The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Side by side comparison of two different steaming techniques -- photos!

bnom's picture

Side by side comparison of two different steaming techniques -- photos!

Today I loaded two batards into my oven.  Same formula (Hamelman's Vermont SD with Whole Wheat), same scoring, same size, same length of time in the oven.  Very different results.   I loaded them both on my baking stone.  I  placed a narrow aluminum roaster pan over one loaf and then I poured hot water over a cast iron pan of lava rocks situated beneath the baking stone.   I removed the foil tent after 10 minutes.  At that point, the tented loaf looked didn't have as much oven spring and was pale whereas the untented loaf was already browning -- it had decent oven spring but the slash wasn't opening up nicely.  But after another 20 minutes or so of baking the tented loaf came out looking much better.  It had blossomed more than the other loaf and its crumb was more open. The untented loaf had sort of seized up instead of blooming.  The tented loaf had a slightly thinner/softer crust.  Frankly, I'm not that impressed with either of these loaves - I prefer a little thicker, crackly crust,  but I felt the experiment was worth posting.  I will play more with the tenting technique.  I should note a disclaimer--my oven is a 1950 GE Hotpoint and I don't think it holds steam very well so that, more than anything, might account for the difference in the two loaves.

Crumb shot of tented loaf

Crumb shot of untented loaf

Your comments and suggestions are welcome!






foodslut's picture

I'm curious - what drove you to check the effect of the tent?

pmccool's picture

of the difference between an uncovered bake and a covered bake (aka Susan's magic bowl technique, La Cloche, etc.), bnom.  The uncovered loaf shows the "arrested development" that goes along with not having enough steam in the early phase of the bake.  The covered loaf, however, had the advantage of being in a moister environment (the steam from its own moisture) and was able to expand further before its crust dried and hardened.

For those who struggle maintaining any steam for any length of time in their ovens, covering the bread for the first 10-15 minutes of baking is a great option.


bnom's picture

I found some good batard-sized aluminum foil pans at the restaurant supply store the other day and I've been wanting to try the tent option.  I remember reading someone's entry on TFL that the aluminum roasting pan was the best of all the different options he'd tried.  I've done boules in cast iron pot before but I generally prefer to make baguettes and batards (higher crust-to-crumb ratio) and didn't have a good way to cover them.  

Paul, I think you're right.  This might be the route I take until I get a new house and new oven next year.  But I wonder if 10 minutes under the big top isn't too long -- would I get a crustier bread if it had less steam?

LindyD's picture

Hi bnom - nice comparison.

Gas or electric oven?

bnom's picture

An old electric oven...temp is spot-on but the gasket is worn. I don't think it's holding the steam very well. 

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

I'm going to have to look for some of those aluminum pans!  I've been using a bowl with good results, but I'd rather not have a round loaf.

Making Hamelman's Cheese Bread (with asiago instead of Parmesan) today!

Mary Clare in MO

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

another 10 minutes. :)   

bnom's picture

I will try covering both loaves next time and uncover one at 8 minutes and uncover the other at 20 minutes and see what the difference is. Will post photos.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I'm a little confused - wouldn't the loaf with the pan over it be PROTECTED from any steam you release as a result of pouring water on the lava rocks?

On the other hand, it seems it would also tend to conserve any moisture the loaf itself releases under that pan, sort of like the steaming effect of baking in a covered Dutch oven.

Am I way off base?

bnom's picture

Yes--the loaf under the foil tent is getting it's steam from the moisture within the dough. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.  

It's just like baking in a dutch oven -- but I prefer to bake  two  batards simultaneously rather than one boule (which is all I can do if using a dutch oven). 

Jaydot's picture

Thank you so much for posting this!

I seriously believed you needed some sort of expensive cloche or cast iron cover in an oven, but after seeing this I fashioned a little tinfoil hat for my loaf and it works beautifully! It has improved the shape of the loaf no end.

Yesterday when I removed the hat, you could actually see steam rising from the bread! (there's a photo on my blog).

berryblondeboys's picture

That's pretty amazing! I might have to try that if I can find a tin pan big enough. Lighter and easier to deal with than trying to find a cast iron pan/pot too, and heats up faster which, hmmm... is a good thing or a bad thing? That's an interesting question! Does it actually fare BETTER because it heats up the dough faster with it being aluminum, or does it actually fare slightly worse, because it heats up too fast? I would guess the former is better than the latter since most bread ovens WITH steam get that blast of steam almost immediately.

Of, do you typically preheat these cloches with the oven?

LT72884's picture

Ok, all i can say is WOW! I have been trying to get the loafs of bread i make that size and no matter what i do, i can not get them that big. What ami doing wrong?

I use a no knead recipe and i just cant seem to get them bigger than this:


I even used a proffing basket for this batard. it measured about 12 inches long and bout 3.5 inches in diameter. no wheres near yours. Is it possible to get a no knead recipe such as the one i use to be that size? if it is about proffing, how long is to long and how short is to short? haha. im not entirely sure what to look for in proffing. Im affraid that as soon as i pull it from the basket, it will flaten and will have no oven spring because of lack of lively yeast. haha.




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

like a nice big cut down the middle...  this allows the dough to expand during the bake.   Try a site search:  when is the dough proofed?   or   final proof ready


LT72884's picture

Ok, thats awesome to know. Last night before i posted i read like three articles on the importance of scoring and how it allows the bread to expand. I totally didnt make the connection last night with looking at your bread vs mine. I guess thats what a calculus test will do to you. I spent 6 hours in math class yesterday finishing homework and taking a test.. hahaha. love the stuff though. Thanks for the advice.. ill search for when is it proofed.