The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How much steam is to much?

glora's picture

How much steam is to much?

Hi all,

I was reading a discussion on jagged slashing and why that it occurs.  Most of you responded with the solution being to much steam.  I am finding that my baguettes have flat openings and my sourdough tears as well, making the openings look jagged.  So, how many seconds of steam is best?  I generally steam for about 10 to 12 seconds in this particular oven that i am using.  I guess the answer is to cut down the time and see what happens.  If anyone has any suggestions let me know.



flournwater's picture

IMO, the amount of steam isn't as critical as how the steam is introduced.  Spritzing the oven sometimes results in actually directly wetting the loaf; that's hot a good thing.  It's always best to spritz the oven walls, without wetting the actual loaf, but that can be difficult when using a spray bottle.  A source of steam from the lower portion of the oven, coupled with a spray of the oven walls while shielding the loaf from the direct spray will result in a more successful steam environment.  In addition to my pan of boiling water at the oven's bottom, I usually spray the walls every fifteen to twenty seconds (three times) immediately after loading the oven.  The lower oven steam source is removed after about ten minutes.

thomaschacon75's picture

Not sure what you mean by flat or jagged. Could you post an image? If it's what I think it is, it could have just as much to do with your scoring technique as with steam.

As for steam, I used to follow flournwater's procedure (pan at bottom; spritz sides a few times); but, I've found that opening and closing the oven (for spitzing multiple times) releases too much heat; so, now, I just use 3/4 cup boiling water (for the pan below my stone) and one good spritz to the oven's walls.

You need to be careful with (a) how much steam you use and (b) how long before you vent that steam, especially with unenriched doughs (flour, water, yeast/sourdough, salt with no oil, butter, eggs or other enrichment): For enriched doughs, I allow a full 20 minutes before venting. For unenriched, 10-15 minutes (and I remove the water pan).

Too much steam for too long, and you turn a wonderful crust into a 3mm, jaw-breaking one that ruins the loaf.

I've lost count of the number of baguette I've ruined with too much steam.

PastryPaul's picture

I assume you are using a commercial oven since you use 10 to 12 seconds of steam, something that I can't see how one could regulate steam that precisely in any home oven method.

If so, that would seem to be fine, and I would agree with thomaschacon75 that the issue more likely lies in scoring technique.

Some posted images may help determine if that is indeed the case.