"Passive Steam" for Baguettes
I prefer using a "passive steaming" method for my breads--that is covering the dough for part of the baking time rather than adding water, ice, or wet things to my oven. For boules I have a lovely clay baker, and I cover other loaves with a deep enamel turkey roaster I got for $3 at Goodwill.
But nothing I had worked for baguettes. I have a baguette pan that's 16" long, and I could never find anything big enough.
We don't have a Smart and Final in our town, but when you google "Smart and Final" and put in our town, a store called "Cash and Carry" comes up. It's owned by the Smart and Final people and seems to have similar stock. They have steam table pans that would be long enough, but to be deep enough the prices are getting "up there" out of my budget. However, I found Aluminum foil steam table pans, 5 for $7 that were just long enough for the baguette pan there. I brought them home, planning to put one on top of the other, "clamshell" style, but that did not work because the aluminum foil pans are just slightly warped and would not stay together. Cutting off the rim on one was worse because that rolled foil edge is what stabilizes the shape of the pan. Hmmmm . . .
Googling around (is that a verb?) I found that the size of baking sheet I need is a "3/4 sheet pan". I headed back to Cash and Carry and found nice, sturdy, 3/4 sheet pans for $8. The overturned foil steam table pan fits on it just perfectly like a lid. I have a large enough oven, that these fit nicely in my oven with plenty of air circulation around. I do not think these would fit in a smaller wall-mounted oven, though.
It works great! I preheated both the sheet pan and a foil steam table pan (not sure that was really necessary) and baked my baguettes covered for 1/2 the baking time, uncovered for the rest. I did not take photos because I was not pleased with my baguette shaping and scoring (need more practice) but I was very happy with the results of my passive steaming with these items. The crusts were nicely crisp and browned and the oven spring was generous.
Now I need a better formula for baguettes. I used the ABED lean dough, but found it rather bland. Or maybe just better flour???