The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Winter's End (thanks all!)

IndoLee's picture

Winter's End (thanks all!)

"Winter" finally ended here.... spring has sprung and bread is beginning to flower.  Played with dramatically reduced fermentation times (bulk & proof - not sure why they are so short here?); added a top stone in addition to the bottom one I was baking on, and finally got my little Indo "engine-that-could" oven huffing and puffing up to 500 F - without immediately dropping 100 F(+) when oven door was opened.

Now get relatively even heat at top and bottom crusts - plus a good 3" of spring for about 6 (+)" high Norwich Sourdough boules (this one had 10 cubes of ice - a bit too much as me thinks responsible for "crazing" (cracking) of crust: 


(Didn't want to cut them open as will deliver to family, but will be surprised if crumb is not pretty well aerated judging by amount of  spring)


Tried a few variations of  steaming:  "Magic Bowl"; pan of steaming water; a ceramic coffee cup 1/2 full of boiling water in each corner of oven, etc. and ended up with a variation of dmsnyder's "ice dripper". Could not find a perforated pan here but all the little mom & pop "tokos" (little stores) sell mortars & pestles made from local lava rock.  Added  a Chinese wire strainer and played with differnet numbers of ice cubes -(6 worked best) put inside the strainer and laid on top of the preheated hot mortar - in back corner of oven (heated for same hour (++) as oven & stones).  Worked like a charm with good 15 - 20 minutes of active steaming as melting ice absorbed into porous hot lava rock (look carefully and you can see the ice inside the mortar, which of course would be in the oven and steaming hot at the time the strainer of ice is laid onto it):

Much yet to learn and try.

Thanks so much to all for the learnings and contributions of ideas and suggestions!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and you scare the crap out of me!  That could explode!  

Porous lava looks more like a sponge and rather light.   I think it's the ice in the oven dropping your oven temps.  Might try the wet cotton towel wicking up water from a deep pan trick or  take a tin can and poke a few nail holes into it and put a small baking pan underneath.   That would not explode.   Have you tried the magic bowl trick using an inverted wok?

The loaves look very good, with crunchy crust and great color.   I hope they were appreciated!    Did you get a crumb shot later at the festivities?  

pmccool's picture

but it's a thing of beauty for a baker.  Those loaves were "singing" as they cooled, I'm sure.  In other words, they were making a faint crackling sounds as those cracks developed.  They look lovely.

Oh, and I second Mini's concerns about the safety of your lava rock setup.  Something involving boiling water and a pan would be safer and probably more effective.


IndoLee's picture

PM - good word (singing) - reminded me of the "music" when a kiln door is intentionally opened a bit early to push good glaze crazing.

IndoLee's picture

Tried all the other suggested steaming iterations (see above).  Temp drops when door opened almost same amount without steam (i.e. even with preheated "magic pan"or no steaming inside) so pretty sure its the result of both inadequate insulation and too low BTUs of  cheapo stoves here. 

Did a little research... internal pressure needed to "blow up" lava rock appears to be something on the order of 100 times what is created by gentle steaming.  And hey... us Big Island (Hawaii) folks are used to spewing lava rock so I'll continue to "live dangerously" as it works great.  (If posts suddenly stop, please call U.S. Embassy)  [haha] .