The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Steam in the oven

paulboc's picture

Steam in the oven

Back in the 1970's I lived in Plainfield, NJ.  We were blessed with a number of Italian bakeries but the best was Pat Natalies.  He and his wife made the best light, golden brown, flaky crusted bread and rolls I have ever had.  I questioned the wife once as to how they achieved the crust.  She told me that they spent as much if not more money on steam generation as they did to heat the ovens. 

With that clue I have attempted to recreate their breads but with little success to date.  I realize the difference between my home oven and a commercial steam injected oven.  What I am hoping for are suggestions to try to duplicate, in part at least, their product.  I use King Arthur bread flour and malt powder, filtered water to eliminate chlorine and cold ferments to enhance flavor.  Of course I have a pan of hot water in the oven under the baking stone and I spray the walls several times during the first few minutes of the bake time.  I think I am getting closer but the flaky element of the crust still eludes me.

I would appreciate any and all comments and suggestions for improving my results.  Thanks to all!


BakerBen's picture


You got me interested but you have not provided much to go on ... I am sure it would be helpful to me and others to know:

- the formula

- the method

- pics of both loaf and crumb

Be more specific on what you think you have done correctly and what you are still looking for - be as descriptive as you can. 

I love these kind of quests - if you are like me your memory of food is a blessing and a curse. 


wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

3 possiblities seem to be most popular

  1. Cook inside covered vessel such as Lodge Combo Cooker (like Tartine or No-Knead suggest).
  2. Use stone and a cover such as large stainless bowl or roasting pan or lid. AKA magic bowl method.
  3. Use hot steaming towels in the pan (search for sylvia towels in box at top left each page)

good luck, wayne


mwilson's picture

A pan of hot water in the oven will only serve to soften the crust... and spraying in the the oven will not do anything except lose heat from opening the oven. There are a number of of dough properties that will effect crust characteristics too. But the best way to get steam in the oven is to have a pre-heated tray of ceramic or metal beans/balls on which you pour hot water. After the steam has gone, remove the tray.

dabrownman's picture

12" with lava rocks and some big nuts and bolts in it along with a Pyrex loaf pan half full of water boiling as both are heated to 500 degrees for an hour.  Throw the bread on the stone and 1 cup of boiling water on the lava rocks in the skillet and there is so much steam you will be lucky not to burn yourself severely or kill a close lurking dog or cat.  Somehow the bread survives for 12 minutes when you take it all out except the bread and stone and switch the oven to convection.

daveazar531's picture

This isnt my method so i wont take credit for it. I found it on this site

Take a terrecloth hand towel and rollit up and soak it in water in a microwave safe oven safe vessel(pie dish, pyrex bread pan, etc) meanwhile your preheating the oven. About ten minutes before your going to put the bread in put the oven take the soaked towel and vessel and nuke it for 2.5 minutes on full blast. take the vessel out and put it above or along side your baking stone(i assume your not using a cast iron cooker) and leave it for 5-10 minutes. Do your final prep on the dough an slip it into your oven.

steam for 10-15 minutes or as long as your formula calls for then use extreme caution while removing the steaming towel and vessel

It has worked better then any spray bottle ever has