired oven for French bread?
I am having a problem creating the paper-thin, shatteringly brittle crust on my French bread and I'm beginning to suspect that the problem my be my oven. I have a regular home-style gas oven. I have no problem with other baked goods: cakes,muffins,rolls, etc. The oven will hold any temp I want (up to 500 F; 260 C) as long as I don't try to use steam, as in French bread. I have rigged a contraption that dumps water into a super hot cast iron frying pan and as soon as I put the proofed loaves into the oven, I dump the water. Presto, instant steam. But, when I do this the temp drops like a stone; from 500F to 375F in 4 min. There is no fan in the oven. I have tried all possible starting temps, with or without steam. In desperation I even tried James Beard"s recipe calling for a cold oven start with an un-proofed loaf. Question: Is it possible to get the thin brittle crust I want with my oven. I have tried evey conceivible variation: straight doughs and sponges, pate fermentee (old dough) poolishes, every possible hydration rate from 60-72%. I have used bread flour and A.P. flour. Less salt; more salt. Less yeast; more yeast. I have just made 68 different batches in the last 70 days and I am at my wits end. Can it be done at home? If so, how. Your thoughts on this matter would be much appreciated. Thanks