The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Super Low Tech, 'tin foil hat', no knead loaves & baguettes

wowzow's picture

Super Low Tech, 'tin foil hat', no knead loaves & baguettes

Hey TFLers --

First time posting, long time diy bread baker.

Just thought I'd toss up some picts/words about my oven/bread setup, as my neighbor was over this evening (she's a no knead bread apostle), and requested I post instructs here for her, so her relatives can also see the low tech setup I'm using for bread baking that makes the wonderful crust and crumb.



Here's my oven stone. Just a chunk of cut rock found in the cellar of a Boston apartment 22ish years ago.  Fits perfectly inside my current oven with 1 inch-ish space around all sides. (Here in upstate ny there are lots of slate quarries that will sell ya a chunk of scrap rock for $5-10 bucks. Friends in Vermont have purchased scrap soapstone, and actually cut it themselves with a circular saw to fit perfectly in their ovens, too, so anything will work.) Of course, ANY pizza stone would work just dandy too.





TIN FOIL HAT (aka the container, aka the steamer)

Best thing about tin foil covers instead of Dutch ovens?  You can make it large enough to do 4 full sized loaves or baguettes at once -- or at least make enough bread to fill up your stone to capacity. You can also make covers for 6-7-8 cup flour doughs for very large loaves...

...but whatever size loaf/loaves you're making-- just make the foil cover to fit the job at hand. No need to get all technical about it either. Cheap, fast, and flimsy cover works as well as one that you spent an hour making.

FYI, it's totally ok if there's a little space at the bottom of the foil so you don't have a perfect seal -- it's not going to matter.  It'll still make bread as good as your dutch oven. You can see my cover below doesn't touch the cutting board perfectly.

Here's the one I made to fit over my 24" baguettes today, top view.

Foil Top


Underneath view:




LOAVES made from that stone & tin foil setup today:

Potato-Cheddar (lots of left over potatoes to use up!)




Potato Parmesan







Overall, Im basically just using a 'hybrid' style of super simple breadmaking.  It's 'no knead style' dough rising meets structured folding and forming of free standing loaves that will work without the hard sidewalls of a Dutch oven.

Usually, Im kinda lazy, so I rarely measure stuff or work off recipes just general proportions and a "feel" for the right dough consistancy. So breads are usually impossible to reproduce exactly, but I can get close if I make it again within a month (or jot down a few notes).  Generally I just look though my pantry for flours available, and try to use up the older stuff first -- as opposed to going out and buying ingredients for specific recipes.  

If I'm adding cheese to the loaf, and I do that often, I introduce it, grated, into the dry flour at the beginning of the recipe so it permeates the whole loaf's flavor. The cheeses then disappear into the loaf yet add acomplex and satisfying flavor to a no knead bread. (and usually I'll add in an extra handfull of cheese on final proof so there's detectable cheese bits in there also)  The dough usually ends up around the proportions of Jim Lehey's no knead recipe in terms of flour to hydration/wetness.

About the only rule I follow is just one small pinch of yeast per approximate cup of flour added, and then toss finished well hydrated dough in fridge covered for at least a day, usually two for initial rise.

I also occasionally put different leftovers into the bread to use them up and get rid of them. When I do that, the loaves come out a bit like a Stromboli inside. After all, bread goes with almost  everything!  Sometimes I'll add black beans & cheese. Or Homemade Salsa. Or leftover chili verde.  Or Crumbled meatloaf and cheese.  Or chopped marinated banana peppers & cheese.  Or a little bit of leftover turkey gravy, or the last 1/3 cup of homemade blue cheese dressing, or mashed potatoes (see bread picts above for these)... ...whatever's in the fridge, often gets dumped into a loaf.

Ive also used various leftover stocks in place of water -- chix, beef, pork, which add fabulous flavor in the final baked loaves. (1/2 your normal salt addition, if you use salted stocks though -- using stocks ends up with a loaf reminiscent of a 'dumpling', if you happen to like dumplings)



Since these are actually free standing loaves without DO sidewalls to guide them up, you WILL have learn some basic folding of your doughs to get some 'height' out of the finished goods.  I actually learned from seeing an old Julia Child TV show back in the 70's when she had a guest bread baker who made french batards and baguettes on that episode. 

This short video of Peter Reinhart will also demonstrate an easy way to fold wet 'no knead' doughs, to add internal structure needed for free standing loaves. (I just use flour instead of Peter's water and oil setup though-- as Im a bit lazy to pull out and arrange, and then clean up clean all of those extra items, just to make a couple fresh loaves):

FYI, 'pinching the seams' down very firmly into each other, to close them, is the real key to 'folding'. No matter what folding pattern you choose to use inside your loaves: SEAL THOSE SEAMS EVERYTIME. Ive always gotten tall, proud loaves and great pan spring using every conceivable folding pattern imaginable--- but only as long as I seal all the seams firmly together every time-- and do three passes of this folding with 5-10 minute rests in between each series of folds.



Just grab your shapest knife and steel it very well (shapen it), then rub a bit of oil on both sides of the blade and slash quickly. Keep the blade at about a 15 degree angle to the table.  Works perfect every time with a sharp, sharp narrow bladed knife.  You don't really need the fancy scoring tools for 3-4 loaves a week at home.


VARIATIONS/NOTES (never be afraid to 'wing it'):

~ The past few years, Ive been using a high gluten white flour as a base to add other flavors into. With a no knead style dough in particular it always seems to add:

  • more oven spring, less susceptible to over proofing in final rise(s)

  • adds a nice, somewhat chewy texture and mouth feel to the loaves

  • seems to be able to 'hold it's structure while proofing better than AP

  • generally makes it more idiot proof, and tolerant, in terms of acceptable hydration level (i.e. tolerant of a wider range of water you can add and still get nice, erect loaves)

If you're having trouble with flat loaves, or not enough oven spring, try subbing high gluten for your AP a few times, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how forgiving it is.

~ Ive been getting my high gluten flour at wholesale costs in 50lb bags for under $20 (late 2010 price) at HillCrest foods in Saratoga Springs, NY.  You can also pick up a huge variety of flours and grains there -- I also get all my organic, and various whole wheat and rye flours in bulk there, too.  Im sure there's local wholesale dealers of flour in every area of the US if you snoop around on google a bit. Search for "wholesale flour {insert biggish city name that's near you plus state initials here}" (don't use the quotes in your search though)

~ Occasionally, if I want to add a smoky, wood fired oven flavor to the loaves, Ill throw a couple still hot, charred wood chunks/glowing embers of some apple firewood into a pan below the stone. Bake as usual. Really adds nice flavor to the loaves but definitely want a working exhaust fan near the oven.

~ With such a thick pizza stone I often throw it out on top of the gas grill and cook pizzas out there with a nice 700+ degree heat that make great crisp crust with bubbles.  Best thing about this is tossing chunks of wet apple wood into the fire and getting a light sweet smoky flavor into the pizza.

~ I always use parchment, because the rough surface of the natural stone makes 'coming off the peel', and removing loaves difficult.   Much simpler to final proof on parchment, then just sling both into oven together.

~ Obviously you can use anything to cover the bread to get a wonderful crust if tin foil will work as a 'container'. I've used foil turkey roasting pans, upside down soup pots (w/ metal handles!), clay plant pots w/ bottom hole filled with foil, etc, etc.

~ For really nice, crazy good thick style pizza crusts, try making a tin foil tent to fit over your pizza for about 1/2 the cooking time (but use a really high heat oven when you do this: 550+ degrees.

~ You can also make bread & pizza outdoors over a camp fire's embers, on a flat stone, using some creativity and foil to fabricate a mock "oven". Hardest part is actually finding a nice flat rock in the wild!  Pizza is particularly easy, get the rock nice and hot 800+ degrees, stretch your dough to fit the shape of your rock, throw your dough on the stone, then add your sauce/toppings right on the heated rock while dough is starting to cook. (quickly of course), toss on your tin foil cover and you're good to go. pretty amazing how well the crust comes out as long as you get the foil cover on tight to retain heat coming off the rock.


Anyhoo, Happy Holidaze to all!  (Greetz to Paula, HTH ya out w/ the relatives.)



AnnaInMD's picture

I have long maintained that it is hard to imagine our foremothers traversing the prairies clutching a digital scale or a  La Cloche (both of which I still have to use to bake something slightly resembling a loaf of bread), but you gave me a great idea with the chip of apple wood. THAT I definitely will try.

Also, do you spritz your loaves with a bit of water before doning the tinfoil hat ?

Thanks !


wowzow's picture

Thanks for the kind words, Anna. 

I usually don't spritz the bread when I use tin foil covers, and still get the great crust ala NYT Jim Lehey's no knead bread-- however, an ex GF of mine LOVED super thick crust on her whole wheat organic loaves, so I did mist those 2-3 times while the tin foil was covering them. 

So I guess the answer is: spritz or don't spritz, which ever way you like will work fine with a low tech cover.

Also it took me about a year with my freestyling nature back in the 80's to get decent loaves off the stone when I first started.  It wasn't until I read the Lehey article that I cobbled together my first "tin foil hat" to cover the loaves and get that wonderful rise and crust that 'shatters' when you cut it.  Before I used the foil, of course, I spritzed all the time to get decent crusts. (not as nice as using the cover)

Btw, one of may fav things about the 'tin foil hat' + stone is: I never burn myself handling the tin foil the way I do with a dutch oven lid. It's lighter, seems not nearly as hot when it brushes against me.  (I use a DO when visiting someone w/o a pizza stone and Im baking bread there.)


AnnaInMD's picture

Awsome ! Don't change a thing :)


rayel's picture

Hi WOWZOW, NICE CREATIVE BREADS. One question, if the amt of steam created from your covering, and creating a small space to maximize steam, wouldn't adding, via spritzing, more water, have an enhanced effect? Also I would think more steam/moisture, in early stages of bake, would cause a thinner crust. Your thoughts please.  Thanks, Ray

wowzow's picture

In my experience the more times I spritz the dough once it's in the oven, the thicker the crusts have become. So yeah, spritzing tends to make those little bubbles on the crust and definitely enhances it. (Its just that Im usually too lazy to bother with that step unless Im making loaves for a special occasion. )

In general I use pretty well hydrated 'no knead' style doughs so they send out alot of steam in a 500-550 oven.

You bring up a good point that I should have made in my original post too:

Generally you want to keep your tin foil cover as small as possible without touching the loaf/loaves as they spring up in the oven. That will give you the most concentrated steam inside the cover.

The foil cover in the picts above was just used for my baguettes. For the boule and oblong style potatoe cheese loaves, I actually used a smaller cover that I didn't take a photo of.



rts306's picture

Ray, how long do you have to preheat your thick slab of stone?

wowzow's picture

An hour's plenty, usually I do it a bit longer though.

SallyBR's picture

Great method!   I am here kicking myself, because I've been wondering if something like this could work, but never tried myself, thinking that it would be impossible to get a tight fit at the bottom


well, there you go! No need for that!


I will be definitely trying your method, thanks so much for the great post!

wowzow's picture

Good luck with it when you give it a whirl.

One of the coolest things about the tin foil hat method that I didn't mention in my post is: that it is very portable to make anywhere.  I love to to use the foil for dinners at other people's houses.  I usually bring my small 12" pizza stone and a bowl of already 1st risen dough over to dinner parties--- then shape, proof, bake it right there using the foil hat.

No only does it make the house smell good, but shows others how easy it is to make a decent loaf of bread with a bare minimum of pots/utensils.


AnnaInMD's picture


Prairie19's picture

I really like your idea of making free form foil covers for various shaped loaves.  It prompted me to try a slight variation for covering baguettes.  Just cut the ends from two foil loaf pans and overlap them in telescope fashion as in the photo.  Prairie19

SallyBR's picture

Awesome!   You guys are very creative indeed!   I'm taking notes.... ;-)

wowzow's picture

Very nice!

Could also try doing 3 or 4 pans long with the middle one/s having both ends cut off...

...hello 30 inch baguettes! (assuming your stone is long enough)



Jaydot's picture

... think alike :)).
I really enjoyed reading your post!

ppschaffer's picture

Hi Wowzow: what a great post...plenty of food for thought.  Thanks!

hanseata's picture

are a good idea, especially if you have an oven that doesn't have a tight seal.


liztree's picture


 Great post!!! i often have trouble with my pizza crust not being done before the cheese gets over cooked. Do you think if i use the foil cover it will reduce the temp on the cheese................. (yes, yes I use a stone, preheat forever, use high hydration dough etc.)

Thanks I look forward to your reply and I will be trying this on my next bake... I have always resisted covering the bread with any lid, bowl etc because I wan to bake my  two loaves at once... but now I cam contstuct my own foil cover. I think you are a genious

Liz Tree

wowzow's picture

Ahhh the old burnt cheese/raw crust pizza problem.... 

...I had the same issue many moons ago w/ my sister in law's cranky electric oven because-- get this-- even on 'bake', her brand new $1400 electric oven, also heated up the 'broiler' element in the top quite a bit to give off "even" heat, causing our cheese to burn before the crust was cooked. Sounds like your oven might too, Liz.  Here's a simple fix:

1. Move the pizza stone down to a lower rack so there is an empty rack above it. 

2. Place a sheet of foil (or a couple of cookie sheets will do too) on the top rack. Basically now, you're just shielding the 'za from your upper element broiling while it bakes. 


That combo worked a charm for me & the sis 'n' law when we first met, and were making dinner together.


If you do not have an electric oven with an element on top for 'broiling' causing the problem-o (!), then I'm at a loss to take a guess why your cheese would be burning. There must be some kind of top/broil type heat though. Hopefully I'm in the ballpark to help ya out...., to properly answer your question:  yes, a tin foil hat would also stop your cheese burn by sheilding it from the upper oven element -- but it's easier to just put a coupla cookie sheets on the rack above to do the same thing.  ;o)~


HTH, Dave

mrfrost's picture

If you are using shredded cheese, try using smallish chunks of cheese instead. If it is still burning, gently freeze the chunks(more like thoroughly chill in freezer for 15 minutes or so) before adding to pizza. Works for some:,12735.msg122936.html#msg122936


lynnebiz's picture

I keep my supply of cheese in the freezer, & use it frozen (if it's already shredded). Whole milk mozzarella is ideal, (scamotza - I'm speling that phonetically - would be the best, but it's way too expensive here for everyday use). To save money, I get ten pound bags of the shredded part skim in addition to a few blocks of whole milk mozzeralla. Pizza is our emergency food, lol.

However - I actually like (my whole family does) the cheese cooked longer on pizza than many people do.

liztree's picture

Good morning! I have bread in the poven right now using the foil method!!!!

What if I just bought a huge foil roaster pan at the super market instead??? I guess I couldn't make it custom.... but I hate to store or throw away this giant foil contraption we just made!!!


Also I am so excited to try your method with the cookie sheets to avoid burning pizza cheese... will let you know.

Thanks for posting

liz tree

wowzow's picture

Hi Liz--

A foil roasting pan would work fine too.  I tend to make my foil covers to fit as close to the size of the loaves Im baking so the steam stays pretty concentrated around them.  When not in use, I set the foils in the cabinet on top of the fridge with the rest of my foil collection/sizes.  They usually make it about a year or so of pretty frequent use before I have to make a new one, so they are pretty durable as long as they get left alone, and nothing gets set on top of them.


If you do have an eclectic oven with a top heating coil, I'm 99% sure the cookie sheet will stop the cheese burning.  ;o)~

Good luck, and do let me know how it turned out.


liztree's picture


Ok the foil method did not work...this time!!!! I think it was to big and had to many air gaps.  The next day I tried the metal bowl method...which was amazing!!!  NIcest crusts ever!!!  I happened to find one deep in a cuppoard just the right size!!! I want to try the foil method again so I can make 2 loaves at once. I will try to contruct it just a smidge smaller than my 14 x 16 pizza stone.


Next :cheese burning. I have gas stove that heats from below... so will the cookie sheets be ineffective????


I really appreciate you sharing your experience! Liz

wowzow's picture

Oh yeah Liz, I forgot to add, probably most importantly, never use that pre-grated packaged cheese.  That stuff burns no matter what you do with it.   It's coated with something to keep the pieces from sticking together and that always browns too fast.

Go fresh grated and you should be ok, although gouda sometimes browns to almost burnt.



wowzow's picture

Glad you had some success with your loaves.  The first couple times I tried the foil it didn't work for me either, I made them too big and the steam wasn't concentrated enough.  I just had to adjust the size down and eventually it was working very well.

I would still try the cookie sheets right over the pizza stone, as close as you can get them on top of the rack with your stone on it.  I think that might trap some moisture coming off the pizza and keep the cheese safe for a little longer than before.  If not try the frozen cheese tip.

Good luck.


sparklebritches's picture

Can't wait to try this on my baguettes tomorrow!

I wonder if granite slab would work?  My garage is full of them.  I've currently a saltillo tile in the oven, just one--too small!

lynnebiz's picture

I wonder if granite slab would work?  My garage is full of them.

Can I be your friend????? ;-)

I am so jealous! I imagine any stone would work - bet if you called someone who deals just in stone they could tell you if granite would withstand the heat.

The best thing about the apt I just left (only good thing, actually, it turned out) was the granite countertops in the kitchen. I don't actually knead dough very much these days (arthritic hands), but the few times I did (knead on the granite countertop) it was wonderful, and shaping was incredible. I used very little flour on the surface.

I've considered trying to get a piece for this kitchen, but my space is very limited, so I don't think I'd know where to put it.

sparklebritches's picture

Yes, please, they are heavy! :)   Thanks for reminding me of the kneading.  I need to try that.

wowzow's picture

Your granite should work fine, as long as you have at least an inch clearance to the oven sides-- so the heat can circulate properly. (although the melting point of quartz is the lowest mineral in granite, I think that's above 800 degrees. so should be fine)

If the surface is really rough, just use parchment for easy in & out off it.

TMStanton's picture

Double check that on the granite. It will definitely heat up - like all stone will. But depending on the finish and or polish - I'm not sure it's a great or safe pizza stone. Generally - you're looking for softer stones / clays that can deal with high heat and humidity.

I could be wrong - but granite doesn't sound like a good choice for a pizza / baking stone.

wowzow's picture

As long at the granite doesn't have too many veins in it and the oven temp is below 700 degrees, granite should work fine. 

As you noted though Tom, if the stone is finished with anything toxic it would definitely be unusable.  And the heat and cool cycles could split a stone with too many or thick veins. But even if it splits you can still push the pieces together and use it. It'll still work just fine... general though, granite makes a good, decent pizza stone. It is also the type of stone Jamie Oliver recommends on his 'at home' pizza episode:

lynnebiz's picture

I love your creativity, wowzow, and just the way you bake. Very similar to mine! I've been baking bread for many years (since I was about 14 - now I'm a grandma!) and there was a definite point when I realized I became *better* at what I was doing. It became - well, more instinctive.

Lately I don't even knead anymore (sore hands - arthritis, although it doesn't stop me from kneading dough if I really want to). Ha - don't need to knead (OK, that was bad, but I had to say it..) I don't have a stone, but hope to get one soon, although I've been happy with my results even without one.

I recently moved to a different apartment, so I'm adjusting my techniques a little. Before, when I baked pizza, I put it on the lowest rung, but I'm trying the next to the lowest & it's been pretty good. Stuck with the same basic recipe (also trying to lose weight - sigh - so reading this forum is VERY difficult/tempting). Very rough amts - not precise at all: 9 cups unbleached flour, 1 tablespoon salt, a teaspoon yeast - I mix all those, then add cold water, which I no longer measure or weigh. I just pour it in until it looks & feels right. Mix it up and let it sit for about a day (this cold weather here in New England right now is perfect for bread risiing & baking). In between I do some stretch & folds.

I'll use some for pizza, then (like tonight) I shaped up a few ciabatta-type rolls to have along with the chicken I baked w/peppers (yellow, red, green), onions, vinegar, oil & herbs. Mmm - good cold-weather eating!

Since I moved, I'm closer to my younger son (older lives w/me at present) & his roommate is going nuts w/the stuff I've brought over. He apparently bought a bunch of ingredients so I can make them some pizza again!

I have a convert! Now if only some of my kids would only be interested in actually learning how to bake & cook.

Next, I'm bringing him some of my homeroasted coffee. :D

I love this!

wowzow's picture

Sounds like you've got a good system there, Lynne.

Although, Im not so sure Im all that creative -- probably more lazy than anything else.  ;o)

I used to cook for a famous LA chef/catering biz long ago, and many of the recipes were complex with crazy ingredients.  So I spend my time now making super simple stuff, the easiest way possible. Hence the taking the lazy way as often as possible.

One trick you could try to get your youngest baking, and I do this once in a while when im invited to dinner parties, is to have the host (could be your youngest in this case) whip up the basic batch of dough the day before you arrive for the dinner:

3 c. flour
3 pinches yeast
1 teasp. salt
water (or beer) to get it 'all just wet with no loose flour'.
cover and let sit in fridge, then pull out 4 hours before dinner.

Then you show up with just a pizza stone in hand, and show him how to fold and shape the dough and let it rise.  While it's rising you make a foil cover.  Show him how to use any old wood cutting board as a peel to slide the loaf onto the stone, toss on the foil cover. (or make a pizza in front of him too with the dough)

When the bread comes out with a great crumb, crust and flavor he'll know how ridiculously simple it is to make a great tasting loaf of bread...

...and the only price of admission is: a pizza stone. 

And the best part of the whole deal is that the whole place smells like baking bread.


lynnebiz's picture

Ha - creativity is the mother of - laziness! I could not fathom working complex recipes. Everything I do is from instinct, a lot from experience, too, I guess. Goes along w/my personality - more intuitive than many people.

Good suggestions - only thing - my youngest son actually worked at a pizza parlor making pizza once! So he knows how to make pizza (at least how they made it there). Funny, though - he called to tell me he was making a pork roast recently. He now lives around the corner from an awesome Armenian grocery store - he kept telling me how you can smell the spices even before you walk in - so that, along w/the lack of money, I think, is his inspiration!

I actually have four 'kids' - two girls & two boys - who aren't actually kids anymore. My youngest is 26, and she used to say her extent of cooking was to put something in the microwave! However, now that she's in a committed relationship (AND just got engaged!), she's been calling me for help about cooking. They don't want to have bread or sweets around, and I just found out that her boyfriend is the same as me - he'll eat everything that's there! Ha - never would have imagined it - so baking, for the sake of their waists, is avoided.

You know what is really funny? They live in New Haven (home of Pepe's, and Sally's, and Modern pizzeria - which they visit often), but guess what she ALWAYS asks me to make when they visit? Pizza! I guess it's become my signature dish, hahaha!

My youngest (daughter) said once that they all gain ten pounds wheneve they walk through my door, haha. Kind of true...

My oldest daughter also calls for help (she's 30), so I guess it's not fair for me to say that they aren't interested in cooking - it's just that none of them is infected with the bug like I am, lol. That's OK - we are all made different. With me, it's almost instinctive - but then again, I had all those years of leaden loaves and burnt everything as my teacher!

vwhitehurst's picture

I am in the Artisan bread class at The Art Institute here in Nashville, and I thought your bread looked very beautiful. Our Chef instructor could only dream of us students doing as well lol 

wowzow's picture

Trust me, if someone as lazy as myself can do it, anybody can.  ;o)~

The secret is: don't get too wrapped up in needing expensive items to make a decent loaf.  When I started out I kept saying to myself -- there's no way the romans had fancy steam injection ovens, so surely there is a way to make good bread using a bare minimum of technology and equipment. Although I do love my parchment paper for easy in/out, so I am somewhat guilty of breaking my rule. (and god bless the dutch oven/cover discovery by Jim Lehey!)

What you don't see in those photos is the 1st year of utter failures back in the early 80's with no one to ask, a terrible bread making book, and no google to get me out of my stretch/fold disasters.... stick with your bread making, and there's no way you can't be successful.