The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

question about baking in a pot, and steam

edh's picture
edh

question about baking in a pot, and steam

Hi all,

I've just had an annoying failure with the NYT no-knead bread. After baking, the bread stuck firmly in the pot; I've been making this stuff for weeks with magical success and now this. Any thoughts? I was doing a sourdough, but that hasn't made a difference in the past. Most annoying; it's edible, but the bottom is completely torn out.

In a way, it's probably good for me; the pot baked method is so very easy that I've gotten very lazy, and only bake that way. Stopped trying for a good crust just in the oven altogether. So that leads me to my other question; what are the favored ways of getting steam into your ovens?

I've got a gas oven, but it's the lowest end Sears, which means no electronics at all (we bought it after the ice storm of '98 when much of Maine went without power for up to 2 weeks. We only went without for 3 days, but I was so happy that we had our old 1950's gas stove; we were the only ones in the neighborhood who could cook. When it died I swore the replacement would have no electronics). On the other hand, it's so well vented that any steam goes right out the top. Has anyone tried blocking off the vents in a gas oven? I'm embarrassed to say that I have no idea what might happen. I don't think it will blow up or anything, but the vents must be there for some reason, right? Maybe if I just block it off for the first 20 minutes or so...

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Thanks,

edh

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My last loaf of Sourdough did that very same thing and when I knocked on it, I wasn't too keen on the sound so I put the lid on and popped it back into the oven for another 10 min.  It still stuck, so I put the lid on it and let it cool in it's own steam.  After about 35 minutes it was still firmly stuck, so I gently worked (cracked) wedging the sides away with a wooden spoon and let it sit another half hour, open.  Much to my relief, it did fall out when it was cooler and firmer. The ceramic form was cool enough to handle with my bare hands.  (The day before, the loaf just fell out.)  It was a little dark and maybe over baked but it was good.  Both times I had oiled the pot.  I think I'll dust the bottom with flour next time.   Feel better?
The only way I get steam now is with one dark baking pan inside a larger dark baking pan, creating a 1cm space or moat with 1/2 cup of water between.   The caserole method uses no steam, just it's own.  

jramsey's picture
jramsey

No ideas about the vents on the gas stove - I'm using electric. Good luck!

I just tried my first NYT loaf - I had no problem getting it out of my pot, but getting it in...it stuck to the floured towel I rested the loaf on. I was able to get most of it in the pot, and then used a bench knife to scrape the rest off and just threw it on top of the loaf. It came out surprisingly good, with sort of a craggy crust on top. I think I will try resting it on parchment paper next time.

I am using my oblong, 5-qt crock pot insert for the ceramic pot and am quite happy with the way it worked - the loaf was a nice ciabatta shape.

I am going to try an experiment tomorrow - I'm making three loaves of sourdough: one as a control, done the way I always do (500 degrees, parchment paper on pizza stone, spray bottle for misting), one in the crockpot insert like the NYT recipe, and one on the stone using a steam cleaner and a 3-gallon stockpot inverted over the loaf on the pizza stone. My wife has been giving me strange looks all day as I prepared. I'll post results after I pull them out of the oven.

edh's picture
edh

mini oven,

Thanks for the reply; misery loves company! I'm still stumped about why it happened; as soon as I got the first mess cleaned out, I put another loaf in the pot to bake, and it behaved itself perfectly. Go figure.

Is the purpose of one pan inside the other to slow down evaporation? I think I'm going to need to produce copious quantities of steam to make up for the vent.

jramsey,

Try using rice flour on your cloth; I went through exactly the same thing you did until I read about rice flour here. Now I rub a piece of muslin with rice flour (it doesn't take much), set the shaped boule onto it, pick the whole thing up by the corners, and set it gently in an 8" bowl to rise -- sort of a poor man's banneton. When I tip the whole mess into the heated pot, the cloth peels clean away -- just like magic.

Can't wait to hear about the results of your experiment; the steam cleaner and pot over top sounds exciting. If it works I might just have to find one myself. I've wondered about just dropping a heat proof bowl over the loaf on my stone...

Thanks,

edh

Susan's picture
Susan

That's what I use, EDH, a heat-proof 4L bowl, and I love it! I get to see all the rising. I do rinse the bowl out with some hot water before upending it over a half-size round loaf, and am very careful lifting it off. Make sure you have a place to put the hot bowl before you take it out of the oven. The bowl stays on 18-20 minutes, just until the bread starts to brown, then off for 8-10 minutes. And about the stone, I quit using it with the bowl method, as it didn't seem to make any difference.

Susan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That's cool!  I keep looking at the picture seeing it rise.   -Mini Oven

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

an NYT no knead? It's shaped so perfectly...

Susan's picture
Susan

Sorry to let you down, Paddyscake, it's just a plain old sourdough loaf baked under a heat-proof bowl. Here's a snap of the final product.

Susan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan,

Could you tell us what recipe you used for the SD in the image? Also what is the procedure you use concerning the use of a stone or sheet pan, preheat or no?

It is nice that you can make a judgement about when to remove the cover bowl based on color. I'm just a little concerned about getting the glass off safely.

Thanks,

Eric

Susan's picture
Susan

My recipe and methods are most decidedly less than scientific, and are the result of about 1.5 years of fumbling and many bricks. I would welcome any suggestions.

Starter

1 T expanded starter, which was saved from the sponge

15 g filtered water (1 T)

25 g flour (2-3 T)

Mix water into starter, then mix in flour. Cover with plastic and leave at room temp until it is puffy and you see bubbles under the surface (for me, 4-6 hours, depending on room temp). Store in fridge and use as is within 3 days. For longer storage, refresh it before using (throw away all but 1 T, then add 1 T water and 2-3 T flour, etc.)

 

Sponge

240 g filtered water (1 cup + 1 T)

223 g flour (1.5 cups) (I'm currently using GM Harvest King here)

All starter

Mix water into starter, then add flour, stirring until well mixed; cover with plastic and let sit at room temp overnight. When ready, it will be expanded and bubbly with just a hint of a depression in the middle. (btw, I am using a 1.5L bowl, and the sponge fills up the bowl to within an inch of the top when the sponge is ready.)

 

Dough

60 g water (1/4 cup) This amount is variable (weather, etc.)

14 g (1 T) olive oil

All sponge, except for 1 T saved for the next starter

222 g bread flour (1.5 cups) (currently using GM Better for Bread here)

62 g (1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour (KA)

1.5 t salt

I use my Zojirushi ABM to mix and knead the dough, but have made up a custom program of 6 minutes mix/knead, 20 minutes rest, and another 6 minutes of kneading. Everything goes into the pan but the salt, which is added during the last couple of minutes.

Empty the dough into a straight-sided, lightly oil-sprayed canister to ferment for about 3 hours at room temp (lower 70's F). Stretch and fold 3 times over the first 90 minutes of this fermentation (Many thanks to MountainDog!). When the dough is fully risen, turn it onto a Silpat and cut in half with a bench knife. Gently pull each half into a rounded shape, turn over, cover with plastic and rest for 15-20 minutes.

Gently rotate each round a few times to tighten it, then invert each round into a well-floured cloth laid inside a small bowl (add some seeds in the bottom of the bowl if you like). (The bowls I use are about 7 inches in diameter at the top.) Seal the seam and tightly cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap. Put the bowls in a warm spot, upper 70's F, for 1.5-2 hours. (I use my microwave, OFF of course, and put a mug of hot water in with the bowls.)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove plastic wrap from one round and gently re-seal the seam if necessary. Invert onto a semolina-dusted peel, slash the top, and slide it into the oven. (My oven is a Miele, and it came with several trays, but I would think a large cookie sheet would do the trick. I stopped using a stone, as it didn't seem to make a difference in oven spring.) 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. Make sure you already have a safe place to set the extremely hot bowl when you take it out of the oven. I would not put it on a cold counter; a couple of hot pads are what I use. Please be careful.

Bake the bread another 6-8 minutes until it is dark brown. The darker it is (without burning, of course) the more taste it will have.

Bake the other loaf. I bake 2 little boules two or three times a week. And one loaf of each baking usually ends up with one grateful neighbor or another...

Well, now you know my sourdough odyssey. Remember that it's just mine; yours may take a different path. If you have any questions, please ask. I now weigh everything (again, thanks to the folks on this site), but have put in measurements for those who do not weigh. The flour was scooped and leveled.

Susan in San Diego (so you'll know I am at sea level!)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan,

I like your method because you have found a way to measure the effect of the the steam environment and remove the cover at a certain time. There is no doubt the boule you posted is cooked to perfection. The color is amazing. The nature of the hardware restricts you to a slow schedule but I appreciate a quality product over speed any time.

Do I understand that you warm the bowl in hot water and leave it wet inside to add moisture? Or is the warm water to start the heating process of the bowl?

I am definitely going to try this method and your recipe. There are just enough small difference from my regular SD that might make a differance. What a tasty looking loaf! Thanks again,

Eric

Susan's picture
Susan

Eric, I probably gave you more info than you needed, or wanted, but I have found that sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. Baking under the bowl made a huge difference in the oven spring for me. I don't know if rinsing the bowl matters. I just thought that it was so hot in the oven that it would make sense to heat the bowl a bit before putting it in. Don't know if the extra bit of water matters. Let us know how it works for you.

Susan

edh's picture
edh

Thank you so much for the bowl description Susan!

I looked at the bottom of my biggest glass mixing bowl, and it said oven proof, so I gave it a whirl. I only just opened the oven to take the bowl off after the first 20 minutes, and was blown away by the size of the boule. I have never come close to this kind of spring without baking in a pot. Now I have to make myself wait until it's finished baking. And cooling. Not good with waiting.

Anyway, thank you so much! Somehow seeing your pictures gave me the confidence to try; I think I was secretly afraid the bowl would blow up or something...

edh

Susan's picture
Susan

I hope it's not cheating to do this--it works so well!!!! I am very careful with that hot bowl, believe me!! I'm going to bake in a few minutes, so will start the first boule in an unheated oven.

Susan

edh's picture
edh

Oh, that's very cool!

The bowl looks alot like the one I do all my mixing in; guess I'm going to have to find another!

Thanks,

edh

auzziewog's picture
auzziewog

This must be a world wide phenomena – the sticking of the NYT No knead bread after baking even in OZ it did the same and I threaten to slice it up if it did it again to no avail – so I have a little sprayer with olive oil and spray the hot bowl just before I put in the dough after shaping and rising and it does not do it again and lovely brown crunchy crust is the reward – so really from my point of view – thank you for sticking!!

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I use 'La Cloche' .... cold, on a 500F baking stone. Works great for me. The heat-proof glass bowl is very interesting though. I searched for the availability online but I could not narrow it down to usuable results. Where did you get yours, Susan ?

 

Brotkunst

 

 

Follow up : To answer my own question ... 'Pyrex' is the key : http://www.amazon.com/Pyrex-Prepware-4-Quart-Mixing-Bowl/dp/B0000CF41U/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/002-3117576-7816850?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1175056893&sr=8-2

Susan's picture
Susan

Brotkunst, you are right, Classic Pyrex! I found mine at a thrift shop and consider it my Poor Man's Cloche!!!! hehehehe Just never got around to buying a "La Cloche."

Susan

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Susan, do you put the loaf with the pyrex bowl over it into an unheated oven to get this result? Or have you preheated the oven?
Thanks,
Andrew

Susan's picture
Susan

Left, cold oven; right, hot oven

Left, cold oven; right, hot oven

Though to be fair, the right one does weigh 10 g more than the left. 

edh's picture
edh

Susan,

I survived the wait; the bread was fantastic! I'm sure I'll still bake in the pot (especially when the big bowl is already occupied with dough...), but I'm very pleased to be freed of it as my only way of baking. The pictures above are pretty compelling too; I can't believe you got that kind of spring in a cold oven. Guess I have another new thing to try.

Did you do it all just the same? 20 minutes under cover, then finish uncovered?

thanks,

edh

Susan's picture
Susan

edh, thanks again. I feel that I got less spring in a cold oven, and more spread. I'll be sticking with preheating for the present. The cold-oven loaf was covered for 25 minutes and then uncovered 8-10 minutes to finish.

Susan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan,

There isn't much differance from the looks of them. Maybe the crust isn't quite as glossy on the cold start bake. This whole revelation of not preheating and not using a stone should be getting some attention.

One question on your dough. Would you say the dough is firmer than a medium consistency? Your Boule keeps it's shape so well and doesn't seem to spread at the base at all. I followed your formula today and used weights so I might be close to the same quality. My batch is smooth and silky and slightly slack. I'm about to divide and final proof but I don't think they will stand up in place for long.

 

Eric

Susan's picture
Susan

Eric, there were some differences. If I wanted to bake in a cold oven, I would make very shallow slashes, for one thing, as the first loaf seemed to spread more. And for sure underproof a little to give it some oomph in the oven as it heats up. Your dough sounds right to me, a good description. They'll be fine. I'm always surprised that they take off and rise so much. Let me know how you fare, and have fun!

Susan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

They did hold up well. The dough was more well developed than I thought. I let the second loaf bake a little longer (darker) but I didn't get near the Carmel color you have in your first image. Did you use a wash on that one?

Thanks so much for your thoughts here, it was fun using a new method. The bowl works out very well. You do have to be a little careful but it works.

Cheers,

Eric

Susan's Sourdough Under Glass

Susan's picture
Susan

It IS fun to try new techniques. Glad it worked out so well for you. I bake these loaves until they are right next to burnt. Makes them much better, IMHO. No, I never use any washes, at least not yet.... I have two little boules of caraway rye rising right now--same recipe, just subbed rye flour for the WWW. Hehe, very light rye, indeed. Thanks for the attribution on the photo, btw! I feel complimented.

Susan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan,

I have been experimenting with different ways to adapt the No Knead NYT craze that has caught so much attention around the world. While I have baked a number of NK breads I think it's not in the bakers interest to ignore techniques that would make a better product and are easily done. Your Boule is extraordinary in that the process demonstrates your understanding of forming the gluten chains and fermenting. This understanding is a very subtle thing and is lost on many who insist on mixing with a machine. The smaller loaves are perfect size for a neighbor gift, you are right.

Watching my dough start to rise and brown under the clear bowl was a treat. I have the recipe saved as Susan's SD under glass. Thank you!

Eric

ehanner's picture
ehanner

a

edh's picture
edh

ehanner,

I'd love to hear more about what you've found about no-knead breads; I've been messing around a bit with lower hydration breads, to try to bake outside the pot, and I'm just not satisfied with the crumb or the taste.

I gather there's a book about this, and that's probably where I should start, but if you feel like sharing your observations, it would be really interesting.

thanks,

edh

Susan's picture
Susan

as I have not been particularly successful with No-Knead Bread. Mine usually turn out more like one big biscuit than a serious loaf of bread. Don't get me wrong--I LOVE biscuits with a center cut pork roast, gravy, mashed potatoes and boiled cabbage seasoned with bacon grease. I'm showing my Southern roots here. I digress.

I have not had trouble with the NK bread sticking. Seems to me that would mean the pot wasn't hot enough to sear the bottom of the dough. I sort of gave up after getting heavy, wet loaves, and I couldn't understand when people said their loaves were light and airy. What was I doing wrong?

Susan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

My thoughts on the KNB fad is that it has been good for the home bread industry simply by virtue of the interest it generated. I have heard that you couldn't by instant yeast in many parts of the country as the product was flying off the shelf. Hopefully people will discover they enjoy good bread and make the leap to other more artistic methods.

IMHO, the NKB is unique because it comes out crispy which is a new experience for most people. Even if you get your bread from a quality bakery in the US, a crispy crust is unlikely. My efforts have produced very nice holey and crispy/flavorful bread. When I heard Bittman say and also Martha Stewart say it was the best they ever tasted I rolled my eyes. I'm wondering what the interest is at Omnimedia in this being a wild fad. My last loaf of Susan's SD under glass was better bread as were most other things that came out of the oven. Besides, No Knead is ugly.

In my fooling around with methods and formula here, I think the use of some rough grain in the bottom and sprinkled on top is what keeps it interesting and prevents it from sticking. I have tried a short ferment (bland) and 48 hour ferment with folds (not much spring). The best was a sourdough starter and 14 hour ferment with a mix of ww and ap flours and a little wheat germ and malt powder.

As for the hardware used. The Le Cruset isn't really meant for this kind of temperature on the handle but mine stayed together the 3 times I used it. My La Couch is perfectly suited for this method and again the same principals apply as using Susan's idea of a bowl. You are containing the moisture in a hot environment which promotes a nice spring. I tried a Calaphon heavy pot both with the lid and turned over on a stone with about equal results. I did get a little sticking on the aluminum pot bottom. Lastly I dropped some No Knead on the hot stone and covered it with my Steam Maker Bread Maker cover and blasted it with 15 seconds of steam and removed the cover at 15 minutes. The crust was thinner and not as chewy but otherwise similar. I happen to like a thinner crust.

Personally I hope people will learn to fold the slack dough called for in the NYT story and avoid the few failures that occur. With just a little skill anyone can improve on the quality and appearance and the variations are endless.

 

Eric

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

I would have concerns about *repeatedly* using the same pyrex bowl for baking at the high temps required by the NY Times no-knead bread recipe. There have been reports on the web of pyrex unexpectedly shattering - and this has happened when the user has *not* done something stupid that exposes it to thermal shock. I'd be concerned that you're repeatedly stressing the material and, at some unexpected time, it could shatter and injure you.

Do a search on "pyrex explodes" or "pyrex shatters"... there a lot of hits.For example, check out http://consumerist.com/consumer/pyrex/why-pyrex-bowls-explode-232474.php - it also mentions that the material to make "pyrex" has changed over time

Quote:
Pyrex bowls were originally made of something called borosilicate glass, which is very resistant to thermal shock. Currently, Pyrex is made of soda-lime glass, presumably as a cost-cutting measure

 

 

edh's picture
edh

Eric,

Thank you for your response; I have to say I agree about the bread being nice but pretty bland. A sourdough version has become my family's daily bread, however, just because it's so easy and utterly reliable (except for the ugly moment that started this whole thread). The sourdough with raisins, dried cranberries, and nuts is also big as a treat.

I think what I'm hoping to hear is that if I'm careful enough about folding and shaping, I'll be able to bake a dough this slack out of the pot without it turning into a pancake. Am I dreaming? I was too nervous to try with my usual recipe when I used Susan's method, and made something that was a bit drier to start with.

Between disappointing baguettes, and this new under glass idea, I suspect I just have to jump in and try some messy wet doughs and see what happens.

thanks again,

edh

ehanner's picture
ehanner

edh

I would recommend trying Susan's SD under glass recipe above. When I saw her photo's and read her method, I knew there was something to learn. When I mixed her dough formula I thought it was going to be way to slack to hold up. In fact it was perfect. The lesson to be learned in her formula is that with the right amount of folding and dough development, even a very slack, high hydration mix will hold form. Her "under glass" baking creates a rapid oven spring in the first few minutes. Follow her step by step exactly and be sure to look for a straight wall 7 inch bowl for the final proof and form, if only for 10 or 20 minutes. Once you understand why this works, you are on your way to making free form boules with large holey structure.

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Well I certainly like to be able to see what my bread is doing.  I've had fun times with my new mini oven and although it is 2cm larger, the heating coils and rack levels are in diferent places.  I've burnt the bottoms and tops of a lot of loaves lately but on Easter, found a 2.5 ltr glass caserole that fits into my oven nicely.  Now I can see what's happening.  Bummer, I seem to have a cold spot right in the middle of the bottom of the oven.   I've tried flat foil on bottom, crunched up foil, black steel on rack, shiny pans, black pans, upsidedown pans and I'm running out of ideas.  The glass works better but there is still the cold middle even when rotating the pot.  Any ideas?  Mini Oven

L_M's picture
L_M

Susan's bouleSusan's boule 

Susan, finally I got around to trying your recipe, and it was terrific! I must say that the large amount of sponge compared to the final dough had me worried - maybe it will be taste horribly sour, or maybe the dough will turn into soup...all sorts of things like that. But in fact, the outcome was quite the opposite - mild flavour :-)))) and dough that held up very well and baked into a light boule.

Since I'm after mild, mild, mild flavour, I proceeded to the next step when both the starter and the sponge were good and puffy but had not yet fully risen, so that is pretty well the only difference from your recipe above (you mentioned letting the sponge sit until there is a hint of depression in the middle).

I've baked under the pyrex bowl many times, but this time the crust was the best - thin and crisp even though it is a little dull looking.

Thank you for writing out all the instructions so clearly - it makes such a difference.

Soon I'm going to start another batch!

L_M

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Susan, I seem to have been misleading you - the boule I have been making is the simple one with 3/4c of starter and 3/4c water and 2 1/2c of bread flour. I guess you posted the one with the sponge before I discovered TFL, and I was a bit puzzled to read L_m's comments about starter and sponge. Please tell me I didn't dream it? You did post the simple recipe at some point? The one I baked this morning is cooling and I am going to take pictures. Not sure about the crumb because the bottom seam had a little gap and I might have a huge cavern. Wish me luck, A.

Susan's picture
Susan

I've put at least a couple of recipes online in the time I've been here.  So no worries.  I knew which one you were speaking of.  If I want to start a loaf late in the evening, I'll make a sponge; if not, I make the simple loaf you are baking.  I'm mostly baking 1/3 fresh-ground WWW and 2/3 bread flour these days.  Just glad you are having fun; life's much better if your bread works.

 Susan from San Diego

Susan's picture
Susan

I believe the simple handmade loaf that Annie is making will be even milder in taste, especially if you don't retard the proof.  The link isn't working for me right now, so here's the URL; scroll down the page and you'll find the message.  It's entitled Grrranimal!  Why is my bottom so soft? | The Fresh Loaf 

 Susan from San Diego

P.S.  And I'm baking all my lean loaves by preheating to 500F, then backing off to 450F after the bread and bowl are put into the oven.   Glad you like the detailed instructions, seems like the little things make the biggest differences.  And if you don't know, you don't even know to ask.

L_M's picture
L_M

Believe me Susan I was so happy to report a successful sourdough loaf!

 What is really the difference between the 2 recipes? The handmade one makes a smaller amount of dough, and of course it's hard to tell exactly because it is measured by volume not weight, but they seem very similar. Maybe I misunderstood something but it seems to me that the overnight sponge is actually just the second feeding for the starter and it has been fed enough to make the amount called for in the recipe - right? 

Can you tell me why you think it will be even milder? Have you found the crumb to be coarser with the handmade one? I prefer a finer textured crumb and so far I've only been able to achieve that with a fair amount of kneading.

Today's batch is proofing, so I hope it will be just as good as yesterday.

L_M