The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking in La Creuset vs. stone

  • Pin It
jak123's picture
jak123

Baking in La Creuset vs. stone

Hi all, I have achieved greatness in making a sourdough boule....basically, a S&F method, divide, form, retard and bake in a small covered la creuset....I'm happy(well as happy as a perfectionist seeking bread baker can be) but when i try to bake the boules without using the la creuset, straight on a baking stone, i get horrible results with the same dough....the crust is not bubbly, i get less of a rise, i get blowouts....I do steam the oven with ice cubes....it does rise, but the crust is less than desirable. How do i achieve the same results without having to bake in the covered pan? (i would really love to be able to bake more than 1 boule at a time.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Jak

yy's picture
yy

I invert a hotel pan over my baking stone to trap steam. It seems to work much better than steaming the whole oven. It's also much, much easier. The pan is pretty large, so it's possible to fit two batards side by side underneath. My only word of caution would be to make sure that your baking stone is wide enough. I got mine at a restaurant supply store, but it's pretty much identical to this one:

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/6-deep-full-size-standard-weight-stainless-steel-steam-table-hotel-pan-anti-jam/92220069.html

My procedure is to preheat the pan along with the baking stone, load the loaves onto the stone, and spritz the inside of the hotel pan with some water before inverting it over the loaves. 

 

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

The other alternative is to buy a professional oven with steaming capability.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Jak,

A lot depends on your oven. The covered la creuset works so well as it is a small sealed environment for the bread to bake in. Take your bread out of that and you will need a bit more work to find a suitable solution. A couple of questions first...

Is the oven gas or electric?

Is it fan forced? If so, can you turn the fan off?

How thick is your baking stone? Where is it positioned?

What are you placing the ice cubes on? Some people don't like the ice method ... I do, but you need a hefty cast iron skillet with perhaps volcano rocks or heavy nuts and bolts - thermal mass for instant fast heat - it just doesn't work as well when just dropping them on a thin pan.

If you use the search function and look for steaming methods you will find plenty of options and methods ... its more about finding the right solution for the oven you have.

Cheers,
Phil

jak123's picture
jak123

Hi Phil, the oven is electric. I can use the fan or turn it off, currently, i use the convection fan. Stone is about 1/2", but occasionally, i cook directly on a 1/4" steel plate that i had made for the oven. I throw the cubes right in the oven on the bottom....it sounds to me that i lack good steam with my methods....i will try one of the other methods tomorrow and report back. Thanks for the help!

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Last weekend I used a stainless steel bowl-on-stone for three boules, serially.  Worked just fine, not preheated.  Very easy to handle.  And don't have to wait for it to re-heat the way I had to with a La Creuset-type steel (on stone or rightside up with its own lid).  Good things about stainless steel cloche is that : (1) it's light and easy to handle, (2) heats up fast in oven but doesn't terminate oven spring the way a 450˚ iron helmet does; and, (3) it doesn't need to be pre-heated the way the steel does, so as soon as one loaf is out, then next one can go in without having to pay the electric company to re-heat the iron dutch oven you removed for the last 20 minutes of baking the previous loaf. 

So I'm retiring my La Creuset clone DO for now, concentrating on other sticky :-) issues.

tdb

 

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

I wanted to do this as well, although I was worried about "chinese" brand SS bowls that may contain harmful chemicals when exposed to heat.  I ended up using a glazed inverted stoneware bowl that is oven safe.  I've thought about using a turkey roaster pan as well.

Ocelaris's picture
Ocelaris

I'm not sure if by "Le Cruset" you mean the earthenware (not glazed) clay dome. What I have is a "La Cloche" from Breadtopia (couldn't post link, spam filter caught it). 

I've been using a stone for a long time, and the clay dome beats the stone hands down. I do the clay baker for about 15 minutes and then pull the lid off for about 10. But it's a royal pain to get the bread in there correctly... still working on that one. It often ends up lopsided... The benefit of a clay baker over a steel pan is that the clay has radiant heat energy, where as the stainless steel doesn't have enough mass to contribute radiant heat... Although I think I'm going to pick up one of those steel trays so I can try that out... because it's a pain to get the loaf in the clay baker, and I can only fit one in at a time etc...

If you're going to steam, don't use ice cubes, use hot water (boiling is best), otherwise you're losing a lot of energy transforming ice into steam. Plus you're trying to get steam at the very beginning to make the surface gelatinize and not loose too much moisture too quickly. Water transfers heat 1000% better than air (literally) so if you can add some water to the air, and the surface, it heats up better. You only get than translucent interior when it's really hot... I wouldn't use convection, you want to concentrate the heat on the surface of the bread. we're not concerned about cooking evenly here, air just removes accumulated heat from the surface of the bread through transpiration (sweat). Plus the fan will dry out the surface, so you don't get that browning as much. At least that's my experience, although I do not have a convection oven, I have gas.

 I use a cast iron pan in the bottom of my oven, then at the very last minute put just about a cup or less in, with a watering can (long stem lets me stand back far enough not to get burned). The cast iron holds a lot of heat, but if I put in cold water (and too much) it stops steaming quick. setting the oven as hot as it will go (500* mine) helps. I turn it down to about 450 once I put the bread in. 

theuneditedfoodie's picture
theuneditedfoodie

One thing that America's test Kitchen had done slightly different in a No Knead bread made in the dutch oven, was actually proofing it on a parchment paper and then by just picking up the parchment paper putting the loaf in the dutch oven- this way one doesn't need to toss the loaf in the dutch oven. So far, I have tried it once and it came out bread good. You might want to try it.

theuneditedfoodie's picture
theuneditedfoodie

I would definitely agree, I have been baking bread on a stone in a regular home oven with all the process of producing steam-however, it has been very hard to get a professional crust like feel to it. But in my experiments with dutch oven, the bread 9 out 10 times has come out excellent. I mean even professional bakers like Jim Lahey and Chad Robertson tend to be using this magic pot, more and more. 

Ocelaris's picture
Ocelaris

Yeah, I saw in some of the pictures of proofing it on parchment paper. I usually rise it in round bannetons, so it's not a big deal when I "flip" it, just to flip it onto parchment paper. I'll give that a shot next time. Thanks!

I also didn't realize people were using the literal "le Cruset" cast iron pans to bake their breads in... it seems it would be harder to lower the dough into the extremely hot cast iron pot? or maybe you just use the top of the iron pot over it? Maybe I'll give that a shot... 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

The DO (Le Cruset) doesn't need to be hot.  Pips just posted a video of Chad Robertson baking his loaves and loading them into cold DOs.

I have experimented both ways and have not noticed a significant difference in the end loaf.  The cold DO is much easier to deal with.

I also do the ice cubes right onto the floor of my oven.  I tried using a cast iron pan under my stone but it blocked heat to the stone above the spot it was positioned on.

I was afraid to put the cast iron pan right onto the floor of my oven due to the mass and creating too much heat for the electric heating elements beneath it.

I tried hot water into pans put ended up with very painful steam burns on my face - and I wasn't even that close to the escaping steam :-0.  I was also afraid of spilling water onto the glass in the door and placing a towel over the glass was simply one too many steps when loading multiple loads...

So a ladle full of ice to the floor became my method and is working just fine despite the floor of my oven being warped now.  :-)

Good Luck,

Janet

 

jak123's picture
jak123

I too have used the DO cold, and I think it works as well as it being warm.  I do trun the breads over to the plam of my hands before placing it in the DO, just so i can make sure it's centered and not lopsided....but i do have to say, when i use the dutch oven, i dont steam the oven...I dont think you need to as it's pretty well sealed and the moisture from the bread seems to do the trick..I guess i will just buy more DO's. But, another great benefit of the dutch oven is it's forgiveness when a dough may not be properly shaped. It really seems to keep the bread nice and round, whereas baking it directly on the stone really shows imperfections....

I have also been experimenting with time and temperature....finding it really makes  difference what temp you start at, how long you keep the boule covered....my favorite is to start the oven at 450....put the bread in DO, turn the oven down to 400, leave it covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 20....crust comes out nice and golden, interior is baked perfectly....i've found, that, if you trun the oven down a bot after you oncover and bake longer, it really adds to the crust...I guess everyone has a preference....

I am thinking of turning my hobby in to a profession....not sure if i am ready, and i am most sure i will need many more DO's to do the job right!  Thanks everyone for the input.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

jak123

Check out the Lodge Combo Cooker  (Amazon).  It is all cast iron and lot less expensive then the Le Crueset DOs.  It is also a lot heavier which is why I ended up buying the Le Crueset DO.  I could get a smaller size and the weight change was significant enough for me to take the plunge.  (My Le C came from an outlet store so the price was alot less too.)

Janet

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Very large 6.5 qt Mario Batai enameled cast iron at Coctco for $46 and it works fine going cold into a hot oven.  A large SS bowl over a stone works just as well and is hassel free - I got it at Goodwill for a buck.  You be the judge.  I use the Batali for braises only now.   But stone and steam are still my favorite way to bake bread, especially in my Cuisanart,  convection table top, Mini Oven.  I still get the best spring from it and it costs way, way less to bake in too - a twofer!  Hope MiniOven isn't watching :-)